Moralism is one of the most destructive attitudes people can have towards one another. How often have certain judgments been made of a person only for us to find out later how wrong we were after hearing something of that person’s story.
Moralism focuses purely on what is wrong with a person, conveniently circumventing all the complexities of the person’s life and history. It depersonalizes people and detaches them from the intricacies of their own stories. Labels of right and wrong are attached to them like a merchandiser in a supermarket sticking price tags on his products. That’s why all forms of moralising are harsh, with very little compassion and understanding.
What disturbs me even more is Christianity’s all too familiar propensity towards moralistic browbeating, alienating people from themselves, from others, and from any Divine influence they may feel to be in their lives.
Also, what is so staggering is that Christians are called to follow the One who is as remote from moralism as trees are from sand. The Christian way has nothing to do with filling our pockets with morals and texts which we whip out and club everyone else with, but everything to do with trying to enter and grasp the life stories of others with understanding and compassion, and only then cautious discernment. To know the story is the stuff love is made of.
A. C. Grayling gives an apt description of moralisers:
“In forcing others to comply with their preferences they show at least several of the following: insensitivity, intolerance, unkindness, lack of imagination, failure of sympathy, absence of understanding, ignorance of alternative interests and needs in human experience, and arrogance in believing that theirs is the only acceptable way.”