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!


17 thoughts on “Review- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

  1. You have made very clear what Jesus would have us do and the Christian Right has twisted up teachings to support their particular agendas. Christianity is a faith of inclusion and “all who seek a chair at the Table are welcome”. Bal Harbor Shops? 91st and Collins. Are you here in Miami. I am at Pt East, 178th and Biscayne – Aventura.

    • what’s wrong with having things and living a happy life?!

      Nothing. I don’t know if you just read like the first paragraph and dismissed the rest of the gist of the post?

      There’s a difference between “enough” and “excessive”. You know, this warrants its own post. Thank you.

  2. This post is totally awesome and so true. I’m a email subscriber to your blog so your first post, 1926 really struck me. I wondered why you amended it because you are totally right.

    I’m a social worker by profession and am shocked when right wing groups argue for cutting entitlements. In my over 30 years as an LCSW I’ve seen a lot of abuse of entitlement programs, but I’ve also seen a lot of need and I’d rather people eat and have a roof over their head than have a bit more $$$ in my pocket.
    As a Cuban-American immigrant to this country, I benefitted directly from those programs, that, and a good education and a strong family foundation got me where I am today. Thank God, so yeah, Jesus would’ve been for free healthcare, Food Stamps and WIC, and thank God or that. You’re a terrific writer BTW.

    • Thank you for your comment and the compliment. I amended the first one because I pressed Publish instead of Preview and there were still edits I wanted to make, like adding proper links, pictures, and formatting. The general message stayed the same, I just wanted to fine-tune it.

      My father is also a LCSW and a Cuban-American immigrant so we have something in common. You’re right, there’s always abuse– but there’s abuse in everywhere. And you don’t fix abused programs by eliminating the program– you improve them. That’s usually more work and takes time and money but it’s the right way to handle things.

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  4. So, I totally love this review. Of my book. You and I are on firm common ground when we look at Capitalism repackaged as Christian policy, affirmed by Scriptures apparently. I’m with you. (And I’m totally with you, @Terry. I’ve often said, “Why aren’t Christians filling up every slot at every college to study social work so they can, you know, obey Jesus as a job?” Jesus was always for the underdog, so I’m not sure how we’ve presented Him as a conservative anxious to secure our wealth and borders.) I stand aghast at the marriage of the Republican party and the church. Super confusing. And don’t get me started on how Evangelicals handle creation care…

    Anyway, I like you. I like that you read a book littered with Jesus-references (I’m totally into Him…guilty). I appreciate your rational, reasonable review, even with a differing spiritual perspective. Thank you. Much peace and love to you today…

  5. Funny, I read this post last week and the book stuck in my mind. I ordered it on Amazon and I LOVE it. I’m not quite convinced all “republicans” are out for themselves, nor am I convinced all “democrats” are complete givers…however, I do like this book for the reason you did. It is a call to help where we can. And I needed that. By the way, I’m one of those conservative Catholics who believe the government should not be taking care of us…I believe WE should be taking care of us. And that means I should be doing a heck of a lot more. So, thank you Mutant, and Jen Hatmaker for reminding me to do so!

  6. I’m from in FL too! Further North though, around Ft. Myers. I am also a Christian, and I now live in an orphanage in war-torn northern Uganda, and coming back from a place where even 7 articles of clothing is a luxury I am excited to read this book and LOVED your blog post. I love Jesus, I mean really I LOVE Him-but I agree with you… I love the Biblical Jesus, the REAL Jesus that hung out with sinners because He love them and, frankly they were more fun. I mourn the turn the church has taken, and can’t imagine the pain it must cause Jesus; the worst thing about Christianity is “christians,” (not the real ones, the ones that accept Jesus as SAVIOR but never LORD and therefore use His words to satisfy their own greedy desires). Thanks so much for your transparent review! I’m so down to start reading.


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