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Armageddon in Waco

Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict

On February 28, 1993, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) launched the largest assault in its history against a small religious community in central Texas. One hundred agents armed with automatic and semi automatic weapons invaded the compound, purportedly to execute a single search and arrest warrant. The raid went badly; four agents were killed, and by the end of the day the settlement was surrounded by armored tanks and combat helicopters. After a fifty-one day standoff, the United States Justice Department approved a plan to use CS gas against those barricaded inside. Whether by accident or plan, tanks carrying the CS gas caused the compound to explode in fire, killing all seventy-four men, women, and children inside.

Could the tragedy have been prevented? Was it necesary for the BATF agents to do what they did? What could have been done differently? Armageddon in Waco offers the most detailed, wide-ranging analysis of events surrounding Waco. Leading scholars in sociology, history, law, and religion explore all facets of the confrontation in an attempt to understand one of the most confusing government actions in American history.

The book begins with the history of the Branch Davidians and the story of its leader, David Koresh. Chapters show how the Davidians came to trouble authorities, why the group was labeled a "cult," and how authorities used unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse to strengthen their case against the sect.

The media’s role is examined next in essays that considering the effect on coverage of lack of time and resources, the orchestration of public relations by government officials, the restricted access to the site or to countervailing evidence, and the ideologies of the journalists themselves. Several contributors then explore the relation of violence to religion, comparing Waco to Jonestown.

Finally, the role played by "experts" and "consultants" in defining such conflicts is explored by two contributors who had active roles as scholarly experts during and after the siege The legal and consitutional implications of the government’s actions are also analyzed in balanced, clearly written detail.

421 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1996

Religion: American Religions

Sociology: Social History

Table of Contents

Introduction: Another View of the Mt. Carmel Standoff
Stuart A. Wright
1: An Age of Wisdom, An Age of Foolishness: The Davidians, Some Forerunners, and Our Age
Robert S. Fogarty
2: Davidians and Branch Davidians: 1929-1987
William L. Pitts, Jr
3: The Davidian Tradition: From Patronal Clan to Prophetic Movement
David G. Bromley, Edward D. Silver.
4: Construction and Escalation of a Cult Threat: Dissecting Moral Panic and
Official Reaction to the Branch Davidians
Stuart A. Wright
5: Self-Fulfilling Stereotypes, the Anticult Movement, and the Waco
James R. Lewis
6: "Babies Were Being Beaten": Exploring Child Abuse Allegations at Ranch
Christopher G. Ellison, John P. Bartkowski.
7: Manufacturing Consent about Koresh: A Structural Analysis of the Role of
Media in the Waco Tragedy
James T. Richardson
8: Cops, News Copy, and Public Opinion: Legitimacy and the Social
Construction of Evil in Waco
Anson Shupe, Jeffrey K. Hadden.
9: Public Narratives and the Apocalyptic Sect: From Jonestown to Mt. Carmel
John R. Hall
10: Sects and Violence: Factors Enhancing the Volatility of Marginal
Religious Movements
Thomas Robbins, Dick Anthony.
11: Religious Discourse and Failed Negotiations: The Dynamics of Biblical Apocalypticism in Waco
James D. Tabor
12: Waco, Federal Law Enforcement, and Scholars of Religion
Nancy T. Ammerman
13: Breaching the "Wall of Separation": The Balance between Religious
Freedom and Social Order
Rhys H. Williams
14: The Waco Tragedy: Constitutional Concerns and Policy Perspectives
Edward McGlynn Gaffney, Jr
15: The Implosion of Mt. Carmel and Its Aftermath: Is It All Over Yet?
Dean M. Kelley
Appendix: Branch Davidians Who Died at Mt. Carmel
List of Contributors

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