TABOR VS. ROSS
Let's compare two books that deal with the tragic death of the followers of David Koresh in Waco, Texas to illustrate the harm anti-cultists do. Rick Ross is a well-known anti-cultist who was influential as a so-called expert for the government who attacked the Waco church. He has a website at www.rickross.com. You can go there and find his views about so-called cults. He wrote an introduction to a book on Waco by Tim Madigan, called See No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh's Holy War. Let's compare that book with James Tabor and Gallagher's Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America Professors Tabor and Gallagher denounce Rick Ross as part of the cause of the death of innocent children at Waco. His behavior is exposed as being unintelligent and dangerous. Like most issues, there is often two viewpoints. In the teachings of the Divine Principle we learn that there is often a Cain/Abel split. Rick Ross is Cain and Tabor and Gallagher are Abels. The one book is false; the other is true. One gets a thumbs up; the other a thumbs down. One is half-full; the other half-empty. The jacket to the book says theirs is "the first balanced, authoritative account of the siege. ... Tabor and Gallagher confront the most controversial accusations concerning the group's possession of illegal firearms, unconventional sexual practices [celibacy and polygamy], and child abuse. Without attempting to excuse Koresh's actions, they argue that the public has never been given the complete story." (Click HERE for more images Waco).
STEREOTYPES - MYTHS
Their conclusion is that Americans are wrong to feel so much fear of small religions. They "challenge Americans -- government officials, parents, the media, all of us -- to rethink our stereotypes about unconventional religious groups." They blast the media for its lack of understanding: "By exposing the media myths about Waco and about 'cults' in general, Tabor and Gallagher reveal our fear of intensely held religious beliefs and force us to rethink our core values -- including our national commitment to religious freedom."
Another word for "intensely held religious beliefs" is "fanatic." Cultbusters and their media friends hate what they see as religious fanaticism. It is abnormal and therefore neurotic. Leaders who get people to become religious workaholics and sacrifice worldly pleasures are seen as "con men" who use and abuse people out of greed or insanity. The only conclusion is that these leaders are Hitlers who must be stopped before they mesmerize America and turn millions of Americans into Nazis.
They begin their book with a quote form Tom Wolfe: "A cult is a religion with no political power." As the Mormons gain political power they are less and less seen as a cult. Two U.S. Senators are Mormon -- Orin Hatch and Gordon Smith. Both are outstanding men and give the Mormons a good image. The Unification Church will someday be respected as the Mormons, but for now must go through the usual persecution Americans give pioneer religions.
They begin by saying these true words: "So thoroughly negative is the public perception of groups labeled as 'cults' that any attempt to balance the picture may be seen as misguided, if not downright threatening, to the best interests of society. In the case of the Branch Davidians, the news media were saturated with reports of gun stockpiling, sexual misconduct, and child abuse. Despite the alarm and hostility provoked by such reports and by popularly accepted notions of 'cults' in general, we believe that an accurate portrayal of David Koresh and his followers and of the events surrounding the siege of their community in Waco is essential for understanding contemporary religious life in our country. We must confront our fascination with and fear of 'cults' if we are to view them in the wider context of our national commitment to religious tolerance -- all all, the United States was founded by estranged minorities seeking religious freedom. " Their conclusion is that the ignorance of the media, the government and anti-cultists created the tragedy of innocent people being killed.
They denounce the academia for advising the FBI wrongly about Koresh. The FBI relied on so called experts who were totally wrong. Murray Miron of Syracuse University told the FBI that Koresh's letters bore "all the hallmarks of rampant, morbidly virulent paranoia." Tabor and Gallagher counter that the truth is just the opposite. Koresh spoke in religious language and most Americans simply cannot understand religion. They write, 'The FBI not only supplied her [Attorney General Janet Reno] with the religiously uninformed analysis of Miron but also, on April 17, they presented her with a memorandum from Park Dietz of the UCLA School of Medicine, which also concluded was a con man."
Reno was also "not apprised "of the information that the "Texas Children Protective Services had thoroughly investigated the child abuse in 1992 and dismissed them for lack of evidence." She was also shown "the videotapes the Branch Davidians had made and sent out during the siege, which included interviews with many of the adults and their interactions with the children. If she had viewed these tapes, her perceptions of the Davidians might have been humanized, and she would have seen Koresh's relaxed and normal interaction with his children."
BUNCH OF LUNATICS?
