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Violence and New Religious Movements$
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James R. Lewis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199735631

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199735631.001.0001

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Revisiting the Branch Davidian Mass Suicide Debate

Revisiting the Branch Davidian Mass Suicide Debate

(p.113) 5 Revisiting the Branch Davidian Mass Suicide Debate
Violence and New Religious Movements

Stuart A. Wright

Oxford University Press

This chapter revisits the controversy, recently revived by Kenneth C. G. Newport, that the Branch Davidians had a theological rationale for mass suicide and likely set fire to their own home. Newport couples the theological argument with assertions of “unassailable evidence” claimed in the government’s reports. The chapter challenges this claim. Despite Newport’s largely uncritical acceptance of the official version of events, the reliability of the government’s case is hampered in a number of ways. The chapter also contends that the tragic denouement at Waco has to be viewed in the cultural context in which it emerged. When examined against the backdrop of these disturbing machinations and conditions, the evidence supporting mass suicide at Mount Carmel is hardly unassailable.

Keywords:   mass suicide, Branch Davidians, federal raid, standoff

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