Gladwell’s article is replete with innuendo suggesting that Koresh was a little eccentric but had done nothing wrong, while completely omitting inconvenient facts like the trial of survivors in which all were found guilty and given forty-year sentences, and the Danforth Report’s unequivocal finding that the fires were deliberately set by people inside the compound.
The real lesson of Waco ought to be that God experts like David Koresh are the scum of the earth. Emboldening them with the suggestion that their religious belief is more important than the law is a horrible mistake.
Having been raised a Seventh-day Adventist, the 5th generation of strident believers in 'the last days' prophecies, I understand all too well where the Branch Davidians are coming from... and trust me, they never went away. The core teachings of the Adventist faith include a strong wariness of the government, which according to their prophetess, Ellen G. White, will one day unite spiritualism, Catholicism and apostate Protestantism and create Sunday laws that attempt to prohibit Adventists from worshiping on their beloved Sabbath. And while this Davidian offshoot of Adventism may have had its unique interpretations and practices, they were not far from the core.
But the problem I see is that the Branch Davidians are not all that different from many others in this country who stockpile weapons, turn inward and believe that the government will one day move against them… Ever hear of the prepper community? And what’s worse is that this behavior has only been amplified of late.
The Branch Davidians and the Jonesboro cult and similar are, to be fair, extreme expressions of theism that most theists find repulsive. Although in some ways they are the "logical" ultimate conclusion of fascistic authoritarian religious fundamentalism, most people do draw back from such a brink.
I still regard them as cautionary tales, however. Trumpism is something that used to be a cautionary tale until our political immune system was bypassed and the unthinkable became commonplace. I don't see why that couldn't happen with religion too. The result could be something like "The Handmaid's Tale". Come to it, since there's this unholy alliance between religious fundamentalism and extreme right-wing politics, we may still have that to look forward to.