"...gems of brilliance left and right, on a range of subjects as wide as the Manitoba sky."
- Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian, from the Foreword.
"I’m in huge AWE at this incredibly powerful material, wonderful storytelling gifts, and the hugely rich sense of a Christian re-telling Rempel offers. . . I love this book. It brings together Illich and Girard in what I can only call a Thomas Merton style, where Rempel's community farm replaces his Abbey/hermitage. I also love the bravery and straightforwardness of what he has to say about sex."
- James Alison, author of The Joy of Being Wrong and Undergoing God
A hopeful, dangerous time. . .
I am more open to the other than I used to be. I am more openly Christian than I used to be. I am more critical of religion than I used to be. I am more orthodox than I ever was. How did this happen?
I came across two teachers, radical critics of both Christianity and culture, who showed me a way out of the culture wars, a way beyond left versus right, beyond good versus bad, beyond "us" versus "them." A way of faith both ancient and fresh, both hopeful and dangerous.
According to René Girard and Ivan Illich, our present moment can no longer sustain a stable "us" defined over against an alien "them." If they are right, this makes our time an endtime. Thanks to the revelation of Jesus - the crucified outcast risen as Lord - we are at the end of narrow tribal identity, of any togetherness that fosters unity by scapegoating the other. This is both a wonderful gift to humanity and a great peril.
The end of us against them can deteriorate into the chaos of each against each. The opportunity for freely chosen communion can be missed, and the individual can be swallowed up in a vast, disembodying system. On the road to an "us" no longer against a "them" we must renounce both violence and security, which become greater and greater temptations as chaos looms. The end of us versus them is an expectant - and apocalyptic - time.
How does one live in this strange, endtime world? As a wanderer in the odd, cross culture country Girard and Illich have mapped, this white, middle class, heterosexual Christian male finds himself in a surprising new place in relation to those who are his other: women, queer folk, refugees, Muslims, atheists and Indigenous people. In this collection of essays, I blink, look around and make some fieldnotes.
I am self-publishing this book because the royalties offered to me by a traditional publisher were just not enough to justify the thousands of hours my family has freed me up to work on this project. I need to do better by them. The risks are somewhat higher on the path I have chosen, but there is at least the possibility of real reward for real work.
What's with the candles?
Everywhere Ivan Illich traveled, he carried a candle stub in his pocket. Anytime he would sit down to visit with a friend or two or more, he would take the candle out of his pocket and light it, as “a constant reminder that the community is never closed. . . our conversation should always go on with the certainty that there is someone else who will knock at the door, and the candle stands for him or her.” That's why I am making candles as an option for rewards that include two or more books. This is a book for facilitating encounter. As a bisexual friend of mine recently told me, I can't wait until the book comes out so I can share it with my parents. I think it will help us have a conversation I've wanted to have for a long time." Whether or not you are "conservative" or "progressive", my prayer is that this book will provide a meeting place for you and your "other", and shine some light on the confusing, surprising moment we all find ourselves in, where an outcast beckons as host, to a banquet where we are sat down with the ones we thought were our enemies.
About the author
My wife and I and our two daughters live at Ploughshares Community Farm, a place where some people live together, grow food and share stuff. Our life in common has something to do with Christianity. It's hard to say more than that without pigeon-holing someone here, so we generally don't. It is a place with more silence than I knew when I was an urbanite. In that silence, I found my voice as a writer - first as a writer of songs, and now of a book.
I have tried to serve truth and beauty in the writing, and now I want to continue to serve truth and beauty in the publishing. To this end, I am looking to self-publish with Friesen Press, a publisher with a track record for integrity and high quality productions.
And not least, I have asked Winnipeg-based artist Jane Gateson to create a piece of original artwork to decorate the cover.
About the artist
Jane knows the language of visual symbol and metaphor, and she can also express truth and beauty in pure, abstract form. She "gets" what I am on about in this book, and I am very excited to see the visual statement she will offer to support the book's message. The vibrant image at the top of this webpage is from one of Jane's pieces. Here is some more of Jane's work, illustrating the range of her artistic vocabulary.
Breakdown of Costs
$ 2100 - Book Design, Typesetting, ISBN Registration
$ 500 - Original Art Commission
$ 400 - Anticipated cost for packaging and mailing rewards
$ 425 - Estimated service fees related to Kickstarter
$1000 - Marketing costs
$4425 - Total
Risks and challenges
Being a farmer, I need to get this baby off my desk before planting time. Self-publishing may prove more onerous and complicated than I anticipate and I might have trouble getting everything ready for a fall launch of the book, with the mailout of complimentary copies and other rewards.
A book-length riff on the thoughts of two dead white guys may not be an easy sell. A collection of essays too political to be "inspirational," too Christian to be "public debate" and too folksy to be "academic" makes it hard to place in an appropriate section of a bricks and mortar bookstore. It might not find its readership.
The writing is done and has already benefitted from the attentions of an excellent editor, Karen Hollenbeck. I am confident that I will be sending pretty clean copy to Friesen Press. Once I raise the funds to make their fee, I believe they will be able to manage the type-setting, copy-editing and book design at a high level of quality over the months that I am busy with the market garden.
I have had some wonderful reviews by some highly respected, well-connected people, e.g. Britain's James Alison, considered to be one of the most important Catholic theologians alive today, David Cayley, a treasure of Canadian public radio, Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Bishop for the Anglican Church of Canada, and Leah Kostamo, author and co-founder of A Rocha Canada, a Christian environmental organization. The foreword is being written by Brian McLaren, a leading voice in the American progressive evangelical movement. Those endorsements represent a broad sampling of thoughtful Christianity in the English-speaking world.
Because I am engaging so closely with Girard and Illich, I am tapping into an ongoing conversation among their disciples. Most have never heard of me, but they are already committed to exploring the territory from which I am writing. There is an existing network of blogs, websites and chat groups that can help this book find its way into good homes.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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