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June 14th, 2013
04:05 PM ET

Superman: Flying to a church near you

By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN Belief Blog

Baltimore, Maryland (CNN) - As the new Superman movie takes flight this weekend, filmmakers are hoping the Man of Steel lands not only in theaters, but also in pulpits.

Warner Bros. Studios is aggressively marketing "Man of Steel" to Christian pastors, inviting them to early screenings, creating Father’s Day discussion guides and producing special film trailers that focus on the faith-friendly angles of the movie.

The movie studio even asked a theologian to provide sermon notes for pastors who want to preach about Superman on Sunday. Titled “Jesus: The Original Superhero,” the notes run nine pages.

“How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?” the sermon notes ask.

(Disclaimer: CNN, like Warner Bros., is owned by Time Warner.)

Similar campaigns to corral the country's large number of Christians into the movie theater have been used for "Les Miserables," "Soul Surfer" and "The Blind Side," all of which had at least some faith angle.

Baltimore pastor Quentin Scott is among dozens of ministers who received an e-mail invitation from Grace Hill Media, a Hollywood-based Christian marketing firm, to an early screening of “Man of Steel.”

“There was an actual push to say `We’re putting out something that speaks to your group,' ” said Scott, one of the pastors of Shiloh Christian Community Church in Baltimore.

At first, Scott said, he didn’t buy the religious pitch. Then he decided to attend a free midweek screening in Baltimore.

“When I sat and listened to the movie I actually saw it was the story of Christ, and the love of God was weaved into the story," said the pastor.

"It was something I was very excited about that with the consultation of our senior pastor, we could use in our congregation.”

CNN Entertainment: 'Man of Steel' director Zack Snyder on Superman's Christ-like parallels

Grace Hill’s sermon notes are specially designed for churches like Shiloh that integrate multimedia into their services.

“Let’s take a look at the trailer for `Man of Steel,’” the notes suggest after briefly introducing the movie’s history and themes.

The man behind the notes, Pepperdine University professor Craig Detweiler, has prepared similar material for films like 2009’s "The Blind Side" and "The Book of Eli" from 2010.

The spiritual themes in “Man of Steel” are abundant, Detweiler said, and his notes enable Christians to thoughtfully engage with pop culture instead of shunning it.

“All too often, religious communities have been defined by what they're against. With a movie like `Man of Steel,’ this is a chance to celebrate a movie that affirms faith, sacrifice and service,” Detweiler said.

It will be hard for even casual Christians to miss the messianic metaphors in "Man of Steel.”

The movie focuses on the origins of Superman, who was sent from the planet Krypton as an infant to save his species.

He is raised by surrogate parents who help him grapple with his special powers, even though they don’t fully understand the source of his extraordinary abilities.

When he turns 33, Superman must willingly sacrifice himself to save the human race.

Sound familiar?

If that’s not enough, as a boy Clark Kent is shown wrestling with his superpowers, and asks his earthly dad, Jonathan Kent, “Did God do this to me?”

“Somewhere out there you have another father and he sent you here for a reason,” says Jonathan Kent.

Even the visuals hammer home the messianic motifs.

During a fight with his archenemy, General Zod, Superman plunges down to Earth, his arms outstretched as if he were being crucified. Of course, he rises again.

Detweiler writes in the sermon notes, “What Jesus and Superman both give us, through their `hero’ actions but also their `human’ actions – is hope.”

“I think it’s a very good thing that Hollywood is paying attention to the Christian marketplace,” said Ted Baehr, who runs Movieguide, a website that reviews family friendly films from a Christian perspective.

“Where it gets sticky is when they try to manipulate the market and when Christians try to manipulate Hollywood. But here I think we have the right balance.”

But other Christians are heaving a supersized sigh at the movie marketing.

"Any pastor who thinks using `Man of Steel Ministry Resources' is a good Sunday morning strategy must have no concept of how high the stakes are, or very little confidence in the power of God’s word and God’s spirit," writes P.J. Wenzel, a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Dublin Baptist Church in Ohio.

"As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood’s sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people’s souls are neglected," according to Wenzel, who said he was e-mailed information about the movie.

Scott, the Baltimore pastor, said he knows that Warner Bros. Studios has a financial incentive in pushing the film to pastors.

But he said that’s fine with him. “They’re using us but in fact we’re using them,” he said.

