Prophetic Convictions, Convicted Prophets BY DICK J. REAVIS WHEN THE verdict in the Branch Davidian trial was announced on February 26 in San Antonio, spokesmen for both the prosecution and defense hailed victory for their side and defeat for the other. But for the Davidian defendants, the verdict represented something beyond the scope of judicial competition. Prosecutors claimed that the jury’s finding that seven of 11 defendants were guilty of manslaughter proved that you can’t resist lawmen with impunity. The defense argued that since the jury had found all 11 defendants innocent of murder and conspiracy charges, the prosecution had failed to prove its case. Of course, both sides couldn’t have been right, and the Davidians, who constitute what might be regarded as a third interest in the trial, said that no one had called the outcome according to. their lights. The manslaughter option had been included in Judge Walter Smith Jr.’s instructions to the jury on a petition not from the prosecution but from the defense. If that’s the point, the defense made the more honest claim; its lawyers did win the case. The prosecution had sought double life terms for all 11 of the accused. Instead it got seven 10-year sentences. Ten years is hardly as long as life, so the defense won on the numerical scale, too. Furthermore, the message of the manslaughter convictions was not that you can’t resist federal officers but that if you do, you shouldn’t overreact. The jury apparently thought that the use of firearms was overreaction. Even though the defense essentially won, the defendants weren’t overjoyed by the verdict and it was those who were exonerated who wept. Clive Doyle, who was set free within minutes of the verdict’s delivery, sobbed to the press that had the facts fully come out, all 11 defendants would have been with him. Neither he nor Woodrow Kendrick, who was also freed, were ecstatic about the outcome because, as Kendrick explained, “We’ re not free. None of us are. We’re here because God put us here … We’re here to do God’s will.” God’s will, it should be noted, can be obeyed within prison as easily as without. What the freed ‘Davidians were trying to Dallas freelance writer Dick J. Reavis is writing a book on the Branch Davidians. say was that they would miss the companionship of their co-defendants therefore the tears but that life is but a trial anyway, one in which their literal imprisonment could only be of illusory importance. I know this, not because the Davidians who are loathe to put anything in print because they have told me as much. For months I’ve been trying to decipher explanations provided me by several of them, most importantly, Livingstone Fagan, who David Koresh last year sent out of Mount Carmel as an emissary to the press. ‘We were innocent, period,” declares Fagan, who faces a sentence on the manslaughter charge. “That we were even put on trial is an injustice.” But on the other hand, he says, “we are the living reality of prophecy..The prophecies were written about us.” To understand what he and the other Davidians are trying to say, there’s no alternative but to resort to that most famous of unread books, the Bible. Fagan refers to several scriptures from the Good Book, passages whose most common historical thread is author ship in the wake of the Jewish exile, which began about 600 B.C., when the children of Israel were expelled from Jerusalem. As a collection, the Old Testament’s books of prophecy say that a savior-avenger will appear and will lead a crusade destined to culminate in restoration of holy rule in Jerusalem. Jesus of Nazareth was not this figure, the Davidians and all of Judaism say because he did not complete that mission. On this score, the Davidians differ from Jews only in holding that Jesus was divine, anyway and perhaps in their practice of linking together disparate scripture to arrive at a certain meaning. \(I might note that because the Davidians are infamous, Jews today are probably thankful that Koresh’s The Davidian rendering not disputed by all Jews is that the present-day children of Israel are to be defined by spiritua-land not by genetic lineage; by obedience and not by birth. The upshot of the Davidian interpretation is that they and their numbers including at least one person, Pablo Cohen, who is Jewish in the usual sense of the word are the contemporary children of Israel. That’s why the prophecies apply to them; that’s why their theologians Fagan being the leading survivor say that those scriptures were written for them. The texts in question, Nahum 2, for example, predict armed conflict between the Lord’s faithful and representatives of various temporal powers. It’s stretching the apparent a little bit, but even the use of tanks is foreseen by the prophets, the Davidians claim: “The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the The 51-day siege of Mount Carmel by the FBI was foretold in Isaiah 27, they say: “Yet the defenced city shall be desolate, and the habitation forsaken, and left like a wilderness; there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof. Does “defenced” in the King James translation mean “defended” or literally de-fenced? Well, the prophesies are so true that it doesn’t matter: Mount Carmel was defended by the Davidians and the FBI, with its borrowed tanks, did flatten, remove and burn the fences surrounding it. The Old Testament prophetsthought it fitting that the children of Israel defend themselves with weaponry as the Davidians did, and it was the Davidian acceptance of prophecy that gave rise to the government’s conspiracy charge. Citing testimony about a service in the Mount Cannel chapel where “the ceiling opened and down came AK-47s,” prosecutor Bill Johnston declared that “at the point they accepted the firearms … the conspiracy was cemented.” Johnston also charged that “the motive they had, it was selfish.” The Davidians believed “they were special people” and that “the ATF was the Beast of prophecy.” The charge was reminiscent of those that for centuries have been made -by anti-Semites, who say the Jews have arrogantly declared themselves a chosen people. In this and other ways the San Antonio trial sounded like a heresy proceeding. The Davidians faced accusations removed only in time from those hurled at Jesus and, perhaps more appropriately, at the armed Hebrew rebels of the Roman Empire’s earliest days. The fate that awaited Koresh and his followers, long before the San Antonio trial opened on January 10, theologian Fagan says from his cell, was spelled out in Daniel 11: “And they that understand among the people shall instruct many; yet they shall fall THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5 ,
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