"To the FBI he was a con man using religion to cover his need for dominance and pleasure. To the psychiatrists he was psychopathic, suffering from delusional paranoia." This is also what anti-cultists keep saying about leaders of so-called "cults." Followers are pictured as brainwashed zombies with no regard for life and liberty. The truth is that even the Department of Justice report had to even admit that the three one-hour videos show "The abiding impression is not a bunch of 'lunatics,' but rather a group of people who, for whatever reason, believed so strongly in Koresh that the notion of leaving the squalid compound was unthinkable."
RICK ROSS BLASTED
The authors blast Rick Ross for part in the death of innocent people at Waco. They say he is a gun for hire who feels he is on a "mission ... dedicated .. to protecting America from the destructive power of cults" who are "dangerous." Ross, they write, used "the simplifying power of generalizations." Ross sees "a vast 'cult problem' in American society. Ross was able to "establish the image of Koresh as a dangerous and mentally unstable false messiah. For Ross, Koresh's 'sins' were ethical, legal, and psychological, rather than religious, which, in his eyes, ruined his credibility just as effectively."
There are so many excellent statements in Tabor's book that is tempting to quote them all. But that would be too much and I encourage you to read his book that is excellently written in explaining how anti-cultists like Rick Ross do a disservice to the controversy over new and small religious groups. They quote another great book, The Culture of Disbelief, by Yale Law Professor Stephen Carter.
Tabor and Gallagher criticize Ross and anti-cultists saying they are "strident" and "confused":
Ross presents himself as a battle-tested veteran of the cult wars. He claims that "for more than a decade, I have crisscrossed the country as a cult deprogrammer, confronting destructive cults and fanatical religious groups in every corner of the nation. In hundreds of cases, I have seen firsthand the suffering and broken lives they engender." [from Ross' forward to See No Evil : Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh's Holy War by Tim Madigan] For Ross, however, all of those cases fit a single pattern. In his estimation, all "cult" leaders "are self-obsessed, egomaniacal, sociopathic and heartless individuals with no regard whatsoever for their followers. They seek only their personal aggrandizement, financial well-being and physical pleasure. Such leaders exercise total control over their followers. The personalities of those adherents have been dismantled by systematic brainwashing to the point where the leader's desires become their own. Cult victims and fanatical followers of radical sects are deceived, lied to, manipulated and ultimately exploited.'' The Branch Davidians, led by Koresh, seemed to fit Ross's paradigm of a destructive cult.
Ross quickly became an eager informant for governmental agencies and journalists alike. In addition to providing crucial interpretations for See No Evil, where the author Tim Madigan asserts that "no one was more generous or shed more light into the dark mystery of David Koresh." Ross appeared on numerous television talk shows and news programs as a "cult expert."
Throughout his involvement with the Branch Davidians, Ross presented himself as a concerned citizen sounding the alarm about a pernicious danger. In his foreword to Madigan's See No Evil, Ross warns that "everyone must be aware of the dangers posed by these groups. But it is also time for government and law enforcement agencies, and child protection services to enforce the law. Destructive cults should not be allowed to hide behind the walls of separation of church and state.''
Koresh's secular critics were at once the most strident and the most confused. They saw in him nothing less than a threat to the stability of American society, a fear that they projected onto many other groups as well. That unspoken fear was the constant companion of the BATF agents who attempted to serve the search warrant on Koresh and to those who settled in for the fifty-one-day standoff.
Tabor and Gallagher's book has the following distinguished people praise them:
"The label 'cult' can become a license to kill. James Tabor, understanding what was at stake, tried valiantly to prevent the tragedy at Waco. Persevering in its wake, he and Eugene Gallagher thoroughly investigated the background, participants, and events leading to the destruction of the Mount Carmel Church and its members. Their findings are presented in this critically important book."
--Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General
"A balanced and reasoned analysis of the Waco affair. This may become the single book that will provide an accessible way for a broad segment of Americans, including institutional actors in government and the media, to reflect in a nonsensationalist way on how sensationalism may be eroding the very values that the media is often called upon to defend."
--John R. Hall, author of Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown as American Cultural History
"At last a glimpse of the 'other side' of the tragic confrontation. '... The authors have listened to the survivors and others long familiar with the Branch Davidians, and they offer an alternative to the common 'wisdom' about Waco as well as a critique of the anti-cult ideology that helped misdefine the situation and bring about its fateful -- and fatal -- results."
--Dean M. Kelley, Counselor on Religious Liberty, National Council of Churches