Monthly Archives: October 2012
Murphy is hard at work making Shari do all his work, when Methuselah gets in touch with him again.
As we know from Meth’s previous dealings with Murphy, he’s really on Murphy’s side, when all is said and done. It is established in the first book that Meth has given Murphy many amazing Biblical artifacts, though Murphy has to jump through hoops to get them. And most recently, Meth gave him the piece of the ark that will inspire Murphy to (SOMEDAY!) go on his quest to Ararat, AND funded the entire expedition,* so that Murphy can take off the rest of the school year and not have to pay a penny for his little Biblical mission.
*Yes, Meth funded the entire expedition. Murphy thinks he did, and Murphy is always right. I, however, think it would be a MUCH cooler twist if the anonymous donation had been the work of The Seven. But that would make the moral questions of the book more complicated, and we can’t have that.
It is worth noting that Murphy is hardly under any obligation to do Meth’s bidding. But Meth has “prizes” for Murphy, special Biblical treasures that have contributed to Murphy being cable-TV famous.
What with Meth giving Murphy valuable items, who needs to question the morality of accepting gifts from some anonymous rich dude who wants you to risk life and limb?
Indeed, much like Rayford Steele and Buck Williams in the Left Behind series, Michael Murphy does every bidding of the mysterious man of questionable motives, but he’s going to make his moral objections very clear by GRUMBLING at Methuselah.
Murphy is a Manly Man, he is.
“You’re all heart,” grumbled Murphy.
Meth offers Murphy “a little extra help” in his ark-quest that will presumably begin at some point in this novel.
But beggars can’t be choosers, and right now Methuselah seemed to have all the cards.
Well, don’t count your chickens before the iron is hot, Murph.
Meth has called Murphy to alert him to the arrival of a FedEx package. It contains only a card with an address in Morehead City, North Carolina, and a sentence:
In a circle is a square…the answers you seek will be found there.
Okay, I know my readers have been incredibly savvy in the past about figuring out these puzzles long before Murphy…any ideas???
I’ll let you think about it during Murphy’s drive to the fictional address. At least now we have some basis for locating the fictional Preston, North Carolina…
It was about a 130-mile drive from Raleigh to Newbern [sic] and then on to Morehead City.
On the ride from Preston to New Bern (not Newbern), Murphy muses on the history of Morehead City and some former governor. This is a) one instance of many in the Phillips books in which Murphy pulls a Wikipedia entry right out of his ass, and b) has nothing to do with anything, ever.
Next time, Murphy arrives in the exciting, adventurous, and exotic OTHER CITY IN NORTH CAROLINA.
He’s just like James Bond, really.
Hey, everybody—there’s a secret cabal of anti-Christian evildoers in this book!
I’d almost forgotten about them, what with the riveting chapters of marital advice and the intense YOUTH RETREAT ACTION.
The Seven pride themselves on the Gothic Horror experience they can create: they are in their “cavernous dining room” in their “subterranean vault,” and have used the dimmer switch to lower the lights and enjoy the gigantic fireplace with the smoking logs…
Which seems quite dangerous to me, seeing that they’re way underground, but I’ve just been reading about the Donora smog incident of 1948.
The Seven have gathered to be Gothic and spooky and to discuss matters of anti-Christianity, world domination, and Michael Murphy.
Having chowed down on “wild boar stuffed with quail” (really), they cover the basics quickly:
“We are allowing Professor Murphy to do some…spadework for us,”
“Of course, when he has outlived his usefulness he will be eliminated.”
Yeah. I’ll believe that when I see it.
And just remember, everyone, when you Stand Up For Your Faith (as long as that faith is Christianity), you become an enemy of evil world-destroying cabals.
So now that THE MOST IMPORTANT CHRISTIAN IN TEH ENTIRE WORLD out of the way, discussion can move on to other issues of worldwide importance.
“Great strides toward our goal. The leaders of 138 nations have joined together endorsing the establishment of a World Court. The European Community gets nearer to becoming a single nation.”
