Jack Leahy makes a a defense of hypocritical asceticism. Basically, we have to start somewhere. Even small efforts have an effect.
In the process of living out a hypocritical asceticism a funny thing happens–we are changed. … In practicing hypocritical asceticism I am carving out a little zone of freedom within myself.
This is similar to what I said in this post, that a better goal than purity is the avoidance of servitude.
It is important at this point, however, to add in some Sallie McFague. Asceticism should not be an individualistic practice:
In neither case, Weil’s nor Woolman’s, is this an ascetic move for individual purity or salvation; rather, it is a renunciation or self-emptying in order to live a more abundant personal life as well as a more just public one. In both cases, the first step appears to be breaking out of the conventional world, which supports the satisfaction of individual egos, by some “wild” action. … The point is not that deprivation is good, but it appears to be necessary to burst the bubble of egotism.
Asceticism—the wild space opened up by nonconformist behavior—should be action for others (including nonhuman others), not for the sake of the self. It is a way to escape the self and embrace the truly interdependent nature of reality.
Because of that, even ambivalent and incomplete efforts can be transforming because they are instrumental in breaking the spell of the self.