The Dangers of Moralism
Jesus was known to challenge the self-righteous and the moralizers. I realize that the text's authenticity is uncertain, but the exchange with those who came to judge the woman caught in adultery seems authentic to who Jesus was. As the woman's accusers stood up to stone the woman, hoping to get Jesus involved, he said: "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her." As the narrator continues with the story, everyone slithered away, embarrassed at their own defects. Then, Jesus released the woman and charged her to sin no more (John 8:1-11).
The reality is that there are many in our midst, both on the right and on the left, who are so certain of the rightness of their cause and of their person that they don't slink away, but assume that it's their right and responsibility to throw that first stone. Much of this is due to a lack of reflectiveness, a lack of self-awareness. And such a perspective easily fires up the ideologue.
What is unfortunate about the McCain-Palin ticket is that both parties hold such a view of themselves -- though I think for different reasons. For Palin, I believe it is a rigid religious identity that fuels her "crusade." She has a "mission from God," and she will complete it. For McCain I do think that the experience of imprisonment and torture has contributed to his own sense of importance. He has been tested like few others, and if you've not been so tested then you have no right to challenge him. Either way, however, to be a moralist means not allowing the other to have dignity or rightness.
It is important that we be righteous -- that is right with God and with one another. It is important that we live ethically/morally in the world. But we must, it would seem, give room for the other to differ with us. To differ from me doesn't make you evil, it just means that you see things differently. It's okay to push the point and hold fast to what you believe, but it's not appropriate to demonize the other. Of course, both religion and politics seem to be the center of such thinking!