The Existential Doom of Doomsday Cults: What Makes these Time Bombs Tick?

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The following is a college essay by Will Deatherage (Executive Director) that received a grade of A. Clarifying Catholicism prides itself in publishing college essays. Feel free to submit yours in our Contact Us page.

            “Doomsday prophet wrong again.”[1]  “The Sinful Messiah.”[2] “400 Stood in Line to Die.”[3] The fear of death has often led to its characterization as the ultimate dystopia, compelling men to flock to doomsday cults that guarantee paths to Heaven, the ultimate utopia. Remarkably, despite all social and scientific progress, this fascination with the apocalypse has persisted throughout modernity. In fact, twice as many apocalyptic films were produced in the early 2010s as there were in the 1990s, an astonishing fact considering the fervor surrounding “Y2K.”[4]  The Bible cautions against speculating about the apocalypse, warning that those who demand knowledge of things only God can know will be punished. [5]  Clearly, the economic, social, political, and physiological fallout from many of these movements demonstrate precisely why such predictions are cautioned against. Man’s yearning to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, the ultimate utopia, comes from an intrinsic yearning to overcome the dystopia of death by “knowing the hour,” a desire that has produced disastrous doomsday cults.

            Throughout the Bible, Heaven is often depicted using utopian imagery. “Paradise,”[6] “a glorious city,”[7] and “a better land”[8] are just a handful of the terms associated with Heaven, but they are united by one central theme: Heaven is a place one where God provides for all of His children. Hell, in contrast, is referred to as “Gehenna”[9] and “Hades,”[10] two places of misery and despair in Jewish and Greek traditions, respectively. Furthermore, the end times in Revelation are depicted as real events in a physical world that culminate in a New Heaven and New Earth, two more physical places. While all of these locations and events are understood as metaphors and allegories by mainstream Christianity, the fact that they are described in terms of the physical world conveniently provides blueprints for what a utopia and dystopia would look like. To doomsday cults, all that separates mankind from eternal life is the actualization of the Kingdom of God.

            Human beings are naturally anxious. German philosopher Martin Heidegger writes, “We hover in anxiety. More precisely, anxiety leaves us hanging because it induces the slipping away of beings as a whole.”[11] David Chidester, a Professor of Religious Studies, similarly notes: “The fragile network of interlocking interpersonal relations that holds any society of human beings together is inevitably disrupted by death.”[12] Essentially, the human race is only familiar with life, not death, yet death is one of the only guarantees life brings with it. The prospect of losing the only thing we know, existence itself, haunts us each day, as a changing universe shows us that nothing lasts forever. Of course, not everyone reacts to this stress the same way, so there will inevitably be extremists who refuse to let go of the mysteries death presents. These people are often attracted to the idea of the apocalypse. On the other hand, man is threatened by the opposite extreme: apathy. As technology and materialism become increasingly pervasive, some people avoid questions of death and existence altogether. However, because humans are not fulfilled by material pleasure, this often leads to “the hidden distress of no-distress-at-all.”[13] Materialism can create an emptiness in life, and once this is discovered, people sometimes flock to fringe apocalyptic groups, giving up money, possessions, and even their lives in the pursuit of a utopian afterlife that can only be guaranteed by the end times. Amy Frykholm, an analyst of Christian doomsday groups, writes about one leader’s intuition of this feeling: “[Harold Camping] was able to tap into the sense among twenty-first-century people that our life is unsustainable. He gave that uneasiness supernatural meaning and connected it to his own expertise.”[14] Thus, extreme responses to existential questions often feed into obsessions with the apocalypse.

            The three doomsday cults that will be analyzed in this essay were chosen based on the role violence, which is often associated with intensity, played in their respective narratives: the first exhibiting no violence, the second exhibiting internal violence, and the third external violence. However, much like “religion,” the term “cult” is one of the most contested words in the social sciences. That said, I will abide by the definition proposed by Jackie Speier, an aide of Representative Leo Ryan, who was killed by the People’s Temple, one of the groups we will analyze:

[Cults] offer a ready-made substitute family, coupled with a very strong charismatic leader acting as a father figure who has the ability to mesmerize his followers. Mind control seems to be implemented through intimidation, coercion, forced and sometimes aberrant sexual conduct, drugs, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, and divestment of worldly possessions.[15]

This definition is broad enough to include a wide range of extremism, which is valuable to our consideration of violence within each group. Additionally, its derivation by someone who had direct experience with such groups (Speier witnessed the assassination) makes it even more relevant to this discussion. With this disclaimer and definition in mind, the analysis shall begin.

