Tag: Christianity

Open Doors: 4300 Christians Murdered in 2018

Ralph Tiberius Augustus | Brazil

What does it mean to be a Christian? To some, it means finding shelter and strength through our Lord’s word in order to overcome our daily challenges. To others, it means helping those in need. Whatever are your reasons to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, being a Christian isn’t always an easy task; our faith has tests all the time. To be a Christian sometimes means having to face hatred and persecution. During hard times, it’s quite important for we Christians to keep our faith strong and stay united. 

 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 

 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

– John 15:18-19 (KJV) 

Christian Persecution in the World 

When I say persecution, not only do I mean that Christians are being oppressed through violent means, but also through less obvious means such as biased laws and psychological bullying. A good example of this is how in several countries in the Middle East, laws force Christians to restrict their expression of faith. 

Schools commonly teach about past oppression and violence against Christians. Unfortunately, many of these issues still occur today in parts of the world. Without action, it may only get worse. Currently, persecution of Christians happens mostly in theocratic Muslim countries and areas where terrorist cells have control.

For example, extremists in Syria levied a jizya on any non-Muslims. Those who could not comply had to either convert to Islam or face death. where Christians are a minority and are forced to live under strict regulations such as paying special taxes and not being allowed to practice their faith in public. Moreover, Islamic Saudi authorities violently imprisoned 35 Christians in 2012 for holding a prayer circle.

In several other countries, Christians and other minority religions may only practice their faith in private. In fact, nations with Sharia law often ban items and articles from other religions such as Crucifixes and statues. The mistreatment of Christians is not exclusively in Muslim countries. It also occurs in the Jewish state of Israel and dictatorships such as North Korea. According to Open Doors, the totalitarian state holds some 50,000 Christians in forced-labor camps. 

Open Doors: Christians Murdered in 2018

Sometimes the dedication we have for Christ can even lead to murder. In 2018, 4300 Christians were killed across the globe, according to Open Doors, a non-denominational mission with the goal of helping Christians in countries where Christianity is oppressed for cultural or political reasons. Sadly, the number is only going up. In 2017, there were 3066 murders of Christians for religious reasons. This represents a 40% increase from the previous year.  

However, Open Doors is attempting to eventually bring this number to zero. Andrew van der Bijl founded the group as a small operation to illegally smuggle Bibles to Soviet-controlled Poland in the cold war. Later on, they expanded, smuggling Bibles all over the Communist bloc. Nowadays, Open Doors helps Christians exert their rightful will of regularly practicing their faith in over 70 countries where oppressive laws still exist.

An Increased Danger 

As stated above, the murder rate of Christians drastically increased last year. Unfortunately, the coming years may spell out even more danger for the world’s most common religion. Several factors are leading to this. Michel Varton, the current director of Open Doors, stated that ”The number of vandalized Churches in regions where Christianity is a minority, has highly increased in the past few years”. 

Clashes with Christianity 

In the internet age, information is at everyone’s hands. So, it is becoming more difficult for dictatorships to dumb down the masses. But unfortunately, many countries still use religion as a tool by teaching a twisted, radicalized version of Islam. 

Governments of Muslim-majority countries often see the spread of Christianity as a threat to their power. As a result, they tend to discretely marginalize Christianity through Sharia law. For some of them, Christianity is a symbol of Western imperialism. Thus, they perceive it as a sign of disrespect to their local cultures and customs. 

Some oppressive governments in Asia also see the expansion of Christianity as a threat. This has been a notably growing trend in several parts of Asia with Hindu fanaticism and Buddhist radicalism. Both have taken an aggressive stance towards foreign religions in recent years.  

The Spread of Radical Islam

The vast majority of the incoming immigrants and refugees from the Middle East just want to mind their own businesses and have a chance for a fresh start in the Western world. Unfortunately, a small minority are violent radicals. With a recent uptick in radical Islam in Sweden and other countries, persecution of Christians may increase.  

Moreover, radical Islamic movements have been gaining strength in Asia and Africa. Particularly, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Somalia have seen drastic increases.

An End in Sight?

At this time, it does not appear that the next few years will bring an end to these horrific murders. However, groups like Open Doors and others hope to minimize the casualties and enrich religious freedom. We have only scratched the surface about this, but as the internet thrives, it appears that awareness for Christian persecution may also rise. With this, awareness groups may hope to raise more funds and rally more people to their cause to end intolerance.


