The Fundamentalist Cycle

You can see it in Haggard and Klinghoffer. I write about it in "The Conservative Soul":

For the fundamentalist, a human being's internal compass, what he has absorbed simply by being who he is, is always suspect - because the self is sinful, and must always be subject to correction from the outside. And so the fundamentalist learns to distrust Tcscover_14 himself, to wrest himself from certain habits, to conform what might have been his personality into a persona that is a vessel for something far greater than himself...

This kind of moral life, as we have seen, is often marked by the need to deny when one fails to conform to the ideal, or to punish oneself aggressively for waywardness. It zigs and zags from purity to sin and back again. Its motor is guilt, its achievement is often self-loathing, mitigated only by the faint hope of divine forgiveness. Every now and again, one particular doctrine may stand out as vital, and become an obsession - and this seems to be particularly true of the sins of sexuality, that Dionysian force of nature that seems constantly to push human beings into places they are taught to abhor but internally cannot resist...

In the most extreme cases, certain forms of sexual repression can become a new form of god in themselves, a pivotal criterion by which to judge the entire moral core of a person, a short-cut to assessing her virtue or vice as a whole. And so we lose perspective. And the chaste Christian discovers one day that his obsession with sexual purity has also led him to be callous to his family or mean to his colleagues or self-important among other Christians. Or the natural lawyer, determined that his truth be realized for all mankind, finds himself supporting laws that would send policemen into bedrooms, and doctors into jail. He never meant to be cruel, but his faith demands it. Salvation requires it. Oakeshott again:

"Too often, the excessive pursuit of one ideal leads to the exclusion of others, perhaps all others; in our eagerness to realize justice we come to forget charity, and a passion for righteousness has made many a man hard and merciless. There is, indeed, no ideal the pursuit of which will not lead to disillusion; chagrin waits at the end for all who take this path."

Chagrin indeed. There's a lot of it going around. My book - analyzing how fundamentalists, both religious and political, cannot cope with reality - can be found online here and here.