Europe is evil, guys. This will become ever more apparent in the later books.
“Christianity is under attack in America and throughout the world.”
Oh yeah, being a Christian is sooooo hard. American Christians are so persecuted. So many American Christian marytyrs these days! Why, I hear that sometimes, there are even people of other faiths who HANG OUT IN THE WORLD.
“Through our influence it will soon be a byword for intolerance and cruelty.”
Aw man, The Seven are giving themselves waaaaay too much credit here. They’ll never do as good a job of that as the Christians themselves.
Still though, must be nice for LaHaye’s readers. They can comfort themselves that sure, they may stand against LGBT rights and reproductive freedom, but it’s not like they’re being intolerant and cruel! That’s just the evil atheist conspiracy doing that!
“Through Barrington Communications and our access to cable-TV news channels, our agenda is gaining ground in the media.”
Yep, you can’t turn on the news these days without hearing worshipful praise for the idea of a one-world government and a one-world currency. Those ideas are super-popular right now. Also moving the capital of the whole world to Iraq. That, too.
They conclude their vague-but-evil scheming by expressing their “desperate, almost childlike” hope that the Antichrist will show up soon.
His voice became deeper and echoed strangely through the chamber. Those across the table could see s slight red glow in his eyes in the flickering light.
Looks like Merton is positioning himself to be the Antichrist’s False Prophet (this series’ Leon Fortunato, for those familiar with the Left Behind series).
Oh, and as a grand finale to their little evil evening, The Seven (they’ll stop at nothing!) hurl their full wineglasses into the gigantic Gothic fireplace.
So in addition to being evil one-currency Antichrist fans, The Seven like to WASTE PERFECTLY GOOD WINE.
It’s that time of year again—pre-Halloween, when the Christmas decorations start coming out.
I remember Ye Olden Dayes, when Christmas commercials didn’t start until the Halloween night horror movie marathons. Hell, I remember Ye Evene Older Dayes, when Christmas didn’t start until Black Friday.
Anyway, getting into the spirit of Wintermas, it’s time for me to start thinking about my Very Heathen Critique Holiday Special.
Last year, as some of you may remember, I read Twas the Night Before, Jerry Jenkins’ Christmas romance about a grown woman who believes in Santa Claus.
This year, I have a couple of ideas…
1. The Case for Christmas, by Lee Strobel
From the back cover:
Consulting experts on the Bible, archaeology, and messianic prophecy, Lee Strobel searches out the true identity of the child in the manger. Join him as he asks the tough, pointed questions you’d expect from an award-winning legal journalist.
Lee apparently will come of a conclusion in a mere 84 pages. So it’s possible that I could critique both this little bitsy book and…
2. Christmas Town, by Peggy Gilchrist
This is an Inspirational Romance novel from Steeple Hill.
From the back cover:
Everyone was talking about the arrival of Jordan Scoville. The millionaire had been raised in Bethlehem, South Carolina, the town his family still owned. But Jordan hadn’t been back in over ten years, and rumor had it that the savvy businessman had returned in order to close down their little “Christmas Town” forever!
But that didn’t stop struggling single mother Joella Ratchford. Everyone she really cared about lived in Christmas Town, and she was convinced that all Jordan “Scrooge” Scoville really needed was faith. For surely the joys of the season would make him realize that it was up to him to save this town…and maybe find a happily ever after of his own.
Given my genuine and unabashed enjoyment of Christmas stuff, there is a good chance I might like this one.
Which brings me to my final point: whether I read one or both of these books, I will go into them blind. Unlike the Underground Zealot and Babylon Rising series, I have never read either of these books.
And thus I leave it to you, my lovely and loyal readers, to decide what will be under the Heathen Critique Wintermas tree…
In addition to reviewing Christian novels, I enjoy reviewing Christian movies. A few of them, like the recent Time Changer, had an actual theatrical release, but many of them are shorter movies, meant to be shown at church youth events. Yanno, movies like Teenage Testament, Teenage Christmas, The Pretender, and Second Glance—movies that feature Christian teens facing the sort of moral issues Christian teens face, such as how to drag little kids to church and how to alienate all your friends by preaching at them whenever you see them.
