The following is cross-posted from Mark Kleiman’s blog –and my thanks to Mark for his editing contribution

If a regular commenter on European Affairs for one of the news networks were found to have addressed a meeting and, un-ironically, praised the “heroism and sacrifice” of Horst Wessel, he’d be smart to study personal economies. He wouldn’t be receiving any more checks from TV, or from any publications that had previously run his writing – and those publications that might be willing to print articles by him don’t pay very much.

If a regular commenter on the Middle East, a Muslim, were found to have made a speech in which he referenced the heroic deeds of the (purely hypothetical)”Yussuf of the Hadiths” and had said that his audience might be called by Allah in the same way that Yussuf was called – and if the “Yussuf of the Hadiths” was discovered to have been a figure praised by Mohammed for his stealth and skill at killing infidels – and if there was a group of terrorists who called themselves “Sons of Yussuf” and was in fact carrying out terrorist actions – he wouldn’t be appearing on TV again, and he might not be appearing anywhere off the island of Cuba for a long while.

Okay, so what about the person described below?  “I am not here to call the church to partisan action. I am not here advocating for a political party. I am here advocating for Christian citizenship.” Lest any of the assembled miss the point, [he] offered up the story of Phineas, grandson of Moses’ brother Aaron, from Numbers 25. Phineas was rewarded by God with an “everlasting priesthood” for killing an Israelite and his Midianite lover because God had forbidden the mixing of the men of Israel with the women of that tribe.” Later during the same speech: “We read that Phineas arose and he took action…,” [he] said. “Not only is prayer required…I warn you that if you begin to pray for our nation that, at some point in time, you’re gonna be prayin’ and you’re gonna feel a tap on your shoulder and hear, ‘Son, daughter, I’ve heard your prayer; now I want you to do something about it.'” Just in case his message should be misconstrued, however, [he] offered this caveat: “Now, let me be clear, in case the media’s here,” he said, “I’m not advocating you go home and get a pitchfork out of your storage shed and run into your neighbor’s house.” Phineas, the Bible tells us, used a javelin.

Adele Stan has the whole story – and, of course, uses the man’s name.

Was this an obscure Biblical reference understandable only to those who know the intricacies of some obscure branch of Christianity? Well, yes, and no. I have no doubt that the reference went over the heads of the majority of the attendees at the “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference of March 2-3, 2007, just as it probably goes over the head of this secular audience. But the group for which it was comprehensible wasn’t just an obscure but harmless Christian sect.

Because, unlike my apocryphal “Sons of Yussuf,” the ‘Phineas Priesthood” does exist. Not as an ‘organization.’ To quote the Wikipedia article on it – which coincides with what I know from other sources, particularly Dave Neiwert:

“The Phineas Priesthood (aka Phineas Priests) is a Christian Identity movement that opposes interracial intercourse, mixing of races, homosexuality, and abortion. It is also marked by its anti-Semitism, anti-multiculturalism, and opposition to taxation. It is not considered an organization, because it is not led by a governing body, there are no gatherings, and there is no membership process. One becomes a Phineas Priest by simply adopting the beliefs of the Priesthood, and acting upon those beliefs.”

and further:

“The Phineas Priesthood took the name after the Israelite priest Phinehas, grandson of Aaron. Phineas killed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman while they were having intercourse in the Tabernacle, sticking a spear through the two. In the Bible, Phineas is commended for having stopped Israel’s fall to idolatric practices brought in by Midianite women, as well as stopping the desecration of God’s sanctuary. Today, members of the Phineas Priesthood use this deed as a justification for using violent means against interracial relationships and other forms of alleged immorality.”

Sounds a lot like what our speaker was discussing, right? (I should state I know of no other, less malevolent, Christian use of the story. Except in this context, it is not one that gets referred to, like many inconvenient Biblical stories.)

The term seems to have first been used by Richard Kelly Hoskins who introduced the name and concept in his 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood. To quote from the Anti-Defamation League’s report on Hoskins:

“The Phineas concept derives from a passage in the Book of Numbers in which an Israelite named Phineas kills a kinsman who has had sexual relations with a non-Israelite woman (brazenly violating God’s law and communal ties). For this act, God blesses Phineas and his descendants with everlasting favor – a covenant that marks the start of the Priesthood, according to Hoskins. He writes approvingly of murderers of homosexuals and interracial couples, and asserts that followers of the Phineas credo include John Wilkes Booth, the Waffen SS, the Ku Klux Klan and the 1980s terrorist group The Order. Vigilantes also devotes a section to “proving” that the Holocaust was a hoax perpetrated by the Jews to destroy the German nation. … [T]he book’s true influence was in the conceptualization of the Phineas Priesthood, a clergy to which any white supremacist was ordained merely by seeking to destroy God’s enemies, including race-mixers, homosexuals, abortionists and Jews. In the years following its publication, a number of white supremacists (including [Byron de la] Beckwith) adopted the Priesthood concept ex post facto to justify crimes they had already committed, while others used it as the inspiration for acts they intended to commit. The symbol of the Priesthood – the letter P with a horizontal line through it – began to appear in extremist logos and jewelry as the Phineas idea came to represent the ultimate white supremacist commitment. Since its publication more than a decade ago, Vigilantes of Christendom has inspired and influenced several incidents of violence:

In 1994, Paul Hill, an anti-abortion activist who advocated “Phineas actions,” shot to death a doctor and his escort outside a Florida abortion clinic.

