Monthly Archives: December 2017

TEoD: Chapter 25: Wonderful Disclaimers

As they promised themselves, Sherlock Murphy and his sidekick, Dr. Wagoner head back to the next revival meeting of J.B. Sonstad.  They decide to bear false witness and pretend to be a TV…um…car…by parking next to the real TV vans and slapping some layperson antennae on top of the car.  Yeah, their disguise is pretty much foolproof.

Shockingly, Wagoner has done some (very rudimentary) internet research on Sonstad, finding out that he’s married with three kids, one of whom just got married…with a $1.2 million wedding.

Okay, so we know he’s really rich.  (Or the daughter married money or Sonstad’s wife is rich, though Murphy and Wagoner do not consider these possibilities.)  Still, it’s not as much as some people spend on weddings.  (This article is fascinating to me.  Chelsea’s wedding cost $3 million, and Ivanka gets to say “unknown” since they did everything at Trump properties, but the things they did know the cost for with Ivanka’s wedding were almost all more expensive than Chelsea.  So we can draw our own conclusions.)

(I also think it’s amusing the way Wagoner describes the wedding.  Okay, so I’m not defending spending millions on a wedding, especially since my own was less that 1% the cost of Sonstad’s daughter’s, but honestly…

“…Sonstad put on a massive wedding for her at an exclusive country club.  Dignitaries and important businesspeople from around the globe were in attendance.  It was a formal sit-down dinner with well-known vocalists and musicians as entertainers.  Cascading flowers, gourmet food, expensive champagne.”

…I mean, I get the point kinda, but still.  A formal sit-down dinner???  Flowers???  Champagne?????  OMG, at a WEDDING???????

Murphy has done enough intertubes research to learn that Sonstad owns three homes, and boy, I sure can see that it is very bad for a Christian to spend money on expensive houses, like these people, or these.

Murphy and Wagoner join the crowd in the tent, and yell snide comments at each other as the rest of the crowd cheers on Sonstad.  They’re annoyed that he’s prophesizing, which is rich coming from an author who wrote a huge series of books on future events as predicted in the Bible (allegedly).

Then Sonstad heals some more and collects an offering.  Murphy takes the chance for more snideness:

“Bob, have you noticed how Solstad works some wonderful disclaimers into his talks?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I’m just a pastor, Murphy!  I wouldn’t have any idea how to spot disclaimers in preaching!”

So Murphy has to explain:

“The first is that if you have enough faith, you will be healed.  That gives him a great out if nothing happens and the person isn’t healed.  It’s because they didn’t have enough faith.  It’s not Solstad’s fault.”

Oh, that’s rich.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I listen to Christian radio in the car a lot.  And I have heard plenty of “wonderful disclaimers” that are basically the same: the biggest one, I would think, is how to handle the promise of Mark 11:24, that you will get anything you ask for in prayer.  And both the Bible and its followers have thought of plenty of “great outs” for that one: sometimes you’re asking for the wrong things, or asking incorrectly, or your motives aren’t pure enough.

And perhaps Murphy actually read a bit about fakey faith healing, because he points out that Sonstad only heals people with internal problems.  He doesn’t grow back arms, for example, and “no lepers…were cleansed.”  (You know lots of lepers in suburban North Carolina, do ya, Murph?)

Murphy and Wagoner wander off, and just as in the Left Behind series, the nameless, faceless masses are just dumb ole sheep, transfixed by Sonstad and his snake oil.  And it turns out that Murphy and Wagoner’s clever plan to get a good parking spot had an ulterior motive: they used some borrowed equipment from Levi Abrams to pick up transmission from Sonstad and his wife.  She communicates with him during the preaching, telling him who has which condition.  This completely blows Wagoner’s mind, and Murphy suggests sending the tape to “a hard-hiring, no nonsense, investigative reporter” who can do an article (hopefully one with a least a few less cliches).

You’d think this might actually open a door to a semi-interesting subplot about an actual investigator investigating this, but alas, we pop forward one week, to when the cliched newspaper reporter is having a television interview with Sonstad.  (???)  Sonstad handles things about as well as he can, denying nothing but claiming that such tactics just “strengthen the weak faith of some in the audience.”

Murphy’s pissed, so I just bet he has no choice but to continue with this boring subplot for another few chapters!

TEoD: Chapter 24: Lunch with a WOMAN

Murphy humblebrags to himself as he stands in line at the Student Center for lunch.  He runs over his phenomenal workout routine in his own mind, then tells himself that…

I deserve a reward for doing my ninety pushups a day.

Ooooh, we’re all sooooo impressed, Murphy!