But today, in The Secret on Ararat, brand-new Christian and churchgoer Tiffany (remember her???) has dragged her friends to a Christian youth event out on the woods.
It seems that Tiffany has picked up on the lessons taught at Pastor Bob’s church, exemplified by Michael Murphy, that a lie isn’t really a lie if you just phrase things in such a way that your listeners will be sure to misunderstand:
…even though Lisa and Christy were her two closest friends, Tiffany was beginning to wonder if bringing them here had been a good idea after all. When she first told them about the retreat, she deliberately didn’t add the word church. She figured there was no point in frightening them off before they got here, and she trusted that once they did, the experience would be so different from their normal lives that they’d quickly find themselves caught up in it.
Would it really be so easy to keep this a secret for the entire bus ride, plus the first two hours they’re there, as Tiffany does? Don’t these buses usually have the name of the church on them? Wouldn’t there be a prayer or some shit before they pulled out? I wouldn’t know, mind you, but it just seems unlikely…
Also, is this whole thing free to all comers? Because it seems really awful to ask someone to pay for something when they don’t really know what it is.
Also also, Tiffany has promised Lisa and Christy that there will be cute boys. Not that retreat-going boys wouldn’t be cute, but the promise of them seems highly manipulative from this brand-new Christian.
Mark is the director of the youth retreat, and you can tell he’s hip with the kids because he wears faded jeans. He breaks the sad news to the teens that they are there by the Lord’s plan, but that there will still be “crazy fun” stuff to do in the woods.
Christy and Lisa, understandably, are less than thrilled by this revelation:
“You knew if you mentioned the word church it would have taken a bunch of, like, totally wild horses to drag us here.”
You tell her, Christy!
But Tiffany shrugs off the whole lying-to-her-best-friends problem, because church is COOL.
“Yes. Cool. About looking at the big picture, and what’s going to happen in the future and why we’re here.”
Sadly, Tiffany’s friends, like all nonbelievers, are hedonists:
“Have some fun and then you die, girlfriend. That’s the big picture.”
But despite being evil hedonists, and despite being told by Tiffany that they’re risking “everlasting damnation,” and despite being lied to, Lisa and Christy prove themselves to be Good Without God by letting it go.
Okay, I’m not so sure that the lesson is supposed to be that Lisa and Christy are more moral than churchgoer Tiffany, but that’s sure what is being demonstrated.
Needless to say, since this is a LaHaye novel, the retreat works like a charm. In between kayaking and stuff, Mark delivers “stirring” talks, and the teens’ minds “were open to new ideas and new challenges to the usual way they thought about things.”
Then Mark tells the kids about how Jesus died for their sins.
JESUS WHO’S THAT???
Something about the way he talked of Jesus as if He was a real person whom Mark knew personally made them feel that He really had sacrificed Himself for each one of them.
Passionate Sincerity!!! Waaaaaay better than facts and logic!
On Saturday night, Mark instructs the kids that it’s time to go into the woods to do what bears do there…I mean, to have a “Discipline of Silence.”
(Yes, it’s capitalized in the book—is this some kind of real thing that people do?)
Anyway, they’re supposed to go alone into the woods and reflect on Jesus and stuff and “do some business with your Creator.”
Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves.
So Tiffany says the magic words and calls her parents to tell them how much she loves them and loves Jesus and ISN’T THERE SOME SORT OF ARK THAT PEOPLE WANT TO GET AROUND TO FINDING AT SOME POINT???
On the heels of Murphy convincing his old pal with the pregnant wife that it will be TOTES SAFE to fly a helicopter over Mt. Ararat, we check in six-to-ten-thousand-years ago with Noah and his family.
Last we saw them, they were fleeing like startled deer to the forest of Azer.
