A survivor of the government attack on the Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas, bears witness to the horrific event.
To coincide with a forthcoming miniseries about Waco, Thibodeau (A Place Called Waco, 1999) has updated his previous memoir, written with co-author Whiteson (A Terrible Beauty: An Exploration of the Positive Role of Violence in Culture, Life, and Society, 2010). The epilogue to this republication was written with the help of Whiteson’s widow. Thibodeau was a 21-year-old rock drummer when he met David Koresh in Los Angeles in 1990. “Not much in my life was going right,” he admits, so when Koresh invited him to join his Christian-oriented band, he readily agreed. Soon, he was invited to Waco, where he became fascinated by Koresh’s spiritual teachings. Koresh claimed that he had the key to decoding the Seven Seals; he himself “was the incarnation of the sacrificed Lamb” of the book of Revelation. As the leader of the hardscrabble community, he insisted on male celibacy: he alone was allowed to procreate, with any female—even girls of 12—“to generate the inner circle of children who would rule the coming kingdom to be established in Israel.” Although Thibodeau’s mother believed Koresh was skilled at “mind control” and “instilling extreme paranoia in his devotees,” Thibodeau defends the man who, he claims, changed his life for the better. Describing himself as a dreamer with no structure or direction for his life, with Koresh’s guidance, he learned to control his “appetites and impulses” and gained “some insight into a more profound way of being.” By 1993, the compound became the focus of government surveillance, fueled by testimony from disaffected members who had fled the community, claiming it was a dangerous cult peopled by “armed fanatics” brainwashed by a madman, guilty of gun stockpiling, child abuse, and statutory rape. Only the last charge, the author writes, could be supported. A violent, unjustified siege ended in a conflagration that killed 80 community members.
A disquieting portrait of a religious community and its enigmatic leader.