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Libertarianism is not Self-Destructive or Unsustainable

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

A recent article by an unknown guest contributor on the Bilan Report suggested that a libertarian society is unsustainable for various reasons. Among these are the ideas that all personal freedom leads to libertinism, individualism is incompatible with the NAP (non-aggression principle), and the supposed libertarian assumption that all governance is bad. The author makes many misconceptions about libertarianism in their article. In response, this piece attempts to set the record straight on libertarian philosophy.

Christianity

The author of this piece starts off the article with an explanation that “there is some level of inherent worth within the individual” from a Biblical perspective. The author then attempts to immediately downplay this importance. They say that a philosophy based entirely on individualism would not work very well.

There is no exact definition of individualism made. From later parts of the article, we can assume the author means that individualism is independence from any organization. The Biblical definition of individualism clearly does not coincide with the latter definition, though. This is because the Bible clearly outlines the importance of being a member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and part of the Church community.

Because the Bible also emphasizes the importance of community along with individualism, Biblically deduced individualism as a core of a philosophy would not lead to the disastrous consequences that the author suggests.

Individualism is not the full extent of the Biblical relationship to libertarianism either. In the first part of Bastiat’s The Law, natural rights stemming from life as a gift from God are clearly deduced. I have written on this subject before:

These gifts from God preclude any human legislation and any political leader that has ever existed. This is the core of what exists. These are human rights. Legislation does not define these – nature and nature’s God has. In the garden in Genesis, there was no government. It was anarchy in the truest sense there has ever been, no coercive governing entity. There was only a loving and gift giving God. Clearly there was no legislator dictating how Adam and Eve live their lives through the coercive stroke of a pen. Human legislation cannot ever get underneath this core, but it can restrict it. Restricting it has no benefit though, for any restriction of freedom will stifle economic growth. God set it up this way, to make it the most beneficial for everyone to be free to use their faculties as they wish.

It is foolish to downplay the relationship between the Bible and libertarianism as a few verses alluding to individualism. It goes much deeper and is much stronger. Regardless the author dismisses all discussion on Christian libertarianism by says that “it remains somewhat outside the scope of this discussion of libertarianism as a whole.” This is untrue. Ron Paul is probably the second most convert-gaining libertarian in human history (directly behind Ayn Rand). Bastiat, John Locke, and many of the founding fathers had a faith-based perspective on liberty. But such a statement by the author allows them to get rid of an opposition to their argument. They construct a libertarian strawman that is much easier to attack.

Human Action

The author of this piece also seems to get praxeological insight confused with a moral code as to how man ought to or should act. They mention the action based framework for economics loosely twice in the article:

Taken to its logical conclusion, libertarianism holds that there are no wrong choices, but simply the right to make that choice.

Drawing on heavy Kantian influences they view human action as fundamentally rational, or purposeful.

In Human Action Ludwig von Mises describes that man acts. From this action axiom, along with other synthetic apriori truths (irrefutable statements we learn and know simply from being human), we can deduce the entire science of economics as a subset of praxeology. These other apriori ideas are things such as the law of returns, the law of diminishing marginal utility, time preference, the existence of opportunity costs, etc. These come from the epistemology put forth by Kant which the author alludes to.

The culmination of all of this truth gives us a value-free economics that allows us to understand how the world is and how it works. Praxeological reasoning does not tell us how the world ought to be. It is value-free. It does not aim to. Because of this, the propositions that man faces various choices does not mean that any choice a human chooses is good or moral. The author clearly does not understand that praxeological value free truths do not intersect with libertarian ethical standards from a Misesian perspective.

From a Rothbardian/Hoppean perspective, they eventually do, especially when it comes to the Hoppean argumentation ethics. The author does not address these at all, though, and simply takes the proposition that “man makes choices” to mean that “all choices a man makes are good.” Once again, this is a strawman of libertarian philosophy brought about most likely by lack of understanding of the philosophy.

The NAP

The author then attempts to argue that the non-aggression principle, or NAP, is incompatible with libertarianism:

The principle of limiting coercion is a fundamental aspect of libertarianism but taken in context with the other principles of maximal autonomy and the ability for the individual to reason towards moral and ethical principles, it becomes contradictory. If moral principles are something that can be determined through an individual’s own use of reason how can there be an objective universal principle against coercion?

