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New Book Aims to Help People Avoid Contagious Virus
A Calgary couple wants to help people deal with a North American affliction called “Affluenza.”

Last year, many North Americans worried about getting H1N1 influenza. Fewer, however, worried about catching a different kind of virus—“Affluenza.”

… “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety"...

That worries Hugo and Doreen Neufeld, authors of Affluenza Interrupted: Stories of Hope from the Suburbs (Millrise Publishing), a new book available through Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN).

“Everyone was talking about influenza, but we don’t hear much about affluenza” says Hugo of the illness, which is described by author John DeGraaf as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”

Citing climate change, environmental destruction and the growing number of impoverished people around the world as symptoms of the illness, the Neufelds ask: “What is God trying to say to us about the affluent way of life that propels people to want to acquire more and more, while at the same time the planet and people in poverty around the world are suffering?”

Affluenza Interrupted is a follow-up to the Hugo’s first book, The North End Lives (Herald Press), which describes the joys and challenges the couple faced while ministering to people living below the poverty line in Hamilton, Ontario, from 1971-89. In their most recent book, they use stories and first-person accounts to reflect on the challenges of living as Christians in the suburbs. 

“Poverty is a challenge for people in Canada’s inner cities, but affluence is a challenge in the suburbs,” says Hugo.

“When we lived in the inner city, we thought we had everything we needed,” says Doreen of the 18 years they spent co-directing and co-pastoring Hamilton’s Welcome Inn Community Centre and Church, a Mennonite Church Eastern Canada-sponsored ministry in that city’s north end. “But when we moved to Calgary’s suburbs, what we thought was enough when we lived in the inner city didn’t seem like enough anymore.”

The stories in the book are about the “moments of insight that come to all of us at different points in our lives,” says Doreen, noting that they also speak about “moments where God affirms our good use of resources, encouraging us to celebrate, and moments where God interrupts our relentless push to acquire, inviting us to stop and rethink our priorities.”

“Our concern is not only the abundance of possessions that come with suburban living,” adds Hugo, “but also the pressure of over-busyness, the ‘fences’ that limit relationships, and the fact that so much of our identity rests on what we have.”

At the same time, they note that dealing with affluenza isn’t easy.

“We haven’t solved this thing for ourselves,” says Doreen. “We’re not trying to make people feel guilty. We just want to share some of our experiences and thoughts with others who might be struggling with affluence, just like we are.”

“We have to ask ourselves again and again, Do we really need all these things?” says Hugo of the many times they are tempted to buy more and more stuff.

Reaction to the book has been positive.

“Many people tell us ‘that’s my story, too,’” says Doreen, adding that “I’m happy to hear them say that—we wanted to write the book in such a way that people could see their stories in our story.”

Now retired from long-term ministry, the Neufelds are available for speaking/storytelling engagements and facilitating discussion groups around themes related to affluenza.

“Many of us struggle with how to make good use of our resources, and how to live as Christians in a world where so many have so little,” says Hugo. “As people read our stories, we hope they will be helped to find ways to be content with ‘enough.’”

Affluenza Interrupted is available from Mennonite Publishing Network at  for $14 USD/$15 CAD. To arrange for the Neufelds to speak at your church or group, visit   

Herald Press is the book imprint of Mennonite Publishing Network, the publishing ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. For more information, visit   

John Longhurst directs marketing for Mennonite Publishing Network, the co-producer of Gather Round Christian education materials for children, youth and adults.

Originally published on the Mennonite Publishing Network website, January 2010.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2010

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