He was a native Texan.
As a child, he demonstrated a remarkable knowledge of the New Testament.
He was saved at a young age in a Southern Baptist church.
Early in his ministry, he orchestrated a successful takeover to gain control of his religious group.
He enjoyed world travel, taking numerous trips to the Holy Land to better aquaint himself with the life and times of Jesus.
During the course of his ministry, he surrounded himself with men who were incredibly loyal to his cause.
Some of his students, in time, became frustrated when they saw that he taught one set of rules for them, but practiced another set for himself.
Through the years, he had to deal with various lawsuits and court hearings related to his treatment of women.
He used the funds he raised from donors to build a large compound for his private living quarters.
His relationship with his own children was the source of much speculation and numerous rumors.
He was considered by many to be an expert in biblical prophecies, especially those found in the Book of Daniel.
He spent most of his last years working on commentary on The Book of Revelation, which he never completed.
He collected high-powered firearms and stored them in his Texas home.
He had a low regard for the federal government in general, and for the Clinton Administration in particular.
He believed the federal government was forever encroaching upon his religious freedom; and he believed that the Second Amendment was the only certain guarantee of the First Amendment.
His secret archives included tape recordings and videos that revealed much about his ministry after his death.
He told his students to resist with force any attempt to disrupt their religious community, and they did.
Those who had worked most closely with him in his final days saw him grow increasingly eccentric, even paranoid.
He never understood why his critics wouldn’t leave him alone.
He never fully recognized that the public media had turned on him, and that he would never get a fair shake in the press.
He despised it when people questioned his leadership, and he often retaliated.
Can you guess who this man was?
UPDATE: Well, since everyone was guessing this, I’ll just tell you. It’s David Koresh of Branch Davidian infamy. I was up late at my office last night studying, and I ran across an article about the psychopathology of cultic religious leaders whose teaching resulted in mass suicides. In some fields of study, this is referred to as the “Samson syndrome,” referring to the Israelite Judge from the tribe of Dan whose obsession with his own strength and manliness got himself in quite a pickle. By the end of the narrative, Samson kills himself to destroy the Philistines. He’s a classic example of “honorable suicide,” and the New Testament lists him among the greatest men of faith recorded in Scripture. Essentially, the article was exploring how psychopathic religious leaders see themselves as heroic in their efforts to oppose the “evil” they perceive around themselves. Their psychopathology is aggravated, however, when they begin to compel others to assume the same “heroic impulse” as an act of faith in God. When that happens, you end up with Jonestown koolaid, Branch Davidian bonfires, and Marshall Applewhite’s emasculation rituals. Of coures, the psychosis is not peculiar among “Christian versions” of cultic belief. It’s the same diagnosis given to Muslim extremists who plan mass bombings or hijack airplanes, or Buddhist monks who ignite themselves in public streets after taking a gasoline bath.
I’m trying to figure out, I guess, why religion attracts some of the worst crazies. Where is the avowed atheist or agnostic who commits murdering, torturing crimes against others in the name of nothing? Why the messianic language in Seung Hui Cho’s video recordings? Why did Klansmen burn crosses and recite prayers before lynching a Black man?
It’s interesting to me that the New Testament records that Jesus called only one Zealot to serve among his apostles, and on the only occasion where one of his disciples took up a sword to protect an innocent life, Jesus rebuked him and healed the assailant. Where were the Christians who stopped the stoning of Stephen? Were there no “men” to do it?
Of course, I suppose an argument could be made that Jesus committed suicide, in a sense. “Nobody takes my life from me,” he said, “but I lay it down on my own.” When he told his disciples that “greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends,” was he prescribing suicide as the highest form of selfless love?
These are questions that have me preparing for our Sunday evening service this week. On fifth Sundays, we always do an “open forum” service, when members can ask the pastor any question they like. I usually lead off with a very controversial topic to get the ball rolling, and I think I’ve figured out what this week’s will be.