Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Gospel According to Biff

I've been reading a satirical novel about the life of Jesus--Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. I like it; it's randy and funny and syncretistic and oddly reverent. Joshua--the given Hebrew name Biff uses for Jesus--can do little or no wrong, he performs all the miracles attributed to him in the Bible, and he demonstrates superiority to competing theologies of the day, from Judaism to the great religions of the East.

Nevertheless, Moore's Gospel reflects more the moralistic therapeutic deism detailed by sociologist Christian Smith in his book Soul Searching than the Gospel as recorded in the Scriptures. Here's a passage from chapter twenty-eight, where Biff helps Joshua write the Sermon on the Mount:

Here's the gist of almost every sermon I ever heard Joshua give.
You should be nice to people, even creeps.
And if you:
a) believed that Joshua was the Son of God (and)
b) he had come to save you from sin (and)
c) acknowledged the Holy Spirit within you (became as a little child,
he would say) (and)
d) didn't blaspheme the Holy Ghost (see c),
then you would:
e) live forever
f) someplace nice
g) probably heaven.
However, if you:
h) sinned (and/or)
i) were a hypocrite (and/or)
j) valued things over people (and)
k) didn't do a, b, c, and d,
then you were:
l) f***ed.

I'm not necessarily saying this stuff isn't accurate, but it is sterile, and vanilla, and nondescript. Moralistic therapeutic deists, as Smith describes them, worship a grandfather-god who likes people who are nice and enjoys being nice to children, but who otherwise generally stays out of the way; Jesus the Son of the MTDeity did what he did and his relevance ended there. The Holy Spirit is our own spirits super-sized. Heaven is, if nothing else, "someplace nice."

Smith's research was on the religiosity of American adolescents; his book was published five years ago, which means the first official MTDs are now entering the workplace; some of them are considering marriage; some of them are having children, telling those children stories about Jesus the Son of MTD, and dreaming of living happily ever after in someplace nice. It's a nice story, but it's sterile, and vanilla, and nondescript.

Ah well. At least Christopher Moore makes it funny.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dave -
Tim and I picked this book up while at a bookstore in Atlanta a few years ago. Tim has read it (and loved it!) - I haven't had a chance yet.
Loved your comments!!
~Ellen Baffa