30 Years Later: How We Lost Our Friends to David Koresh

Hi Bruce, not so…re Rock Music. I still love and enjoy rock music. As a matter of fact the Adventist Church I am a member of in Redlands CA., is well know for the band and what many would consider Christian Rock.
I was trying to approach this situation from a more human side showcasing what Steve was like in his early years, not as an attack on music or long hair.
I was in a rock band and still play rock music and would have long hair if I could grow it!

The intent was more on how charismatic individuals or so called prophets can influence some to follow bizarre cultish ways convincing Steve to share his wife with David.

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No, I get your intent and I think you did an admirable job of humanizing your friend.

My problem is just that I saw his picture and got jealous of his long flowing hair! :wink:

As to the concept of “Christian rock”, I was taught by “real” East Coast SDA’s-not the virtually pagan Adventists in SoCal-that the term “rock ‘n roll” was a reference to certain sex acts.

So at my school, a Christian version of it was both an inherently contradictory term and the sound of it was an audio assault on my savior’s sensibilities and ears.

This wasn’t a big factor in my decision to be non-SDA but I will say that I don’t miss listening to The Wedgwood Trio all Saturday afternoon!


BTW, I hope you get that some of my comments are meant to be sarcastic and perhaps even something approaching humor….



Last evening I gritted my teeth and watched the series on Waco produced by Netflix. Unless I missed it, no mention was made of the SDA connection. But, hearing the details of infighting between negotiators and the tactical rescue force about which approach would yield the best and most rapid results, left me despondent. Moreover, the biblical and theological ignorance of the Koresh devotees left me gob-smacked. Desperate for something, they believed that he was the “messiah,” a version of the second coming, and like Jesus a direct conduit to God. One woman testified that when she was finally chosen to occupy his bed (the ultimate blessing on the women), while having sex she felt the divine presence wash over her. It was incredible. And when he told them not to leave, they heard God command them to be faithful and witness to the truth. So sad, so incredible, so unnecessary. Plenty of blame to around.


Steve, I appreciate very much your reflection. Newbold College leadership was not to blame. This was one of those things one could not see coming. Once it became clear what the Steve’s intentions were you were right to ask him to leave the college premise. On a personal note, I appreciate your leadership as the Newbold Principle at that time. Many blessings to you and your family.

There’s good reason to be skeptical of anyone claiming to have received a private vision or revelation from God, whether it’s this woman, the pope, EGW, St. Paul, John the Revelator, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Moses, The Ayatollah, Brigham Young, your pastor or the waitress at your neighbourhood pub.


What’s the good reason?

It’s because somewhere between 99.999% and 100% of such alleged visions and messages from God did not come from any supernatural being and were delusions, intentional fabrications or figments of the imagination. (I personally lean towards the 100% figure).





100% might be a little low!?!?



Maybe ignorance isn’t the best word. Let’s go with delusional. Moreover, your statement implies that there is a non-ignorant biblical and theological position. Might I suggest that the difference is one of interpretation, not one of kind. To suggest that there is a rational faith in a theological position is to suggest that there is an objective and verifiable truth there by which to measure other interpretations. There isn’t. There is only internecine disagreement about beliefs which have no actual standing as knowledge.

Yes indeed, very much like Jesus (assuming the gospel stories relate actual events). Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, though he in no way resembled anything which could have been expected. He claimed that one could only approach Yahweh through him. He claimed to be Yahweh, though in accordance with Jewish law (which he claimed to affirm), this would be considered idolatry. He hung out with prostitutes, but we must assume that this was platonic. He instructed his disciples to reject outsider friends and family for his sake (a hallmark of cult behavior). He told his followers to be faithful until death; yes, to willingly die for him. Yes, Koresh did emulate Jesus. Even in interpreting the scriptures in such a way as to call attention to himself as something greater (delusions of grandeur), he had a good model.

I think your comparison opens up a can of worms crawling down a path you may not wish to follow.


You assume that when the word “rational” is used in connection with any claim, theological or otherwise, that it is an “objective” and “verifiable” truth. Logical Positivism lost purchase more than half a century ago. Instead of the almost absolute correspondence between a claim and its “facticity,” the epistemological tide favors variations of a “coherence” theory of truth. Instead of an arrow aiming at a precise target, much knowledge is more like an intricate web of factors, including logic, science, human experience, how things seem to “fit” in a way that is comprehensible. Not impeccable, and not silly either. There are some theological positions that on the face of it, whatever “authority” you cite, are nonsensical and foolish. They are inconsistent internally as well. People’s ability to believe foolishness is not limited to religion; witness politics and cultural claims and counter-claims. Facts be damned, logic go away. Objective and verifiable, when possible, is very desirable. But it is not always possible when making decisions we believe define the nature of reality and truth.


I read an article not long ago in Spectrum which said that the best human intellect can achieve is a “reasonable best guess”, or words to that effect.

