Within the confines of western religious legalism, you see, there are no distinctions made between an obedient legality and an honest morality. If you are obedient to law, you are, ipso facto, moral and virtuous. This religious relationship between legality and morality has not been true since Abraham. It is a fiction in the name of the despotic few.
Legality and morality are quite unrelated. It is, for example, easily possible to be devoutly obedient to perfectly horrible laws, laws that guarantee despotism, unfairness and inequality. The Bush administration provides, on a weekly basis, a clean example of despotism in action, e.g., tax breaks for the very rich and decreased entitlements for the poor.
Honoring despotic laws with one's obedience is neither moral or ethical because such laws are steeped in unfairness, a principle unrelated and detrimental to the values of democracy since at least the middle 1770s. In writing despotic laws that re-define America, the Bush administration denigrates the American people in public, and gets away with it.
The more viable option for most people has always been to find some sort of balance that acknowledges both extremes for what they are, i.e., extremes unrelated to being human. There is, of course, a critical human need to maintain a semblance of balance in the relationship between each of us and all of us. Decision-making in life is certainly not best reduced to a choice of one extreme over the other.
That would be the case in America under George W. Bush's religious capitalism. We end up being torn between conservative (holier-than-thou) Republicans and liberal (see, speak and hear no evil) Democrats. That conflict between the religious right and the politically-correct left keeps the problems that actually threaten human rights from being adequately addressed, by both the mainstream press and the people. This constitutes a cultural agenda with failure written right into the program.
Sinners and Saints
Sinners permeate the entire social hierarchy. Among the sinners are the poor who are desperate to survive a religious capitalism that could care less about them, a capitalism devoid of Christian compassion, a capitalism that is threatened by human rights and the values of democracy. Among the sinners are also the rich corporate elite who are desperate to thrive under a capitalism that demands corruption, a capitalism heavily invested in the business of continuous war. In other words, rampant desperation and rampant crime constitute a causal relationship driven by both poverty and excessive wealth, not enough democracy and too much religion.
Desperation among both the poor and rich becomes manifest as "blue collar" and "white collar" crime, respectively, exemplifed by a desperate punk who robs the local convenience store and by a desperate Bush administration that robs the national treasury for unjustifiable causes. The social disruption caused by the former is a pittance compared to the latter, the former typically aimed at individuals, the latter typically aimed at all of us, the former dealing with hundreds and thousands, the latter dealing with millions and billions. In truth, blue collar crime would largely cease to exist without the white collar crime that nourishes the gap between the "haves and have mores" and the "have nots."
Human desperation can be eliminated by returning America to the nascent Christian human rights beneath Jefferson's Democracy, by returning religion forever to the homefront where its survival will be up to its adherents alone. Desperation can be eliminated by returning democracy forever to the homefront where the people make national decisions directly, where the people have established both lower and upper limits to wealth, where the people understand that the values of democracy have nothing to do with extremes.
Compared to sinners, recognized saints are a good deal harder to come by. Saints typically accept the value of sharing and cooperation, the value of working together in the name of the larger whole, the value in not competing with each other over basic human needs. Saints typically reside at the bottom of the social hierarchy, having rejected the acquistion of material wealth for a more "spiritual" existence.
That would be where saints go wrong in their virtue. By virtue of having rejected the pursuit of material wealth, the saint is able to maintain a saintly stance removed from the demands of daily survival in a material world. In other words, the solution to the problems of material wealth are not adequately remedied by rejecting the entire notion. Human progress would require only rejecting the notions of conspicuous consumption and extravagant wealth. Human progress would require only the establishment of a meritocracy, as Jefferson and friends intended.
It is widely recognized around the world that neither sinning or sainting has much to do with securing food and shelter and raising an honest, happy, healthy family. In other words, in the pragmatic sense, neither sinners or saints work much for a living. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of people on earth have opted to be neither sinners or saints. This is common human wisdom.
Sinners or Saints?