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December 27, 2009

When Knights oppose Knights, conflict can be great and bloody—literally, spiritually, or both. Literal wars can result—as between the United States and al-Qaeda and Iraq. These wars can be egged on by extremist Knight pastors like Jerry Falwell who advised President Bush in 2004 that the United States should “Blow them [the terrorists and Iraqi insurgents] all away in the name of the Lord.”

Knight-to-Knight conflict doesn’t always involve militaries or terrorists. The Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, believed that the End Times, according to their interpretation of Revelation, would begin at their compound (which they called “Ranch Apocalypse”) when the agents of the Devil came over the horizon to attack. The Branch Davidians saw their duty as to outlast the apocalypse and lead the counteroffensive against the Devil. They interpreted the arrival of the mile-long convoy of heavily-armed U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents as the fulfillment of prophecy. The resulting firefight—and 51-day siege of the compound—between these two parties of principled, compromise-resistant Knights resulted in the complete immolation of the compound and many of the Branch Davidians themselves.

Years ago I was asked to investigate why a spate of churches in a specific region had split during the previous five years. (In Protestant life, congregations may “split” over irreconcilable theological or other differences—like a divorce—to form two separate congregations.) I found that most of the pastors of these churches were recent graduates of a seminary in the region that had begun training its students to be aggressive Knights. The seminary had begun teaching its students that if a church was not engaged in spiritual battle with the Devil out in the community, that meant that the Devil had infiltrated the church and made it complacent. Once these students became pastors in churches in that very “live and let live” region, they followed their Knight training to root out the Devil’s infiltrations within the churches—which split the churches.

Similarly, organizations that have long-established patterns of Knight relationships with their leaders can hire, abuse, and fire their leaders over and over again.

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