Among the many things that I find remarkable about Friday Night Lights (whose second season I'm now midway through) is its matter-of-fact portrayal of contemporary Christianity. Which is to say, just about everyone appears to belong to a church, there's a locker-room prayer before every game, and there's a plot line about one of the characters getting born again. All of the characters appear to be nondenominational Protestants and some of their churches are clearly megachurches--but nothing about their religiosity is depicted snidely or ironically or played for laughs. At the same time, the church-goers aren't romanticized or presented as unusually good people. They're just people: flawed, complicated people, trying to live up to their professed pieties. And as realistic as all that sounds, I'm pretty sure I've never seen anything like it on t.v.
I've long maintained that contemporary fiction (broadly conceived as novels, movies, and television) tends to ignore religion, and especially white Protestantism. I can think of novels that deal with religion in a complex way when the characters are Catholic or Jewish, or when the characters are immigrants or racial or ethnic minorities. But unless the characters' religiosity is intended as a sign of their shallowness or hypocrisy, I've virtually never seen an exploration of mainstream, middle-class Protestantism in a novel; the only exception I can think of is Marianne Robinson's Gilead (which is set in the 1950s).
T.V. and movies strike me as even less likely to depict religion in the variety of ways it actually gets lived in America. One of my all-time favorite t.v. shows, Six Feet Under, managed to do so: the fifty-something mother of the family goes to church every Sunday. . . but so does her 30-year-old gay son, who met his partner there. And when his sexuality eventually causes some friction in that particular church, he doesn't abandon his faith; he finds a more liberal church with a female pastor.
But I'm not a cultural omnivore, and I've probably missed plenty. I'd love any of my readers' thoughts about or examples of how religion gets portrayed in contemporary fiction.