This reasoning is once again based on a false conception of what libertarianism is. Not a single serious libertarian theorist has ever argued that “an individual’s own use of reason” allows them to come up with their own moral principles. I have no idea where the author got this idea. Libertarianism does not make the slightest attempt to justify any moral standard any individual just dreams up.

If libertarianism did justify such a proposition, it would be extremely flawed. A psychopath could reason their way to a moral standard of murder being ok because it makes them feel good. The reason this is not ok is that the non-aggression principle supersedes individual standards of morality. Libertarian theorist Robert Nozick described the non-aggression principle as a “side constraint” on action. This means that we cannot do things that violate this side constraint.

Think of the rules of soccer: there is the side constraint that you cannot pick up the ball. If you could pick up the ball, it would be helpful for you, because you could through the ball into the goal. This is not allowed in soccer though because it breaks the game. The side constraint of the non-aggression principle breaks the game of reality.

Governance

The author of this piece eventually gets to the point of arguing that libertarian individualism means a complete lack of any sort of social structure. They seem to think that lack of government (a territorial monopoly based on the threat of force) means a lack of governance (an authority based on societal norms or culture). They say the following:

Libertarianism taken to its logical conclusions promotes complete autonomy. This moves beyond simply being unconstrained by positive law and a strict use of only negative law, but liberation from associations and relationships. This includes fundamental institutions such as, “the family, church, and schools to the village and neighborhood and the community broadly defined—that exert strong control over behavior largely through informal and habituated expectations and norms.”14  Ironically, the rejection of institutions and concepts that have traditionally reigned in human behavior creates a further need and additional calls for the state to intervene to regulate bad behavior. This contradiction can play out as legislation mandating acceptance of, or at least association with, behaviors that would be rejected by natural law.

While the radical individualism of Objectivists does reject the idea of any sort of cultural governance, most libertarians (often right-libertarians) see it as an important staple as a free society. Families, churches, and cultural communities are important modes of organization that can exist outside of the state. Jeff Deist expertly explains the importance of such social institutions in this video:

A libertarian society does not reject these complex social institutions. Rather, it upholds these institutions, while a society with a growing state tears these down in favor of itself. The author seems to think that liberty leads to lack of organization, causing a need for the state. The situation is constructed in an entirely backward manner, though. The state seeks to grow in power. It would rather the people become reliant on it rather than their families or churches.

The wearing away of a traditional reliance on such institutions and customs, Deneen argues, will lead to a breakdown of functioning society. Instead of creating a society based on non-aggression and free transaction, best fulfilling the desires of its people, libertarianism tends to isolate the individual and break down the institutions that maintain a proper society.

The author of this piece does not understand what being a freely acting individual means. They seem to think it means being a freely acting individual outside of the influence of anyone else. But society does exist. And it is made up of individual people. The only alternative to this radical independent individualism in the eyes of the author is the state. But as we have explained the state is the true cause of the denigration of these important social institutions.

Liberty and Responsibility

Now we will move onto the final question of libertarian libertinism. The author makes the proposition that the non-Christian libertarianism spirals into responsibility free left-libertarian hedonism. Yet at the same time, the author quotes Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard as major representatives of the libertarian philosophy. Neither of these individuals was for hedonism. Both of them were against libertinism.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is based completely around being responsible for yourself. Murray Rothbard and libertarians in the Rothbardian tradition recognize the importance of responsibility on a society. I have written recently on this matter of responsibility and how it is very important to combat libertine libertarianism.

Freedom means we do not have the right to encroach on the actions of someone else. But freedom also means you need to be responsible for your own actions. It means you need to better yourself without the force of the government. Christian libertarianism is not the only political framework that promotes responsibility. And the answer to libertinism sure as hell is not more state power. It is the promotion of a culture of responsibility.

Libertarian theory is not self-destructive. A libertarian social order is not as unsustainable as this author believes. They think that their strawman version of libertarianism would be horrendous. But it is a strawman and not an accurate representation of libertarian belief.

California Legislation Goes After “Fundamentalist Christian” Views of Sexuality

By Jason Patterson | California

Does freedom mean freedom to speak, or does it mean freedom to censor speech that you don’t like?

In the state of California, left-wing lawmakers are attempting to pass a bill that would ban the sale of books that includes “fundamentalist” Christian views on sexuality and marriage.