But ultimately, Murphy settles for Good Christian Self-Denial, and gets a tuna salad sandwich instead of a burger and fries.  Which, yes, is healthier in some ways, but manly man Murphy is denying himself quite a bit of protein and fiber.  But it’s okay—surely he has the Manliest Christian Shits of all.

I kinda feel like he might regret not getting the Manly Burger, because Summer Van Doren comes to sit with him for lunch.  They make small talk and Summer mentions that she’s originally from San Diego and enjoys surfing, like any “southern California beauty with blond hair” (Murphy’s thought) should.

Wow, a sexy blonde volleyball player from California who is also a surfer.  Could they possibly have carried this stereotype any further?

Summer also points out that good ole Pastor Bob has been talking about demons and the occult and presumably the evil of D&D and Marvel movies.  Which, again, I am sure Dean Fallworth will be delighted to hear—that their archaeology professor’s lectures are mirroring the sermons of the local asshat preacher.

And perhaps Murphy is subconsciously afraid of this, as he spontaneously brings Fallworth up in this conversation.  Like I’ve said in the past, for someone who seems to think he’s above it all, Murphy certainly thinks about Fallworth’s opinion a lot.

Murphy then notices Summer clocking his ring finger, which is bare now.

If she noticed [that he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring], she did not mention it.

Well, yeah, Murphy, because women don’t do that.  “Ah, guy I am talking to!  I have observed that you are not wearing a wedding band!  We’ll bang, okay?”

(Speaking of, Murphy is surprisingly nonchalant about dining with a human of the opposite sex.  I mean, I don’t care if he does, in some kind of weird Mike Pence-kinda way.  I’m just saying that for a man who claims to be in love, he sure is opening himself to temptation from this one-dimensional blonde volleyball/surfing goddess.)

Well, perhaps in a sick attempt to diffuse the RTC sexual tension, Murphy brings up the BTK Killer as an example of demonic activity.  (Brainy Summer, btw, hears only the very faintest of tiny bells ring at the phrase “BTK Killer.”  But then again, if there’s one kind of person Murphy loves, it’s someone he can lecture on any and every topic.)  See, Dennis Rader once said that demons in his head told him to kill.  Then again, he also blamed his own victims, so I guess I just wouldn’t look to a vicious serial killer for religious knowledge like Michael Murphy does. But that’s just me.

But we’re back in familiar territory now, with Murphy lecturing his poor victim on whatever cockamamie thoughts enter his head.  Yanno, serial killers, depression, voodoo, the usual.

“A number of Bible scholars believe that most demonic activity takes on more subtle forms [than becoming a serial killer].  Things like extended depression, suicidal thoughts, debilitating anxiety, and doubts about God.”

Yes, folks, if you have depression or even the slightest doubt about God, don’t worry about it, because IT’S PROBABLY JUST DEMONIC POSSESSION.

Wait, that didn’t come out right.

Actually, Murphy immediately backpedals and says that not all emotional problems (like, say having doubts about God), are actually caused by demons, but that demonic activity “just exacerbates” the problems, which “makes it very hard for counselors to distinguish between demonic attacks and psychological problems.

Boy, yeah, that is a challenge.  Here, let me see if I can help you: THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS DEMONS.

Then Murphy whines for a minute about voodoo that missionaries have to deal with, then he’s off to the races about Loye Pourner, USAF, who has petitioned for official recognition of Wicca in the military and is a lay leader and high priest.

Oh, sorry.  According to Murphy, he “claimed that he was a high priest.”  (Emphasis mine.)  ‘Cause you know those non-Christians!  Always claiming that they’re high priests or rabbis or monks or whatevers, in their fake made-up religions.  Totally different from really real things like DEMONS.

Apart from claiming to be a high priest of Wicca, Murphy doesn’t have much on this man, except for the vague accusation that “demons are smart enough to work within a culture to capture the thinking of people.”

(By the way, sure is classy (and loving!) of LaPhillips to use a real, living person, who was just minding his own business and trying to practice his faith, as an example of demonic activity in the United States.)

All of this leads Summer to ask a very important question:

“Michael, have you ever had to face a demon?”

Murphy says he hasn’t, though how would he know for certain, since a big part of his bit is that demons can show up anywhere and be disguised?

Anyway, Summer leaves for a convenient class, and Murphy thinks that not only is she hot, but she’s also “warm and well spoken and intelligent.”  How would you know, Murph?  You didn’t let her get a word in!  He then thinks about how Isis and Summer both share these qualities, but that Summer is RTC, so “they could connect on a deeper level.”  Again, deeper level, Murph?  You didn’t let her get a word in!

