Since I may have already condemmed myself with my Easter posts, if's about time to look at this book:
There are countless books, presentations, e-mails and end zone signs providing more details about the divine side of Jesus, and /or the suffering, mortal side than anyone could comfortably digest. However, I’ve run across one book that gives fantastic insight into the non-suffering days of the human side. By creating a fictional travelogue of the “lost years” between being found at the temple and beginning his ministry, 2002’s Lamb by Christopher Moore provides an interesting view of how the “and man” part of “equal parts God and man” could have dealt with everyday life. This view is provided via the best friend of Joshua bar Joseph (Jesus), as indicated by the subtitle, “The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s childhood Pal.” I’d love to heartily recommend this book that made me both think a bit, and laugh a great deal…
The trouble is, I have no idea who the hell to recommend it to.
Since Biff is a regular guy, and somewhat of a buffoon, his adventures are peppered liberally with dirty jokes and foolishness.
Granted, they are really good dirty jokes and foolishness.
One of them contained a Wizard of Oz suggestion that threw me into hysterics while reading in the middle of the night causing me to wake up my wife. (My sister did the same thing in the same scene to her husband; you can tell we’re related.)
The problem with figuring out a target recommendation audience is there are a large amount of references in the dirty jokes and foolishness that can only be fully understood by people who are well acquainted with the original stories and teachings of Mr. Bar Joseph. Those are exactly the sort of people who would tend to get offended and leave in the presence of dirty jokes and foolishness, regardless of their high quality.
Frankly, that’s quite a shame, because good ole Josh is written straight and respectfully for the most part throughout all the adventures. Sadly, this is likely to make a great deal of the sort of people who would normally enjoy dirty jokes and foolishness of any quality level to get offended and leave.
In the Bible, and almost everywhere else, people who follow Jesus, who adore Jesus, or who dedicate their lives to Jesus are gallivanting about in big heaping piles. However, Biff is none of these. He’s not a disciple, he’s not blinded by his faith, he’s not an unthinking convert - he’s a best friend. He spends time with Josh because he enjoys his company, agrees with his viewpoints and generally shares his values, not because it’s something he was told to do, is scared into doing, or does out of guilt.
There’s probably a valuable lesson in there somewhere, but I’m on a roll and can’t stop at the moment.
It’s that presence of a very human best friend that makes the “and man” part really shine through. They go on a journey of discovery to find the Three Wise Men. Josh, as a human with a divine aspect, tries to learn how to be the Messiah from varied adventures and experiences. On the other hand, from the same varied adventures and experiences, Biff tries to meet girls, have fun, and get into as much trouble as possible. Along the way a large number of entertainingly silly explanations for the origins of some of the even sillier aspects of Christianity, and society in general, are proposed.
Having people’s thin skins make them miss theological insights does not make me sad however. This is because:
1) I can pull insights about spiritual fulfillment from pretty much anywhere, even a line from a crappy, made for TV Tarzan movie in one instance.
“I don’t do anything…I just am.”
2) I’m sure others can get more spiritual fulfillment from things that aren’t a comedy novel.
3) I don’t really care about other people’s spiritual fulfillment. (I know, very Christian of me.)
However, what does make me sad is how much great comedy is being missed. Only those with enough knowledge of the faith to almost always guarantee offence will truly be able to appreciate and get all the great jokes and humorous references in Lamb. My particular favorite (from a comedy structure standpoint) combines the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Story of John the Baptist, and the connection between Bunnies and Easter. However, for straight laughs, the writing of the Beatitudes passage almost made me wet myself. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.)
This leads me back to my original question…
Who can I recommend this to?
I’ve reached a conclusion about religion:
No religion created by humans (including my own) can be one hundred percent correct.
(Aside: And some are just plain loopy. If you find the religious service involves someone tossing a live, venomous reptile at your unprotected self - that may be a sign you’ve picked one of those.)
A) No religion is perfect.
B) I’ve learned all the goofy and illogical rules and rituals for one.
C) I have no desire to spend the time or the energy to learn new goofy and illogical rules.
I’ll be sticking with mine, knowing and understanding its imperfections.
Anyone in a similar state of mind (and I use the term loosely) should check out Lamb.