Television loves “weeks.” There’s Shark Week, Sweeps Week,rnand now it appears the entire month of February is being dedicated to cultsrnand their potential for devastation on both the spiritual and physical realms.

The A&E channel pulled out all the stops for the 25thrnanniversary of the siege on the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, a horriblyrnbotched police action that resulted in the death of more than 70 men, women andrnchildren.

Besides the six-part docu-drama of the Waco fiasco, A&Ernprimed the pump with a two-part, four-hour documentary with interviews fromrnboth sides of the standoff.

The docu-drama, still running its course on television, hasrngotten mixed reviews, but for me, the documentary on Waco, which would be hardrnto match as truth in the end, is many times more impactful than arndramatization even if the dramatization is based on real events.

Knowing in advance it was all going to go up in flamesrn(literally) after 51 days of grueling negotiations makes it no easier to watch.rnAnd listening to the chilling accounts from still faithful cult members andrnsome government officials who seemed a little too comfortable with thernresulting conflagration, empowers this documentary with gut-wrenching reality. 

I know little of the Branch Davidian cult and its founder,rnDavid Koresh. But Scripture and the Church tell me all I need to know aboutrnfalse prophets. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothingrnbut inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthewrn7:15, 16).

Regardless of the culpability of law enforcement agents inrnthe standoff, the “fruit” of so many dead innocents should be all the proofrnpeople needed to know that something was amiss with Koresh.

But apparently it isn’t. Which brings us to the single mostrndisturbing aspect of the A&E documentary. It includes interviews andrnfirsthand accounts of the standoff of the Waco event from some of the cultrnmembers who survived the inferno … men and women who continue to this day tornbe “true believers.”

They fully embrace and believe, these 25 years later, thatrnKoresh will return. They do not claim he was Jesus, but apparently believe hernwill be involved in a resurrection of sorts, and despite all the horrors theyrnsaw they are unmoved from their position that Koresh was a messenger of therndivine.

With cults on the minds of cable television schedulers, wernhave also been subject to another documentary of the Jonestown cult massacre. Irnwatched this with my adult son, who had no idea that more than 900 men, womenrnand children drank cyanide-spiked Kool-Aid, urged on to a horribly painfulrndeath by their cult leader Jim Jones.

The documentary on the cult has the audio of the actualrnsuicide taking place. It is not family-friendly fare. But it says so much aboutrncults and the power they can manifest when married to a person with exceptionalrn“skills.”

I know that’s a weird way of speaking about men like Koreshrnand Jones, but how else to codify their ability to drive so many to their doom?

The warning shot across our collective bows from theserndocumentaries is that cults can be powerful entities, and even after so muchrndeath and horror, their death grip on some remain. Should it surprise us therernis currently a “fight” over the remains of Charles Manson?

Cults, like heresies, cannot exist unless there is a truthrnthat they can fold, spindle or mutilate beyond recognition. This is certainlyrnthe case for both Koresh and Jones.

They had just enough “truth” entwined with their movements,rnand when combined with strong, and in these two examples, overpoweringrnpersonalities, the body counts rise and it is only a matter of time until therntruth laced with error becomes Kool-Aid laced with cyanide.

Documentaries like the ones on the Waco and Jonestown disasters do us a great service to remind us to be ever watchful for sheep-clothed wolves. It was good for my son to see this form of twisted error around truth, and it was good for all of us to keep our eyes on the Way and thernTruth.

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