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We Want What We Don’t Need…And We Like It! | Noah Stepro

Noah Stepro

Noah Stepro

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We Want What We Don’t Need…And We Like It!

“What you want is not what your need”

I testify to this maxim with some many parts of my life:

  • Diet: I need to be healthy and fit…I want Animal Style Fires
  • Purchases: I need retirement and a savings account…I want a trip to Paris
  • Knowledge: I need to learn more about the Greenback party (for the class I teach)…I want to read more about the latest political scandal
  • Time: I need to finish painting my house…I want to finish watching the last season of Homeland

We could go on; you can plug your own needs and desires in here. The point is that what we want is often different from what we need. Abraham Maslow famously penned his hierarchy of needs in descending order:

The Maslow Hierarchy

  • Self-Actualization
  • Self-Esteem
  • Affection
  • Safety
  • Necessities

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The Maslow Hierarchy shows our level of need – with things like self-actualization (creativity, originality, morality) and esteem (confidence, relationship with others) taking much more space in our lives than the pursuit of our basic needs for survival (this is only true in developed countries of course). In our poorest moments we spend vast amounts of capital and time on existential pursuits at the cost of our basic needs…purchasing expensive rims for luxury cars when we don’t have health insurance or buying scratchers and top shelf liquor while our children wear tattered clothes. These are exchanges of safety and necessity for esteem and self-realization.

The Welfare Inversion

The twist comes in our modern welfare state. Our federal benefactor provides our basic needs in part through cheep imitations that leave us in a heightened state of insecurity and scarcity. For example, we receive the illusion of safety through the stimulation of foreign war and the abdication of our personal freedom; we receive the illusion of provision through subsides of GMO foods and agro-industrial manufacturing; we receive the illusion of affection through endorphin releasing simulations of sanctioned pornography or tariff free, globally produced goods. Whether it is a $100 iPhone that should cost $2000 dollars or a $1 burger that should cost $11 we mollify our basic needs through the cheap substitution of subsidized products and experiences. The production of cheep foods in the US liberates more of the average income to pursue the higher “needs”; however, these same productions cost us in the quality of our lives by causing obesity, heart disease and cancer. Without these subsidizations we would be forced to center a greater amount of our capitals on basic needs…which may produce a greater degree of happiness and satisfaction.

Spiritual Feudalism

The spiritual realm is not so different. The world of churches has often turned into a realm of spiritual benefactors…providing goods and services for a populace that eagerly consumes them. Mike Breen calls this spiritual feudalism…alluding to the dynamic of client/patron relationships that take place in Western Christendom today. Churches often provide the illusion of spiritual depth, genuine faith and Christian living that indebt the client to the church while pacifying the actual needs of the soul. The false provision the Church proffers often corrodes the living soul. Purchasing the product of premature spiritual authority and realization means we will never actualize our spiritual  potential through the longue durée of following Jesus; acquiring the goods of a self-help or prosperity Gospel directs that we will never ascertain the depth of character found in the spiritual sojourners life. In an age of online sermons, digital worship, NYT bestselling books, and multiple satellite services we can curate our spiritual oeuvre to own liking and to our own detriment.

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 The Solution

How do we overcome the malaise of our multifaceted, postmodern, spiritual mural?

  1. The Church: We must cease functioning as a platform of competition for the religious affection of clients. If we are concerned about numbers we can play games and fish in one another’s ponds. We can continue the illusions of growth and depth to the detriment of the “client”…attempting to ever lure Christians into a better system of goods and services.
  1. The Consumer: I was once told “we don’t know our needs until they are met?” If this is true, it means we are responsible for seeking greater spiritual depth…to test the merit of our spiritual intentions against the profundity of Scripture and Spirit. Are we content to satisfy our hunger on GMO $1 burgers or are we longing for the depth of Spiritual food? The Apostle Paul called the church in Corinth on this in his first letter: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2).

As long as we are comfortable with the provision of cancer creating, disease inducing food that is filling at a cheap price we will never be free of disease and premature deaths; As long as we are comfortable with the provision of cancer producing, spiritual pandering that creates spiritual dependents, we will never be free of the spiritual impotency and weakness that leads to consumerism and hypocrisy. If you look at the hierarchy that Maslow laid out…only after focusing on and realizing our basic (spiritual) needs will we realize our greater needs for realization and identity. We need a faith that is ready for the long haul of life in Jesus, awaiting the trials of trust and discernment and producing the determination of the committed, not the consumer.

What do you think?

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