Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics: October 2018

Monday, October 1, 2018

Lamb, or How Christopher Moore Actually Made Me Care About Jesus

**Note: The product links in this article are Amazon Affiliate Links. No extra cost to you, but I get a kickback from any purchases. Let's call it a headhunter's fee...but less cool.**

So, I've said in the past in various interviews that I don't have a favorite author, per se. I find it nigh impossible to actually nail down one singular author I love the most. Rowling embedded herself in my soul, but Valente's words make my heart soar. Lem's wit and absurdity never lose their shine, but Jemisin's worldbuilding is to die for.

But I think, if you drove the tacks down under my thumbnails and said I had to give one name, I think that name would probably be Christopher Moore.

Those who know him are probably nodding to themselves knowingly. For those who don' to sum up Christopher Moore...hmm...

Take a Mel Brooks movie. No, not that one. Yeah, that one. Then cut out all the fluff. Keep the insane, WTF concepts, then add a Richard Pryor sense of humor with a Joan Rivers (RIP) dry delivery, and then sprinkle on the sort of heartbreaking poignancy present in a movie like RENT or The Green Mile.

Also some magic.

And if you can imagine that, then you've got a much better imagination than I do. Christopher Moore's work is hard to parse out in a short summary like that because there really isn't anything like what he does. You have to make a minimum of two or three comparisons to really try and capture it. From The Island of the Sequined Love Nun and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, with their over the top absurdity, to his vampire trilogy (You Suck, Bite Me, and Bloodsucking Fiends) rife with wit, to my personal favorites (And personally, I think Christopher Moore's favorites, too.), his research-heavy novels. I've written already on Sacre Bleu, his Impressionist era fantasy, but it also includes Fool and The Serpent of Venice, his riffs on Shakespearean classics (King Lear and The Merchant of Venice, respectively.).

But probably his most famous of the lot, maybe his most famous book of all, is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.

One side will say it's sacrilegious...and the other side will agree, we just don't care. Have you ever wondered what happened in the missing years of Christ's life? Well, Christopher Moore has the best answers for that.

(Umm...the spoilers are going to start here. So be aware of that shit.)

See, I'm not a Christian. We won't get into many specifics, but suffice it to say that view isn't changing any time soon...ever, really. I don't buy into the religion, and I also have never bought into the sort of heart-wrenching, hair-ripping zealotry to Jesus that I grew up around. I've read The Bible. I've read The Book of Mormon. I've read a lot about Christianity, along with a lot of other religions. I didn't understand why people would love Jesus so God damn much.

Lamb is the first and only book that has ever made me love the Christ child. It's the only one that made me care. And after my fourth or fifth re-read just recently, I've been picking apart why.

It's dead simple.

Moore's Joshua (Apparently that would have been his actual name? Maybe? I'm not sure, but let's go with that for now.) is the only time I found Jesus sympathetic. He was relatable. He was human, which is supposed to be the big draw, right? He's just one of us. He's, at his core, supposed to be a man. But the religious version of Jesus is so holy and shit that it just doesn't connect to me. Never has.

But in Lamb...the first time we see Joshua, he's reviving a dead lizard that his brother keeps killing. Just an endless cycle of resurrection. Because what the hell else would a little kid with godly power do? He falls in love with Mary Magdalene, but he knows he can't do anything. It's a little boy crush. His best friend is a crude, sinful son of a bitch. And Joshua is wracked with doubt: he's not ready to be the Messiah, his dad won't talk to him, and he's trying to figure out how to just cope with all of this.

For five sixths of Lamb, everything is spent building up Joshua and Biff as characters. They travel along the Silk Road to meet the three wise men. They learn ancient Chinese chemistry and acupuncture and medicine. They study in a Tibetan monastery and learn Kung-Fu and Buddhism. They study with a yogi in India.

And Biff has a lot of sex. Joshua doesn't.

So by the time we get back to preach the gospel, we've followed about 2 decades of Joshua's life, traveling the world. And because the story is told from the POV of his best friend, we see him in maybe the best light possible.

That makes the return to Israel brutal. Saving Mary Magdalene from a disastrous marriage. Gathering the Apostles. Preaching on the Holy Ghost...I mean, it's a Jesus story. It ends one way.

But when we get to the scourging, the sacrifice, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion, it's heartbreaking. Not in a "human condition" kind of way, but in a "this is Joshua, and he's refusing to speak in his own defense" way. And for such a funny book (The scene where Jesus has coffee for the first time is one of my favorite scenes in any book, ever.), the ending is...well, it's a freaking Jesus story. the ending is miserable.

And that is to its credit. In the midst of the laughing, the silliness, all of forget that this is the story of Christ. Somehow, Moore manages to make the crucifixion a surprise gut punch at the end. And it's the longest gut punch ever. Up to the last moments, he's feeding you hope...but there is no hope.

So rather than the actual Biblical Jesus, a figurehead instead of a person, Lamb takes Joshua, puts him through hell, shows you his human side in the best and worst ways, puts his flaws on display...and then rips him away from you. And that is why Lamb is the only book that makes me give half a crap about Jesus. Ever.