Monthly Archives: February 2018
Welp, it’s Chapter 33, and Murphy has officially decided to Do Something: go to the beach.
Okay, I’m being ever so slightly unfair. He goes to Myrtle Beach to find Methuselah. On his trip down, Murph reflects upon
his own knowledge of Myrtle Beach Wikipedia. Now, I’ve been to Myrtle Beach and it’s fun, but the history definitely isn’t as fascinating as a lot of places (basically, they decided to make it a resort…and made it a resort). So I’ll forgive Murphy for not speechifying for three pages, and instead just “reflecting” for one paragraph.
He goes to the Dunes Golf and Beach Club, which is not far from Meth’s estate, and just chills on the beach “to just sit and take in the glory of God’s creation.”
Or the glory of tourism creation, I guess. Also, I wonder if cool ole RTC Murphy decided to set this scene in Myrtle Beach (as opposed to any other of the beachy areas in North and South Carolina) because of Myrtle Beach’s thong ban.
So he takes in the glory of God’s creation, and sits around to wait for Meth, and opens a book (unspecified, so presumably not the Bible).
Might as well do something productive, Murphy thought.
Reading a book might be the first productive thing Murphy’s done in this book so far.
A few hours later, Murphy sees Meth being escorted out to the beach by his plainclothes bodyguards. (At 11:30, the heat of the day in late spring at Myrtle Beach, really? An older guy like Meth would probably want to go out way earlier, before the heat becomes too oppressive.)
Now, it’s important to point out right now that Murphy went all the way to Myrtle Beach with exactly zero plan. (This despite the fact that Murphy thinks of this meet-up as something that is “on Murphy’s terms, not [Meth’s].“) So he’s lucky when he happens to see a young staffer for the Dunes, and cons him into loaning him a Dunes uniform by implying (though not lying outright and in so many words, because that would be wrong) that he wants to use the uniform to get close to a pretty lady. Having thus conned and potentially gotten into deep trouble an innocent young man just trying to make his way in the world, Murphy poses as a waiter and gets Meth’s order. Without looking up, Meth orders a sammich, and…
Murphy was about to explode inside, his curiosity mingling with a great deal of anger. Methuselah had succeed a lion on him, almost killed him when he cut loose a cable in the Royal Gorge, and hired a host of professional killers to try to take him out.
Yeah, Murphy…none of which would ever had happened had you not take Meth up on his invitations. He invited you to places, with the situation very clear to both of you, and you decided the reward was worth the risk. So forgive me if I don’t feel too much sympathy for you.
(Also, you forgot about the puppy cave.) (I suspect because Phillips forgot about it too, to at least about said doggies.)
In his anger, Murphy lashes out with this lame “attack”:
“How about some rattlesnakes for lunch?”
…And he instantly finds himself spitting sand because the bodyguards tackle his ass.
After a second, Meth recognizes Murphy, and calls off his guards. Hilariously, Meth immediately deduces that Levi Abrams (yes, Meth knows who Levi is), must have done the actual investigation. So even Meth knows full well that Murphy is incapable to doing anything on his own.
“I can figure out how you know so much about the Bible. Your grandfather was a missionary and your father was an active Christian. But what’s with all the games, the riddles, the attempts on my life?”
Murphy gives himself rather too much credit here. It’s pretty obvious that Meth never meant to kill Murphy. I’m pretty sure that if Meth wanted Murphy dead, Murphy would be dead.
And indeed, Meth characterizes his antics as “tests,” and tells Murphy that this has all been for a Cause: Meth’s family were killed by “wicked and powerful” people with “goals for world domination.” (Guess who!!!) Meth wants to destroy them, and needs Murphy’s help to do it, and all these silly Bible artifact tests have been to get Murphy “battle-ready for these people.” Because I guess The Seven (TSAN!) are going to make Murphy crawl on rope bridges and save drowning puppies.
Meth explains that he leads Murphy to Bible artifacts because “[The Seven (TSAN!)] would like to see the Bible destroyed and believers in Almighty God eliminated. I am simply using you to help prove them wrong.”
Murphy thinks that Meth’s “warped logic” indicates that “the old man had all but lost his grip on reality,” though Meth’s taken more action in any one passage with him than Murphy’s taken in this whole book. And honestly, the only error in logic I see in Meth is that he’s contracting Michael Murphy and not, say, The Punisher or someone more appropriate, to go after the cabal that killed his family.
And hilariously, Meth actually sides with me (which I suppose, in Murphy’s eyes, would mean that I had lost my grip on reality, too), and points out that Murphy “could have turned back at any time,” but always chose to go for Meth’s crazy games.
