Lee Hull Moses
I have a small stack of books for which I’ve promised to write book reviews. I finally made the time to read them and sketch out my thoughts. These reviews will be appearing in my blog over the next week. I’ll also post reviews of Carol Howard Merritt’s Healing Spiritual Wounds and Still A Mother, edited by Joy Freeman and Tabatha Johnson.
In the middle of sketching some notes on Lee Hull Moses’s More than Enough, the Greek word “Oikos” came to mind. In addition to being the brand name of a popular type of yogurt, oikos referred to the household, a social cornerstone of the Ancient Greco-Roman World. As with most words, however, oikos has a life and relevance beyond itself–it’s the root of “ecumenical” and “ecology,” for example. In the literary context of the New Testament, particularly its narrative books, the oikos is often an important place–sacred conversations are held, intimate meals are shared, people are healed, the word is made flesh, all who are gathered catch a glimpse of a world beyond their imagining.
Oikos came to mind because all of the other phrases that I could come up with to describe Moses’s book–“Public Theology” or “Pastoral Memoir” seemed inadequate. While More than Enough is both of those things, it seems to me that it is perhaps better described as a theology of the Oikos in both its widest and most intimate meanings. Like a “House Musician,” or “Poet-in-Residence,” Moses writes as a “House Theologian”–weaving insight into what she observes about the spaces she inhabits.
Whether she is writing as a guest in the unfamiliar home of old friends in Nicaragua, balancing the complicated life of parent, pastor, and partner with her own household, or making her way to the State Capitol–A “people’s house” if there ever was one–as part of the North Carolina “Moral Mondays” movement, Hull brings both pastoral self-awareness and theological insight to her own life, her own relationships, and her own call to ministry as she engages a critical question:
How Do We Live Well?
Through her storytelling, Hull invites readers into honest struggles with global inequality, our dual lives as consumers and citizens, and the contradictions of middle-class privilege. It’s familiar territory for those of us who are constantly juggling our hope for justice with keeping up with our to-do lists. It’s honest, and quite funny– you laugh along with her daughter discovering the delight and power that comes from a protest march, and if you’re like me, you’ll roll your eyes in an all too familiar way when she tells the story of her electronic-banking family scrambling to find a check.
But Moses does she simply serve up comfort food, nor does she offer simple, contrived solutions to big questions. Instead, she writes like the sort of preacher I learn the most from: She weaves her own story deftly alongside the scriptures of our tradition, conversation with colleagues and role models of our shared denomination, and insight from innovative ethicists and practitioners, and admits her struggle, even as she points toward possibility. Though she promises, almost apologetically, to not make her readers feel too guilty (A challenge when you also dive deeply into stories of vast economic inequality, considerable injustice, and the sheer busy-ness of American life), her book is at its best when it challenges her readers.
For example, in a chapter on Lament, she announces what sort of book this is not–a journey to self in the pop-psychology sense. Instead, she gently pushes her readers to embrace how relationship, community, and justice are part of answering the question of living well. She even includes her own lament at the end of the chapter. She nails the power of the form, articulating a word of hope for a world that desperately needs it. The Prophet Moses is indeed in the house.
Pointing toward a rich abundance that’s hard to quantify, but easily named in those not-quite-ordinary moments that happen more often than we might assume, More than Enough stirs the prophetic imagination, waking up our households, calling us to embrace the bigger joy and the grander hope.