Assembly Bill 2943 would make it an ‘unlawful business practice’ to engage in ‘a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer’ that advertise, offer to engage in, or to engage in ‘sexual orientation change efforts with an individual,’” according to the National Review.

That’s a lot to be taking in. So let’s break it down, looking at both sides without bias.

• Some Christians threat it could lead to also banning bibles due to verses that could be considered anti-homosexual.

• California is one of the most “queerest” states in the country and San Francisco has more LGBT civilians than any other city in the country.

• This isn’t a simple ban in “public libraries,” but rather a ban on a book being allowed to be sold in any form, private and public.

The bill is sure to spark further controversy. Whether or not it will pass has yet to be determined.


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Essentialism: The Mother of All Linear Thinking

Craig Axford | United States

There are some feelings

we just can’t think our way out of or ignore until they go away. A case in point is the conviction that we all carry with us that we have a core or essence — a certain je ne sais quoi that makes us who we are.

From this false sense of self we extrapolate to the world around us. If we have an essence that we can be reduced to, then just about everything and everyone else has the same quality. There is one fundamental thing that gives virtually everything in the universe its particular character. Even if we can’t put our finger on it, it’s there.

From this perspective essentialism isn’t so much a philosophy as it is an attitude. It’s an attempt to take our point of view and build a justification to back it up rather than an effort to better understand the world as it really is.

… the river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and that there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future.” ~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Our environment consists of complex systems — ourselves included — that have many necessary parts but no sufficient ones. Each is carrying out a number of processes that react dynamically to other processes going on both within the system itself and within the larger world. Finding an essence in this pea soup of moving parts and feedback loops isn’t so much like looking for a needle in a haystack as it is like trying to find the butterfly in China that caused the hurricane in the Caribbean. It turns out there was an awful lot that had to go right from that hurricane’s perspective between the flapping of the butterfly’s wings and its development into a storm. Take away any one of them and you end up with something weaker than a hurricane, or maybe even nothing at all.

Furthermore, why stop with the butterfly? Before it there was a caterpillar, so the caterpillar, not the butterfly, must be the fundamental (i.e. first) cause of the hurricane. But we can’t consider the caterpillar without considering everything that went into making it, can we? And so on, and so on…

. . .

Essentialism is defined as “The principle or theory that any entity such as a person, group, object, or concept has innate and universal qualities.” The online sociology dictionary from which this definition was pulled gives as an example “a person is born gay.”

Homosexuality is an interesting choice, given it’s relatively easy to dismiss sexuality as an example of a “universal” quality, even if it is demonstrably innate. Let’s consider for a moment some of the varieties of human sexuality: heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, & asexual. These can refer to preferences, behaviors, or both. The preferences may be strong, even absolute and inflexible in some people, while being weaker in others. A person who is very sexual in their teens and 20s may be largely asexual in their later years, or visa versa.

But if the quality of being universal is relatively easy to challenge, what about innateness? Certainly it is pretty well established at this point that homosexuality is genetic, isn’t it? There definitely is strong evidence that homosexuality, at least in most cases, has a biological basis. But then again sexuality in general has a biological basis, so attributing it to biology isn’t really saying much. Regardless, it’s not clear why identifying a gene(s) or other physical trigger with a particular behavior or preference qualifies as uncovering something essential about a person.

It is precisely because people exhibit a variety of sexual preferences and behaviors that no single one of them can be essential to being human. It follows then that no physical cause we might correlate with these behaviors will be essential either. Regardless, there are certainly instances of homosexuality (and heterosexuality, etc.) out there where the biological indicators of a different preference are present to at least some degree. In such cases we have to conclude that cultural, psychological and/or other environmental factors played a role. These cases cloud the either/or choices genetic/biological essentialism attempts to force upon us even further.

Photo by Audi Nissen on Unsplash

Essentialism doesn’t just fail to find something universal, let alone necessary, in particular expressions of sexuality. Differences in our physical abilities likewise reveal the weakness of linear essentialist thinking when it comes to human identity.

We are, with very very rare exceptions, born with two legs and arms, ten toes and fingers, etc. These features of the human body are, most definitely, innate. Bipedalism and opposable thumbs are two features we use to distinguish ourselves from other species. If essentialism was to find a home anywhere, surely it would be in these truly innate universal traits.

