TSoA: Chapter 25: Preach It, Murphy!

How fitting that my last Ararat post before our two-book Wintermas festival…will feature Murphy preaching once again at hapless FBI agent Hank Baines.

Hank calls up Murphy, because he obviously wants some boilerplate apologetic counseling that he could in no way get from any other source.  Strangely, the two agree to meet at the State Department of Archives and History, because Murphy is doing some research on the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke.  This seems about as far from both Noah’s Ark and biblical archaeology as one can get, but it offers the opportunity to show that Bob Phillips read the Wikipedia article on Roanoke, and that Murphy, once again, knows things that poor Hank doesn’t.  Hilariously, even though Hank has lived in North Carolina for years and may have grown up there (it is implied in the first book), his response to the words “Lost Colony” is…

“What’s that?”

Jesus?  Who’s he?

Murphy smiled.  “Solving mysteries.  That’s what rings my bell.”

No, Murphy, no it’s not.  For two reasons.  One is that you clearly become more passionate when you’re trying to convert people than when you’re trying to solve mysteries.  Two, the “mysteries” you’re “trying to solve” aren’t even mysteries…according to you.  They’re just things you need to prove to other people, but that you already believe.  Case in point: Noah’s ark.  Is there any doubt in your mind, Murphy, that it exists?  How about the bronze serpent from the first book?  No doubt there, either.  They weren’t mysteries to you; they were just lost items.  And that is not the same thing.

Miss Marple, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen: those folks didn’t start out knowing the answer because some divine thing told them who the killer was, and they just needed to show everyone else.  Sure, they figured out things first, but at the beginning of the story, the mystery was just as mysterious to them as to everyone else.

Anyway, Murphy finally gets around to asking Baines the real reason he followed Murphy like a puppy to the State Department.  Turns out that Tiffany was in a car crash with her friend Lisa.  Lisa was driving when they were in a head-on collision versus a truck.  The car rolled and Lisa was killed, while Tiffany escaped with cuts and bruises.

Okay, let’s unpack this:

I know that in action movies, a car can roll and the hero can tumble out and just start shooting, but suffice it to say that I know a little something about this, and I consider it highly unlikely that the same rollover that would kill Lisa would only bruise Tiffany.

(This would be different if it was established that Tiffany was wearing her seatbelt and Lisa wasn’t, or something.  But we aren’t told that.  As well, although it is implied that the crash was Lisa’s fault, we really don’t have a way to know.  Was it her fault?  Was it the truck driver’s fault?  Were alcohol or drugs involved at all?  Was it maybe nobody’s fault, and just a freak crash caused by someone having to swerve or something?  We’ll never know.)

I guess God was just watching out for Tiffany:

“It seems like a miracle she wasn’t more badly hurt.  But she’s pretty cut up about her friend.”


This actually makes me pretty angry.  Baines’ only child, his little girl, just had two horrific events happen to her: she was in a severe car crash and she lost one of her best friends.  And where is Baines?  Is he comforting his child, supporting her, being a shoulder to cry on?  Nope.  He has gotten himself nice and far away from all those pesky, womany emotions, so he can listen to some boilerplate evangelism.

Baines has just proved himself the most assholish character in this book.

Full disclosure: I lost my childhood best friend when I was not much older than Tiffany.  And I can assure you that my parents were with me as I mourned, not listening to some jerk wax on about Jesus.

Not that Murphy isn’t culpable here, too: once he heard this, the next words out of his mouth should have been, “My God, Baines, that’s terrible.  You go be with your wife and daughter.  We’ll talk some other time.”

But no:

“You know, Hank, we all have this yearning, this emptiness inside that can only be filled by God.”

“God is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They are three in one.”

“God is perfect.  And He wants mankind to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  There is, however, a problem.  We are not perfect.  If we were to enterGod’s presence in our imperfect state we wouldn’t be able to endure it.  Why?  Because God is holy.”

“Don’t take it from me.  Let me quote you something from the Book of Romans…”


Also, poor Jennifer (Baines’ wife).  She’s there with their kid, taking care of things, being a parent, and Baines is off on his little evangelism/Lost Colony field trip.

Also, poor Lisa.  Being over the age of twelve, we know that she is now being stir-fried in Hell.

But no, this is all about Baines and Murphy.  Not about Tiffany, the confused young girl with a demanding, unaffectionate father, who just lost her best friend.  Nope, this is all about whether Murphy can carve another notch into his bedpost of evangelism.

Wow, what a depressing chapter.

Hey, good thing Lee Strobel is first on our Wintermas break (to begin tomorrow on, appropriately enough, Black Friday).

He’ll cheer us right up!

Posted on November 22, 2012, in Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. High on the list of “encouragements that nobody, ever, has had to give”… 🙂

    Now you’ve got me picturing the series pitch for Murphy, Divine Detective. See, every episode he starts off knowing who did it, but then has to gather the evidence to convince the secular courts… not sure it’s got legs, really.