After the 1996 arrest of Aryan Republican Army members Peter Langan and Richard Guthrie, members of a group that tried to finance a white revolution by committing two dozen bank robberies, authorities found a recruiting video in which Langan, wearing a mask, held a copy of Vigilantes and referred to it as “an effective handbook for revolution.”

In what is considered one of the major domestic terrorism cases of the 1990s, four men identifying themselves as Phineas Priests were arrested in 1996 and later convicted for bank robbery and bombings at a newspaper office and abortion clinic in Spokane, Washington. The men were part of a larger underground cell whose other members remain at-large.

In 1999, former Aryan Nations member Buford Furrow fired on children at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and murdered a Filipino-American postal worker; found among his personal effects were copies of Phineas Priest documents, along with a copy of War Cycles, Peace Cycles. [Another book by Hoskins]

Now, before I discuss who this person is, and the blows to his reputation that have not occurred, I have to point out a difference between this situation and others that might seem similar, the other hate-mongers on radio and TV, from Jaz McKay of the fake Obama stickers to Michael Savage, from Lou Dobbs – who is relatively sane as long as the conversation stays away from immigration – to Glenn Beck – no redeeming features I have seen – to Pat Buchanan, who has taken to channeling Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race.

They are all objectionable, yes, but they are merely expressing opinions, vile and hateful as they are. But this speech seems to be something more, a ‘call to action’ for those who knew the reference.

I’m not recommending criminal prosecution, still less the sudden disappearance and “enhanced interrogation” that our apocryphal ‘Middle East expert’ might well undergo – at least for the duration of the Bush Presidency. All I am saying is that I do not believe any television network should consider him, after the above speech, worthy of being their employee, paid – I assume – to provide opinions on various subjects.

Certainly any network would agree. It isn’t as if Americans United, which published the above report of the conference, is an unreliable, paranoid, fringe group. And certainly any network should have some person in charge of reading their publications — as they should those of other important organizations, such as the ADL.

And while this person has denied other allegations against himself – including a relationship with David Duke – and there is some question about his speech before the Council of Concerned Citizens – as far as I know, he has not denied this speech. (Audiotapes of the conference are available for anyone who wants to check.)

Yet one of the cable networks – I can’t recall whether it was MSNBC or CNN – had a panel about the recent Hillary “assassination” flap. And there, impeccably dressed and boyishly charming as ever, explaining how horrible the idea of assassination should be in American politics, was the same man who had given that dog-whistle shout-out to Christian Identity terrorists. And beneath him was the identifying banner:

Tony Perkins

Family Research Council


[The following addendum has been sent to Mark as well]

Since this was posted, two people have written claiming that I was in error in claiming “(I should state I know of no other, less malevolent, Christian use of the story. Except in this context, it is not one that gets referred to, like many inconvenient Biblical stories.)”  

One writer even stated the following:”Phinehas is a well-known, key figure in almost all Christian political activism; he’s the canonical example of someone who did what was right even though he had no named office that made it his duty. … Any conference on Christian political activism is almost certain to mention him.”

Certainly I don’t know every in and out of ‘Christian Political Activism” but I investigated some of the sites dealing with the more political Christianity, such as the sites of John Hagee, Coral Ridge Ministries, and Focus on the Family.  In no case did their search function turn up any mention of either Phineas or Phinehas.  I have tried to investigate other sites, and have yet to see any similar mention.  Therefore, I am asking anyone who can to give me the urls of any sites that use Phineas, Phinehas or Numbers 25 in any ‘less malevolent’ context.  Until I see some examples of this, I insist on my original point.  

I also will insist that the racial implications in the original story are so strong and obvious that there would have to be relatively strong evidence that Perkins and his audience both understood this was not the meaning of the reference.  And, since the Phineas Priesthood does exist, it would be very hard to imagine that somehow Perkins was unaware of this interpretation of his remarks.

[I would also ask any readers here if they have come across any ‘non-malevolent’ use of the Phineas story.  I have yet to find any, but even as contemptible a man as Perkins deserves fairness.]

Prup aka Jim Benton

Prup aka Jim Benton