Jesus of Peeps by Janet Galore of t e l e m e t r y
With Easter fast approaching, Matt Zemek faced some questions that pitted his religious faith against the strong forces that exist outside of church, parish and sanctuary.
In his op-ed piece A Christian’s identity crisis he ponders the modern dilemma of rising real estate prices from a rarely-viewed angle of Christian morality.
Living a self-chosen life of service, Zemek has been living a frugal lifestyle dedicated to helping others. While he was busy working in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, he was apparently oblivious to the plights of the average working family and was amazed that two working adults could be hard-pressed to afford a home in the Seattle area. Of course, this is a microcosm of the U.S. and the same story can be and is being played out around the nation.
His op-ed was inspired by another guest writers story “Seattle too pricey for normal people“, a short folksy whine about how much more expensive Seattle is than Boise. In that piece, writer Christy Thomas laments that she’s too busy being able to earn a living to volunteer her time to help others.
That admission caused Matt Zemick to have an epiphany of sorts, a “A-HA” moment that brought him to his knees. Suddenly able to put 2+2 together, he realized that this was perhaps why there are so few fellow citizens ready, willing or able to make the same sacrifices he’s willing to make.
Could it be that, because of the high price of real estate and just making ends meet that people were unable and unwilling to help others?
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, his theory contends that as humans meet ‘basic needs’, they seek to satisfy successively ‘higher needs’ that occupy a set hierarchy. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied. Once an individual has moved past a level, those needs will no longer be prioritized. However, if a lower set of needs is continually unmet for an extended period of time, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs – dropping down to that level until those lower needs are reasonably satisfied again. Innate growth forces constantly create upward movement in the hierarchy unless basic needs remain unmet indefinitely.
In this case, the basic need of housing and shelter, if not met, can stunt human potential and cause them to revert to a cruder and baser instinctual level. Therefore, unable to properly care for themselves, the homeless person (or maybe just a renter?) is rendered unable to help others, until they have reached a certain level of comfort.
Is this really where the crisis of unaffordable housing is taking us?
At the bottom of Maslow’s triangle are the very important and basic physiological and safety needs. Only after these are met are people able to move up the triangle to self-actualization and finally self-transcendence. At the top of the triangle, self-transcendence is also sometimes referred to as spiritual needs.
Maslow believes that we should study and cultivate peak experiences as a way of providing a route to achieve personal growth, integration, and fulfillment. Peak experiences are unifying, and ego-transcending, bringing a sense of purpose to the individual and a sense of integration.
If men and woman are too busy trying to make ends meet and provide food and shelter for their offspring, then perhaps indeed, this inability to meet basic needs is causing a sort of moral and spiritual bankruptcy, not just in Seattle, but everywhere.
Or are we putting the cart before the horse? It could be argued that “basic housing” IS affordable. It’s the soul-sucking middle and upper-middle class suburban subdivisions and McMansions and those who strive to live there that is causing the moral bankruptcy and decay….