Murphy tries (rather half-heartedly, I might add) to press Meth for more details, especially on The Seven (and Murphy still doesn’t know their name!), but Meth just peaces out and has his crack security team escort Murphy away.
Oh, but not before reminding Murphy to return the Dunes uniform.
Murphy had completely forgotten about the uniform.
Crack hero, ladies and gentlemen!
A Very Stable Genius.
Who simmers as he heads back home:
It was so typical of Methuselah to just walk away. It always had to be on his terms. He had to be in control.
No doubt about it. Murphy was ticked off.
Short-tempered, impatient, impotent in the face of a much more intelligent man (one who, it is worth noting, actually does have a long-term plan for his life). Even when Murphy does something, he doesn’t actually do anything.
I’m getting a tad sick of Phillips introducing this one-dimensional, one-off characters, only to kill them as soon as they’re introduced. Multiple guards at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation, even guys like Vern, Murphy’s helicopter-flying “friend” from Ararat—give them a name and a relationship (however unbelievable) to a main character, then kill them off. Yeah, I totally believe that Michael Murphy is close, personal friends with Vern, his wife, and their one-and-two-thirds children, even though we never heard of them before (even when Laura died!) and never heard from them again after Vern served his purpose.
Then again, if there’s one thing Michael Murphy has, it’s an odd notion of friendship. What kind of view of friendship do you have when your closest “friend” disappears for months, and you can’t even bring yourself to call his family to see if they know anything, or if there’s anything you can tell them?
Anyway, we’re at it again. Remember Levi’s pal from the Mossad, Moshe Perlman? When Murphy subcontracted out with Levi to get him to Ashdod, Levi in turn subcontracted to Moshe to “check it out.”
And so he is. And Phillips feels the need to specify that he is doing so in “an old 911 Porsche from West Germany,” which he is driving because it’s “an old enough car that it didn’t attract any attention.”
This struck me as odd, so I asked my husband about it, since he knows waaaaayyyyy more about cars than I do. He said that off the top of his head, a 911 Porsche is “a cool classic car that lots of people would recognize,” so maybe not the best thing to drive if your aim is to be completely unnoticed.
Moshe heads to the site of old Ashdod, and sees four cars parked by the sorta-site.
Pearlman’s training with the Mossad made him very alert and very suspicious.
Thanks for the info, Phillips.
Moshe is so alert and suspicious that he puts his gun on, then sneaks in from hundreds of yards away and determines that the cars are “not the type of vehicle one would take on an archaeological dig. They were too new, too nice, and too clean.”
Yeah, because a 911 Porsche is definitely the car you would take on an archaeological dig.
Moshe follows footprints from the cars to a hole in a wall (just go with it) (and yeah, Moshe is totally acting unsuspiciously, following people and snooping around really obviously like this).
Fumbling around down there, all by himself, Moshe hears four men also fumbling around. Two of them (we’ll call them “the two Arabs,” because Phillips does) naturally ask after Moshe’s identity and purpose.
“I’m a tourist,” Perlman said brightly, hoping his acting chops were up to snuff. “I saw some cars and I stopped to look at the ruins of Ashdod. I then discovered the hole in the wall and entered. Are you archaeologists?”
Oh, yeah, Moshe, Academy-Award-level performance right there.
The two Arabs moved closer.
“Why, yes, we are. We are exploring for ancient artifacts.”
Moshe had heard enough lies during his career to quickly discern truth from falsehood by the tone in one’s voice.
Oh, yeah, congrats, Moshe. Your spy skills are working just great for you right now. You really have those Two Arabs in a spot.
Damn, son, if Archer was on the case, these guys would already be dead.
In a rather ridiculous yet simultaneously boring development, Moshe evades the Two Arabs and makes a break for his car.
BUT TALON IS THERE
Yep, Talon is there. Because Talon has the super villain power to teleport to wherever the “plot” needs him to be.
So, yeah, he’s just been waiting around for this guy to show up. So he snipers Moshe in the leg, then sits Two Falcons on him, and it’s all over.
Cut to 3:00 in the morning, and Murphy is roused by a call from Levi, who informs him that Moshe’s body was just found, and that “all the wounds look like the clawing and pecking of birds” but that “no one can figure out what happened.”
Murphy, of course, manages to figure out that it was TALON (he’s a crafty bastard, that Murphy is) and says that he wants to go to Ashdod now “more than ever.” Which would be nice, really, since it would basically be the first time he’s gotten up off the couch in this entire book.
Levi volunteers to go along, “to avenge Moshe’s death. I would be my joy to turn those falcons on Talon.”
