Not everyone believes in the Great Purple Lilac, but don't argue about it now. This is a funeral
In works of fiction, this trope is the habit of not mentioning or showing the specific denomination (or even religion) of a temple, church, or place of worship where the denomination would be expected
to play a role. This can take the form of using a generic/made up denomination name in place of a real one, not identifying the church or combining traits of different denominations to confuse the issue.
This trope is usually used to introduce religion while avoiding it entering too deeply or divisively into a show, a sort of Law of Conservation of Detail
used to keep from distracting the audience. Similar to Jesus Taboo
, this trope is sometimes purposely used to avoid accusations of favoring/disfavoring a religion, especially when used to avoid marketing mishaps in children's media. Usually in the case of Christian churches, they just have a steeple, pews, a dais and generic stained glass windows without direct symbolic links (such as crosses or angels) that could be identified or interpreted as a specific denomination.
Interestingly, this trope is very much Truth in Television
. Much as Secular Hero
and Jesus Taboo are common in communities that have diverse religious practices, it's common to see non-denominational "places of worship" in funeral homes, wedding chapels, hospitals and airports in these communities.
To avoid People Sit on Chairs
, cases where the denomination of a church wouldn't be expected to play much of a part in the plot shouldn't be included as examples.
For example, a lot of films have newlyweds driving away from an unidentified church — here, the church is used mainly as a signifier that this couple is just married, and its denomination isn't at all important to the plot.
Compare Jesus Taboo
. Contrast Christianity Is Catholic
, Interfaith Smoothie
. See also Crystal Dragon Jesus
and Saintly Church
Anime and Manga
- In Gundam Wing, the Maxwell Church is supposed to be a Catholic church, although it's unusual because it's not named for Mary or a saint (it's named for the street it's on), and the roles Father Maxwell and Sister Helen play are more akin to a Shinto priest and miko.
Film - Western Animation
- In 2012, the White House has a non-denominational chapel with pews and stained glass art of doves. Interesting considering that not long before, the Vatican was destroyed by earthquakes, and not long after, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery is destroyed by a tsunami.
- This actually makes sense, as airports, Air Force bases, etc. often have chapels that are built to apply to any denomination of anything, from Buddhist to Judaism and anything in between. That way they can simultaneously not ignore the religious needs of their occupants while also not needing to build a chapel for everyone.
- Eli and his two wards from Hot Lead And Cold Feet belong to a faith that espouses a lot of mumbo-jumbo about "human kindness," and Eli at least has some familiarity with The Bible, but the movie reveals zero details beyond that. When he gets his own church at the end, there aren't any holy symbols to be seen.
- Pixar has a fondness for this trope, it's used in the wedding scene in The Incredibles.
- Pictured above in Up, Carl sits at the chapel, mourning his wife. No explicit holy symbols are shown.
- In Man of Steel, Kal is sitting in a church when the pastor comes over to talk to him about turning himself in to authorities. While almost certainly a Catholic church (allowing Kal to invoke the Sanctity of the Confessional), the pastor is dressed in normal street clothes.
- Redwall Abbey. Aside from being a monastery, no religion is mentioned.
- Possibly a different trope: It's almost an Abbey to St. Martin...
- The murder mystery anthology Board to Death; All three of the heroes are openly Christian, but attend specifically non-denominational churches.
- The climax of book 5 of Alex Rider takes place in a Church of Forgotten Saints (but technically it's an oratory).
- Lampshaded in-story in G. K. Chesterton's "The Vampire of the Village". Since "the English know nothing about the Church of England", it takes the Catholic priest Father Brown to spot that the "parson" can not be either High Church or Low Church, and is really an impostor exploiting the The Vicar trope.
- 7th Heaven revolved around the family of a minister, and as you would expect, church and churchgoing often figured prominently in the story. They're clearly Protestants, but the denomination is not named.
- On Amen, the church's denomination (if it had one) was never mentioned.
- Cicely's community church in Northern Exposure falls into this. Chris presides, after a mail-order ordination in "The First Church of Truth and Beauty".... and what his theology is, or whether he even has one, is anyone's guess.
- A church Rick Grimes enters in The Walking Dead appears on the outside to be a Baptist-style church (the marquee says "Southern Baptist Church of Holy Light")... but there is a very large Roman Catholic crucifix hanging on the back wall. Either this was a St. Genericus church or the writers didn't know better. (Or both.)
- The church the characters on The Andy Griffith Show attend has a preacher who is never shown praying or talking about Jesus, and although occasionally a scene in the church will have the congregation singing a hymn, when the choir is shown, they're usually rehearsing a secular choir number. Andy is mentioned as being on the church board.
- An episode of Dharma and Greg took place in a hospital that sported a chapel complete with rotating religious symbol on the dais, so that anyone could use it.
- Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake gives us the Bitterford Community Church. In the US, a name like that implies Generic Protestant, and the building is a typical New England church; white-painted wood, clear glass in the windows instead of stained glass. It also has two icon-style paintings at the front of the sanctuary, and the hidden-object scene set there has you looking for bottles of holy water. The psychic vision linked to that area show the pastor (normally a Protestant title) in Roman Catholic vestments and collar.
- For a long time on The Simpsons, the First Church of Springfield wasn't identified with any particular Christian sect. Then they revealed they're part of the Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism.
- Futurama went in the opposite direction and has an amalgamated world church that merges every religion together.
- Truth in Television. Many chapels in Real Life hospitals, airports, and other public facilities play this trope straight, to accommodate the needs of multiple denominations.
- Benjamin Franklin wrote about a building designed to accommodate preachers of all religions in his autobiography. This building was created after a wandering Irish preacher was forbidden to preach in existing churches and had to preach outside, drawing huge crowds. Franklin said that "even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service."
- Unitarian Universalism allows people of any religion or of no religion to be a part of their community and their churches are designed to reflect this.