Seventh-day Adventist Responses to Branch Davidian Notoriety

The Branch Davidians were linked to the Seventh-day Adventist Church by their historical roots, the source of their members, their name (officially the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists), their identity, and their apocalyptic preoccupations, idiom, and paranoias. This paper examines the responses within Seventh-day Adventism to the sudden notoriety of the Branch Davidians. In so doing, it sheds new light on the Branch Davidian tragedy: Because Adventist leaders focused on distancing their church from the stigmatized Davidians, the confusion and misconceptions surrounding the latter’s practices and apocalyptic theology were not clarified, and information and resources that might have helped government officials play a more constructive role during the siege were withheld. However, the official response was only one of several within Adventism to the Branch Davidian saga. The paper isolates three divergent responses, which are used as a vehicle for exploring long-term trends within Adventism – its increasing diversity and the strains flowing therefrom. The uncovering of these differing responses opens the way for an investigation of the pattern of diversity that emerges in a sect that is, in the terms of Stark and Bainbridge, reducing its tension with society and moving toward denominational status.

Lawson, Ronald. 1995. “Seventh-Day Adventist Responses to Branch Davidian Notoriety: Patterns of Diversity within a Sect Reducing Tension with Society.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34(3):323.

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