            The date was May 21, 2011. Harold Camping and his Family Radio organization awaited a glorious rapture, the culmination of hundreds of hours of work and millions of dollars in advertising. Thousands of believers sold everything they had and left their jobs, trusting the wisdom of Camping’s Biblical interpretations that this was the day of the apocalypse. This following did not come overnight, though. Founded in the late 1950s, Family Radio gradually fostered three components: a network of Christian radio stations for “true believers,” a fellowship, and an online community.[16] The relationship between the three aspects was never totally unified, as Camping stayed off the online forums, and many radio listeners did not associate with his fellowship. In fact, by the time “Judgment Day” came, Charles Sarno reports that “less than one quarter of the paid staff at Family Radio headquarters attended the fellowship or even subscribed to Camping’s theology.”[17] The Family Radio project, therefore, is rather difficult to categorize as a unified entity, though the impacts of Camping’s failed predictions were substantial for those involved.

            An engineer by training, Camping was confident that not only could the Bible be decoded, but that he had the ability to decipher it. “God has given us soooo much information in the Bible about this,”[18] Camping touted in a New York Magazine interview. This confidence was nothing new for Camping. In the 1980s, he was censured from teaching Sunday School at a church whose elders feared was becoming “a church within a church.”[19] Camping then left town to preach to more receptive proselytes. In 1992, Camping proposed his prediction for the second coming of Christ in his book 1994? and wrote that the world would end either then or in 2011.[20] When no messiah materialized in 1994, several devotees left the group. The lack of a second coming made no difference to Camping in the long run, though. Camping continued to raise awareness and money in preparation for the end times. As 2011 approached, Camping launched an aggressive advertising campaign that made headlines over social media. Of course, May 21, 2011, passed with nothing unusual to report. Conveniently, Camping refused to return the money donated by believers, approximately $80 million from 2009 to 2011, claiming that every cent was spent on advertising.[21] Any lawsuits were futile, as Family Radio was recognized as a non-profit, even receiving the highest rating from Charity Navigator.[22] Of course, many were totally devastated by the outcome, having left jobs, abandoned homes, and depleted their life savings in anticipation of the rapture. Thus, the mood surrounding this failed prediction was not one of celebration, but of frustration and agony. The passionate pastor faced no financial repercussions and died in 2013 at the age of 92.

            Christian doomsday cults are nothing new, especially in the United States. The power of social institutions, coupled with religious tolerance, has allowed for a wide spectrum of belief to flourish. Because of this mentality, Camping was unstoppable in his fundraising efforts. How he received so much support is unsurprising, though. Early Christianity was quite apocalyptic. The events depicted in Revelation are not a matter of “if,” but of “when.” This “when,” though, carries a positive anxiety, a longing for Heaven, that, when mixed with the negative anxiety, a fear of death, compels people to support an endeavor that will bring about the ultimate utopia of Heaven. Often, these people search for an assurance of eternal happiness. They understand that utopia cannot be guaranteed through materialism, but they are also weary of mainstream religions that offer less assurance of salvation. Combine this with a charismatic leader, and it is no wonder that people would sacrifice so much for a utopia. Unfortunately for them, unlike a passionate pastor, a utopia cannot be bought.

            While Harold Camping was exiled from Christian groups, his teachings still claimed to be rooted in Christianity. The same cannot be said about Jim Jones, leader of the People’s Temple. What started out as a Christian apocalyptic organization evolved into a rejection of Christianity that focused on building a socialist utopia known as “apostolic socialism.”  As Catherine Abbot notes, “With the escalation of anti-church rhetoric would come the rejection of the Christian God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible as Jones positioned himself as the head of the church and worthy of sole worship by his congregation.”[23] During a sermon, one of Jones’s congregation members exclaimed, “Behold, I have said unto thee. Give up thy capitalist ways. I have returned with my power and glory to build a new Jerusalem. Hallelujah!”[24] In tests of loyalty, Jones would conduct “white nights,” during which he would inform his followers that they had consumed poison, eagerly observing how they would react. There never was poison in the drinks, though such a blind loyalty assured Jones that his disciples would stand by him until the bitter end.[25] Though his socialist idealism began in the United States, Jones eventually deemed the nation incompatible with his vision, so he and his followers moved to Guyana and established what they called Jonestown.

