Heaven’s tears flowed from morning till night. It was Sunday. The sun was hiding.

The weatherman advised that is was a small and persistent weather cell, oddly poised over one region and one blood-stained patch of countryside.

Rain drops. No, not tears of a loving creator. All right, if you say so.

One wonders what other reaction could have come from a divine and living presence. More rage? More rage is the last thing the world needs right now – more weapons, more gun shots, more walls.

Sorrow is exactly what the world needs, sorrow and humility. People have died this week, supposedly in a loving creator’s name.

Waco is a religious town. Some would say Waco is religion. Each day is parcel in an ongoing theological debate. Today, if there is any justice, the debate is focused inwardly, not out toward a religious group beyond our town’s outskirts.

Maybe we cannot understand what possessed the Branch Davidians to arm themselves for an apocalyptic end. Maybe we cannot understand why Vernon Howell believes himself to be the messiah and others agree. But we can understand, each of us, how walls go up – compounds get built – over creeds and labels, semantics and symbols.

The Southern Baptist denomination has been racked by division. One group wants the Southern Baptist Convention to be a creedal body – recite this oath, read the Bible this way, or get out.

The United Pentecostal Church is split over the requirement of a loyalty oath that some ministers say puts creed above Scripture.

Divisions and loyalties. To whom are these loyalties directed? To a loving creator?

Sins of affiliation

Aside from the people killed and wounded in Sunday’s gun battle, the biggest victim was the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which now is expending every effort to disavow the splinter group Branch Davidians.

The Adventists are victimized by a secular distinction, a label, an affiliation.

Aren’t we all.

So much prattle about symbols and distinctions, and vestments and ritual. So much focus on the obscure. Funny thing, there was nothing obscure about the man for whom Christianity was named and about his message for believers and non-believers.

No, nothing obscure at all. A golden rule. Treat people right. Love one another.

Today we’ll scratch our heads about the Davidians. Have they been living according to Christ’s words, or according to a charlatan’s?

Of more use would be for people of faith everywhere to look to themselves. How many believers are focused on the obscure? On hair-splitting distinctions? On labels?

How could that be among Christians when, at its root, Christianity is so basic, simple, decent – and unifying? Damn it, people. Get along.

Means of survival

I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar. Yet I know why Christ’s teachings have proven so compelling and have survived for the ages. It’s because they have given mankind tools to survive the ages. Share. Work together. Don’t hurt one another. We’re all related, all brothers and sisters. Labels and distinctions serve no purpose under heaven.

A man called Monday to challenge the use of the word “cult” in describing Vernon Howell’s group. It’s so convenient and destructive, he said, for others to poise slings and arrows at a group whose beliefs are seen as strange by the majority.

He had a point. Of course, the federal agents weren’t investigating religion Sunday. They were investigating deadly weapons, and they encountered them.

The Davidians built a fortress. So have so many others. Tear drops or rain drops, a loving creator could not be pleased.

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.