The ‘Waco’ Guide to Not Falling Prey to a Cult Leader
Waco is one of the best shows streaming right now on Netflix, but you wouldn’t know it because Tiger King has stolen all the thunder (and eyeballs). The limited series, set in 1993, follows the final months of the Branch Davidians, a religious cult led by charismatic (but off-kilter) David Koresh. On the suspicion that the group was stockpiling firearms, the ATF ambused the Mount Carmel Center where over 100 followers lived, and the two sides found themselves in a shoot-out.
Intense negotiations with the FBI followed, and while some members were allowed to leave the Waco, Texas, compound, most were hunkered down with Koresh for what became a 51-day siege. Ultimately, the FBI used tear gas on the occupants, the compound went up in flames, and 76 Branch Davidians died, including Koresh and his many children. The show is quite the cautionary tale, which is why we’ve put together this guide to keep you from falling prey to a cult leader.
Cover Photo: Netflix
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Don't move in.
Unless you’re becoming a monk or a nun, there’s just no reason you need to cohabit with other believers. Any community of faith that requires you to isolate yourself is up to no good (i.e. brainwashing).
Don’t give ‘em all your money.
One of the big unanswered questions in the Waco series is how Koresh kept all those people clothed, fed, and housed without a job. Turns out, he made them hand over their every last penny if they wanted to join the Branch Davidians. Drop some cash in the basket every week at services, sure; even tithe 10 percent of your income if you’re so inclined. But no group should ask you to "donate" your entire life savings to its cause.
Anyone who says God speaks only to him is probably lying – or insane.
Why would God only talk to one dude? Seems to us like He’d have the ability to talk to anyone. Why would He waste time playing telephone? If He has something to say to you, He'll do so directly. Consider all other communications suspect.
Ask for proof.
If anyone claims he’s the lamb of God, you need to see some kind of proof. Even Jesus had to rise from the dead to show his detractors that he was the real deal. If he really is the second coming, he can do it (or something even more miraculous) again.
Polygamy is a red flag.
Yes, we know some men in the Bible had multiple wives, but this is 2020 and that shit’s illegal in most places in the U.S. Any system that gives men a sexual free-for-all (especially with underage girls) is probably corrupt (sorry). And if there’s only one baby daddy allowed per cult, you know something is seriously fucked (and it’s probably your partner).
Free thinking should not be a sin.
Legit religious leaders are not afraid of parishioners’ questions, doubts, or critical thinking. Outside reading, research, and viewpoints should be encouraged. If you’re not allowed to think for yourself, you’re less than a sheep. Even sheep say “To hell with this” from time to time and run away.
Watch out for mandatory martyrdom.
No belief system should glamorize death so much that it’s the only way to reach enlightenment. There’s more to faith than end-time prophesies.
As soon as someone pulls a gun, run.
Firearms and religion don’t mix. If your faith leader thinks stockpiling guns is akin to godliness, something’s deeply wrong with their interpretation of scripture. After all, who would Jesus shoot? Other warning signs: stashes of gas masks, ambushes from the ATF and FBI, and flames. Get out before the hellfire actually comes for you.