TSoA: Chapter 4: Back with Bob

In Chapter 4, readers who skipped Babylon Rising can become acquainted with Pastor Bob Wagoner and Murphy’s backstory.

Murphy heads over to the newly-rebuilt church for a lunch and whine session with his pastor.  There, he can reflect on the events of the last book: the bombing of the church, the role played by Shari’s stupid brother, and the murder of Murphy’s wife, Laura.

And we can reflect on the paranoia and stupidity of Murphy’s pastor.  You may remember that when his own church was bombed, Wagoner was flabbergasted to learn that the building would be considered a crime scene.  But he wasn’t so shocked that he couldn’t go on and on about the suspicious activities of the United Nations: the most nefarious and powerful organization IN THE WORLD!

Murphy also reflects on how much Bob loves golf:

…Wagoner was often heard to say that you could learn as much about the frailty of human nature and the need to put your trust in a higher power while standing on the first tee with a driver in your hand as you could listening to preachers in church.  He’d often tried to persuade Murphy to take up the game, but Murphy doubted he had the spiritual strength to survive a round without bending the driver round a tree.


I find myself drawing a comparison between Murphy and the newest Tim LaHaye hero, Joshua Jordan, when it comes to the game of golf.  Joshy approaches the game with a level of ultra-competitiveness rarely seen outside the Olympics.  His bloated ego and need to WIN AT FRACKING EVERYTHING mean that he is constitutionally incapable of simply hanging and enjoying a game on a beautiful day.

Michael Murphy, on the other hand, acknowledges that his anger issues are SO BAD and his frustration tolerance SO LOW that he literally would not be able to learn how to play the game, let alone complete a round.


So Murphy isn’t there to play golf with Bob.

“Good to see you, Bob.  Thanks for agreeing to meet up.  Are you hungry?”

Wagoner grinned.  “Is the Pope Catholic?”


WHEW.  Oh, man, excuse me while I wipe away a few tears of helpless laughter.

Wagoner’s appetite and resulting paunch were also referenced in Babylon Rising.  The Evil Dean Fallworth also has a paunch, but his is worthy of ridicule, because Fallworth is a pale-faced, pansy-ass, ivory-tower intellectual type who dislikes Michael Murphy.

Wagoner, OTOH, can be forgiven for wolfing down a chili cheeseburger and fries before even talking to Michael at all, because once he does talk, the only subject he is interested in is…Michael Murphy.

First, Wagoner brings up the superficial injuries Murphy sustained in the cave.  And, just as he did with Shari, Murphy…um…Tells Not Quite The Whole Entire Truth.  (But doesn’t LIE, mind you, because lying is wrong.)

“A few bumps and bruises are par for the course when you’re digging for artifacts.  You know that.”

I wonder if Wagoner would take exception to Murphy receiving clues about treasures from an EVIL ATHEIST.  Especially because Murphy always ends up using the artifacts to make himself famous, even though he has no way to verify that they really came from where Methuselah says.

Anyway, what Murphy really wants to talk about is Laura: how Talon murdered her, and how angry he is, and how the pain never really goes away…

All of which would be just fine if Wagoner didn’t respond to the mention of Talon’s name like this:

“The man who killed Laura.  And all those others.”

All those others.


Dude, those were YOUR PARISHIONERS.  Five people who died in the church bombing, who had come on a weeknight to listen to you talk (about Michael Murphy), and six months later, these people are ALL THOSE OTHERS.

Yeah, I really feel that I’m missing something by not going to church.

Not that we should be surprised by this statement.  This is how the Laura’s death has been treated since the moment it happened: as more important, and a much worse thing, than the deaths of ALL THOSE OTHERS.  (Not to mention the destruction of the church, the numerous injuries sustained by other parishioners, and those sustained by Paul Wallach, who was in a coma for several days.  AND Shari, who I normally feel little sympathy for but who does have to deal with the fact that her own brother was part of the bombing conspiracy.)