His church won't show clips from the movie this weekend because it had already planned out its service. But he plans to use them later, during meetings with the church’s men’s group.

“If you give me another opportunity to talk to someone about Jesus Christ, and I can do that because of your movie, that’s a win for me, because it is about spreading the Gospel.”

CNN's Erin McPike contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Celebrity • Christianity • Church • Entertainment • Media • Movies

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  3. Apple Bush

    No evidence he doesn't exist.

    November 24, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  4. Bill Cooper

    Superman is a metaphor of pegaen sun worshipping replacing the role of a messiah. Very creepy people are trying to brainwash people in mass by putting MK/ULTRA Beta programming in these movies that will be seen by millions. Almost every cartoon has experimental brainwashing MK/ULTRA beta butterfly programming. It sounds absurd but our leaders are trying to implement mind control in media in attempt to spread propaganda easier. Superman has tons of triggers created for future victims of gang stalking. Nobody should let there kids watch this stuff even if your not christian because it is all occultism mixed with science to psychological abuse children through media.

    October 15, 2013 at 4:00 am |
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    August 6, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  10. faith

    Erasmus rendered the Greek Logizomai (reckon) as "imputat" all eleven times it appears in Romans chapter four. The Vulgate Erasmus intended to "correct" usually rendered it "reputat" (repute). Erasmus was at this time famous and Luther almost unknown, leaving open the possibility that the concept itself did not originate with Luther, but rather, if not with Erasmus, then within the wider church reform movement. wiki

    Even as David also describeth the Blessedness of the Man unto whom God imputeth Righteousness without Works.

    July 9, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • faith

      As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

      glory

      to the one who cannot lie, glory

      July 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • faith

      if god is, i imagine he can make himself known

      July 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • faith

      i recommend doing a word study on "impute."

      July 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  11. faith

    blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see god

    July 8, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • faith

      when?

      when? when your heart is pure

      July 9, 2013 at 2:10 am |
    • faith

      how?

      by faith it is imputed

      July 9, 2013 at 2:11 am |
    • faith

      1. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, for without a righteousness there will be no admittance into heaven, and such an one it must be, as is commensurate to all the demands of God's righteous law, for no other will be satisfactory to divine justice. —

      2. Go to Christ for such an one, in whom only it is to be had, who is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believes (Rom.10:4), it may be had in him, it cannot be had in any other. For surely, or only, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength (Isa. 45:24).

      3. Admire the grace of God, in imputing this righteousness to you, and rejoice therein; it is grace in Christ: to procure, and grace in the Father to impute it, and grace in the Spirit to apply it. Admire the grace of each person herein, and ascribe the glory of your justification to it.

      4. Miserable will those persons be, who will be found at the last day without this righteousness, for such shall not inherit the kingdom of God, they will not be admitted into the wedding chamber, not having on the wedding garment, but orders will be given to bind them hand and feet, and cast them into outer darkness, where will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

      gill

      July 9, 2013 at 2:26 am |
    • faith

      how can i see god? he is invisible, right?

      he is brighter than the noonday sun.

      July 9, 2013 at 2:35 am |
    • faith

      all things are become new

      July 9, 2013 at 2:37 am |
    • faith

      all things are become new

      you will not be able to find a place where he isn't

      July 9, 2013 at 2:40 am |

    • faith in a detergent and fabric softener, right?

      July 9, 2013 at 2:47 am |
    • faith

      so, the answer is, "NOW"

      July 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • faith

      and, you will see him throughout the day, week, month, years, decades. he never fails and he longs to have fellowship with us

      July 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  12. DWN

    Which leads me to believe that the marketing gurus of Warner Bros. are either idiots of evil. They are hell bent on mythologizing Jesus. Might I remind the world that the Superman character was originally evil When WWII started it was pretty clear that American's had come to despise the Nietschean Ubermensch (Nazi) ideal and Superman was turned into a good guy. CNN Time Warner are totally untrustworthy as far as Christianity is concerned. Christians need to avoid swallowing their poison pills. They could prove fatal.

    July 6, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Ananda

      If I be lifted up, I shall draw all men unto me...
      Not, If Superman be lifted up, he shall draw all men to Jesus....
      Very true, we should be careful of what comes from the entertainment industry.

      August 20, 2013 at 9:12 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.