What is the phrase or word for person that are very faithful in their place of worship (the pejorative usually applies to persons who are showy to the point of hypocrisy), but that are anything but during the rest of the week?

If I recall there are some pretty derogatory ways of putting it (from both faith/less camps); I am looking for a relatively less mean, faith neutral pejorative (i.e. not some incendiary atheist phrase). The words that are somewhat forming in my head are something like "Sunday Christian" or "Someddays Faithful" or something like that.

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    Well, there's the C&E crowd (people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter), but that's not really what you're after. – Marthaª Mar 30 '11 at 15:34
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    Just plain hypocrite is pretty faith neutral, but more incendiary than you're looking for. – Mitch Mar 30 '11 at 15:44
  • 'Fox-hole convert' has a similar meaning but usually applies only in cases when someone feels their life is threatened. – oosterwal Mar 30 '11 at 19:20
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    Reminds me of an old joke about a church which is having trouble with mice. They've tried repellents, they've tried poisons, they've hired pest control companies, all to no avail. A deacon finally suggests baptizing them. "That way," he says, "they'll only show up on Christmas and Easter." – mmyers Apr 1 '11 at 16:14

10 Answers 10


Among Catholics, there is the pejorative Cafeteria Catholic for those who selectively pick and choose which tenets of the faith they obey in their daily lives. Someone who attends Mass and says the catechisms on Sunday, yet still supports abortion rights and eats meat on Lent, is considered a hypocrite in the sense you offer by some other Catholics.

EDIT: Sunday Christian seems to be pretty official; as proof, there's even a Wikipedia article on the subject. The article offers other synonyms such as Sunday-morning Christian, Once-a-weeker, Chreasters (coined of Christmas and Easter [Christians]), Twice-a-years and Submarine Christians (so-called because they only surface a few times every year.)

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    +1 for the terms in your edit. I'd never heard of those. – HaL Mar 30 '11 at 15:50
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    @Billare: Haha, no :) Chreasters is an amalgam of Christmas and Easter [Christians], referring to those who only attend church during Christmas and Easter (twice a year)! – Jimi Oke Mar 30 '11 at 15:53
  • @Jimi Oke Ah, thanks for the heads-up! Fixed. – Uticensis Mar 30 '11 at 15:55
  • @Billare: Cool. +1 for pretty nice answer! – Jimi Oke Mar 30 '11 at 15:58
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    More from the Lapsed Catholic article on Wikipedia: Poinsettia & Lily Catholics, CEOs (Christmas and Easter Only), CASE Catholics (Christmas and Sometimes Easter), Christmas Bunnies, or A&P Catholics (for Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday). – HaL Mar 30 '11 at 17:56

Whited sepulchres. This is what they are called in the Bible, King James' Version.

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    I don't recall that reference, could you drop a link in your answer? – mfg Mar 30 '11 at 23:20
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    @mfg: Matthew 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men's] bones, and of all uncleanness. – Callithumpian Mar 31 '11 at 2:00
  • I upvoted this for both the scholarly reference and the conversation it generated (in the original). OTOH, looking at the KJ's verse, it seems a more incendiary phrase than the the questioner sought. – Taryn Oct 8 '15 at 18:28

For another religion specific one, there's the term "high-holidays Jew", similar in meaning to the various ones about Christians who only show up for Christmas and Easter: Jews who only get involved in the religion during the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.


In addition to Sunday Christian and Cafeteria Catholic, there is also:

  • Lapsed Catholic - "a person who has ceased practicing the Catholic faith, in the sense of attending Mass, but who may still identify as a Catholic."
  • Cultural Mormon - "Mormons who no longer believe some (or many) of the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but who self-identify as Mormon."
  • Humanistic Judaism - "a pluralistic movement that emphasizes Jewish culture and Jewish history — rather than belief in God — as the sources of Jewish identity."

The latter three may not directly apply to your question, as these individuals likely refrain from attending worship services entirely, but due the fact that they still may identify with their religion outside of its place of worship, I feel they are worth noting.

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    Humanistic Jew is not a pejorative term; some Jews actually identify by that label. Yes, more Orthodox sects do look down upon Reconstructionist and Reform Jews, but I'm sure there's a more apt Yiddish word they use... – Uticensis Mar 30 '11 at 15:58
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    I've heard "Nightstand Buddhist" used (specifically by Gil Fronsdal), being someone who reads about Buddhism rather than actually doing it. Not sure I've heard anything else more along the lines of the OP's meaning for Buddhists, though. – Matt Gibson Mar 30 '11 at 16:02
  • @Billare - Good point. I wasn't aware of that. I'll leave it within my answer for posterity. – HaL Mar 30 '11 at 16:03
  • Bible Cherry Picker? – mplungjan Mar 30 '11 at 17:19
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    I think "Lapsed Catholic" is more one who was born one but has since escaped. Not pejorative, it's more like "recovering alcoholic" – mgb Mar 30 '11 at 17:24

Pharisee or calling someone pharisaical, while having Judeo-Christian roots, has come to have this faith-neutral connotation.


If you'd like to go the literary route, Tartuffe and Pecksniffian are two possibilities.


'nominal' - they go through the motions, toe the line, but it isn't their passion.

  • The 'in-name-only' route is pretty apt. – mfg Mar 12 '14 at 15:54

I've heard the term "pew-warmer," meaning someone who sits in the pews (warms them) every Sunday, but who does little else to support the church or the faith.


From The Urban Dictionary: Chreastian.

Definition: A christian who only attends mass on Christmas and Easter.


I love the colloquial Irish term for this which is "craw thumper", those who loudly proclaim their faith and "thump their craw" (literally, beat their chest) to show how virtuous they are. It comes from the principal that the depth of ones faith (like innocence & virtue) is inversely proportional to how loudly and publically it is proclaimed.

Those who are secure in their faith are humble before God and would never brag about it.

So, my two cents Craw Thumper

protected by tchrist Dec 13 '14 at 17:42

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