Wagoner gives Murphy the standard “let God take care of things” spiel, and Murphy responds that he has a feeling he’ll meet Talon again, what with going to search for another mind-blowing treasure and all.

Suprisingly, Wagoner basically shrugs off this revelation, because it’s time for the next plot point: Hank Baines, the Nice FBI agent from Babylon Rising.  Seems Hank’s wife and daughter have been coming to church, but not Hank, and his daughter has been in trouble with the law, and Wagoner wants Shari to “spend some time with her,” AND Wagoner wants to know what Michael Murphy thinks about all this, because Wagoner is apparently utterly incapable of making any decisions about his own parishioners without Murphy’s say-so.

And Murphy is all for it, because it’s not like Shari has her education or her job or two puppies to occupy her time.  OR a “boyfriend” who has been talking to atheists.

As for Hank Baines, he gave his business card to Wagoner to give to Murphy.

Even though Hank doesn’t attend Wagoner’s church.

Because this is by far the most efficient means of contacting a professor at the local university, who no doubt has a page at that university’s website, complete with contact information.

I just…why???

I don’t know, and neither does Wagoner.  All Baines told him was that he “was quite impressed with how you conducted yourself during the investigation.”

Yeah, Murphy was a real model of politeness and restraint during that whole process.

But we’ll have to wait to see what Baines wants, because next time, we’re going to catch up with Shane Barrington and The Seven.

They’ll stop at nothing!


Posted on June 6, 2012, in Babylon Rising, Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Why are Shari’s pastor and academic adviser/boss (?) getting together to decide her private life for her?! I’d say that’s enough impropriety to get Murphy at least investigated.

    Michael Murphy, on the other hand, acknowledges that his anger issues are SO BAD and his frustration tolerance SO LOW that he literally would not be able to learn how to play the game, let alone complete a round.

    Narcissism. If Murphy is ever shown or told that he does not know everything and is not absolutely perfect at everything, he becomes enraged. Therefore, he can never learn anything.

    • Actually, that reminds me of something: Murphy is supposed to be a master archer. So, how come he could train himself in that sport that requires patience and finesse, but not this one? Weird.

      • Maybe there was no one he knew who did archery, so he could just practice it on his own until he was good at it. On the other hand, his BFF Bob plays golf so he’d quickly be invited to a friendly game, and Murphy would have to put up with not being the best manly man.

        Yes, that’s some wild speculation, assuming a negative interpretation without evidence. But he’s the protagonist in a LaHaye-sponsored novel, they’ve long ago lost the rights to getting the benefit of the doubt. Don’t blame on stupidity what can be adequately blamed on bigoted, entitled malice.

        • Yeah, that’s my read too – if you have the space, you can practice archery on your own with nobody watching and commenting, and the first time you turn up in company you can be “effortlessly great”. (And if you turn out not to be great, you don’t need to tell anyone you were doing it.) Golf is by necessity a public thing.

      • Maybe he learned archery when he was a kid? Narcissists tend to get worse as they age. He could also have a natural gift for archery that got him a lot of praise and kept him going. In addition to being able to practice on his own.

        Part of me wonders whether Murphy really doesn’t want to play golf and he’s making up an excuse to get Bob off his back. But in LaHaye books, manly mens like to play manly golf, so probably not.

  2. Grammar Police

    I really, really want to believe in Meta-Pastor Bob — that his focusing on Laura’s death and relegating everyone else to “all the others” and his asking Murphy’s opinion on getting Shari to talk to Hank’s daughter were actually snark, poking fun at Murphy’s self-centeredness. But I can’t quite make it to belief. This is still a LaHaye production, after all.

    And, um, who are these men that they can decide to ask/force a college student to act as spiritual therapist to some girl she’s never met from a church she doesn’t go to?!

    And for that matter, what’s with the FBI agent reappearing? Are some evil atheists planning on framing Christians by painting a giant John 3:15 on the sides of buildings? “quite impressed with how you conducted yourself during the investigation” my ass. I wish I could believe in Meta-Hank, who doesn’t quite believe Murph is all on the up-and-up, but I can’t, anymore than I can believe in Meta-Bob.

