Many of us have been inspired by examples like those of Shane Claiborne and others from the New Monastic movement. We desire a simpler, less consumptive, less acquisitive, less consumeristic, and less materialistic life.

The struggles come with how far you go in any given direction.

Food is a good example. I've always been attracted to vegetarianism. But I generally hate fruits and vegetables. So it's a bit of a struggle. Your choices as a vegetarian eating out are already pretty limited, but if you can't stand--to speak totally hypothetically of course--mushrooms or tomatoes, your choices can evaporate in any given restaurant or dining experience.

But what you can do, I decided, is just eat less meat. If you aren't able to eliminate, you can reduce.

And from that conclusion I reached another conclusion. Beyond meat, you could just eat less overall. Again, not with any aim at being "healthier," though that's a nice side benefit. The goal is shifting to being a more ascetic than consumptive person.

All that to say, if you start wading into a theology of food you can be taken into a million different directions. Most of which are wonderful and laudable. I have friends who are vegans and locavores. I have friends who raise chickens in the city, friends who keep bees, and friends who only eat "God's food."

And me? I just eat less. Snack less. Get a medium rather than a large. Don't go back for seconds. This is simpler for me.

And this applies to more than just food, this idea of less. Three big easy rules are this:
Eat less
Buy less
Drive less
To be sure, these rules won't make you a Shane Claiborne or anything. These rules won't remove you from the webs of economic and industrial complicity. These rules won't make you "clean."

But these rules are simple to remember and easy to implement. While you can buy chickens and should research clothing factories, you can also focus on less. For many of us, less seems more practicable. Less is an asceticism for "ordinary radicals."

And maybe--if more people worked on less--less would, in the end, be more.

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7 thoughts on “Less”

  1. I can subscribe to this. Richard Foster in Celebration of Disciplines has a chapter on Simplicity, and well... less then becomes a spiritual discipline. I agree with him, conspicuous consumption can become, as Foster calls it an Outward Discipline; something designed to maintain higher communion. For me it helps to view "less" as a spiritual discipline as opposed to pretending that not super sizing my soda, or riding the bike to work, actually serves some humanitarian goal.

  2. I can't tell you how many Bible classes about the evils of materialism I have sat through without anyone actually doing anything to change the way they live. Recently, I expressed my frustration with the church (including myself) talking a good game but living just like the world. Afterwards, some tried to explain to me that I'd feel differently when I had a family to support, but others asked me if I had ideas about how to live differently. I stumbled through an answer. I wish I'd simply said what you said: less.

  3. I'm on vacation and I always feel guilty when I go on vacation. I tend to over indulge when I'm on vacation. I've been trying to use less but I use this as an excuse to use more. I tend to rationalize by arguing with myself the fact that my indulgence feeds people. Waiters and waitresses and so many others in service jobs. If we quit spending money won't others have less money to spend. As a Christian this is one of my biggest dilemmas.

  4. Are you familiar with the work of Jan Johnson, especially the great little book, "Abundant Simplicity?" She has taught me a lot about how far this idea of less can go in my spiritual formation: less snacking, less stuff, less talking about myself, less striving to impress, yea even less need to comment on others' blog posts....

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