As it turns out losing a limb or limbs, while having a profound physical impact upon a person’s body, does not impact upon the essential humanity of the person suffering the loss. Indeed, thanks to advances in medical and other technologies these losses, though still traumatic, are arguably less significant now than they have ever been.

As I was completing this piece, the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking died. If anyone proved the essence of a human being does not reside in a healthy fully functioning body, he did. Hawking spent more than five decades crippled by the debilitating illness known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Yet in spite of being unable to move his limbs and having to rely upon sophisticated technology to communicate, his mind remained sharp. Indeed, few in history rivalled his capacity to transform the way we think about the universe.

. . .

So what does it mean to be essentially human, or anything else? Is there one component or quality that a person, group, or object can be reduced to that defines their essence?

In his book Scale, the theoretical physicist Geoffrey West puts the problem this way: “Because the essence of any measurable quantity cannot depend on an arbitrary choice of units made by human beings, neither can the laws of physics.”

West wasn’t talking about essentialism in a sociological or philosophical context, but still his point is well taken. If anything can arguably be described as the essence of a thing, it cannot be “an arbitrary choice” by humans that we depend upon to define it. In physics a good example is an object’s mass. Mass doesn’t vary according to whether we are using kilograms or pounds to articulate it. The unit of measurement is referring to something that is invariant and should not be mistaken for the thing (i.e. mass) it is referring to.

Can humans be reduced to a single invariant quality? Can other species for that matter? Keep in mind we are talking about an invariant quality, not biological processes that follow the same scaling laws regardless of species or environment. Do we even want such an unmovable center at the heart of our complexity given the implications that follow from it for things such as choice, resilience, and openness to new experiences?

. . .

The effort to reduce human beings to as few data points as possible, with one being the obvious if unobtainable ideal, has taken on new urgency in the age of big data. That correlation does not equal causation has not stopped marketers, corporations, and governments from correlating the hell out of us. With every click or swipe they make new assumptions about our personalities and preferences. By nudging us in that direction with the next ad or search result that appears on the screen algorithms seek confirmation through their own self reinforcing feedback loops.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, if there’s one thing humans can’t be objective about it’s themselves. But even if we could, somehow, find a magic place from which to cast an unbiased eye over our own experiences (collective as well as individual), it’s hard to imagine finding from that transcendent perch a single essential thing at the core of the human experience from which every other aspect of our existence could be understood and predicted.

The gene won’t do. The more we learn about genetics the more mutable the gene becomes. The relatively new field of epigenetics has revealed that changes take place in gene expression over our lifetime which even have implications for future generations not exposed to the original environmental trigger. These impacts are in addition to the usual mutations that play a key role in both disease and evolution.

Likewise, the brain has proven itself to be incredibly modular and plastic. Finding something essential there is a quixotic endeavor in light of this fluidity. Attempting to pin the essential tail on the existential donkey when the donkey in question is different from one day to the next at the cellular, organ, and experiential level isn’t just difficult. It’s an exercise in futility.

. . .

Essentialism is a product of our tendency to categorize things in our environment and to draw clear lines between these categories that connect a supposed cause to an actual effect. Historically these lines have often been fantastic, leading to all manner of superstitions and myths being offered up as explanations for everything from the weather to illness.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ~ John Muir

But with the possible exception of the most fundamental forces in nature connections are rarely few and linear. As systems become more complex, the list of influences contributing to a particular outcome grows creating a web of variables that no algorithm or supercomputer can possibly deal with entirely, let alone comprehend.

This isn’t to say life is just too complex for us to get closer to the truth of the matter. However, it is to say we can’t get very close to the truth by thinking in simple linear terms the way essentialism invites us to. Essentialism is the easy way out.

As Andrew Shtulman put it in his book Science Blind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong, “Essentialist construals of genetic information are neither accurate nor productive, but they are an enduring obstacle to how we interpret such information because essentialism is our universal starting point for thinking about inheritance.” Shtulman concludes, “Even geneticists were once preschoolers intent on imbuing the biological world with discrete, immutable essences.” That isn’t just true of genetics and future geneticists playing in the preschool sandbox, but of virtually every area of human inquiry and everybody else. Fostering greater tolerance for nuance and uncertainty may not be as reassuring or intuitive as essentialism, but in the long run it’s by far our best bet.