Okaaaayyyy. But I don’t think that’s how birds work, dear. I mean, they’re not guns, yanno? They don’t work equally for everyone. They’re loyal to Talon. Idiot.
Murphy urges Levi to “put on the pressure!” because it’s still completely up to Pal Levi to set up this whole trip. So Murphy’s gonna sit around while Levi gets things done. Murphy does helpfully add that “Talon already appears to have a big head start.”
Yeah, Murph, go figure. So shocking, what with all the work you’ve done on this mission and…
At the end of the previous chapter, during the Fake Standing Ovation, “kooky” RA Shari was clapping and grinning along with everyone else (I’m assuming she was the only one not in on the joke). One sentence, but an unstated length of time later, and she’s poring over a piece of papyrus that Murphy found in a “curio shop in Cairo” at some undetermined point in the past.
Murphy pops in on her, and she reveals that she’s read the papyrus, and it references the Ark of the Covenant. Specifically, it verifies that “two magical objects” (the rod and manna, presumably) were removed. Now, this is the first “break in the case” in many, many chapters, and it’s kinda hilarious that Shari discovered it, not Murphy, but the discovery itself takes a distant second place to a much, much more important topic…
See, Dean Archer Fallworth has left a message with Shari for Murphy to come and talk with him. This would be horrific enough in itself for Murph, but unworldly Christian Shari is also up on all the gossip, and reveals to Murphy that the President of Preston University is retiring…and Fallworth is on the short list to replace him!!!
Probably not the reaction LaPhillips expected readers to have.
Not Murphy’s reaction, either.
Murphy felt sick to his stomach.
Awww, whatsa matter, Murph?
Oh, and let’s just pause for a moment and reflect that Murphy’s nausea was brought on, not by someone trying to kill his girlfriend, not by the realization that the Antichrist himself may be alive and well and gathering followers…but by the thought that his professional rival might get a promotion.
Yep, that’s out hero! Like a good Christian, unconcerned with the things of this world.
So Murphy heads off to Archer’s office, “armed” with a few pieces of paper. We’ll see why in a sec.
Archer breaks the news to Murph that he might be the next president, and Murphy gets to act not at all surprised, so as “not to give him the satisfaction” of a “reaction.” Like, say, Murphy’s actual reaction of nausea. So mature!
Archer mentions that if he does become president, he’ll do his best to cancel Murphy’s biblical archaeology classes.
Murphy baits him into saying that this is because “religion has no place in the classroom,” and Murphy is off to the races!
(Fallworth obviously misspoke here. Based on his past interactions with Murphy, it’s clearly always been his position that proselytizing has no place in the classroom, but nothing will stop Murphy once he gets on a roll.)
Murphy begins by the snide ole response that oh, I guess Fallworth is against teaching about art that depicts religious things, or the Protestant Reformation, or religiously-themed music, hmmm???
Fallworth rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean, Murphy?”
Right? Fallworth has so much more patience than I, debating with this child. (Apologies to children, most of whom have more sense than Michael Murphy.)
“No, I’m afraid I don’t.” [Murphy responds]
“Oh, then I guess you’re a bit denser than I thought, Murphy. I guess we’ll see what happens in a few months. Have a nice day.”
Well, that’s what Fallworth should have said. Instead, he lets Murphy blather on, segueing into a cherry-picking lecture on the Supreme Court case of Abington School District v. Schemmp. (Because I guess Murphy is now a legal expert, too.)
Okay, a bit of background: evangelical Christians generally hate this case, being one of those that Drove Prayer Out Of Public Schools.
Never mind this is one of the cases that drove forced prayer (and in this particular case, forced Bible readings, too) out of public schools. So it’s kinda funny that Murphy would cite this case, for two reasons: 1) it didn’t come down on Murphy’s side and 2) it’s talking about public elementary schools, not a (presumably) private university where these guys are.
So yeah, these are the printouts that Murphy grabbed on the way out. Because he hears “meeting with Dean Fallworth” and immediately thinks, “I better grab a copy of a Supreme Court case from 1963 so I can read it aloud to him!”
Which he does At length. (Yeah, shocking, I know.)
So, it’s interesting. Here’s the passage Murphy quotes. I’ve crossed out the parts he omits, so you can see the difference:
It is insisted that unless these religious exercises are permitted a “religion of secularism” is established in the schools. We agreeof course thatthe State may not establish a “religion of secularism” in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus “preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.” Zorach v. Clauson, supra, at 314. We do not agree, however, that this decision in any sense has that effect.In addition, it might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment. But the exercises here do not fall into those categories. They are religious exercises, required by the States in violation of the command of the First Amendment that the Government maintain strict neutrality, neither aiding nor opposing religion.
