The ‘Christian’ Trope

The religious characters on T.V. provide a gross inaccuracy of religion and God.


Emma Harris

The religious character on television shows is a detriment to religion and God.

I’m sure we are all well aware of that one recurring television trope: the ‘Christian’ character, who is uptight, irritatingly judgemental, and possibly one of the most hypocritical characters to ever grace the television screen. Often, writers might as well hand their christian character a sign reading “God hates the gays!” and send them running down the hallways screaming “you’re all going to hell!” then turn around and slap somebody.

One of the most well known examples of this judgemental, hypocritical christian trope that comes to mind is Angela Martin, from beloved show The Office. Angela never cracks a smile, consistently meets others with apathy, looks down on her fellow coworkers, and preaches ideals only to turn around and break them over and over again. She talks about abstinence on multiple occasions, expects other non-believers to practice it and shames them if they do otherwise, and not only sleeps with other characters out of wedlock, but cheats on partners in the process. To top it all off, she even calls Pam “the office mattress.” Angela is hypocritical, judgemental, uptight, apathetic, has little redeeming qualities, and is, you guessed it, religious. 

T.V. shows with the token christian character, such as Angela in The Office, are careful to remind you the reason the character acts in such hateful ways is because, and solely because, they are religious. Often, juxtaposed to a spiteful remark is a justification or a (typically incorrect) reference to the Bible, or an out of place mention that they have youth group or bible study next week. Scenes will frequently occur where said character is spewing hate while their crucifix sits prominently around their neck.

Some may point out that such characters are obviously meant to be satire and no one will take them seriously. But isn’t satire defined as exaggerating a situation for the sake of poking fun at or critiquing reality? (The answer is, according to many different dictionary websites, yes. defines satire as “the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.”). My point is that satire will always be taken seriously to some degree, and any degree of such an intense character filled with so much vehement hatred is still going to be a character of hatred. And because satire plays off of truth to work (or at least the perceived truth), won’t people regard the christian trope to hold some truth? Isn’t the whole point of making these characters in the name of satire to point out the flaws of religion?

Perhaps religious characters are portrayed this way to appeal to an increasing atheist audience, maybe they reflect real experiences and frustrations the writers have gone through, maybe they make for easy comedy. Either way, we see a clear pattern in our culture of people moving away from religion, abhorring it, even, and it’s no wonder. Every religious character portrayed in such a negative manner not only gives their religion a bad reputation, but their negative aspects are assumed to be a shared trait of God. If someone sees a religious character that takes pride in their hate, they will assume hate is the teaching of God, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

If TV characters are the majority of representation people are given for christians and christian ideals, the picture of a christian and God will be one of hypocrisy, judgement, the inability to have empathy, and hate. This is incredibly dangerous. No one wants to worship a God they feel hated by, and no one wants to enter a house they do not feel welcome in. No one is going to turn to a God they believe to have corrupt morals. 

Are there real christians that act like these fictional characters? I’m sure. But there are not enough for me, a Church-goer and student at a Christian school, to have ever actually encountered one. However, on television shows, I struggle to think of many religious characters who are consistently religious throughout the whole show (meaning their religion isn’t mentioned twice then completely forgotten about for the entirety of the remaining series) that are portrayed in a positive light.

The real Christian ideal and the real God are quite the opposite of their portrayal on television.  God does not instruct Christians to look at others with self-righteous judgement, but explicitly says not to, that He is the only judge and if we are to judge, we are to hold ourselves to the same standard they have fallen short of, and since we have all sinned and have all fallen short of the glory of God, we have failed to reach that standard as well. The real God never turns away anyone who seeks Him, no matter how sinful they are. The real God teaches empathy. The real God warns against hypocrisy. The real God forgives, even when forgiveness is not deserved. The real God is not of hate but love, unconditional love that extends to every single person others have deemed unworthy, and expects Christians to have the same unrestrained love. The real God takes joy in welcoming you, no matter who you might be. But when portrayed on television, this is not the God that is shown, and we are seeing the consequences in our rapidly changing society that is moving away from Him.