            Throughout the 1970s, a crew of Jones’s men built cottages, kitchens, food storage areas, an infirmary, and two schoolhouses in Guyana, anticipating the Peoples Temple’s migration.[26] However, when nearly a thousand of Jones’s followers arrived in 1977, the camp’s resources were greatly strained. Worse yet, Jones was becoming increasingly erratic and controlling One settler mentioned: “I never thought it would come to this […] It was not until Jones got here that things got bad. If he really wanted to do something for socialism he could not have done anything worse.” [27]  In fits of paranoia, families were often broken up and pitted against each other, followers were subject to hard labor, sexual assault was rampant, and Jones micromanaged social interactions within the group.[28] All mail and media from the outside world was censored, and no one was allowed to leave. Within months, however, this operation was in jeopardy. Families of Jones’s disciples formed a coalition called the “Concerned Relatives” and accused Jones of forcing his followers to live in poor conditions, distributing an “Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones” to members of the United States Congress.[29] Leo Ryan, a Representative of California’s 11th congressional district, took particular interest in the matter and led a press delegation to showcase Jonestown to curious Americans and offer cult members a ticket back to the United States. The visit was peaceful until Ryan’s delegation tried to depart with some defectors. At the airstrip, Ryan and his entourage were assaulted, and he was shot and killed, though most of the delegation survived the ordeal. Immediately afterwards, Jones gathered the entire village for one final “white night.” He called on his followers to “lay down your lives,”[30] as they drank cyanide-laced “Kool-Aid.”  “Die with respect, die with a degree of dignity,”[31] he urged, “It’s [sic] nothing to death, it’s just stepping over into another plane.”[32] Over 900 people died that day, the largest mass suicide of Americans in history.

            Jim Jones’s attitude towards death was nihilistic. If his vision of a utopia could not be realized, then life was not worth living at all. While Camping’s supporters gave up their belongings for the end times, they were never asked to take their own lives. Perhaps this reflects an element of partial subordination to God in Camping’s movement that was entirely absent from Jones’s. Camping was the messenger of the apocalypse, not God incarnate. Only God, Himself, would command a rapture. Jim Jones, on the other hand, claimed to be God, granting him the authority to lead his people to suicide. That said, while the assassination of the Congressman was indeed chilling, it is telling that Jones sought to escape from, rather than engage with, the rest of American society. The same cannot be said about the Branch Davidians.

            While Family Radio’s approach to building a utopia was non-violent and Jonestown’s was violent internally, the Branch Davidians armed themselves to play an integral part in bringing about the apocalypse to the whole world. And while the climax of their operation took place in 1993, the group’s past reflects decades of internal disruption and violence. In 1929, Victor T. Houteff called for reform within the Seventh Day Adventist denomination. He considered himself a prophet, was rejected by the church, and established his own group, the Davidians, signifying the re-establishment of King David’s kingdom.[33] After Houteff’s death in 1955, his wife, Florence, led a segment of the group, known as the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists, and preached of the apocalypse.[34] In 1959, Florence and her followers gathered at Mount Carmel Center, their compound, awaiting the end of the world, which did not come.[35] Faced with disappointment, Florence attempted to disband the group, when Benjamin Roden came to power, took command of Mount Carmel, and led a new incarnation of the group, the Branch Davidians.[36] The Roden family reigned supreme until Vernon Howell, another outcast of the Seventh Day Adventist community, joined them. Howell, in his late 20s at the time, amassed a large following within the group and even had an affair with Lois Roden, one of the group’s prophetesses, who was in her 60s.[37] Tensions mounted between Howell and George Roden, son of Lois and leader of the group, until Howell was cast out of Mount Carmel in 1985. He returned in 1987 with a small militia in an attempt to subdue Roden, and the two factions engaged in a shootout.[38] This expedition failed, though Howell was never found guilty in court of any wrongdoing.[39] Soon after, Roden failed to pay taxes on Mount Carmel, which gave Howell a prime opportunity to take control of the compound, as well as the organization.[40] In 1990, Howell legally changed his name to “David Koresh,” claiming ties to King David and Cyrus (Koresh means Cyrus in Hebrew), thus cementing his status as leader. Like Harold Camping, Koresh was interested in decoding the Bible to usher in the apocalypse, though Koresh refused to sit back and let God end the world. Like Jim Jones, he sought to lead his followers into a new age, proclaiming to law enforcement in 1993, “If the seven seals are true, yes, I’m the Lamb of God. Yes, I’m Christ. If the seven seals are true.”[41] However, Koresh was not satisfied with bringing the apocalypse to his small group; he was prepared to bring it to the whole world.