Photo by Tiago Gerken on Unsplash

Other recent articles by Craig: Are You Getting Enough Awe in Your Experiential Diet? & This Darwin Day Let’s Remember Evolution is About Kinship Too

Follow Craig on Twitter or read articles by him on Medium.com

Why We Will Never Forget Waco

When I was a child my grandfather had a coffee mug that always grabbed my attention. On one side it read “Ruby Ridge Never Again” and on the flip side it read “Waco Never Forget.” He wasn’t an anarchist or a gun nut but my grandfather recognized that what happened in Waco in the early Spring months of 1993 was a breach of our constitutional liberties and a painful twisting of the institutional rights that govern a separation of religion and state. Over 80 Branch Davidians and four ATF agents would die during the course of a 3-month standoff that culminated in what amounted to a nationally televised snuff film paid and orchestrated by our federal government. Today, as we witness the 25th anniversary of the event, the aftershocks of Waco still command rabid debate.

Waco would come to politicize the modern gun rights and religious freedom movements in ways that still linger today. Waco was the convergence of many political and cultural manifestations of the late baby boomer generation that found itself in the jaws of a modern state that seemed to care little for our Bill of Rights. Aggressive and centralized power authorities, the politicians and federal agents that led this massacre were the embodiment of everything our founding fathers had hoped to protect us from.

The President was Bill Clinton, the Attorney General Janet Reno, and Waco their stomping ground. In the weeks leading up to what would become one of the gravest examples of government’s force on its own, freedom fighters, observers and a domestic terrorist gathered a mile away from the site to document, protest and discuss the developing situation. Among the members of the gallery included future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh who was radicalized in the events during and after Waco.

For many in the anti-government movement, the months-long standoff at the compound verified many of their worries about an all encroaching state. For the men and women who believe the second amendment stands as a testament to the right to defend your property and loved ones against a tyrannical government, this was the moment of truth. Today, it should be remembered as a point of reference to those that critique the idea of American citizens protecting themselves in their own homes from an unruly and dictator-like central authority which expresses little humanism or care for their constituents. The second amendment does not guarantee you victory but it does give individuals the right to fight and die on their own terms and that’s exactly what the Davidians did.

The leader of the Branch Davidians was a charismatic, egotistical man named David Koresh. Growing up, Koresh suffered from dyslexia and learning disabilities but he preached the word of the gospel with passion and his following grew. His sermons were filled with readings from the book of Nahum which proclaimed a coming war with an apostate state. Koresh and his followers were obsessed with the idea that they would one day have to battle with a Babylonian government and the federal government’s aggression on the compound was a sign of the coming end times.

The Branch Davidians had a history in Waco, Texas. In the early 1960’s the Davidians leader Victor Houteff moved the organization to the Mount Carmel compound just a few miles north of Waco. Seventh Day Adventists, the Davidians believed they were living in a divine end time of biblical prophecies that would witness Christ’s Second Coming. Seen as an extremist Christian sect, the Davidians were people who truly believed their sole purpose to be the attainment of eternal life.

This all played a major role in the standoff as Koresh and followers honestly believed they were living through end times and that Koresh was a divine prophet. In recordings of top members, it became clear that the Davidians only desire was to get to heaven and they were willing to go the whole way (die) to prove their devotion.

On February 23, 1993, authorities arrived at the Mount Carmel compound with the intent to search the premises for illegal weapons. The story of what happened next depends on who you believe. What is agreed upon is that David Koresh came out the front door of the Mount Carmel compound and that’s where the agreement ends. According to ATF agents, they witnessed Koresh armed and began firing on the suspect. A bullet pierced Koresh’s wrist while another one bit through the closed door behind him, mortally wounding member Perry Jones. The Davidians argued that neither Koresh nor Jones was armed at the time. In the ensuing firefight between ATF agents and a well-armed Davidian complex, four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed. After this, there would be no turning back.

The videotapes of three video cameras that agents trained on the building that day had vanished by the time a federal inquiry was raised in the aftermath. All of the daily logs for the federal agents and deputies from that day also vanished in the months following the attack.

Federal agents were angry and they would show this anger in the following months through a series of psychological and physical attacks on the Davidians. Four of their people were dead and there would be hell to pay. For the Davidians also there appeared no way out of this predicament. The Davidians knew they would be arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder of a federal agent which carry life sentences. The standoff stalled and federal agents grew frustrated.

