Sometimes terrorist groups just seem bizarre: who evokes the name of an Old Testament priest to justify killing?
In the world of terrorism you often come across some fairly odd names. Islamist extremist ones all tend to use words like ‘soldier’ or ‘army’ as if they are the supposed vanguard of Islam. You also often see ‘revolutionary’ used to bolster the belief that these actors are bringing much needed change to society.
Then there are the truly stupid ones: at least I see them as dumb. I put the ‘Soldiers of Odin’ in this category. These wannabe Norse god warriors are an anti-immigrant and white supremacist group founded in Finland in October 2015. They have a Canadian chapter concentrated in the Western part of the country but say while they too are anti-immigrant they are not the same as their European counterpart.
The Phineas Priesthood
And then we have the Phineas Priesthood, a leaderless and institutionless domestic US terrorist group.
These Christian extremists take their cue from a Hebrew priest during Exodus – yes THAT long ago! – who had problems with what he saw as immoral behaviour among the neighbours of the people of Israel. Phineas is credited with leading the Israelite army against a nation known as the Moabites, bringing “chastisement upon them for their impiety and treachery“.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we now have those who have felt called upon by God to murder “race-mixers” and their fellow travelers. Their ‘founder’ was a white supremacist named Richard Kelly Hoskins who in 1990 wrote Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood.
Among this movement’s beliefs are:
- The Jews of today are biological descendants of Eve and Satan;
- People of color are not human beings and do not have souls; and
- Whites are the real descendants of the biblical Hebrews.
On November 28, 2014 Larry McQuilliams fired more than 100 rounds in downtown Austin, Texas, at that city’s police HQ. He was later shot and killed by officers who, when they searched the gunman’s home, found a map with 34 targets, including two churches, as well as a copy of the Vigilantes in a rental van he used for his attack. It is believed he was caught up in the ‘immigration debate’ in the US.
Those who see themselves as part of the Phineas Priests also oppose abortion, biracial relationships, same-sex marriage, and taxation. In his copy of Vigilantes McQuilliams had written a note it which he discussed his rank as “a priest in his fight against anti-God people”.
There you have it: a terrorist taking inspiration from the Old Testament’s Book of Numbers. Whoda thunk?
When Religion Kills: How Extremists Justify Violence Through Faith (2019)
Christian fundamentalists. Hindu nationalists. Islamic jihadists. Buddhist militants. Jewish extremists. Members of these and other religious groups have committed horrific acts of terrorist violence in recent decades. Phil Gurski explores violent extremism across a broad range of the world’s major religions.