Full Name: William Stryker
Occupation: Reverend of the Church of Eternal Purity, Founder of the Purifiers
Mutant Abilities: None
History: For William Stryker, religion has always been central to his life. He grew up in a deeply religious community in rural Alabama. He was raised by deeply religious parents. His whole life has been heavily influenced by religion and it has been the guiding force through many events throughout his life.
His father was an accomplished Korean War veteran and his mother was a Sunday School teacher. He was born into a quiet rural community outside Mobile, Alabama where he grew up in modest surroundings. From the day he was born, he attended church twice a week. At first, he showed little enthusiasm for religion. He merely followed along with his community and his parents. Then a tragedy struck his family that affected him both personally and spiritually.
A few years after William was born, his parents tried to conceive another child. For reasons not known to them or their doctor, they had great difficulty. Williams mother suffered a miscarriage when he was four, which caused some tension within their family. A few years later, that tensions apparently faded when his mother became pregnant. At first, it was joyous. After the first trimester, however, complications emerged. Williams mother started experiencing stabbing abdominal pain and bleeding. A doctor later discovered that the pregnancy caused a series of blood vessels to rupture and said if she didn’t get an abortion, both she and her child would die. Williams parents ignored the advice, believing that such a measure violated their religious convictions. They chose to pray instead. Less than a month later, Williams mother and her unborn child died.
The death of his mother was a turning point for William and his father. For his father, it led him to question his faith and he became more distant. For William, the opposite happened. In his grief, he turned to the church for comfort. The comfort he found led him to dedicate his life to his faith. He became very active in his church, studying the bible and joining his church choir. By the time he was 13, he was already preaching. He demonstrated so much talent that his pastor sponsored William for a scholarship to private religious school. Yet even while attending this school, he would frequently travel to nearby public schools to preach. This got him into trouble a few times. He even got arrested for disrupting traffic at one school, much to his father’s dismay. However, his talent for preaching and drawing a crowd was apparent.
He ended up graduating school a year early. For a time he seemed poised for a promising career in any of his local churches. Despite his notoriety throughout the community, William decided to further his religious education. His preaching and academic skills were enough to earn him a scholarship to Liberty University, a religious school in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is here where he was first introduced to mutants.
At the time, mutants were still relatively unknown and religious institutions had not yet formed an opinion on them. While studying at Liberty, William took an interest in creation science. He was among the first to study mutation in the context of biblical creation. During his studies, he began forming various opinions on mutation and began working them into his preaching. He claimed that mutants were modern incarnations of Nephilim, the monstrous creatures depicted in Genesis that helped necessitate Noah’s Flood. He argued that the growth in the mutant population was correlated with the growth in sin.
This conclusion gained him wide-spread notoriety since this was at a time when the early stages of the human/mutant conflict were emerging. It began a debate among various religious groups that would eventually spread all over the world. However, William avoided making mutants the central focus of his theology. He avoided scrutiny so he could finish his studies. Upon graduating, he entered the seminaries where he eventually became ordained as a priest. Again, the now Reverend Stryker had an opportunity to return to his home town and settle into a comfortable life of preaching. Once again, he ended up choosing a more difficult path.
After becoming ordained, he joined a prominent missionary service that sent priests all over the world to spread the gospel. However, he chose not to travel abroad and favored preaching in more localized areas of sin as he called it. This led him to San Francisco where he began preaching outside of gay bars, abortion clinics, and strip clubs. At first, he was not well-received. However, he later refined his methods and became so effective in his preaching that he gained a local following.
Then for reasons not entirely understood, Reverend Stryker stopped preaching. For a time he almost disappeared entirely. It is widely believed that the death of his father was a factor, but another rumor involving a mutant that left him deeply troubled may have also contributed. For the next 10 years, the Reverend remained withdrawn from public scrutiny. He returned to his home state of Alabama where his activities became more mysterious. Whatever these activities entailed, they led to the birth of the Purifiers.
It began with the creation of Stryker’s own church, which he called the Church of Eternal Purity. This church took on a very different tone compared to previous churches. He favored a more militant brand of theology. He began reaching out to soldiers and various right-wing militias to join what he called a holy crusade against rising impurity. He trained his members as a paramilitary unit, enlisting former Special Forces operatives to train both him and his members. Where he got the money and resources for this is unknown. It is widely believed that Graydon Creed, founder of the anti-mutant group Friends of Humanity, was partially responsible. Whatever his means, they ensured that Stryker was equipped when he re-entered the public domain.
It began shortly after the X-men emerged. Stryker started speaking out on behalf of religious communities, spreading the message that mutants were an abomination. With his vast resources, he forged numerous connections with the Christian Right and established himself as a prominent figure in religious and political matters. He became a close ally of Senator Robert Kelly, a long-time opponent of the mutant cause. This alliance eventually led him to becoming Senator Kelly’s campaign manager in his bid for president. With this position, Reverend Stryker attempted to bring Graydon Creed aboard with his Wide-Awake Initiative. It led to an ill-fated test of a new human/sentinel interface in the all-mutant community of District X. The test failed, but Reverend Stryker kept his job. He remains an influential figure within Senator Kelly’s inner circle and continues to preach against mutants as part of his professional and spiritual duty.
Character Breakdown: William Stryker demonstrates many traits of a zealot. He is utterly convinced of the rightness of his beliefs and will not accept or even entertain notions to the contrary. As a religious man, he places a high value on faith and seeks to put every experience into a religious context. This is best demonstrated in how he formed conclusions over mutants, a subject on which his religion had not taken a position. These conclusions, regardless of whether or not any facts support them, become ingrained in his mentality. As such, he aggressively defends them whenever they are questioned.
This aggression is another defining trait of a zealot. He is willing and in many cases eager to confront those that oppose his dogma. This shows in his preaching ability. He’s not content with merely preaching to those who already accept his brand of religion. He actively seeks out those who are not as inclined to heed his preaching, most notably during his missionary work in San Francisco. However, his mysterious falling out from this endeavor seems to indicate that he has difficulty functioning around those who are different from him. It serves to reinforce a very judgmental mindset that feeds an almost tribalism-like mindset.
His efforts to single out mutants also indicate that his crusade is personal as well as spiritual. Another aspect of zealots include a propensity to single out a specific group as the cause of most major ills. His founding of the Purifiers indicate that his aggression ensures he’s willing to resort to violence. This creates a disconnect of sorts because his religion teaches peace and forgiveness, but he’s found a way to rationalize waging a personal battle against mutants. While it seems personal, Stryker does not see it as such. He genuinely believes that a higher power is guiding him on his anti-mutant endeavor. That makes it infinitely good in his mind while helping to ensure that no one will convince him otherwise.