Ambiguously Christian

Due to prevalence of the White Male Lead trope in popular media (not that these are the only kind of Christians), a majority of main characters are at least 'Christian acting' if not explicitly Christian. Ambiguously Christian characters may mention celebrating Christian holidays such as Christmas or Easter (especially if they happen to be Santa Clausmas or Easter Bunny Easter) reference to a Fluffy Cloud Heaven or Fire and Brimstone Hell, make some non-specific prayers to a 'higher power' or give some indication of believing or even mentioning a monotheistic (nearly always male) God, especially if he is of the Grandpa God interpretation. Variations on phrases such "The Big Guy" or "The Man Upstairs" are sometimes used, but explicit mentions of Jesus Christ (or other religious figures such as the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit, saints, etc.) are not used - unless a character is swearing.

This is often used in works where the religious practices of characters is not a major focus (and could distract from the plot) Many of the more exaggerated examples are found in media intended for children, as the closest thing most get to mentioning religious holidays is a Christmas Episode, religion could be a bit too complicated for younger kids to understand and addressing these things could even be considered controversial.

On the other hand, this can be played quite realistically if the character was, say, Raised Catholic but isn't especially religious now. They may maintain a respect for their faith but simply not have many occasions to bring it up.

It may also get a bit more complicated if we consider character types like the Churchgoing Villain or Religious Bruiser, who may adhere just as much to the outward trappings of Christianity, but whose behavior isn't exactly on board with its ethical or nonviolent teachings.

Compare/Contrast Crystal Dragon Jesus, where the religion is explicitly not Christianity, yet still holds elements commonly associated with it. Compare Jesus Taboo. Also related to Church of Saint Genericus, where it's a church/religion that's left ambiguous. Ambiguously Jewish is the Jewish version of this. Such a character may or may not be the Token Religious Teammate.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Possibly Mello from Death Note. He wears a rosary necklace note , as well as a matching bracelet, and crosses and even a Virgin Mary graphic appear on his clothes occasionally. He also has a crucifix on the wall, a little cross charm on his gun, and a small Marian shrine on the mantle in his personal living space. He also refers in Another Note to The Almighty. This, and a real name Mihael Keehl that marks Mello as being possibly from a predominantly Catholic country or ethnic background, leads many fans to believe that he is a practicing Catholic. It would also be a plausible reason to fight against Kira besides besting Near, whom he technically gave the role of L's successor to in a fit of sour grapes. However, it is never actually confirmed In-Universe if Mello actually is a Catholic, or if he was one but is not anymore, or is one In-Name-Only, or if he's some other type of Christian (real or made-up) that's similar to Catholicism but isn't, or if he just thinks the crosses, and such look cool.
  • There are signs that Megu-nee from School-Live! is Christian however it is never properly addressed. Megu-nee wears a rosary, her grave is marked with a cross, and she seems religious. It's vague how much is symbolism and how much is her being a Japanese Christian.
  • It's stated in Maria-sama ga Miteru that you aren't required to be Christian to go to the school. There's an air of ambiguity about who is actually Christian and who is not but in general the main cast seems entirely Christian, with a possible exception of Shimako.
  • Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion wears a cross pendant around her neck but it doesn't go commented on.

Comic Books
  • Superman is often portrayed as being a Christian—which would make sense, considering that he was raised in a traditional American home in rural Kansas. However, in recent years, most writers tend to only imply this and leave it as ambiguous as possible.
  • Captain America has been a devout, albeit secular, Christian in the comics from day one.

Films — Animated
  • In The Nightmare Before Christmas, holidays such as Christmas and Easter are mentioned, but they are portrayed in a Santa Clausmas fashion. Particularly notable considering a overwhelming majority of the 'holiday trees' Jack finds in the woods are Christian holidays, the two exceptions being Thanksgiving and Independence day. Jack mentions God once or twice during the song 'Poor Jack' but it's done in a way that is exclamatory rather than overtly religious.
    • It would make the most sense to suggest that Jack and the other residents of Halloweentown are Druid (as the Halloween holiday originally was) or maybe practitioners of Voodoo (since they are all undead beings). The spoof The Nightmare Before Chanukah on an episode of The Critic implies that Jack is neither Christian nor Jewish: when he comes upon a rabbi in Chanukahtown and asks if he's in Christmastown, the rabbi sarcastically tells him no, he's at the Vatican.
  • Frozen:
    • Elsa's coronation was performed by a man who is dressed like a Christian bishop. Another scene features a portrait of the saint Joan of Arc and is outright described as such, but any details about her are not elaborated upon. Despite this, the closest the movie gets to mentioning religion is Elsa exclaiming "Heaven knows I've tried..." during the song "Let it Go."
    • The opening song "Vuelie" is a cross between Saami chanting and a Christian hymn.
  • The characters in Aladdin manage to be Ambiguously Muslim. The Sultan does shout "Praise Allah!" at one point - but it should be noted that "Allah" had previously been one of the Arabs' pagan gods. Also, the Cave of Wonders is guarded by a supernatural being that the script refers to as a "tiger-god." And the magic-carpet ride around the world during the "A Whole New World" sequence implies that the action is taking place anywhere from a few centuries to over a millennium before the birth of Christ, never mind the rise of Islam.
  • Robin Hood is an interesting case. The Church exists (though it's never called the Catholic Church) and the Crusades form part of the backstory, but the characters are all animals. Perhaps we're witnessing a reenactment of history by "nonhuman" Animated Actors.

