Monthly Archives: January 2010
Or: Daddy Issues from Tim LaHaye
Remember Shane Barrington? The rich, crooked media mogul who grew up on the mean streets of Detroit, and is now in the employ of The Seven, the folks who will Stop at Nothing to get Michael Murphy’s archeological treasures?
But I’m sure what you’re wondering right now is, “Hey! We just learned about Paul’s father-son issues! I wonder if Shane has father-son issues, too?”
And indeed, he does. Because that is apparently the only source of tension or conflict LaHaye can imagine in a man’s life.
In the Left Behind series, there was no shortage of father-son conflict. Rayford Steele wanted to be a pilot instead of joining the family business. Buck Williams had the classic working-class-father-versus-college-educated-son conflict. We just saw Paul’s issues with being a Poor Little Rich Boy who did not want to follow in Daddy’s footsteps.
And now, Shane Barrington has father issues. You see, Shane is divorced (so now we know he’s evil), and saw his only child only on the occasional holiday visit. Arthur Barrington is 25 years old now, wants to be an artist, and asked his dad for some cash to open a gallery. Despite having millions, Shane tossed his son out on his ear, calling him a “loser freak freeloader.”
Which is sad in and of itself. What is even sadder, however, is that LaHaye and Dinallo appear to share Shane’s contempt for his son. Great relish is taken when describing Arthur Barrington. Though good-looking (like his father), Arthur has purple hair and a pierced tongue, and wears “ripped leather pants.” Because that’s how all artists look, isn’t it, LaHaye?
L&D seem to be skating around the edge of something here—is Arthur gay? No, they never say the word, but all the conservative Christian dog whistles are there:
1. Absentee father
2. Raised in California
4. Dyed hair
6. An ARTIST
Add to that the fact that although this chapter is really all about Shane and Arthur’s relationship, Arthur is never allowed to speak. We never know what he said to his father or how he asked for money. Arthur is never allowed to tell us how he feels about his father and their relationship. We never hear Arthur.
Is it because LaHaye and Dinallo don’t know what a “loser freak freeloader” would say? Is it because they are “subtly” trying to create a gay character, and have no concept of how a gay character would talk? Or is it just more ham-handed portrayal of how they imagine an evil man with a broken family would be, with Arthur just an object, with no feelings or voice worth hearing?
As Paul and Shari chat over doughnuts and coffee, my respect for Paul, such as it was, dissipated pretty quickly.
He first pumps Shari for information about Murphy. “He seems like a pretty cool guy.” Well, except for mocking me in front of dozens of my fellow students for knowing the right answer.
Shari gushes about Murphy for a minute (He’s the bestest! And so awfully nice to me! (I’ll bet.)) But she quickly becomes fixated on Paul’s clothes—neatly pressed with shiny shoes, atypical of a university student. Thus she opens the door to Paul’s sob story.
You see, Paul was raised by his single father, who was a successful businessman and wanted his son to be one, too. He wasn’t around much, but Paul had the best of everything, poor little rich boy, you know the drill. But now Dad’s dead and Paul’s going to finally do what he really wants. But the sad sack has no idea what that might be, because *sniffle* “I’m not sure where I fit in.”
It’s especially clear that Paul has had it rough, because “religion was on the long list of things my dad never had the time – or use – for.” Poor guy.
Shari invites Paul to dinner at her place, which sounds promising in the romance department, until you consider the last thing she says before the invitation:
Neither did my parents (have use for religion) when they were alive. But the great thing about our church is, you can start any time.
Man, Paul just can’t catch a break, can he? He meets a cute girl, and turns out she doesn’t even see him as “just a friend,” but as “just a conversion prospect.”
Ah, young love. The tender yearnings of two innocent souls as they discover the fair beauty of…
Oh, forget it. It’s just Paul (the student Murphy snapped at in class for having the audacity of knowing the right answer) crushing on Shari (Murphy’s “research assistant”).
Paul has apparently been stalking Shari, as he has been waiting outside the door of Murph’s lab for Shari to emerge. No, that’s not creepy.
And then…I can’t believe it! I’m sitting here reading it, but I still can’t believe it. We have a description of a protagonist in a LaHaye novel!
With her jet-black hair tied back in a short ponytail, and dark blue jogging pants and sweatshirt, she looked as if she didn’t work on the way she looked. But the effect, especially with those sparkling green eyes, was captivating.
This, bear in mind, when we still know nothing of what Murph or his wife look like, except that Murph is tall. Weird.
Anyway, Paul decides the best way to break the ice with a cute girl is to apologize to her for no rational reason. He says he’s sorry for what he said during the lecture. For the record, all he said was:
- Many medieval relics were fakes (true)
- The Shroud of Turin is probably a fake (true)
- Carbon dating is used to discover the age of certain objects (true)
So I don’t really see the point of an apology. Neither does Shari, but Paul looks pointedly at the cross around her neck, apparently seeing his statements as offensive to any Christian. Shari’s response?
“I didn’t think you were being a jerk, not at all. Actually, when it comes to the really big questions, maybe it’s the atheists who don’t like to ask them.” (emphasis hers)
Sorry. It’s just that stupid Murphy has declared that any and all artifacts that just might be Biblical are for reals just because he hopes they are, and now it’s the atheists who don’t ask the tough questions?
This is why face-palms were invented.
But Paul is not offended. Why should he be? Shari is the author’s mouthpiece here, so her assertion is obviously true, and there is no good argument to be made.