Soon Noah and his sons began the process of cutting timber and erecting shelters. The women were busy with catching fish from the lake and preparing meals, as well as tending the horses, camels, sheep, goats, and cows that munched contentedly on the gentle grassy slopes.
Yeah, and I bet the women also had pillow fights and knitted potholders, while the menfolk took turns punching each other and watching football.
It was a different time.
Noah finally gets around to opening the swag he got from Tubal-cain. And even though Tubal-cain is a dirty sinner who will die a horrible drowning death (as he deserves), he has given Noah surveying instruments and a DIY alchemy kit that helps you create not only “singing swords,” but the sharpest, most powerful saws and axes EVAH.
So, Noah will be ready for the zombie apocalypse, if nothing else.
God has given Noah and his sons 120 years to build the ark. But the sons are whining already, because it turns out that building an ark kinda sucks. Sure, they have cool tools, but they only have horsies to help them.
Also, word has spread that four dudes are building a gigantic boat NOWHERE NEAR THE OCEAN, and people are coming to the forest to point and laugh at Noah.
I mean, they are PERSECUTING THEM ALL FOR THEIR BELIEF IN THE ONE TRUE GOD.
For some strange and unbiblical reason, Noah thinks that God gave them all that time so they could also persuade others to stop their filthy, sinful ways and join them on the ark.
I say unbiblical because the Bible says this:
“And behold, I myself am bringing the flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh which is the breath of life, and everything that is on the earth shall die.”
And in case this wasn’t clear enough, God repeats himself eight verses later;
“For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.”
So I’m not sure where Noah is getting this missionary zeal.
Noah waited until [the townsfolk] had finished [laughing and jeering]. “You can laugh now, but the day is coming when laughter will cease. God will punish evil men and women with a judgment of water,” he said calmly. “The sky will break forth with rain, and wells of water will spring out of the ground. Every living creature that has the breath of air will die. The only place of safety will be the ark of God’s protection. Please listen and turn from your wickedness!”
Gee, I can’t imagine why this approach isn’t working like a charm.
“Oh, guys, I also forgot to mention that God will drown your evil babies in their cribs. Because they’re evil. So, yanno…ark.”
Noah’s wife and daughters-in-law show up to whine and complain (as women always do) about people making fun of them, just because their husbands are ripping down a whole forest and building a huge fracking boat in the middle of nowhere.
But fear not, Christian warriors! The moral of this chapter is that if people laugh at your faith, God will smite their asses with water.
So it’s all good.
In preparation for his magical, mystical trip to Mount Ararat, Murphy heads to Virginia, to talk to his old pal, Vern Peterson. Vern is a helicopter pilot, and lives with his wife, Julie, and their three-year-old son, Kevin, in Norfolk.
(btw, I’m a bit surprised that a guy in his (probably) late thirties is named VERN. That’s a name that hasn’t broken the top thousand most popular boy names in over forty years. I knew a Verna growing up, but she was an elderly lady.)
Despite the unusual name, Murphy is buddies with Vern: Vern and Julie were the best man and maid of honor at Murphy and Laura’s wedding. Guess that makes them all pretty good and longstanding friends, though there is no mention of Vern and Julie in Babylon Rising, attending Laura’s funeral and giving their support to Michael.
In greeting the family, Murphy is a charmer who knows the best way to a woman’s heart:
“Julie, you seem to be the only person round here who hasn’t gotten any bigger since I saw you.”
Julie, you are, like, SO THIN. Good thing, too, as a woman’s worth can be measured by how well she conforms to conventional beauty standards. Too bad your husband got so FAT. But, hey, it’s not like that matters. Vern’s worth is only measured by his ability to bring home the bacon.
But first, a shout-out to RTCs never drinking: Julie serves homemade apple cider with dinner, not wine or beer, since she’s a good little RTC homemaker.
Also, probably, because she just found out that she’s pregnant again.