Life inside the compound consisted of selective asceticism. On one hand, Koresh insisted on purity and simplicity. On the other, he claimed that, as the heir of David, it was his duty to start a new lineage of royalty. This was used to justify his polyamory, which allegedly involved underage girls.[42] Koresh established a strict dress code for women; he would tell them where to sleep and what to eat.[43] Many reported that the compound had no running water, heat, or electricity.[44] Koresh was musically talented, and singing and guitar often accompanied Bible study sessions. One former follower recounts “It was fun as long as we were being obedient […] If we weren’t being obedient […] he always would let us know it wasn’t right and we should’ve done [it] differently, and many times it was in front of everyone.”[45] Members who were children at the time recall being hit for misbehaving.[46] All of this was justified by the upcoming Battle of Armageddon, the battle of end times foretold in the book of Revelation, which Koresh was convinced would take place in Israel. Marc Breault, a defector, reports: “And [Koresh] believed that we were gonna go over [to Israel] and there was gonna be a war.”[47] Koresh travelled to Israel in the 1980s, attempting to establish a following there, and he was set on returning. However, thanks to Breault reporting his ideas to Israeli authorities, Koresh was eventually kicked out of Israel. CBS News reports, “It was then, the [Breault couple] says, that Koresh decided to bring the apocalypse to Waco.”[48] Little did Koresh know that he would not have to wait very long for the battle to start.

On February 28, 1993, David Koresh’s predictions came true. Outside the Mount Carmel Center was a squad of armed soldiers from various government agencies ready to start the final battle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, as well as the FBI and local law enforcement, had noticed Koresh’s illicit behavior and sought to avoid a second Jonestown. A 1993 FBI document known as the “Suicide Addendum” notes: “Timothy Stoen, attorney for Jim Jones, wrote in a letter that, based on his experience with cults, he believed it increasingly likely that a mass suicide would occur. He saw ‘disquieting parallels’ between Jonestown and Waco.”[49] However, there was one problem. The Davidians hardly gave any indication that mass suicide was on their minds, though since their cult fit the profile of Jonestown, many in the FBI were convinced that all such cults behaved the same way.[50]  Despite his warning, though, Stoen urged the FBI to “immediately withdraw all tanks, armor, uniformed personnel, and other signs of a military invasion (which simply feeds the Armageddon consciousness of the leader and plays into hold over his followers).”[51] Small groups of Davidians were released, but the FBI’s pressure only increased. In a Justice Department memo evaluating police response to Waco, Edward Dennis writes: ”The use of pressure tactics immediately after Koresh sent out Davidians from the compound may have undermined the negotiators’ credibility and blunted their efforts to gain the Davidians’ trust and to discredit Koresh in the eyes of his followers.”[52] Throughout the siege, government officials refused to speak to Koresh on his own terms. For example, in a call with Koresh, he inquired, “You got your Bible there?” only to be chastised for asking such a question: “Not, not scripture, David, I can’t understand it.” Koresh replied, “Well, if you can’t understand it there’s no reason for me to talk to you anymore, Jim.”[53] After 51 days, the FBI moved to confront Koresh when the compound suddenly caught on fire. Blame for how the fire was started is still debated, but in total 76 people died.

            Family Radio and Jonestown were typically non-violent externally (with the exception of the assassination of the Congressman). Both were primarily focused on the cultivation of their respective followers, rather than bringing the rest of the world into conflict with them. During the suicide, Jim Jones even stated, “Here’s why it’s too late for Russia. They killed. They started to kill. That’s why it makes it too late for Russia. […] But it’s too late. I can’t control [the Russians]. They’re out there. They’ve gone with the guns and it’s too late.”[54] The Branch Davidians, by contrast, anticipated that they would be at the forefront of an armed conflict. And while there is ample evidence to argue that the FBI instigated much of the violence, the Davidians were eager to engage in an apocalyptic war with the rest of the world.

