The Gospel According to Biff: Christ’s Childhood Pal

Hokay, so, this is a humor book, and also a religious-ish book, which reads sort of like you’d imagine a book would read if someone with a personality like Adam Sandler (or, anyway, like the characters he plays in movies) were to accompany Jesus as his side-kick friend through most of Jesus’ life, including childhood, along the way mostly missing the different lessons that Jesus was learning/teaching even as he is witnessing literal miracles, in displays of humorous, Sandler-esque obtuseness–and then wrote a Gospel about it all, from a mostly-still-obtuse perspective. I think it is a mistake to read the book as though one knows whether its author is deeply religious, or deeply irreligious, or what. Lamb generally reflects back what you expect to find, and given the author’s discipline with respect to other literary tropes he employs, I expect we can infer that is intentional. If you prefer your religious experiences delivered by someone who will insist that your experience be characterized by certainty, rather than ambiguity, this book is to be avoided. A good way to read it for maximum enjoyment and to leave yourself open to learning as much as possible, whatever the status of your faith journey, may be to intentionally savor this ambiguity. After all, it is a nice and rare thing  that it is open to people from many different backgrounds as a vehicle to access the Jesus story for what it can offer them, without the pressure of feeling they have to believe any particular thing, since, of course, Biff (the Sandler-esque narrator) mostly disbelieves everything not immediately on display before his eyes, and for the most part remains immune to Jesus’ moral fables even in the seconds immediately after they are told.

Even with that caveat, there’s a lot of great stuff I could write about from this book. In fact I suspect there may be too much to talk about and consider the subject “covered” no matter how long a post is written. However, two easy things to note are:

1. Humor is a good way to skid over rough edges or avoid hard “with us or against us”-type lines that people draw, which is an invaluable tool for building and maintaining a sense of community in a diverse group. As the world gets smaller, more and more people with very different backgrounds end up in the same chat rooms, school rooms, and jury panels. Consequently I think this is increasingly a valuable talent for getting along, and taking care of people around you. Not everything has to be a fight.

2. The lesson of stone soup, that a little belief and community organizing can create plenty from scarcity, goes double for the belief that there’s a spark of the divine, a common humanity in everyone. Not only is it true (though of course it is that!) but when we believe it, we lead richer, fuller lives and have warmer, longer-lasting relationships.

Highly recommended for those with a sense of humor.

Lightly Edited Jan 24 2017

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