    • I wish I could believe in Meta-Hank, who doesn’t quite believe Murph is all on the up-and-up, but I can’t, anymore than I can believe in Meta-Bob.

      Too bad because Meta-Hank, knowing that Shari is basically in love with Murph (which shouldn’t take anyone long to figure out), could assign a younger looking agent to pose as his troubled daughter and get into Shari’s confidence, thus learning more about Murph without raising suspicion. Possibly even get into to Murph’s office since Shari seems to have access to it.

      How old is Hank anyway? Do we know?

      • We are rarely, if ever, told people’s exact ages. Nothing terribly wrong with that, as such, but it does mean that we have to guess. The best we can do (though I will double-check) is: he’s old enough to have a daughter in high school. Probably about sixteen or seventeen years old.

        Which could, of course, mean anything.

  3. I guess it should come as no suprise that a rich twat like LaHaye is totally obsessed with golf and likes to have it mentioned with grand, emotional motivations in his book. You see, it’s just as properly spiritual as going to church! Which explains why he probably spends so much time at the course. Not because he just wants to kick back and enjoy the money he got from gullible RTCs buying another million books that someone else wrote and he slapped his name on. But because he’s such a spiritual man.

    “Is the pope Catholic?”
    “Well, he’s a pagan worshiper of Mary, and a secret agent of satan and his conspiracy against Born again Bible believing Christians, so I guess you’re not hungry then.”

    And yeah, pretty creepy. Shari is also a member of this church, the pastor probably has her number or could ask her when she shows up next Sunday. But nah, he’ll just ask her platonic male authority figure if he can spare her, and he’ll just order her to do whatever he wants, right after she makes him a sammich.

    And I don’t think there’s anything I can add to the “Laura. And all those others” that’d make it any more horribly self centered than it already is.

    • But “a pagan worshiper of Mary, and a secret agent of satan and his conspiracy against Born again Bible believing Christians” is exactly what “Catholic” means! /Chick tract

  4. Thanks, Ivan, you got to the Pope comment before me. 🙂

    It’s a hard line to draw – Michael is our principal viewpoint character, and Laura’s death is more important to him than those of the other people, but while Pastor Bob can reasonably mention her first I still think he’s off base relegating the other victims to “all those others”. Either “the man who bombed our church” or “the man who killed our six parishioners” would work (reeling off all their names would be too unwieldy, fair enough).

    Shari is attending the church regularly, is she not? Given the sort of church it is, that means she’s already agreed to sign over control of her life to the men who run it. I am inclined to regard this bit as perfectly normal RTC hierarchical behaviour.

  5. True enough, it does make some kind of sense for Murphy to miss his wife the most. And it’s a private meeting between the Pastor and Laura’s husband, so there is some justification to mention her especially. But the “All those others” still feels incredibly cold in this novel because it conveniently means we don’t ever learn the even the names of anyone but Mighty Murphy Power Ranger’s wife. It’s also the sentence structure of naming Laura, period, and (leafing through the previous book) oh yeah, those others that also died.

    And I would’ve considered it business as usual for the Pastor to expect Shari to do the hard work for him so he can score some brownie points with the FBI agent. But it’s the point that he walks up to a man she knows and asks him, instead of having at least the decency to tell her in person that makes this weird even by RTC standards. It’s not like this couldn’t have been fixed any other way if the writers wanted to let us know we have another conversion candidate* without a separate viewpoint. The Pastor could’ve just asked Murphy, who probably knows her study and work schedule pretty well, if she might have time and he should even try to bring it up with her. And then…. Murphy would have to admit that he’s planning to stick her with a lot of his paperwork during his upcoming worldwide hunt for the ark, while he has also dumped the care of two puppies on her so he’d have to be a complete asshole to ask her to spend what’s left of her free time with some girl she’s never met… Oh yeah, never mind.