In addition to studying the leaders of doomsday cults, it is beneficial to analyze why their followers were so attracted to them. “My dad was always ready to hug and plant a kiss on an elderly black woman. He empathized with them, with their pain,”[55] describes Stephan Jones, son of Jim Jones, when asked about his father’s charisma. Vern Gosney, a survivor of Jonestown, describes the appeal that the People’s Temple had for him as a homosexual: “I was raised as a [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant], and everything is very conservative and serious, like, ‘Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves.’ And these people are dancing and shouting! […] That was a place where I was very naive.”[56] Amy Frykholm describes a member of Camping’s congregation: “Tauszik attended church services with them, and found the congregation to be not a group of radicals, but “families, middle-class … normal people,” he says, who thought they had an answer.”[57] The supporters and followers of all three cults were not totally irrational. When society turned people like Gosney away, they came to charismatic leaders who railed against the pains of the passing world, offering them fast-tracks to eternal happiness. When congregations failed to provide middle class Christians with fulfillment, they picked up their mats and walked to different messiahs. In both cases, these devotees wrestled with existential questions. An anxiety arose that clearly could not be satiated by any of society’s offerings, so thousands flocked to figures who recognized and empathized with their pain.

Ironically, anxiety is hardly unique to any human or society, rather it is something mankind has struggled with since the beginning of time. Even immortality in the Garden of Eden had its limitations, as Eve reached for the knowledge that man could never have. That same frustration with the unknown was manifest quite violently when Cain killed Abel. Why did God favor his brother’s sacrifice over his own? This eternal sense of mystery is a part of existence, and a failure to come to peace with it compels man to act in erratic and violent ways. When the Babylonians constructed a tower to reach the heavens, they placed their faith in man’s own merits, not God’s. Fittingly, Jim Jones’s project may have started out as a means to reach Heaven, but once he realized that faith in himself was more powerful than his faith in God, his monument to God became a tower of Jonestown that inevitably came crumbling down. The prospect of unloading the weight of anxiety onto another person, such as Camping, Jones, or Koresh, is quite tempting, but existence is a heavy subject. When the weight of God is loaded onto a single person, his or her back will inevitably break. Acceptance of the sufferings and slipping away of life requires a faith in something we cannot see, yet it is far easier to trust a person whom we can see. Ironically, when this happens, we lose sight of God’s utopia and become blinded by man’s dystopia.

Jean-Luc Marion, a Catholic commentator on existentialism, asserts that “We live with love as if we knew what it was about. But as soon as we try to define it, or at least approach it with concepts, it draws away from us.”[58] Flannery O’Connor writes, “Evil is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.”[59] Doomsday cults are symptoms of a society that insists that man is either capable of solving such mysteries or should avoid them at all costs. The materialism Heidegger warned us about continues to distract so many people, and those who are concerned about existence remain often become desperate. Secularism and Christianity have both failed them; where else is there to go but up to Heaven itself? Frykholm observes an interesting trend regarding the devaluation of mainstream religion:

For us, [near death experience] stories are authentic only if they are personal. We are less likely to accept “truth” about the afterlife if it comes from a religious authority. But if an ordinary person with no particular spirituality stops breathing, sees a light, and comes back to tell us about it, we are prepared to accept these stories as true. The beatific vision is no longer confined to those who labor for holiness or have gone through a painful purgation. It is freely available to all. Such a vision, however, lacks the rich complexities of the past, where social and moral visions were held in tension with personal hopes. And for Christians, these reports have a thinness that disconnect them from their tradition.[60]

In an individualistic America, personal experience towers over transcendent truth, making charismatic figures easy to idolize, but the tower of Babel has fallen many times, and it will certainly fall again. To appreciate the fire of mystery from a distance is noble; but the closer we move to it, the more we sweat and feel anxious. When we play with it, we risk setting ourselves and our neighbors ablaze. Perhaps, then, there is a cynical irony that the Waco siege ended with a fire. God’s will triumphs over human wills, so it might also be fitting that the Jonestown of today is overrun by trees, bushes, and wildlife. It can be intellectually stimulating to idealize the world, dreaming up utopias and dystopias, but if we build towers over the gardens we were given to cultivate, Mother Nature and God the Father may not be so kind to us in return.


“400 Stood in Line to Die,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 1978.

Abbott, Catherine Barrett, “The Reverend Jim Jones and Religious, Political, and Racial   Radicalism in Peoples Temple” (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 1037.

“Accusation of Human Rights Violations Prepared by the Concerned Relatives,” San Diego State             University, February 13, 2013.

Amira, Dan. “A Conversation With Harold Camping, Prophesier of Judgment Day.” New York    Magazine. May 11, 2011.

