There are many ways to view religion and interpret various events related to a specific religion. There can be the moments of joy and the moments of sadness, the times when God seems a threatening, powerful and mysterious creature, and the times when God appears a caring and loving Father of all humankind. In addition, it is important not to forget that Christian religion is not the only one in the world; apart from two other major religions, i.e., Islam and Buddhism, there are a million of other beliefs that, in their turn, can be viewed from different aspects. Offering an interesting perspective on Christ’s life and persona, Moore makes the legendary figure even closer to everyday people.
One of the two major religious and philosophical movements in China, Buddhism is described in a rather original way in the novel. Moore does not offer an exact definition of what Buddhism actually is; instead, he offers a cadence of ideas and stories that shape the reader’s idea of Buddhist teachings. The closest that Moore gets to defining Buddhism is retelling the story of Gaspar, the monk who was believed to have reached the Enlightenment. However, even the story seems ridiculously out of place in the context of solemnity that usually wraps any religious movement:
“Master, we seek your most holy guidance, what can you tell us?” they cried. “I really have to pee,” said the monk. And with that, all of the villagers knew that he had indeed achieved the mind of all Buddhas, or “no mind,” as we called it. (Moore 42)
In its turn, the Hindu teaching, according to Moore, presupposes that both the body and the spirit should be trained to withstand the temptations of the secular world and to cognize the truth that is concealed within one’s own self before cognizing the entire universe. Moor describes the Hindu practices as the means to escape the low desires and to give as much food to one’s mind as one gives to his/her body: “There was no goal because there was no place to be but in the moment. Here the goal is to see beyond the moment, to the soul” (Moore 59).
Finally, other Chinese philosophies and religious movements get a brief mention in the novel. For example, Moore offers an interesting perspective on Tao Te Ching, stating that three jewels of the Tao were compassion, moderation, and humility (Moore 31). Therefore, Moore shifts the emphasis on self in Tao Te Ching to the focus on the relationships with others. Joshua and Biff also mention the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita briefly. However, in contrast to the latter, the Upanishads never get a proper discussion. The Bhagavad Gita, on the contrary, is discussed very thoroughly in the novel; jokingly defined by Moore as a long poem about the god Krishna taking to the warrior Arjuna about the approaching fight and advises him “not to feel bad about killing the enemy, because they are essentially already dead” (Moore 60).
It must be admitted, though, that with all the fantasy and novelty that the author put in his work, there were still a lot of elements that allowed to tie it with the New Testament, thus keeping it closer to the original material. The first thing that falls into the eye immediately is the fact that, much like the New Testament, the Lamb states the fact that the Jews were chosen by God for a specific purpose and, therefore, are a very special nation: “Come on, I’ll order you a pizza from room service. You would like pizza. The servant who brings it is named Jesus. And he’s not even a Jew” (Moore 12).
Another peculiar rendition of the traditional Biblical stories, the incident with the Cynic is worth mentioning. Offering a much harsher judgment on the Cynic, Biff, nevertheless, pretty much sums up the Biblical interpretation of cynicism:
- “Diogenes went about Athens with a lamp in broad daylight, holding it in people’s faces, saying he was looking for an honest man.”
- “So, he was like the prophet of the idiots?” (Moore 68)
In Biff’s interpretation, cynicism was pointless, since its goal was to make acid observations instead of appealing to people’s consciousness. The incident with Rumi, i.e., the search for the kidnapped daughter, is a rather interesting element of the story. The resolution makes the character more controversial, yet at the same time more dimensional. In addition, it offers an interesting perspective on morals.
Finally, Mentor Melchior is a rather interesting character to consider. The Three Wise Men (Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) are described as brothers in the novel. In addition, the author gave them a very peculiar ob, i.e., “chasing Yeti” (Moore 457). However, it would be wrong to claim that the Three Wise Men we reduced to goofy caricatures; rather, their identities were shaped to fit the fantastic, almost absurd tone of the narration. Melchior’s affected indifference is what makes his portrayal very compelling:
- “He’s dead?” I asked.
- “Can’t tell.”
- “Poke him.”
- “No, he’s my teacher, a holy man. I’m not poking him.” (Moore 513)
Therefore, it can be considered that Moore’s book concerns not only the Christian religion, though it obviously focuses on its central figure; Moore also offers his opinion concerning the rest of religious thoughts and teachings, as well as provides a justification for his ideas. Even though technically, writing on behalf of Jesus is a rather tricky and at times even controversial task, Moore handles it surprisingly well. An exciting journey into Christ’s childhood and a particular interpretation of the canonic Biblical story, The Gospel According to Biff is worth checking out.
Moore, Christopher. Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2002. Web.