TPD pp 72-76: Marshall,Marshall, Marshall

Let us begin.

Marshall had seen Bernice’s film. He had seen the minute scratches from some kind of mishandling: he had seen the clumsy fingerprints at regular intervals that could very well have been placed there by a hand pulling the film out of the camera, unrolling it in the light.

Marshall stared dumbly at the photos laid out before him, almost uncomprehending what he was seeing. Blank. All blank. He felt the weight of the night before pressing down on his shoulders, dragging him away from the film. He wanted to crawl back in bed; surely this dream would end then, and his daughter would be safe, his family would be safe. Intruders in the night, daughters running away, film mysteriously over-exposed — these things didn’t happen in reality, only in nightmares. 

Bernice was talking; something about fingerprints. She pointed and he nodded, not really seeing, just wanting to get back to doing something productive. He could do nothing for this film; it was already ruined. What did it matter how it happened? Their proof had dissolved in the night, just like his foolish notion of his house as an impregnable castle. 

I hate this book.

Seriously, all this build-up about the pictures and we get two lousy sentences? Show, don’t tell.

Marshall had gotten his appointment with Young for 1 o’clock.

Because whatever Marshall wants, Marshall gets.

The next three paragraphs describes Ashton United Christian in lavish detail; it’s a “large, stately-looking edifice[…], constructed in the traditional style with hewn stone, stained glass, towering lines, majestic steeple”. In other words, a very Catholic-style church, the kind you find all over Europe, nothing new and trendy. Nothing new and wooden, no community center here – this is a full-on stone church, bordering on cathedral. Thick red carpet on the floors, finished oak and walnut wood fixtures, brass door handles, brass coat hooks, chandeliers  scrollwork, stained glass windows — it even has a carillon – new vocab word of the day. And everything is large – large pulpit, large platform, large choir loft, large choir.

It was a respected establishment, Young was a respected minister, the people who attended church were respected members of the community. Marshall had often thought that respect and status just might be a prerequisite for membership.

At first I didn’t twig to anything wrong with this bit of description, but my domestic partner insists it’s a dig at megachurches – “you know, those huge churches with olympic-sized swimming pools for baptismal fonts”. I can’t see a church having 2,000 members in a tiny town like this, but it might be intended that way. Personally, I think it’s more meant to be a metaphor about grandiosity, about form versus substance – making everything look like it came out of a fantasy novel or a renaissance period film means you have that much less time and effort to concentrate on God. But what do I know, I’m a heathen anyway 🙂

“Well first of all, Sandy — that’s my daughter — ran off last night”

Maybe it’s because I’m not Christian, but… the pastor doesn’t even know who Sandy is. Why on earth is this the guy you go to first? Not the cops, not a family friend, not a relative, not a friend of Sandy’s, but basically a complete stranger. How can someone be expected to lead you spiritually without knowing anything about your situation? If the congregation is simply too big, shouldn’t there be… sub-pastors? Assistant pastors? Someone to get to know portions of the congregation so there’s always someone friendly to turn to?

He gave Young a quick synopsis of the problem and its history and Young listened intently with no interruptions.

“So,” Young finally asked, “you think she has turned her back on your traditional values and that disturbs you?”

“No,” Marshall doesn’t say, “My daughter is fucking GONE and that disturbs me.”

Seriously, what did Marshall SAY in that recap? On what planet is that an appropriate response to the situation? Who TALKS like that?

This is getting a bit long, so I’ll do a separate post about why the things Young says sound like actually good advice rather than omgevilplot and just focus on Marshall today. Such as this gem:

“Talks a lot about getting along and being peaceful. How he got to be a cop, I’ll never know.”



Seriously, who better than a cop would know the toll infighting and violence can take? Who better than a cop to extol the virtues of not beating each other up over petty disputes?

Marshall plays word games with Young:

“You never met Professor Langstrat?”

“Quite sure,” Young answered with a smile.

“How about Alf Brummel?”



“Did you make the festival, by the way?”

“Yes, some parts of it. Most of it was of little interest to me, I’m afraid.”

“So you didn’t drop by the carnival, eh?”

“Certainly not.”


“So […] it’s all a matter of how we look at things?”

“That would be part of it, yes.”

“And if I might perceive something a certain way, that doesn’t mean everybody’s going to see it that way, right?”

“Yes, that’s right!” Young seemed very pleased with his student.

“So […] if my reporter, Bernice Krueger, perceived that you, Brummel, and three other people were having some kind of little meeting behind the dart throwing booth at the carnival … well, that was just her perception of reality?”

MORAL RELATIVISM DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. Just because I perceive cheese as utterly revolting in texture, smell, and flavor, and entirely inedible while my partner views it as delicious, creamy, nutty goodness doesn’t mean suddenly our ps3 stops being black in color. Reality is what exists when nobody is around to perceive it; the presence of subjective truths don’t mean there’s not also objective truth. It’s a dangerous argument to say otherwise, as you either imply that reality doesn’t exist or that (what I feel Peretti was going for) no subjectivity can possibly exist. Either the ground under Marshall’s feet is  a complete illusion with no substance, or Sandy is objectively wrong and going to burn in hell forever because she disagreed with her father.

Of course, Young wins forever:

“She even took some pictures of you.”

Young sighed and looked for a moment at the floor. Then he said, coolly, “Then why don’t you bring those photographs next time, and we can discuss it?”

The little smile on Young’s face hit Marshall like spittle.


(I’ve used a lot of caps, haven’t I? Sorry.)

I wonder if the floor glance was meant to be invoking a prayer to Satan to get him out of this mess? After all, if people generally pray to the ceiling…

Tune in next week for theology discussion. I’mma go pre-write that post so it won’t be as late.

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3 Responses to TPD pp 72-76: Marshall,Marshall, Marshall

  1. Jarred H says:

    I’m inclined to disagree with your domestic partner about it being a dig at megachurches. Mainly because the concept of a megachurch didn’t really make it into the popular mindset until after this book was originally published. It might be a dig against larger churches in general (fundamentalist churches tend to be quite small, with membership being measured in 10-20 families), but I doubt Peretti had one of the massive bohemoths when he wrote this book.

    As an aside, I will note that scholars had been discussing the existence of megachurches by one name or another since the 1950’s and that the term megachurch was coined in 1978 according to some quit Internet research i just did. So it’s still possible that Peretti knew about such churches. I’m just not convinced his target audience would have been very aware of them. (I certainly wasn’t when I read this book in the mid-1980’s.)

    I think the more likely dig in the passage you quoted is that Young’s church is too “worldly” and “chasing after the respect of men” as opposed to “being a beacon of truth.” “What does it profit a man [or church in this case] if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul” and all that. After all, remember that an important sign of “keeping the true faith” is to come off as obnoxious as possible to everyone else. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little bit here.) If Young and his church are so well respected by the rest of the community, they must be doing something wrong.

    • yamikuronue says:

      Ah, cool. I didn’t get a megachurch vibe from it either, but I do tend to miss a lot. I figure those things are easy enough to blatantly parody that a nice-looking building doesn’t automatically imply it.

      All the more reason to like Young! Who says you can’t be religious and well-liked at the same time >.> oh right, people like the author of this book.

  2. Nyssa says:

    In my own review of this book, I saw this as a dig against the United Church of Christ. The UCC services I’ve been to, were very traditional and in old-style churches. But they’re also very liberal in theology. Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism in general sees anything like Catholicism as “bad,” and that includes traditional liturgies and Catholic-style churches. Imagine mixing that with liberal theology, and you’ve got the horror in this book against the Ashton church.

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