Burnett, John. “Two Decades Later, Some Branch Davidians Still Believe.” NPR. April 20,          2013.         davidians-still-believe

Chidester, David. “Rituals of Exclusion and the Jonestown Dead.” Journal of the American          Academy of Religion 56, no. 4 (1988): 681-702. Accessed March 23, 2020.

Dennis, Edward S.G. Jr. “Evaluation of the Handling of the Branch Davidian Standoff in Waco, Texas.” United States Department of Justice. October 8, 1993.

Fondakowski, Leigh. Stories from Jonestown. University of Minnesota Press, 2013. Accessed      March 23, 2020.

Frykholm, Amy. “Failures: The Limits of Christian Futures.” In Christian Understandings of the Future: The Historical Trajectory, 325-36. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers,           2016. Accessed March 23, 2020. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1c84g09.32.

Hagerty, Barbara. “Following Harold Camping: Facing a Failed Prediction.” NPR. May 24,         2011.          harold-camping-facing-a-failed-prediction

Hagerty, Barbara. “Doomsday Believers Cope with an Intact World.” NPR. May 23, 2011.          world

Hall, John. (2000). The apocalypse at Jonestown, ch. 1 of Apocalypse Observed [Routledge         2000].               _1_of_Apocalypse_Observed_Routledge_2000

Heidegger, Martin. “Being and Time” in Basic Writings. New York: Harper Perennial Modern     Classics, 2008.

Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Hill, Harvey, John Hickman, and Joel McLendon. “Cults and Sects and Doomsday Groups, Oh    My: Media Treatment of Religion on the Eve of the Millennium.” Review of Religious             Research 43, no. 1 (2001): 24-38. Accessed March 23, 2020. doi:10.2307/3512241.

“Historical Footnote: Tim Stoen’s Interaction with the FBI during Waco,” San Diego State          University, March 15, 2019 Date Accessed:          May 7, 2020.

Margolis, Dan. “Followers of a Rapture Evangelist Lost Millions.” People’s World. May 23,        2011.

Marion, Jean-Luc (2002c). Prolegomena to Charity. Translated by Stephen E. Lewis. New York:             Fordham University Press.

Newcomb, Alyssa and Little, Lyneka. “Harold Camping: Doomsday Prophet Wrong Again.”       ABC News. May 22, 2011.

Newport, Kenneth G. C. “”A Baptism by Fire”: The Branch Davidians and Apocalyptic Self-            Destruction.” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 13, no. 2 (2009): 61-94. Accessed March 24, 2020. doi:10.1525/nr.2009.13.2.61.   

Katherine T. Phan, “Can Donors Sue Harold Camping?” Christian Post, May 24, 2011.

Pearson, Muriel and Wilking, Spencer, and Effron, Lauren. “Who was David Koresh: Ex Followers Describe Life Inside Apocalyptic Religious Sect Involved in 1993 Waco       Siege.” ABC News. January 2, 2018.

Rosean, Ted. “Flannery O’Connor: Finding God in Human Messiness.” U.S. Catholic,      human-messiness-30469 Date Accessed: May 8, 2020.

Sarno, Charles, and Helen Shoemaker. “Church, Sect, or Cult?: The Curious Case of Harold         Camping’s Family Radio and the May 21 Movement.” Nova Religio: The Journal of   Alternative and Emergent Religions 19, no. 3 (2016): 6-30. Accessed March 23, 2020.            doi:10.2307/26418516.    reference#references_tab_contents

“The Branch Davidians and Waco.” In Religious Intolerance in America, Second Edition: A             Documentary History, edited by CORRIGAN JOHN and NEAL LYNN S., 215-46.          Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. Accessed March 24, 2020.             doi:10.5149/9781469655642_corrigan.12.   

“The Peoples Temple in Guyana,” PBS.    Date Accessed: May 8, 2020.

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Van Sant, Peter. “I’ve Kept My Story Secret for the Last 25 Years – I Didn’t want to Take this to            my Grave.” CBS News. December 29, 2017.

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Wessinger, Catherine. “Deaths in the Fire at the Branch Davidians’ Mount Carmel: Who Bears             Responsibility?” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 13,     no. 2 (2009): 25-60. Accessed March 24, 2020. doi:10.1525/nr.2009.13.2.25.   

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[1] Alyssa Newcomb and Lyneka Little, “Harold Camping: Doomsday Prophet Wrong Again,” ABC News, May 22, 2011.

