“Enough” by Will Samson
Will Samson’s “Enough,” ironically, left me longing for more.
There were a variety of different things happening in this book which, if each idea had been catalogued in a single book, could have been much more developed, poignant and persuasive; however, as Samson himself noted in a number of spots in the book, he is somewhat tangential which I feel muffled some of his more potent ideas. I know that he was trying to make this book palatable to his probable audience (those who are concerned with the effects of consumption who, stereotypically, reside on a specific arc of the political spectrum) but his subtle commentary with sarcastic references to political ideologies also kept me from fully engaging in the book and seemed to detract from the gravity of American and Christian consumption. And I think that the most difficult component of this is that he recognizes the significance of Christian consumption and, yet, neglected to really spell out the potentially cataclysmic effects.
So, that being said, here is my response to the book.
To begin, (again, as he notes) the structure of the book is “a bit more wonky” (27). This is me being nit-picky but had he structured his book the way he detailed it on the previous page (26) it would have presented a much more cogent argument with a more fluid transition from idea to idea.
There could have been much more time spent on chapter 2. At the core, the issue of Christian consumption is derived from a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of certain biblical narratives, it has become exacerbated by the American civil religion which has wed American ideologies (in all of its facets: war, good and evil, consumption, morality, etc.) with Christianity. Rightly stated, he notes that it often leads American Christians to “see what God is doing in the world and what America is doing in the world as the same thing” (44). While this is disturbing and depressing that American Christians sometimes feel that way, the most important effect of this is that “the actions of our churches interpret for the world the message of the gospel” (37). This is enormous and, in my view, should have been the primary message of the book and should serve as the primary impetus for American Christians when they consume.
One message that the American Church (and, of course, I don’t mean all. I’m speaking in generalizations) is sending out to the world is that, “yes, we are aware that there is hunger, disease, strife, and death, all of which is in our financial purvey to alleviate; however, our homes and cars, our churches and stuff, come first. Charity is a secondary byproduct of our conversion/conviction. Not first.” Recent studies has noted that the American Church (both Protestants and Catholics) make over $3 trillion dollars a year. With global organizations noting that it would take mere tens of billions of dollars to eradicate extreme hunger, poverty, and preventable diseases, what message is the world hearing is the “message of the gospel?”
Samson makes references to some of these ideas but, as stated earlier, doesn’t spend enough time and doesn’t include enough statistics to make the issue powerful.
I appreciate his discussion of prophetic voices and visions and the reactions of the American church in Chapters 3 and 5. People both in and outside of the church are voicing their concerns about our consumption and we don’t appear to be listening. When eschatology is brought into the conversation, Samson, again, does an ok job of tying the two together but not “enough.” As the “prophecies” of modern apocalyptic visionaries converge with political ideologies regarding consumption, the voraciousness of Christian appetites becomes seemingly insatiable. The ideas of “America’s robustness is a result of faithfulness to God” and “the world will end soon” lead to words like Ann Coulter: “‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours. That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars — that’s the Biblical view” (Ann Coulter, “If Democrats had brains, they’d be Republicans”).
I really felt like the latter half of the book, starting with Chapter 6, had a good deal of great ideas that were spelled out well (but still left me wishing for more). The correlation to the mind-body-spirit crises was great. In a world that is hungry and sick, it is not only irresponsible of Christians to consume the way that we do, it is indicative of a mental dichotomy between a God who is sufficient, who calls us to consume well (not a lot but responsibly and good), who calls us to care for and nurture both the world and the people in it and a religion that appears to selectively ignore those passages of the Bible. Christian consumption on a physical and spiritual level is far more of an issue and a reflection of a cancerous ideology than some of the other seemingly insignificant issue of homosexuality, for example. There are 12 passages that make some sort of reference to homosexuality in the Bible each of which, when contextualized, could yield very different ideas than the interpretation people outside of the church assume we all think. Yet there are thousands of verses about caring the poor and I believe the life of Jesus reflects that as well.
So, in this review, I’m not trying to berate Samson’s work. I enjoyed it. I really did. I do recommend this book. Read it. It’s relatable. It’s palatable. He does a fine job getting the conversation started. Start with him and then move towards books like “The Ethics of Consumption” or “Hot, Flat and Crowded” and read them as a concerned Christian.
I would give this book a three and a half. I just felt like I wanted more. Christian consumption (especially those of American Christians) affects our spiritual disposition, the global environment and the souls that God yearns to heal and draw close. If we as a church don’t recognize the gravity of the issue and realign our priorities to be like that of Christ, we will continue to tell the world that our God is not enough.