(Wish I’d saved the exact quote!)

IOW, there is an essential subjectivity in all of our perceptions of reality which due diligence, logic and science cannot eliminate.

That said, we can eliminate the most essential assertion of Christianity as there is no logical connection between the claim, even if true, that Jesus was raised from the dead, and the notion that this “fact” proves he is the only begotten son of god who can, through some other unexplained process, atone for the sins of other humans.

Jewish people have been saying that these reported miracles prove nothing for two thousand years while purported Christians have been ignoring, shouting down, persecuting and even killing them for sticking to their most logical guns.

There have been countless accounts of human resurrections from time out of mind, and while it may be true that all men are sons of god, it is utterly impossible to determine which of them was born first.


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Miracle claims have a long history of “proving” some extraordinary claim. Some of those which were well known at the time of the authorship of the first Gospel story (“Mark”), seem to have been the template for events which made it into the story of Jesus. (If Vespasian could do it, Jesus must be able to do it too) :wink:

According to numerous ancient Roman historians, Emperor Vespasian was widely believed to be able to perform miracles. Three ancient scholars—Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio (the first two lived during the reign of Vespasian) specifically mentioned two instances of miracle healings that Vespasian allegedly performed. The healings were both said to have occurred in Alexandria around June or July of the year 70. As the story goes, two debilitated men approached Emperor Vespasian together and threw themselves to the ground before him. One of the men was blind and the other had an unresponsive hand. Vespasian decided to let the supplicants speak. The result of their interaction would become one of the most talked-about events in the reign of the new emperor.

The pair announced that the god, Serapis, had appeared to them in a dream or vision and had proclaimed that Vespasian possessed the power to heal their disabilities. Serapis had apparently also given specific instructions on how the cures could be achieved. The blind man claimed that he would be healed if Vespasian spat into his eye and the person with the unmoving fingers would be healed if the emperor stepped on his withered hand. According to the tale, the emperor was bashful about attempting the healing, yet his friends and advisors ultimately convinced him to try. Following the procedure provided by the god, Serapis, Vespasian spat into the blind man’s eye, and, to everyone’s amazement, the man exclaimed that he could see again. The emperor then stepped upon the other man’s hand, which, after being stepped on, immediately began to work perfectly.

Is it coincidence that like Vespasian, Jesus also used spit to effect the healing miracle?

Mark 8:22-25: “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”

And again in Mark 3:1-5, a man with a withered hand was brought to Jesus and was healed by touch.

Vespasian, at the prodding of Josephus, considered himself to be the fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecies and assumed the title of “Messiah”. In another “coincidence”, he was acting in concert with the god Serapis, a deity often confused with Jesus in the first centuries of Christian history. He was often depicted as a miracle worker and pictured in art as a shepherd holding a lamb, which later Christians wrongly assumed to be depictions of Jesus as the good shepherd.

The two miracle claims above are just minor examples of ("Mark’s) use of unrelated events from extant stories and literature to construct his gospel story. Tales of magic were useful props for extraordinary claims in antiquity. That they are still persuasive to modern hearers is bewildering.

Should we be worshiping Vespasian??


Can you suggest any Christian theological positions which are not nonsensical and foolish? On what basis would one distinguish between rational and irrational theological beliefs? Are there any that are not dependent upon arbitrary premises?


Let’s give this a whirl: A favorite and necessary exercise of serious philosophers throughout history has been: “What would the ideal look like?” The ideal society, the ideal political structure, the ideal person, the ideal “ultimate reality.” It’s an imaginative, not logical or empirical, exercise; nevertheless, it forces what one believes are the supreme moral virtues (innate to human rationality, Ala Kant–like Mathematics) in each context describing human flourishing and its necessary elements. Plato brilliantly, as you know, recognized that nothing “empirical” or sense-experienced could be that ideal; therefore, no “thing” can be ultimate. What can be ultimate is the “idea” undergirding the thing. Chairs of every physical, material, and imaginative design are “examples” of the ideal of the chair. Extrapolate this example to the entirety of reality as we encounter it. While what we experience is temporal and instantiated, the idea or “ideal” is eternal and indisputable. As long as there is human reason, ideas will exist even when all else evaporates. So, in a unique (Plato’s cave?) and insightful way, Plato begins with the “real” near at hand and flips it to: the “real” in our imagination is the “real real.”