[2] “The Sinful Messiah,” Waco Tribune-Herald, February 27, 1993.

[3] “400 Stood in Line to Die,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 1978.

[4] Cited in Amy Frykholm, “Failures: The Limits of Christian Futures,” In Christian Understandings of the Future: The Historical Trajectory, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers), 2016. Date Accessed: March 23, 2020, 32.


[5] “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen.” See Matthew 24:36.

[6] Luke 23:43.

[7] Hebrews 11:10.

[8] Hebrews 11:16.

[9] See Jeremiah 7:31.

[10] See Luke 16:23.

[11] Martin Heidegger, “Being and Time” in Basic Writings, (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008), 101.

[12] David Chidester, “Rituals of Exclusion and the Jonestown Dead,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 56, no. 4 (1988), Accessed March 23, 2020, 682.

[13] Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 4:8.

[14] Frykholm, “Failures: The Limits of Christian Futures,” 326.

[15] Catherine Barrett Abbott, “The Reverend Jim Jones and Religious, Political, and Racial Radicalism in Peoples Temple,” Date Accessed: May 8, 2020, 17.

[16] Charles Sarno and Helen Shoemaker, “Church, Sect, or Cult?: The Curious Case of Harold Camping’s Family Radio and the May 21 Movement,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 19, no. 3 (2016): 6-30. Date Accessed March 23, 2020, 10.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Dan Amira, “A Conversation With Harold Camping, Prophesier of Judgment Day,” New York Magazine, May 11, 2011.

[19] Cited in Sarno, “Church, Sect, or Cult?: The Curious Case of Harold Camping’s Family Radio and the May 21 Movement,” 14.

[20] Dan Amira, “A Conversation With Harold Camping, Prophesier of Judgment Day,” New York Magazine, May 11, 2011.

[21] Dan Margolis, “Followers of a Rapture Evangelist Lost Millions,” People’s World, May 23, 2011, Date Accessed: May 8, 2020.

[22] Katherine T. Phan, “Can Donors Sue Harold Camping?” Christian Post, May 24, 2011.

[23] Abbott, “The Reverend Jim Jones and Religious, Political, and Racial Radicalism in Peoples Temple,” 20.

[24] Cited in Ibid., 28.

[25] Ibid., 10.

[26] “The Peoples Temple in Guyana,” PBS. Date Accessed: May 8, 2020.

[27] See Ibid.

[28] See Ibid.

[29] Cited in “Accusation of Human Rights Violations Prepared by the Concerned Relatives,” San Diego State University, February 13, 2013.

[30] Waco/Branch Davidian Compound: Negotiation Transcripts,” March 3, 1993, Freedom of Information Act, Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ashley Yeaman, “The Branch Davidians,” Waco History, Date Accessed: May 8, 2020

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Waco/Branch Davidian Compound: Negotiation Transcripts.”.

[42] Muriel Pearson, Spencer Wilking, and Lauren Effron, “Who was David Koresh: Ex Followers Describe Life Inside Apocalyptic Religious Sect Involved in 1993 Waco Siege,” ABC News, January 2, 2018.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Peter Van Sant, “I’ve Kept My Story Secret for the Last 25 Years – I Didn’t want to Take this to my Grave,” CBS News, December 29, 2017.

[48] Ibid.

[49] “Historical Footnote: Tim Stoen’s Interaction with the FBI during Waco,” San Diego State University, March 15, 2019 Date Accessed: May 7, 2020.

[50] Corrigan 228.

[51] “Historical Footnote: Tim Stoen’s Interaction with the FBI during Waco,” San Diego State University, March 15, 2019 Date Accessed: May 7, 2020.

[52] Dennis.

[53] Waco/Branch Davidian Compound: Negotiation Transcripts.”

[54] Ibid.

[55] Leigh Fondakowski, Stories from Jonestown, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). Date Accessed: March 23, 2020, 9.

[56] Ibid., 75.

[57] Barbara Hagerty, “Following Harold Camping: Facing a Failed Prediction,” NPR, May 24, 2011.

[58] Jean-Luc Marion, Prolegomena to Charity, Translated by Stephen E. Lewis, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002).

[59] Cited in Ted Rosean, “Flannery O’Connor: Finding God in Human Messiness,” U.S. Catholic, Date Accessed: May 8, 2020.

[60] Frykholm, “Failures: The Limits of Christian Futures,” 330.

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