Films — Live-Action
  • In Man of Steel, Clark explicitly asks his father at one point "Did God do this to me?", referring to his unique powers and abilities. Later on, he chooses to visit a priest for advice on how to handle General Zod. According to Word of God, it's heavily implied that Clark was raised Lutheran.
  • The Batman films from 1989-1997 take place in a Christian world, with a Jewish presence here and there (a kosher butcher shop appears in the 1989 film), but outright references to religion are few and far between. Batman Forever does have Bruce Wayne saying, in reference to his parents' deaths, "On the night of the wake, the priest's words brought no comfort" (which could simply be another example of Christianity Is Catholic), and both of the Schumacher films deal heavily in such Christian themes as guilt, forgiveness and salvation without mentioning Christianity itself. The 1989 film shows a medieval Gothic cathedral towering over Gotham City, but the inside suggests that no one has set foot inside it in years, if not decades. Batman Returns takes place entirely during the Christmas season, but the citizens celebrate Santa Clausmas - and, interestingly enough, a line from the speech at the tree-lighting ceremony, "In this season of the Savior's birth...", was ultimately cut from the film, as a somewhat clumsy edit makes clear. There is never explicit mention of either Bruce Wayne's Roman Catholicism or his Jewish background, assuming these details are canon within the films as well.
  • In The Avengers, when Black Widow refers to Thor as a god, Captain America, tells her, "There's only one god ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that." Given the time period he was reared, it's heavily implied he's referring to the Christian God.
  • Bruce Almighty. Grace is a variation of this. She clearly believes in God, and the power of prayer, as she carries around a strand of prayer beads note , and prays to God every night (mostly for Bruce), which Bruce ends up listening to while he still has God's powers; however, any indication of her actually being a Christian are never really brought to light.
  • In This Is the End, Jay is non-ambiguously Christian, but when supernatural things are confirmed to exist, they are ones that are very Christianity influenced. The movie includes Horny Devils, an The Exorcist style exorcism and a Fluffy Cloud Heaven.
  • The religion of the Kadam family in The Hundred Foot Journey, who are Indians in a Fish out of Water cultural situation, is never specified, but they are shown cooking/eating beef and drinking alcohol, which makes the prospect of them being Hindu or Muslim very unlikely. In one scene the father (who is intended to be the traditionalist in the family) says he feels as if he's "died and gone to heaven"; he also repeatedly mentions getting messages from his dead wife, which would make little sense in Hinduism's belief in reincarnation.

Literature
  • Harry Potter.
    • The wizarding world celebrates Christianity-influenced holidays such as Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's (but in a secular way) and their big hospital (St. Mungo's) is named after a saint, but no one ever mentions/goes to church or mentions what religion they are.
    • However, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry carves a cross into a tree in memorial of Mad-Eye Moody.
    • James and Lily's grave has a Bible quotation on it ("The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" from 1 Corinthians 15:26), as does Dumbledore's sister's ("Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" from Matthew 6:21), but they are never identified as such in-universe.
  • The woodland creatures from Redwall live as a religious-type order (an abbey with an abbot/abbess, various characters referred to as brother/sister, a church named after a saint, etc). However, a supreme being is never even mentioned, let alone any sort of denomination.

Live Action TV
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. Captain Kirk's famous line to the alien impersonating the Greek god Apollo in "Who Mourns for Adonais?":
    "Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate."
    • In another episode, Kirk and Crew come upon a planet dominated by a Roman Empire but with 20th century technology (Fridge Logic: another planet that had been visited by the alien impersonating the Greek god Apollo and his pantheon?), where a persecuted, pacifist new religion worships a sun god. At the end of the episode, Lieutenant Uhura discovers that this new religion does not worship the Sun but the Son, clearly referencing Jesus. Kirk even considers remaining at the planet for a number of years just so they can "watch it happen all over again."
  • Marshall from How I Met Your Mother seems to be Christian. He celebrates Christmas, says Grace at family dinners, and an argument with his wife about whether they should teach their children about Santa was used as a stand-in for whether they should teach religion. However, he's never shown attending church and when he's referring to a higher power it's always "The Universe" not God.
  • Drop Dead Diva features the protagonist going to Fluffy Cloud Heaven and meeting angels (a concept not exclusive to Christianity) However, any concept of God other than a 'higher power' kind of thing is never mentioned.
    • In and episode of the Vlog series Letters to Fred, however, Luke does off-handily question "Who taught God how to Insta-Gram?!?"
  • Joan of Arcadia features the main character repeatedly communicating with a monotheistic God (that takes many forms) There isn't much description of Joan's faith or the details of God beyond that. One recurring character has Informed Judaism however.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place features mythical creatures such as 'angels' (which aren't exclusive to Christianity) but they are portrayed as secular. There is a bit of a subversion, however, as a viewer may see the St. Gabriel candles in the lair, and Max mentions that they go to church in one episode. Considering that they are explicitly an Italian-Hispanic family, they are almost certainly Catholic.

Music
  • Not Christian Rock that doesn't explicitly mention Jesus Christ, etc. but has elements of Christian spirituality (such as biblical references) often falls into this trope.

Western Animation
  • As with a majority of other animated shows for children, Fairly OddParents plays this straight, Santa Clausmas is celebrated along with Easter Bunny Easter. Cosmo and Wanda are explicitly referred to his 'Fairy Godparents' though, but without any religious connotation.

Real Life
  • Truth in Television. Celebrating Christian holidays is pretty common in Real Life even if one is not religious/non-theistic but lives in an area where the population is mostly Christian and/or the person was raised in a Christian sect.
    • It's also a common practice that people who don't regularly attend to church, to only go to a service on Easter Sunday and/or Christmas, or to attend weddings, funerals, and the like.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AmbiguouslyChristian