Thursday, April 02, 2009

Book Review: Lamb

I wanted to like this book, I really did. But although it was clever and funny, I found myself disliking the author more as I turned each page.

Lamb is the story of Jesus' missing years: between birth and the age of 30, there is exactly one mention of Jesus in the Bible, when he's teaching in the temple at age 12. Lamb creates a narrative to fill in the gaps. It is told through his irreverant and loyal friend, Biff (Levi). Jesus and Biff travel the world to find the three wise men who arrived with gifts upon his birth. They end up studying with a Persian mage, a Buddist monk, and a Hindu ascetic.

There are lots of chuckle-inducing misadventures along the way, and the view of Jesus as a real person with human emotions and challenges is refreshing. But the author didn't do anything more with it. It's just funny characters and a goofy story that happens to be about one of the most influential people in all of history.

Millions have died in his name, and millions have been killed in his name. Christianity remains a powerful political and amoral force shaping our current world, and yet the author has nothing to say about it? His commentary, or insight (neither word is weak enough) about religion could not be more milquetoast. Everyone has a bit of divinity in them, all religions are worshipping that same divinity, so all of them are kind of right...please, I expect lame "revelations" like that from junior high intellectuals. If you were going to write a goofy, pointless story about funny characters, would you pick Hitler's childhood friend? Alexander the Great's childhood friend? Buddha? It's an utter waste of an important topic, and including Christ as a central figure in a story that has nothing to say about Christianity seems like a shallow attempt to gain recognition for the book.

In the Epilogue, the author says something like: (lazy, paraphrasing) "If you know the Bible well enough to recognize when I was quoting from it, you probably didn't read this far." First: I do and I did, and second: Lamb is not as controversial as you think it is, dork. Sure, prickly Christians can get offended by anything, and they could certainly take offense at your contention that Jesus learned the fishes-and-loaves trick from a Hindu teacher, but overall it's way too bland to be controversial.

Lamb is fine if you want a light, empty read. But if you're expecting anything more, I can't recommend it.


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