Continuing: there is (are) “ideals” of goodness, virtue–some call them “perfections”–of character we imagine and occasionally can identify in remarkable individuals (instantiations like chairs). In almost every culture of which I am even superficially aware, individuals are regarded as at least “nearing” the ideal that culture admires. Perversely, some cultural trends celebrate the lust for power and control ideal as the most desirable ideals. Few in Western Culture lean in that direction as an ideal (possibly as a surrender to “reality” instead of “idealism”–Hobbes, Machiavelli, et al). Nonetheless, I would argue, hands down the ideal human being for whatever reasons in the West, is Jesus of Nazareth (leave the supernatural aside). Isolate the virtues from the miracle stories (though many–if not most–of them betray his most virtuous commitments) and what you get is an astonishing example of the “uniqueness” of the person in the story (even if you claim it’s only an imaginative story not based in fact). Setting aside its “historical” origins or authenticity, how would his followers, long after his alleged death and resurrection, create from nothing a fictitious figure so powerful history is never the same? A figure who symbolizes an ideal love, an ideal forgiveness, an ideal compassion, an ideal sacrificial posture toward mortal violence (nonviolence as a way of life)? Violence dominates human life and history. Even Ghandi perceived that the “non-violence” of Jesus was the only way to challenge violence if one operates at all in a morally aware and sensitive society. If not, there is no hope. Violence breeds violence and all out war is the suspension of morality and ethics. (Will continue in a subsequent note–gettng too long).

I don’t want to get too sidetracked into Plato, although I disagree with his propositions, as did his student Aristotle. He confuses the metaphysical with the epistemological; that is, his “ideal” which I would prefer to refer to as “concept” reverses the process of conceptualization. He proposes an epitome which supersedes concretes, into which they must be fit. In actuality, concepts are abstractions, not concretes. The abstraction does not exist in reality. Rather, concrete examples, in the case you mention (chairs) are structures purposed for sitting. Anything fitting that definition can become the abstraction of “chair”, but only the concretes actually exist (metaphysics). The concept is an epistemological abstraction enabling thought and knowledge building. An object designed for sitting and sleeping can be transitioned into the concept of a sofa bed. We are dealing with identification of concretes bundled together to form concepts; the concept is not the “ultimate reality” and there can be no extrapolation of this kind of conceptualization to the entirety of reality. Now on to your main point…

The Jesus of the gospels is a pastiche of rewrites of numerous sources. That said, the idealized Jesus of whom you speak is only accessible by cherry picking feel-good verses. In order to idolize this Jesus, one must ignore his ugly side.


Is not this the same character who demanded obedience to himself or else? If you don’t fall in line, it will be worse for you than what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (fire from heaven), similar to the flood which swept humanity away, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Isn’t this the peaceful teacher who said,

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law"?

Didn’t he say that “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."

He is presented as giving really bad advice. Be a willing victim. Don’t plan for the future. Don’t retaliate against attackers. This is foolish and the opposite of a realistic morality. Imagine a society where the civil authorities don’t exact justice against criminals. Chaos. We don’t need to imagine, simply look at New York and Chicago.

As you know, I will let Jesus off the hook for his ugly side and not credit him for the good, since I don’t think any of the attributions of the gospels approximate actual events. They were simply the views of the gospel writers pasting together various and contradictory snippets in the construction of fictional (allegorical) accounts.

Except that didn’t happen. For several centuries, it was a movement of little consequence and split into many conflicting creeds until by an accident of history, under Constantine, one stream of the faith became politically powerful. That faction became dominant and its beliefs formed the paradigm for understanding reality for the following millennium until the Enlightenment.


This assertion is so easily refuted as to be risible.

Yes, the perceived threat of violence may seem overarching but one rarely, if ever, endures a physical assault on one’s person.

And yet it seems this underlying pessimism goes hand in hand with the essential nihilism of so-called Christianity. I.e., there is no hope anywhere in so-called “organized” Christianity of man’s ability to save himself from abject fear in this life and eternal damnation in the next.

All while it can be shown, conversely, that any negativity is anathema to Jesus’ “be as lilies in the field” admonition.

So if the gospel as presented in the NT is ideal in any way, it is perfect in its most excellent malleability and the fact that each of us can put it to any purpose he sees fit.

Thus any of us, speaking with all the arrogance of a NY don, is justified in asking “Who knows better than me?” when it comes to the question of what an ideal Christian should or would look like.

And while many-perhaps even the vast majority-claim that Christianity confirms our separation from our maker and universal consciousness there are other, “lone voices” perhaps, who insist that just the opposite is the case.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it ever entered into the hearts of men, the things that God has prepared for them that love him.”

Paul was speaking in this text of the crucified Christ. Human beings would never imagine this or dream up a king, a leader, or one who would bring life through giving himself over to death. It is why in the same letter Paul called this the wisdom of God that is foolishness to humans. Because it is outside of the scope of human thinking and turns upside down our logic and ways of seeing and being in the world.


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The motif of the hero or heroine who must die in order to save himself and his people, must stoop to conquer or be burned in the fire in order to rise from the ashes is so ubiquitous in human mythology and literature as to seem rather trite even in Paul’s era, to say nothing of at this late date.

One might even suggest that Paul, ever the self-professed chameleon. used this plot line as it was so familiar and readily accepted by his contemporaries just as EGW’s sycophants were comfortable with the concept of receiving messages from beyond the grave or the putative supernatural realm.

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