“We are at the end of the world as we know it,” writes Marcus Peter Rempel in Life at the End of Us vs Them. He is a contemplative farmer and activist, who has written his observations of the culture from which he cannot escape. Rempel speaks as a twenty-first century Thomas Merton, who in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, challenged his readers to accept their complicity in the emerging chaos of the 1960’s. Rempel confronts his contemporary readers with no less a warning against the demise of the Earth and her inhabitants. And unless we happen to live on a small farm or a monastery, Rempel, like Merton, forces us to stretch our individualist imagination out of its particular circumstance and into the broader commonwealth of collective citizenship.
With forthright courage, Rempel, who is a Mennonite, takes on Interfaith relations, Inter-cultural dialogue, eco-spirituality, the spirituality of sex, biblical interpretation, the role of government, the importance of friendship, and living a life together. His spiritual wisdom is nourished from the “lament of the dead;” learning from the voices of Rene Girard and Ivan Illich. Rempel’s work is no less prophetic than his mentors.
Like Girard and Illich, Rempel writes from the borderlands of the Christian tradition, though there is never a doubt he is a disciple of Christ and a follower of Jesus’ teachings. His book is written “as encouragement to see how far out ahead of us Jesus has gone into the world, working in mysterious ways.” At times he seems to speak from the realm of the ancient Jewish prophets. He suffers not the theologically illiterate, nor a contemporary traditional mis-reading of scripture. Rempel’s work ripples the surface of Christian complacency with an apocalyptic critique of Western Culture and the Church universal.
I am afraid, though, that Rempel may, at times, be a bit too optimistic. His hopefulness could stem from the aroma of his homemade fertilizer strewn on his luscious pasture or from living in Canada. Whatever the root of his vision, it could be understood as homegrown Resurrection naiveté. “Things truly are coming together in our time, even as the risk grows, more than ever, of things flying apart…(there) are intimations of that harmony surprising peace where endless strife has been presumed.” I would pray his prophecy of light outshines my dark cynicism.