TEoD: Chapter 31: President Fallworth

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 agree of course that the 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?





Posted on February 4, 2018, in The Edge of Darkness. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. One thing that seems incredible is that the author here could set up the story in any way he wants, and yet fails to make Murphy very heroic, or even consistent. I’m guessing just not a lot of thought or time spent on creating this situation and these characters? Or maybe just an assumption that all readers will be wearing the same blinders and prevented from seeing how weak Murphy’s arguments are?

    • I suspect, rather, the intended audience has the same sense of outraged entitlement that Murphy does. Promoting Christian fundamentalism is the definition of heroic and being opposed to it is the definition of wickedness. It’s not Murphy’s responsibility to make compelling arguments for his faith; it’s Fallsworth’s responsibility to open his heart to Truth, and the only laws that matter are the ones that promote Christian fundamentalism.

    • The intended audience is fundie Christians, and since Murphy is one of them they see him as heroic. Those of us outside that intended audience see his behavior and think he’s not at all heroic. This seems to be the rule rather than the exception with the “heroes” in books and movies for fundie Christians. Almost all of their fictional heroes act like huge assholes.

      • I saw this when I snarked Kingdom Come, where the characters openly admitted that they were arresting people who hadn’t committed any actual crimes–they just believed different things and lived differently from everyone else–yet never does anyone talk about the Orwellian nature of all this. For all their wargle-bargle about how eeeevil the TOL are, they mostly leave the RTCs alone. The RTCs are the ones arresting them for their beliefs and trying to send in moles to bring them down from within. The TOL are fighting for their right to live their lives as they see fit.

        It’s probably a reiteration of a common mindset on the Right, Christian and otherwise: they have no objections to persecution, so long as it is done by the right people for the right reasons. I use the Putin example as an illustration. The Soviet dictators’ actions were wrong, but that was because they were done in the name of Communism. Whereas Putin’s actions are done in the name of unfettered Free Market Capitalism and Cronyism, which makes his actions right and makes it so they can’t stop writing love letters to him. Though really, their thinking is even worse than that: If it’s done by the right people for the right reasons, it doesn’t qualify as persecution, period.

  2. Whew, thank you Fallsworth! Shari was just discovering indications of the existence, perhaps even location of an archaeological find. The story might have had to be about discount Indiana Jones adventures again. Thankfully the Dean managed to distract Murphy and set up a few more chapters of hypocritical persecution narrative and university politics.

  3. RTC writers don’t seem very self aware at the best of times, but I must admit that the gap between what defense is put in Murphy’s mouth here versus what we have just seen him say in class is staggering. Is the writer actually trying to deliberately make the point that there is a loophole in the Scotus decision about studying the Bible as a historical document which they can abuse to proslytise like crazy, the raise a riot whenever other religions are discussed?

  4. “there were not too many issues he would fight for, but this was one of them.”

    Well, there’s some truth to this. For instance, he seems way more interested in fighting Fallsworth over this than fighting Talon of murdering dozens including his wife.

    I’m just saying, if Murphy saw Talon getting away with a biblical artifact to his left, and the university providing one last chance for its staff to state their case against promoting Fallsworth to his right… which direction do you think Murphy will run to?

  5. That “over the centuries” line works just as well with science, or anti-racism, or Wicca witches with white magic. Given that Murphy’s worldview is that Christianity is under siege and things are getting worse, it’s not even consistent.

  6. I went to a Lutheran private college where I was required to take Bible classes (not Biblical archeology, just straight Bible study), and even there they never tried to convince the class that Christianity was true and good and other religions were false and bad. Murphy is mendacious and a bad teacher, just like his creator.

    I’m betting Fallworth doesn’t get the job and that this ill-advised meeting is cited as the reason.

    • I went through something similar when I spent a year at a private Methodist college. There was a course on the Bible I had to take. The course just talked about the Bible like it was another piece of literature, talking about the reoccurring themes and symbols, as well as the historical context the text were written in. The class was nothing but fascinating, introduced me to some basic Biblical scholarship (like the Three Isaiahs or how a good chunk of the letters attributed to Paul likely weren’t written by him), and I’ve enjoyed reading more about the subject ever since. That’s what a good teacher and a good course is supposed to do: educate the student enough that they want to actually learn more on their own, even once the course has wrapped up and there’s no grade at stake.

      None of that sounds true about Michael’s classes. I just assume like everyone else does, that students take this course because it is the easiest of easy As. They know all they have to do is parrot the right stuff about Jesus, feed into his massive ego, and they’re set. Heck, if I was in that class, I might, when it comes to papers assigned (assuming there are any assigned), I’d start out writing about the subject, but once I’m a few paragraphs in, start filling it with whatever nonsense I feel like, though there will definitely be some erotica in there. The paragraphs at the end will, like the ones at the beginning, be about the actual assignment, but I have no doubt that I could pull this off. Do you really think that Michael very carefully goes over line with his trusty red pen? Heck, hasn’t Shari been mostly preparing the materials for his class, the Powerpoint presentations and the like, as well as grading papers? What part of his job has Michael actually been doing, aside from lecturing?

  7. Murphy (and probably the authors as well) is incredibly lacking in self-awareness. Pretty much all Murphy does is resort to personal attacks when trying to defend his views. I’d love to see Fallworth get the job and cancel Murphy’s classes, but unfortunately I’m sure that won’t happen because Murphy is the “hero” of this crappy series.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for February 9th, 2018 | The Slacktiverse

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