    *Though Shari is already set to make a notch for Paul… Hmm, either she won’t get Paul checked of this book, or this girl is going to be the evil secular bitch who proves her irredeemability by not being super nice to a girl who’s befriending her on the order of her father, with 3 delegating steps in between, in hopes of making her an obedient daughter again)

  6. *Though Shari is already set to make a notch for Paul… Hmm, either she won’t get Paul checked of this book,

    Going by the TVTropes link Ruby posted on a recent entry, Cnhy vf engure tbvat gb qvr naq tb gb Uryy, abg nf na “nygne pnyy” ohg nf n “erzvaqre gung orvat n tbbq crefba zrnaf mvypu vs lbh qba’g fnl gur zntvp jbeqf.”

  7. Ah good. I actually prefer that. Screw their dishonest message of everyone just being so happy when they listen to an RTC prattle. Have their hatefullness on full display.

  8. Hey! Props for the linkback 😀


    Wagoner, OTOH, can be forgiven for wolfing down a chili cheeseburger and fries before even talking to Michael at all, because once he does talk, the only subject he is interested in is…Michael Murphy.

    What is it with LaHaye’s books and the way the world has to revolve around the central characters? It’s like, gotta make sure Rayford gets his props. Gotta make sure Bucky Jenkins Wiliams gets feted as the GIRAT. Gotta make sure Josh and Abigail Jordan get praised as the ubercouple (I swear, if Parshall could have written an erotica with these two gurl’q onat rirel avtug naq Nool’q unir fpernzvat zhygvcyrf rnpu gvzr. ROT13’d because I get kinda frank about what I think he’d write.)

    And of course Michael Murphy must be the GPAT! Greatest Professor of All Time! His grad student wants in his pants, and even the most magnificent Isis Proserpina MacDonald is bent to his will.

    Oh, and he can escape any terrorist plot just by his aura making the whole thing a total Keystone Kops affair.

    • What is it with LaHaye’s books and the way the world has to revolve around the central characters?

      He has an itty-bitty… amount of self-esteem.

      • And a rather ancient history of anger issues. The history was lengthy as of 1982, apparently! (At least we know where Murphy’s hotheadedness comes from…)

        Other than that, I will own that I’d at least like to believe that LaHaye isn’t intentionally creating Mary Sue Author Avatars. So maybe the hyper-centrality of his (quasi-)heroes is supposed to reflect his belief that the rest of existence revolves around RTCs (and their hierophants Jesus and Yhwh)? After all, the heroes are supposed to be (at least eventually) RTC distillate, yes? All the more inevitable for the world to yield to the exemplars of God’s will that they are, then.

        • Well, write what you know. Tim LaHaye’s world has always bent itself to serve him. Anyone who tells him “no”, he can just ignore. I bet he’s a terror when — if — he has to wait in line. I doubt he realizes what he’s doing, or is doing it on purpose.

          (Btw, I think author avatars in well-written books are awesome. In badly-written books, they’re not. But that’s the writing, not the mere existence of author avatars.)

  9. This is something not really touched on in Ruby’s post, but I noticed that Michael said that he really wanted to meet Talon again . . . but what exactly does he plan to do once he meets him? I mean, he already passed up a chance to kill the man once in the previous book, and I doubt LaHaye will reverse his decision and allow Michael to dirty his hands in the future. Is Michael’s ego really that big that he believes God will magically protect him from harm from a trained killer that has no problem with killing him that he won’t kill.

    . . . Wait, I remember who we’re talking about here, never mind. I just wanted to point that part out, since it wasn’t really discussed.

    • I’m not sure Murphy says that. Unless I’m missing something, the conversation goes as follows: Bob says that he Murphy never sees or hears from Talon again, and Murphy says that he can’t guarantee that, not that he actually wants it to happen.

      I don’t think Murphy really has a plan in his mind, as such (I know, big surprise). But there is a lot of talk from Bob about letting God’s plan unfold, not giving into baser feelings, etc, etc.

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