    The best way to survive a car crash seems to be a combination of seat belt and extreme drunkenness. It can happen the way it’s described here, with wildly differing levels of injury, but almost always that goes along with belt vs no-belt (as in a certain well-publicised incident a few years ago).

    “Don’t take it from me. Let me quote you something from this book that’s only authoritative if you already believe in it.”

  2. Seatbelt vs not is one way to have different levels of injury, but accidents are not always predictable. I’ve seen enough cases where one patient was badly hurt and another mildly hurt to take the Very Bad Author at his words.

    • My cousin was hit by a drunk-off-his-ass driver. The drunk ended up with some cuts and bruises. My cousin (who was sober and wearing a seat belt) ended up in a coma, and later on had such bad brain damage that she was basically at toddler-level functionality until she died two years later. So it can happen in real life.

      (Personally, I’d go with “Lisa was Sober Driver and was more alert than Tiffany, who was passed out from alcohol and/or drugs.” But given the target audience, I’m not surprised there’s no mention of any substance abuse.)

      . . . But wait. I thought the girls had such a super-fun time at the Evangelical Sleepover In The Woods that they accepted Jesus into their hearts etc etc. Or was it just that they LEARNED about Jesus “Who’s That?” Christ?

  3. In terms of “mystery solving”, Murphy is more like Columbo who can just tell who did it from the start and spend the rest of the episode perstering the perp until he gets prove/a confession.

    So, is our new asshole Baines here to ask anything? Before he was at least supposedly asking for advice on his marriage problems and his rebelious daughter. But what’s he doing now? Mr. Sherlock already figured out that his daughter is a wee bit upset, he doesn’t even need Murphy to figure that one out. Is he asking how to console her? Cause if that’s the case A: You suck at parenting Baines B: You suck at consoling Murphy. What’s all this drivel on a yearning for God? The previous boilerplate seremons were at least tangentally related to Baines problem du jour. Is Murphy saying “Your daughter isn’t really upset about her dead friend, she just misses Jesus”? Or “Now that your daughter is an emotional wreck, this is the perfect time to hammer Jesus into her life.”? I can’t adequately snark at the stupidity if I don’t know what flavor it is this time.

    • Well, Baines ostensibly came to Murphy because he was so upset about Tiffany (so upset that he ran away from her) and has “the feeling somebody’s trying to tell me something.” So Murphy just goes from there: you’ve got the God-shaped hole inside of you, yadda yadda yadda.

      So really, it has nothing to do with Tiffany at all. It’s all about teh menz.

      • It sure is a good thing God/LaHaye/Phillips doesn’t have any problem with killing a random person to send a message, otherwise Baines might not have gotten it.

      • Oh yeah, that was the fun part of those Chick Tracts. Bad Momma for instance is about a horrible single mom who raises her kids to be criminals. So then God kills all the kids to get mom’s attention, she converts and is all “Oh thank you for your great kindness and mercy to reach out to someone as aweful as me”, conveniently forgetting that he killed her children, who had only done as they were taught, to do it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Cause if that’s the case A: You suck at parenting Baines B: You suck at consoling Murphy.

      Don’t forget C (to the author of this bestseller): You suck at storytelling.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy

    How fitting that my last Ararat post before our two-book Wintermas festival…will feature Murphy preaching once again at hapless FBI agent Hank Baines.

    Ruby, don’t you know that IS the only reason for Christianese fiction? To break the fourth wall and preach a Salvation Message directly to the reader? Leading up to the required Altar Call Ending where they break the fourth wall and lead the reader directly through the Magic Words?

    • Ah, but wait! There is also the secondary reason for Christianese fiction: to create evil, heathen strawmen for the sole purpose of knocking them down and making them appear foolish (no matter how many facts must be twisted, ignored, or misunderstood in order to do so.)

    • Oh, certainly. But I find that the Phillips Babylon books are most blatant in this regard. 😉

  5. I dunno, it’s Chapter 25 and I can’t help feeling there should be some sort of plot underway by now.

    • A plot? A plot? We’ve got dire warnings about the heathen atheist pagans trying to corrupt YOUR CHILDREN, and a ray of hope for surviving the whirling saw blades of the slaughtergod, and you want a plot as well? Oy…

      • I changed my mind, I don’t care about plot anymore, I just want a band/album/Warhammer 40k sourcebook named “Saw Blades of the Slaughtergod.”

        Or a film, maybe. “City Slickers 3: Saw Blades of the Slaughtergod.”

    • I think this is the RTC variant of Twilight books (Mormons aren’t Real True Christians of course, unless they’re the only candidate running against a black guy). 90% pointless pratteling, and then an obligatory action climax at the end.

  6. Delurking to express my appreciation for your name-dropping of Miss Marple, Nero Wolfe and Ellery Queen. (I also appreciate your wading through the unpleasantness of these books. It takes a stronger stomach than I’ve got.) They don’t get enough love.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, December 7th 2012 « The Slacktiverse

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