Let’s leave aside the fact that there has been no indication so far that Paul even is an atheist. Must one really be an atheist to accept that medieval relics and the Shroud of Turin are fakes?
Paul is so bowled over by the beauty of Shari’s sweatshirt that she has to be the one to issue the invitation—for coffee and doughnuts in the cafeteria. Ah, romance.
Murphy is so glad to be away from his dumb ole class and in his lab. Here, he can examine the scroll he got from fighting the lion, without any “bloated egos” (well, any other bloated egos), or “petty academic infighting” (since he just got done with that a minute ago, so he’s spent for now).
Here, too, we are given a better look at Shari Nelson, Murph’s “research assistant.” She serves primarily to provide a running commentary on how brilliant Murph is.
The plan is to open the little case that was around the lion’s neck, and see what’s inside. Murph is guessing papyrus. He was going to wait for his wife, who wanted to be there, but what the hell, he’s just gonna go ahead right now. Just him…and Shari. I’m sure Laura will understand, what with there being so much time pressure on this project…
Wait, no there isn’t.
Shari is so gosh darned golly gee excited about this project. And well she might be: Murph sent her a “manic” e-mail at three in the morning (hmmm…), telling her to be there to start work on the scroll. Now, I suppose he could have just told her in his class that she was attending, but then he wouldn’t have been able to e-mail her in the middle of the night, now would he?
Murph “bets lunch” that there’s a papyrus scroll in the tube-thingy, and is, of course, correct, so he gets his “chili cheeseburger with extra pickles” (oh, ick).
“And a root beer!” Shari chirps. Uh-huh. I was a research assistant in college, too. And I am proud to say that I have no idea what my professor’s favorite lunch was. This is skating right towards Creepyland.
And just so we get that women are silly and can’t be trusted with serious stuff, Shari is compared to “a hyperactive two-year-old.” Nice.
So Murph and the hyperactive toddler re-hydrate the papyrus scroll so they can unroll it without destroying it. Which, you would think, Methuselah would already have done, or how else would he have known what the papyrus said?
Eh, let’s not think about that right now! (Murph sure hasn’t!) Who can think about pesky details when there’s red hot archeology going on?
After neatly sidestepping the issue of Noah’s Ark (which will be easily solved in the second book of this series by LaHaye having his fictional hero fictionally find the fictional Ark), Michael Murphy gets down to the next bogus piece of prophecy evidence on his slideshow presentation: the James Ossuary—alleged “bone box” of Jesus’ brother.
The best that can be said about the James Ossuary, from a prophetical perspective, is that the whole thing is a big hot mess. This is part of the reason this post has been so long in coming—I felt the need to do some reading about the ossuary, and see if LaHaye/Murphy had a leg to stand on here.
The answer: not really.
Suffice it to say, each of these links provides the reader with approximately 30,000 times more archeological information than Murphy gives his students.
That’s mostly because Murphy is distracted:
He was somewhere else. Somewhere far away in time. … Murphy was experiencing a strange, disorienting feeling, as if the thousands of years separating him from this long-dead man had been swept aside, as if they were somehow present together in this timeless moment.
Hey, Mike? Murph? *waves hand in front of his dumb face* Murphy!! You’ve got a class to teach here, asshat.
Do I even need to bring up the fact that Murphy put this slideshow together himself, and has seen this picture thousands of times? Sheesh.
But this passage is principally important because it has two instances of Murphy being a lousy teacher.
Instance #1: Murphy asks how we can tell the age of the box. Some guy answers, “Carbon dating?” Murphy’s response: “Thanks, Paul. Anytime you want to step up and take over the lecture, let me know. It seems you have all the answers.”
Well, yeah, dude. He has the answer…to the question you asked him! Asshat.
Instance #2: Professor Doofus Won’t Say What He Actually Means. “Hey, class, check out this awesome bone box. It’s totes for reals. Oh, wait, no. It’s not. It’s actually totally fake. Or is that only what the evil atheistic scientists want you to think??? ‘Cause it’s really real now. Or it will be. Shown to be. In the future. I think.”
Then he has the gall to accuse real scientists, who do real science, of “crying fake” because they don’t want to challenge their own “preconceived doubts about Christ.”
Okay, LaHaye? And Dinallo? I’m not sure you understand what scientists do. Or how they think. Ya might wanna look into that. Just in case, oh, I don’t know, you ever want to write a book or anything.
And with that, class is over. I’m sure Murphy will be proud of the fact that there’s no way any of his students could possibly have learned anything. You’re a credit to your profession, bud.
The evil Dean Fallworth has been listening to Murphy’s lecture, and corners him after class to accuse him of holding an “evangelical clambake” instead of an archeology lecture. And he’s not too far off, really. He also reveals that he is not the only one who thinks the class is a joke: they’re calling the class “Jesus for Jocks” around campus. Sadly, all Murphy can come up with in response is a snide remark about Fallworth’s paper on historical buttons (which I still want to read).
But here’s the thing. Murphy has had a few “cable television specials” about his mysterious finds (read: presents from Methuselah, which had nothing to do with Murphy’s skills as an archeologist), but Fallworth is the one who’s been published in an academic journal. Is Murphy jealous of Fallworth’s academic success, and using snide remarks about his papers and accusations of “Christian-bashing” to hide the pain and obscure the real issue? Or is this just more of LaHaye’s anti-intellectualism shining through? Discuss!