I mentioned Lee Hull Moses's book More Than Enough: Living Abundantly in a Culture of Excess a couple months ago. We finally got our schedules together to do a Q&A. Thank you Lee for your book and for your thoughtful answers! (And look, church leaders--there's a discussion guide and worship planning resource as well!) What led you to write this book?
Most of my writing starts with a question about my own life that I can’t quite get a handle on. My first book, Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired Anxious People, which I wrote with my friend Bromleigh McCleneghan, began shortly after she and I had our first babies and we were trying to make sense of what the heck had just happened to our lives.
The question that led to More than Enough started to fester a few years later. I found myself feeling so grateful for my life — healthy kids, good job, happy marriage, safe place to live, plenty to eat - but I was also so aware that such an abundant life wasn’t enjoyed by or even available to many people in my community and in the world. Plus, I began to realize that lots of the choices that made my life so good and full were actually having negative impacts on my global neighbors. What was I supposed to do with that dilemma?
I can’t say I totally answered that question, but writing the book helped me wrestle with all this, and come to a place where I can both delight and give thanks for my life and also strive to live more responsibly and faithfully.
What will people gain by reading this book that they won’t get anywhere else?
I hope that this book simultaneously makes people feel better and also squirm a little bit. When we were tossing around possible titles for the book, one of the suggestions for a subtitle included the word “contentment." I vetoed that (I worked with a great editor and publisher who really listened to me), because I actually didn’t want people to feel content. Most of us have too much, spend too much, eat too much, and I want my readers — even as they are feeling gratitude for all they have — to also take a hard look at the choices they make in their everyday lives. The reality of living in the world means that we are always living in the tension between reality and the ideal.
One thing I hope sets my book apart from other books about simple living - it’s really not a book about simple living, but it gets described that way a lot - is that I talk about the resources that the Christian tradition bring to the conversation. It’s one thing to decide to buy local food or to give money to the homeless shelter. It’s another to think about all that through the lens of confession, lament, delight, or hope.
Share one idea, quote, or section in the book of which you are particularly proud.
In one chapter, I talk about the role of advocacy, and how important it is to pay attention to the systems that contribute to the inequalities on our society. We can’t think about feeding the hungry without also thinking about why, in a country where there is more than enough food to feed everybody, there are hungry people in the first place. In that chapter, I talk about going with my family to a couple of Moral Monday rallies in our state capital. I’d never thought of myself as a bumper-sticker touting, sign-carrying activist, but I’ve come to see that engaging in our democracy is as important as being generous with our resources. This is even more true now, given the current political situation in our country, then it was when I was writing the book, and I’m glad I have that framework for thinking about how activism and advocacy fit into a well-lived life.
It’s always a delight when I hear from readers that my book has been helpful to them. I’m still a little surprised (intimidated?) that people outside my immediate family are reading what I write.
My advice to aspiring authors - and I’m certainly not the first person to give this advice - is to write something you really care about and something you can’t find the answer to anywhere else. In other words, write for yourself. Write through the big questions you have about life. I think it’s Anne Lamott who said something like, “Nobody else cares if you write, so you have to.” I have that written on a post-it note stuck on the wall above my desk, and it’s gotten me back to the keyboard many times.
Dream time: where would you LOVE to see this book covered?
I was pleased that More than Enough made it into the Christian Century’s list of Christmas picks back in December, and well, who wouldn’t want Krista Tippet to talk about their book?
But I actually think this book works best as a grassroots kind of thing. It’s not a book for everybody — I’m too liberal for some readers (and probably not liberal enough for others). Plus, not everybody’s in a place where they have the luxury of contemplating these questions. What makes me happy is to hear about churches and reading groups who are using the book to start conversations in their small groups or Sunday school classes. If my book gets even a few people to think more intentionally about how they live, I’ll be satisfied.
That said, I’d fall out of my chair with church-nerd giddiness if Walter Brueggemann read my book. His work on abundance and scarcity has been about as influential on my life and my writing than any other single writer.
Thank you Lee. I was fortunate to read and endorse Lee's book and I hope you will check it out as well.