I’ll add that it’s an odd (yet appropriate for Murphy) way to assess romantic love.  Murphy seems to think it’s like a table of pros and cons.  And now Summer has one more point than Isis, so she wins!  Gee, I’m just shocked that the idea of falling in love with the whole person has no place in this world.

Are you SURE you haven’t met any demons, Murph?

TRoD: Chapter 23, Part 2: Satan and Tarot

Murphy goes on to list THIRTY different names for Lucifer.  Most of them are what you’d expect (Apollyon, Morning Star, Liar, Wicked One), though I’m rather intrigued by Spirit That Works In Disobedient Children, because that sounds like exactly the sort of thing that would encourage RTC parents to beat their 15-MONTH-OLD children.  (And remember to use the proper implement, parents!  Make sure to whack your kids with objects so they still love you!)

My disgust with good RTC discipline aside, Murphy blathers on about Satan and his power for a minute, then Summer Van Doren leaves.  I suppose a less confident Manly Man might assume she was offended, but Murphy just assumes she has a class in Sexy Volleyball to teach.

She sure is easy on the eyes.

Isis?  Isis that I kiss and said I’m in love with?  Isis who?

Murphy actually touches on archeology for one minute and 15 seconds of class (yes, I timed it), in discussing gargoyles on cathedrals.  (Can’t trust those Catholics!)  But then he remembers himself, and starts in on The Satanic Bible and a bunch of semi-related Things Michael Murphy Doesn’t Like, including D&D, tarot cards, and yoga.

Remember, kids: this is a Biblical Archaeology class.

The really hilarious part of all this is that a student gets him going:

“In cultural parades and events, Asians will often have a long, colorful costume that forms a fire-breathing dragon.  This costume is carried by many people and weaves back and forth through the crowds of people.  Just another example of the strong influence otherworldly creators have had on society.”

A hand went up.

“Dr. Murphy, does that include things like seances, card reading, and crystal-ball reading?”

I have a feeling that the students have BINGO cards, and one of the squares is “blathers on about innocent pastimes he has never experienced.”

Murphy takes the cue, and blathers on about Anton LaVey and Satanism, which I won’t go into too much about here, because Phillips once again uses the genius technique of cut-pasting from Wikipedia.

And I also imagine that the students have a standing bet as to which of them can get Murphy the furthest from Biblical archaeology.  This just might be this semester’s winner!

But then he decides to go for the gold (of PowerPoint list-making) and puts up a list of 28 things that “have grown out of demon-related thinking.”

(And, no offense or anything, but isn’t demon-related thinking what Murphy’s been engaged with this past hour of class, not to mention the prep?)

Murphy throws everything but the kitchen sink on this list, from astrology and ouija boards and tarot cards (no surprises there), to “blood rituals” (??? isn’t Christianity itself one big blood ritual), pyramid power, the Lucis Trust (as we remember from the last book, LaHate really hates those folks), and, of course, D&D.

Image result for d&d satanic

Now, with RTC panic over nerds pretending to be bards and dwarves and orcs stuff (see also here and here), not to mention the many other RPGs out there where you can pretend to be in a paranormal colonial America…

Image result for colonial gothic

…on a Federation starship…

Image result for star trek rpg

…or, my personal favorite, The ‘Verse…

Image result for firefly rpg

…you can really have some endless fun mocking the RTCs’ fear of tarot cards.

(Full disclosure: I read tarot cards myself.  No, I don’t believe in any spirits or demons or anything supernatural at all.  I just think they’re pretty and fun, and can provoke interesting conversation and even insights.)

Anyway, the Christian community is pretty divided on tarot cards.  There are actually Christian tarot cards out there, but plenty of cautionary tales about how tarot (and ouija, and crystals, and astrology) are just ways to let TEH DEBBIL into your life.

Like I said last time, I just find it odd that RTCs, who are supposed to be unafraid, think they are one roll of the dice (literally, HA!) away from The Enemy Gaining a Foothold.

Image result for d&d dice rolling

Clear tools of demons

Oh, and Murphy also thinks yoga is satanic.  Because flexibility is just plain wrong.  (Actually, in the ethical sense, I suppose RTCs agree with that, too.)

To close class, Murphy gives them an assignment that should no doubt be required of every archaeology student in the world:

“…think about two questions: One, to what extent have I been exposed to occult-type philosophy?  And two, how has it affected my thinking and daily life?”

Can’t wait until Dean Archer Fallworth hears about this one!


