One of the benefits of being through and through a horrible sinner is that it makes it very, very difficult to think of myself as standing higher than others. Those of us who have come face to face with our true selves are humbled and even humiliated, perplexed and perturbed by our inability to do the right thing. This, I think, allows us to stand more firmly beside others in their times of struggle.
The religious person who does not want to face h/her fundamental evil becomes tremendously stern and overly zealous on principles and on moral reforms. A person who is hyper-conscientious is nearly always one who has been caught up in some wrong (Ted Haggard ring a bell?). The person may come fairly near to insane with the contradictions in h/her life. This leads to a tremendous moral earnestness in setting right other people’s lives. It leads, as is the example of the United States, to a desire whereby morality is legislated. While we absolutely need Christians in government to fend off the Fascism of a government run by Darwinists, we do not need a Christian government. A Christian government is a government of Pharisees. Even the non religious know that’s not a good thing.
A Pharisee shuts you up , not by loud shouting, although sometimes that’s the case, but by focussing on principles by which “you” are not living. A relationship with Jesus will be totally absent from the Pharisee’s conversation. Instead, outward behaviours are the focus of a Pharisee. Inward change falls by the wayside. The United States has had to endure a great deal of Pharisaism in the last couple decades. It was based on devotion to principles, to actions, to stamping out the wrong. It was not devoted to a relationship with Jesus. Devotion to a cause is the great mark of our day, be it the “Out Campaign for Atheists” or “Stop Global Warming,” or “The Moral Majority” (perhaps the worst of them).
When religion becomes devoted to a cause, it means being devoted to the application of religious principles. It means a focus on the outward display. A disciple of Jesus is devoted to a person, not to principles. Only this relationship wears away hypocrisy. Only this relationship brings about positive inner change.