No tactic was deemed too unsavory for our federal agents. They stood on tanks outside the compound and flicked off women and children inside. Agents regularly pulled down their pants and mooned the inhabitants of the church while scrawling “David we are watching you” on the compound windows. Eventually, after the Davidians made it clear they would not surrender, federal agents resorted to psychological warfare in the form of playing loud noises and repetitive music day and night. One of the songs the ATF agents blared at the compound was Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin:”

You keep playing where you shouldn’t be playing

And you keep thinking that you’ll never get burnt

Well, I’ve just found me a brand new box of matches

And what he knows you ain’t had time to learn

These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do

One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you

The same morbid and bizarre strategies used against terror suspects during the Bush presidency were found first on American soil in Waco in 1993. Frustrated with the resolve of the Davidians, federal agents eventually shut off all electricity to the compound in hopes of forcing members out. They stayed, resorting to rationed rainwater as the onslaught of force continued.

There was never going to be a happy outcome to the events at Waco. FBI agents twisted and turned the Davidians in a sick game of good cop/bad cop until there would be no clean exits left. This strategy created increased distrust amongst Davidians and had the counter effect of emboldening their prophecies of an apostate state and the coming end times.

On the morning of April 19th, the time for discussion had come to a close. Federal agents called the Branch Davidian compound and instructed members that they would be commencing tank activity and to “take cover.” To this, the Davidians threw their phone out the front door. The end was near.

What happened next is still the source of great debate. According to the official timeline presented by our government, armored tanks approached the compound and poked holes in the building before pumping tear gas into the complex. At around 11:30 AM a small fire broke out on one side of the building and FBI surveillance records claim to have audio recordings of Davidians suggesting they set fire to the building themselves. It would be another hour before the fire department was called to the scene.

In all, 76 Branch Davidians would die in the fire that day and in the months and years following questions continued to linger regarding the timeline of events as portrayed by federal officials. The first major criticism was lobbed by Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin who went inside the Mount Carmel complex during the siege and testified at trial that the bullet holes found on the front door from the initial approach by agents on February 23rd showed incoming rounds, not outgoing. This suggested that it was ATF agents who fired on the complex first instead of the official statement that portrayed ATF agents returning fire against the Davidians who initiated the fight. At the trial, officials claimed to have ‘lost’ the door referred to by DeGuerin and Texas Trooper David Keys testified to seeing the missing door placed into a U-haul by two men after the siege, never to be seen again.

Another cause of controversy was the manner in which the tanks administered tear gas on the morning of April 19th. Survivor David Thibodeau claimed that damage to the building from the tanks allowed the gas to spread. Although the FBI had planted surveillance devices along the walls of the compound to use as evidence in the trial, members of the jury had trouble making out much of the conversations over the noise and hiss present throughout the tapes. While the FBI insisted the conversations provided audio evidence of Koresh and followers talking about lighting the compound on fire, many of the members in the trial audience claimed that they could make out no such conversations over the imperfect recordings.

Furthering questions of the state’s case was the element of pyrotechnic devices found in the rubble of the compound. Attorney General Janet Reno denied use of the devices and from 1993 to 1999 the FBI denied under oath the use of any pyrotechnic devices in the assault. So then why were there pyrotechnic devices found in the rubble? When the FBI turned over documents to Congress in 1994 for an internal investigation, the page listing the use of pyrotechnic devices was missing. Years later, a senior FBI official told Newsweek that more than 100 federal agents were aware of the use of pyrotechnic devices on the compound on April 19th, 1993.

We still don’t know, fully what happened. Perhaps Koresh and his followers did indeed attack ATF agents. Perhaps they did, indeed, set fire to their compound in an attempt to verify the claims of their prophecies. However, many believe it is more likely that the federal government had no business being on the property to begin with and that their use of force in the approach on February 23rd backed Koresh and his followers into a corner they would never get out of.

We remember Waco as a prime example of the power and authority that our modern federal government commands over free American citizens. The escalation of force and the trampling of religious freedoms by Janet Reno and federal agents crystalized what many saw as an increasingly dogmatic and ill government run by authoritarians. Our government targeted a group of off the grid end-timers on paper thin gun charges and met true believers of the second amendment and their religious rights.

We remember Waco not as a footnote of our American history but as a major expression of a new era of American politicians that sought to discontinue the prescriptions of liberty as laid out in our constitution. The memory of the men, women, and children who died in a blaze of fire that day in Waco remind us all that there are still those amongst us willing to live and die by the sword of eternal freedom.