Cold, Self-Righteous Prigs

I recently rediscovered C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and while the entire book is fabulously thought provoking, one particular passage grabbed my attention earlier this week. My daughter Elizabeth and I were talking about sin, what it is and isn’t, and what it means to be a follower of Christ. Is it a sin to miss church a Sunday or two? Is it sinful not to pay tithing? How about committing adultery? Is that sinful? Is gossiping about other people wrong enough to be considered a sin? Is homosexuality a “sin against nature” that offends God? As we were chatting (I was doing most of the talking while she listened somewhat patiently), I recalled a passage from Mere Christianity. I loved it when I first read it, and I love it now. It’s fantastic.


“If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”


That’s pretty powerful stuff, Folks. The church pews are filled with self-righteous, back-biting, gossipy people who tend to judge others unfairly and who are so filled with pride that they’ve forgotten the source of all their blessings. At the same time, there may be someone who’s “strayed” from the path and yet who has a heart full of love.


Which had you rather be? Can you see yourself in both? I’m not enough of a Christian scholar to know for certain why Lewis felt this way, but I’m wondering if it’s because the sins of the Diabolical self hurt other people so much. What do you think?


Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

6 thoughts on “Cold, Self-Righteous Prigs”

  1. “The church pews are filled with self-righteous, back-biting, gossipy people who tend to judge others unfairly and who are so filled with pride that they’ve forgotten the source of all their blessings”

    One reason we stopped going to church. I found that the less ‘involved’ I was, the more spiritual my experience.

    Hayden, I’m wondering if I went a little overboard because when I saw the quote in the comments section, it sounded harsher than I meant for it to be. At the same time, I think Lewis was definitely on to something.

  2. I remember as a little girl going to church and the feeling it gave me. Funny side bar, I was a Republican Convention recently talking to Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell. I told him how great I thought it was to be in a room full people that I admired. Mr. Harrell turned to me and said “it’s like being at church, surrounded by so many people who believe as you do”. It did make me smile. And trust me there were some nasty back-biters in that room!! I think fellowship is awesome if everyone feels the same way and rejoices in each others faith. I am no harlot or in the first pew, but I cannot sleep without talking to God.

  3. Britton, As I mentioned to Hayden, the post might have come across a little more harshly than I intended. Sorry about that. I truly feel “good” when I’m at church surrounded by people who believe as I do. I get strength from them. This post applies to any and everyone who professes to be a Christian, not just the ones I worship with.

    P.S. You need to start a blog.

  4. Well, it also shows how very picky I am about where I go on Sunday. I still haven’t found a ‘church home’ in Raleigh and it’s been almost 3 years.

    Me again. I just updated the prig post because of the harshness I felt from my post. I also added one about friends (Jeanita and Joan Ella) and mentioned you. I’m on a roll! Or was…time now to go back to work.

  5. I guess we have to send those self-righteous prigs love too. Oops that was being judgmental and I am working towards being impeccable and not judging! I totally understand C.S. Lewis point of view and yours too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: