Review- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Oh this book. This book took me completely and utterly by surprise. For Christmas, a friend gave me 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess because she thought I’d like what she took to be the general theme of the book from the blurb in the back– this lady scales back in 7 aspects of her material life. Yeah I love that stuff.

What is not glaringly obvious from the main blurb in the back is that this book is written by a pastor’s wife who’s also a speaker on Christianity. You have to look at the fine print for that and then it’s like “How in the hell did I miss that?”

When I started the book, this was an unpleasant surprise. Holy bible quotes everywhere. Not to mention the fact that God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Lord, Holy Spirit, etc. get mentioned about 5 times per page. Usually bible quotes combined with a zealous use of Jesus name drops is very much not a good thing for me. My hypocrisy senses start tingling and I usually back away as quickly as possible while trying to not draw attention to myself.

But this is a book, not a person, and there WAS the whole thing about cutting back the excess in the seven areas of her life: Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. And she even broke it down into monthly projects. Which I always am a sucker for. Always.

Oddly enough, this book was part of a rhyming event in my brain as I had lately been thinking about the Republicans and the huge conservative shove to strip down “entitlement” programs in favor of a smaller government and more money in their pockets in the form of lower taxes that they have somehow mixed up with a fervent “We love Jesus and the Bible and truly want to protect Christianity” message.

And I kept thinking about how damn hypocritical it felt to me because even though I don’t practice anymore, I sure as heck know all about “Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ” thanks to being raised by a really strict Catholic family and going through Catholic education from Kinder through High School. I’ve read the Bible thing those guys love front to back, inside out . Heck I even used to read the Bible out loud for the benefit of others as I was one of the lecterns at Church. And if there’s one thing I know about the Jesus that is in the Bible, it’s that he can’t possibly be the same Jesus the Republican candidates vow to love and protect to woo a bunch of Christian votes.

It turns out Jen Hatmaker apparently sees a lot of the glaring hypocrisies in American Christian churches today that I do. I can’t stand churches and I can’t stand the Christians that practice what I see as a Capitalism is Awesome form of Christianity. She is just way totally nicer about pointing them out than I am.

Let’s face it guys, Jesus was a dirty homeless hippie. You want to know the truth? Every time someone makes a derisive comment about “bleeding heart liberals” one image comes to mind:

If you really think the same dude who gave away free wine for his first miracle and later sat on a mountain giving away fish and bread all day would be against programs like Food Stamps or WIC, you’re wrong. If you think the same guy who made it a point to always seek out and include society’s shunned ones would be against extending this and other forms of assistance to as many people as possible, you’d also be wrong. If you really think the same guy who walked around healing lepers, restoring sight to the blind, and even raising people from the dead would be against free health care for everyone you’d be totally and completely wrong yet again. If you think the guy who talked about how awesome the Samaritan guy was for helping feed, shelter, and heal a total stranger no questions asked would want people to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, well I’m pretty sure you’re in the totally wrong church.

You can imagine then why Jen Hatmaker turned my insides cold when she made the observation that, speaking on a personal finance level, you could interpret “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” into an equation where you live off 50% of your income and use the other 50% to love all of your neighbors.

I think it was around there that I started thinking, “Oh wow. She is a total Jesus Christ lover geek but she actually gets it. That’s… rare.”

Jen’s story is inspiring, moving, and interesting. Lots of people do projects where they eliminate this, that, and the other from their lives in big ways. But until Jen’s book, I was yet to read someone who took the experience and turned it into a movement to help those around her. De-cluttering is only half the battle. I missed the memo but I’m glad I got it this time.

Personally, I don’t think you need to be associated with a faith or a church or anything to look around you and do good for the world but I would likely be very interested in at least linking up with a church like Jen’s because it would give me an excellent way to lend a hand to the community. That moves me greatly.

Personally I found that my favorite thing about the book was the fact that I would read her experiences and think, “That is a brilliant idea. I want to do that for someone. How would I even start to do something like that?” Her book is a reflection and a call to action. A really loud, persistent one that somehow manages to remain humble and honest at the same time.

I strongly recommend the book even if you’re like me and things like churches and Jesus Christ give you the Hypocrisy Heebie Jeebies. Because I actually think Jen Hatmaker might be authentic. What she is teaching and what she is practicing makes more sense to me as an example of a true Christian than the classic modern representations of Christians today.

If you feel there is just TOO MUCH in your life– too much crap, too much stress, too much noise, too much madness, too much sadness, too much to deal with– grab this book. I think you’ll be moved.

By the way, the rhyming events continue. Last night, I caught this completely nauseating piece about Christian Louboutin at the Bal Harbor Shops. While I think many of his shoes are beautiful works of art, I can’t move past nausea thinking of the cost. I honestly wanted to weep when the woman so breezily admitted to owning about 100 pairs of the red-soled extravagances. Something is really messed up in our world. I’m glad there are people like the Hatmakers working to change things. I want to be one of them too but man is it scary.

P.S. What is a rhyming event? The term comes from this RadioLab podcast (omg I forgot to tell you about the Live Show of theirs I went to last week- future post) called “The Universe Knows My Name“. I like to think of them as dots waiting to be connected. Coincidences that can’t be so easily brushed away.

P.P.S. I keep thinking about this book every time I read another update from the many participants in Carla’s De-Cluttering Challenge for February. Rhyming event, rhyming event, rhyming event!