Lee Hull Moses
Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky. 168 pages
Reviewed by Rachel Landers Vaagenes
“More than Enough” is written to guide the suburbanite out of the cul-de-sac of self-involvement and onto the road of loving God and others. Lee Hull Moses makes the good point that the “simple life” is anything but. It takes intentionality to disentangle from the web of consumerism and capitalism. At the beginning of this book, I felt that Moses had me pegged. Her ideal description of “a family living the ‘simple life’” could be mine: One (used) car, but they mostly walk, and all gather around the wood-burning fire after their locally-sourced organic dinner to read (no TV) and do homework. If there is an audience for this book, it is me.
Moses’ fresh take attempts to meet us where we are: in a minivan on our way from a Costco run to pick up the kids from karate. She tries taking a realistic view, noting, “Most of us are not going to figure out how to live completely self-sustainably. Nor are we going to give away everything we own.” Instead of dealing with excess through stringent rules or guilt, she offers a vision of delight, writing, “It occurred to me that putting our hope in God is a little like waiting for a parade in the rain.” Moses invites us to power through those bad hair days and crazy kid schedules, and through it all remember to be grateful and not always go for the most convenient option.
At the close of the book, however, I was feeling less satisfied with it. When dealing with issues of justice, she writes, “How do we faithfully engage the people we live and work with? I don’t want to exacerbate the already polarizing rhetoric present nearly everywhere. I don’t like the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ divide it sets up. But when the ‘them’ won’t listen … I’m grateful for the witness of modern-day prophets.”
The book lacks engagement with “them.” Moses visits friends in Nicaragua, marches with like-minded protestors and quotes from familiar names like Walter Brueggemann and Barbara Brown Taylor, but she never sits down with those from whom she differs. The conflicts she struggles with (such as global poverty) are filtered through NPR broadcasts and short-term mission trips. She names how important personal engagement is for living rightly, but she makes the point by referencing the personal experiences of others.
The book feels overly programmed, alternating between personal anecdotes and “theology lite.” At times the writing left me with the impression that I was reading a first draft instead of the final book. In the end, “More than Enough” is a good personal devotional exercise or blog series. But whenever you want Moses to go deeper, she doesn’t quite get there. She frames our modern dilemma well (“The truth is, there probably is something we can do about the thorny problems of inequality and injustice”), but she can’t paint a picture of where we should go.
Instead, we get a cheerleader for those of us with “more” to recognize the good we have, and not get crushed by the moral morass of living in a globalized society. That is good advice to hear, but “More than Enough” left me wanting.
Rachel Landers Vaagenes is associate pastor at Georgetown Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.