TEoD: Chapter 23, Part 1: Notoriety

Here we go, guys.  This is gonna be good:

Murphy had mixed emotions as he walked up the meandering pathway to the Memorial Lecture Hall.  His topic for the day was evil angels, and while it was good for the students to understand the influence of evil in the world, he hated to give Satan and his demons any credit and thereby add to their notoriety.

Hey, here’s an idea, Murphy.  Talk about archeology instead of angels and demons, and then you won’t add to any imaginary being’s notoriety.

Also, this is what just kills me about RTCs: it’s not like they think that other belief systems aren’t true in the sense that they don’t believe the gods and other supernatural entities exist—it’s that they do think they exist, just that they’re not the right one.  Demons and magic are real,

Don’t underestimate the demons! 

It’s just hilarious to me that big, tough Michael Murphy, who climbs mountains and goes dungeon-crawling himself, is so nervous of the mystic powers and things that go bump in the night.  And all this when Christians aren’t supposed to be afraid.


But despite his crippling fears of demons, Murphy soldiers on, because he is thinking selflessly of his students, and “forewarned is forearmed.”

What a valiant knight you are, Murph.

In the classroom, Shari is setting up the PowerPoint, because apparently that is beyond Murphy’s capabilities.

No one could ask for a better assistant…a little kooky at times, but very supportive.

Okay, first of all, I was a research assistant when I was in college, and my professor never made me set up his classroom presentations.  Probably because he was a competent adult.

Secondly, I can think of some words to describe Shari (“sanctimonious,” “superior,” and “cruel” leap trippingly to mind), but “kooky” isn’t one of them.  How is she kooky, Murph?  Shari is about the simplistic, white-bread character I can think of.  She has her bizarrely parental-romantic relationship with you (which is icky, but not kooky), and she’s obsessed with her church and do-gooding so she can look good for that church.  So, why kooky?  Because she wears her hair in pigtails?  One mildly unusual style choice is nowhere near enough to qualify someone as “kooky,” Murph.


Oh, and sexy blonde Summer Van Doren shows up for class, again, because apparently she has nothing better to do with her time.  Murphy again finds her “distracting,” and boy, he sure is a professional, isn’t he?

After the obligatory joke by Clayton Anderson, a young man so committed to trolling that he has apparently repeated this class for three years at least, Murphy gets into his PowerPoint slides on scarrrrrry angels:


  • Angels kept in prison

  • Angels that are free

  • Demons

  • Evil spirits

  • Satan—leader of the evil or fallen angels

Huh.  Angels that are in prison and angels that are free.  I guess that would kinda cover all of them.

The next slide has the terms for demonic creatures from all over the world.  Included are such beings as banshees







and zombies

So, basically, a comprehensive list of entertainment of which good Christians should never, ever partake.

Murphy even brings up horror movies, including “a number of films that deal with the exorcism of evil spirits.  Scary stuff.

The class actually has a chuckle at this, “which was okay with Murphy,” which surprises me because you’d think not taking hobgoblins seriously would be a BIG no-no for him, what with adding to notoriety and all.

It also strikes me that this is an incredibly glib and shallow way to talk about evil forces in the world.  Sure, this is an archaeology class, and I’m not sure why this is a subject of a lecture in the first place, but Murphy is just proving himself (again, natch) to be a terrible professor.  Why isn’t he controlling the discussion and the class atmosphere?  Why not purposely lead off with humor, then segue into a discussion of psychology—how horror movies and feeling safely scared could mask true diabolical things?

Sure, this isn’t a psychology course, either, but it’s no more off-topic than anything else Murphy discusses.  Hell, it might even make the students think about something, instead of giggling about how easy this A is really going to be.

But no.  Murphy goes on about supernatural beings who can be “portrayed as being kind or helpful in some way,” including brownies


fairy godmothers (no, really)




(OMG so sexy)

Hell, Murphy even invokes Disney movies, such as “the Aladdin films” (don’t feel too bad, LaPhillips: hardly anybody paid attention to the sequels), as well as Christmas movies with “little elves that help Santa Claus,” AND Saturday morning cartoons, to make his point that “children are indoctrinated at an early age into the world of ghosts, demons, wizards, witches, mediums, and the occult.”

Okay, first of all, I was a kid in the 80s, and I do not remember any mediums or demons in my Saturday morning cartoons.

And second, I cannot imagine why Dean Fallworth has a problem with this kind of bloviating in a class that is supposed to be about archaeology.

I mean, basically, this class is just a list of the Stuff that Creeps Out Michael Murphy.  So memorize these lists, students, and regurgitate them on the final!  Because that is way more important than knowing how to map a dig site, interpret artifacts, or record findings.

And Murphy is just building up a head of steam here.  Class ain’t even started yet, kiddies!

More next time.