So it has become extra-important that Vern bring home even more bacon:
“The baby coming means we need every cent I can lay my hands on. I could even build that extension Julie’s always talking about. Anyway, Ararat’s a pretty rough place to fly a chopper, but it’s not like Kuwait. I mean, there won’t be anyone shooting at us, right?”
“I hope not,” Murphy said. “I hope not.”
One would hope that, as a fellow RTC, Vern w0uld see this as the weaselly not-an-answer-but-not-a-lie that it is, and run like hell from this whole plan. Murphy knows damn well that this trip could be deadly, yet he’s inviting his buddy, a married man with one small child and another on the way, without fully apprising him of the (very large) potential risks.
What a great guy, our RTC hero.
Showing us again what a paragon of Manly Manliness he is, Murphy heads to the gym.
A step machine was one of the few sanctuaries he knew where no student was likely to ask him about an assignment.
Murphy is such a devoted teacher!
(Also, it is unlikely that a student at admitted party school Preston University would bother Murph at six in the morning. Also unlikely that a student would have a membership at the local health club, when they no doubt have free access to Preston’s athletic facilities.)
Anyway, Murphy is benching two hundred (Manly! I guess! I’m not entirely sure because I do only light weights for toning!) when our old friend, lousy father and FBI agent Hankl Baines, who offers to spot.
(I always thought it wasn’t the safest thing in the world to lift without a spot, but wow, it’s sure manly, eh?)
The two men bond in a manly way by lifting weights together, and it turns out that Baines has been stalking the gym in hopes of catching Murphy.
THAT’S NOT CREEPY AT ALL
Baines reveals that things are going better with his daughter, but now he wants to talk about his EVEN MORE PROBLEMS WITH HIS DUMB WIFE.
“We’ll be discussing a problem and I’ll explain to her why her way won’t work and why we should do it differently. I try to be real patient, to show her how she hasn’t thought it through completely.”
So, it turns out that Baines is just as clueless when it comes to having a civil conversation with his wife, as he was when it came to his daughter. Not that this is surprising—after all, Baines is a dirty non-churchgoer, so it is only to be assumed that every aspect of his life is in shambles.
Credit to Murphy, he correctly lays the blame on Baines for this little problem:
“Sounds like you might not be giving her a chance to disagree with you.”
That’s a pretty diplomatic way to say, “You’re a condescending asshole, Baines.”
Murphy magically susses out the true problem: Baines has a girlfriend!
(Seriously, it’s magic. Phillips calls it an “educated guess,” but I’m pretty sure that God put the thought it Murph’s head.)
“You know, Hank, it’s been my experience that people who have gone through a divorce end up with a lot of regrets. The biggest one usually is they didn’t try harder to make it work.”
Yeah, I bet loner Michael Murphy has a ton of divorced friends.
Spoiler alert: he doesn’t. Levi is twice-married, but he was widowed the first time. The only other friend of his we meet (I think ever, in the whole series) is happily married.
And God gave us the Bible with all kinds of good advice about marriage:
If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Oops, not that one! This is the one that Murphy meant:
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Diplomatically, Murphy leaves out the preceding verse:
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Actually, as I read this verse, it seems to me that Baines wasn’t precisley wrong, biblically speaking, that is, in how he discussed things with his wife:
“We’ll be discussing a problem and I’ll explain to her why her way won’t work and why we should do it differently.”
I mean, if only his wife would submit, as is fitting in the Lord, all would be well, no?
But no, actually, Murphy does not take the advice of his own Bible. Instead, he counsels Baines to say he’s sorry, say “I love you,” and not to go to bed angry.
DARN SKIPPY BECAUSE MAKE-UP SEX ROCKS
Oh, and he tells Baines he should consider going to church.
He’d planted the seed.
Yeah, yeah, sure he did. Yanno, if I cared about Baines AT ALL as a character, if he wasn’t just A Sinner for Tim LaHaye to preach at, I might give a damn about his personal life.
As it is, I can only point out that 36% of the way through this book, and not yet even getting ready to go to Mount Ararat.
But next time, we will actually get some HOT PLANNING ACTION.