So yeah. The pro-prayer crowd was saying that taking out the prayer had the effect of a “religion of secularism,” and the Surpeme Court said No and No.
Also, we’ve seen plenty of Murphy’s classes from beginning to end by this point. Anybody think he’s arguing for his right to present religion objectively, and not aiding his particular religion?
Then Murphy quotes another Justice saying that “the holding of the Court today plainly does not foreclose teaching about the Holy Scriptures or about the differences between religious sects in classes of literature or history.” Sure, great. Kinda hilarious that Murphy is quoting that when he habitually dismisses class with admonitions to students to listen to the “still small voice” of God/their conscience, and to beware false (non-RTC) teachers.
By the way, here are a few quotes from the opinion that Murphy would be less likely to use as weapons against Fallworth:
While the Free Exercise Clause clearly prohibits the use of state action to deny the rights of free exercise to anyone, it has never meant that a majority could use the machinery of the State to practice its beliefs.
Oh, and this section occurs right before the first one Murphy (partially) quoted:
The conclusion follows that in both cases the laws require religious exercises and such exercises are being conducted in direct violation of the rights of the appellees and petitioners. Nor are these required exercises mitigated by the fact that individual students may absent themselves upon parental request, for that fact furnishes no defense to a claim of unconstitutionality under the Establishment Clause. See Engel v. Vitale, supra, at 430. Further, it is no defense to urge that the religious practices here may be relatively minor encroachments on the First Amendment. The breach of neutrality that is today a trickling stream may all too soon become a raging torrent and, in the words of Madison, “it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.” Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, quoted in Everson, supra, at 65.
After all this, Murphy ends with the rather half-hearted conclusion that “we don’t see eye to eye.”
True dat. Fallworth is for actual classes being taught, Murphy is for twisting the words of the Supreme Court (and doing a piss-poor job of it, at that), to make it seem like Fallworth is against religion being taught in any context.
Then the following bizarre exchange takes place:
“I respect your right to disagree with me. I’m not trying to force you to accept what I believe. All I’m asking is that you have the same respect for me and my beliefs.”
Murphy says this. Murphy, who once said that Fallworth was just someone who “had moral issues” and, later, that agnosticism (Fallworth’s position) was “a life of ignorance and uncertainty” that is “pretty lame.”
Oh, and in that same conversation, Murphy, in an example of his respecting the rights of others, he expressed his fear of courses that would teach “the beauties of being a Wicca witch with white magic.”
So it’s not too surprising that Fallworth’s sarcastic response is that Murphy is suuucccchhh “the loving Christian.”
“That’s interesting, Archer. Whenever you have a difficult time defending your views, you resort to personal attacks.”
Fallworth has had no difficulty defending his views. Murphy is proselytizing in class, and you just know that Fallworth knows all about it, given the timing of these conversations. Really, it’s Murphy who has difficulty defending his position, what with his reliance on printed-out pages of Supreme Court opinions that don’t even come down on his side, and his constant…well, personal attacks on Archer himself, as seen above.
Phillips really doesn’t remember that we’ve read the other books, does he?
And Murphy, of course, has to have one more bon mot as he turns on his heel, takes his ball, and goes home:
“Archer, as you have gone on record…let me go on record. You are on shaky ground. If you choose to make a battle over this, so be it. I will not roll over and play dead on this issue.”
Wow, bit of projection going on, you think? Archer is on shaky ground? The guy who is currently dean of his department, and in line to be president of the university…is on shaky ground with one of the (no doubt) least respected professors on campus, who routinely proselytizes in his classes, if he shows up at all. And when was the last time Murphy published, might I ask?
Ah, but little things like that don’t matter, not when Murphy storms out and slams the door, like a petulant teenager!
Stroming (no doubt in the manliest of fashions) back across campus, Murphy thinks that “there were not too many issues he would fight for, but this was one of them.”
Really really? Because I have a feeling Murphy would “fight” against just about anything, including putting gluten-free options on the student union cafeteria menu. Or if the Wicca witches with white magic started a campus club.
And, proving that Phillips really doesn’t read what he writes, Murphy then has this thought:
Over the centuries men have tried to put down the teachings of the Bible. They have barked like dogs at a caravan and yet the caravan of truth keeps moving forward in spite of them. God help me to remember this when under attack.
This from the guy who was just trying to convince his dean that he use of religion in the classroom fell under the Supreme Court definition of “a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization” or “study [of the Bible] for its literary and historic qualities…presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”
Murphy, Murphy, Murphy…what have I told you about bearing false witness?