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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

soundoff (6,545 Responses)
  1. faith

    That reminds me.... I wonder where I left my "midget of steel"...

    June 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  2. Portland tony

    So thousands of years from now, historians will uncover digital prints, texts and statues of a "superman" red underwear ..et al.. And ....that we all thought of him as a god brought to this world by a pod from a dying planet to save us all! It figures....didn't our current organized religion start with a somewhat similar allegory ?

    June 14, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Yeah, his name was Moses apparently

      June 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Jill Doe

      I would love to see the faces of the explorers thousands of years from now digging through our rubble and uncovering some s e x shoppe and start trying to piece together ancient human culture from that...

      June 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      "Let go and let God as well go for the years they are far too short and the days even shorter!"

      June 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  3. #gospels

    Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

    June 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Bob

      These are the words of Jesus. The skeptics remain in doubt, not those that have been redeemed by Christ.
      Seek the truth and you will find it.

      June 14, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • #gospels

      Matthew 7
      "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you

      June 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • *

      It's all bullshit. Wake up and see the truth.

      June 14, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Bob

      "Where there is no vision people perish" those that dare live without vision, live in a perpetual state of spiritual darkness ,of their own volition!

      June 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • Answer

      Throw out the corny lines of "seek out the truth."

      Your belief and your religion are no longer relevant.

      June 14, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Sandman

      Bob,

      I guess you have never heard about those folks who are absolutely convinced that they see a mirage oasis "just over the next sand dune" - over and over and over again...

      June 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • concernedcitizen

      Think about why you reject all other religions but your own. Then you will know why I reject yours as well...

      June 15, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Hello

      voice// it is fake/.. for the details rread Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill...

      June 15, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  4. Apple Bush

    Sphincter Victories

    People have a voice just like machines birds and gerds

    & those sounds are voices

    together that sound can defeat us

    Too much of, blow a kiss.

    June 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  5. Chuckles

    @I'm Sorry Dave...

    Well "midget" isn't exactly the preferred nominclature.

    That and some people aren't midgets, they're dwarves but both types choose to be called little people (which I find slightly more prejorative)

    June 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  6. I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

    Just checking. It would be political correctness gone mad to ban the word midget.

    June 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  7. I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

    Midget

    June 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  8. Jesus is the world's greatest superhero

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
    John 3:16

    June 14, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      For god so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever would believe in him would believe in anything.

      June 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • #gospels

      For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

      June 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      For God so hated the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal scorn.

      June 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • One one

      God also said this. He should make up his mind about how he really feels about man.

      "Yahweh said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground; man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." Gen 6:7

      June 14, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • John/kc

      What you do for the least of my brothers, you do unto me. Words for the religious republicans to live by as they cut aid to the poor and their children while denying health care and raise taxes of the poor so the rich can get a tax cut!

      June 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Roddy Hovey

      Numbers 31:17-18

      17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

      18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  9. David

    You have told me two things with your post, 1. You are off your meds, and 2. CNN won't let you say midget.

    June 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  10. Chuckles

    Ugh,

    Why is it that every time they have a hero in a story that is selfless is wraps around to Jesus. Hint, this motif predates jesus.

    Oh yeah, and Superman is Jewish!

    Don't believe me, do a little research about the original creators, what Kal-El means in hebrew, the visual imagery of Superman being put in a type of basket and sent away before being killed (like moses).

    There are many more intentional symbols by the creators themselves to make Superman a jewish chatacter. No jesus needed.

    June 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Um... that seems a little rude, don't ya think? I mean obviously you're just a troll looking to get a rise out of other people but don't you have anything constructive to say at all?

      June 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • AE

      That is a horrible thing to suggest.

      June 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @AE

      I hope that comment was for @Do you look.... and not the original post......

      June 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • AE

      Yes. @Do You.

      "Report Abuse" "Report Abuse" "Report Abuse" "Report Abuse" "Report Abuse" "Report Abuse"

      June 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Do You Look at the TP Post BM?? I Sure as Heck Do

      First, that's simply not true. I think that award probably goes to women accused of witchcraft getting burned. If you really believe your "fact" to be the case, please cite sources.

      Secondly, it's not politically incorrect to point out when a joke is in bad taste. Demanding someone call a black person "african american" because black sounds bad is political correctness run amok. Saying someone shouldn't use the word "nig.ger" is asking them not to be racist. In this case, your joke was anti-semitic, not politically incorrect

      Third, not only was the joke in bad taste, it was just bad. I'm not even that upset as a jewish person, I'm more upset as a comedian than you would present such a bad joke. Work on that.

      June 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Chuckles

      First, Dane Cook can suck my balls

      Second: Honestly, get better jokes, it's not even that I'm offended it's just sort of sad you choose to troll by making bad jokes.

      Is that you Dane?

      June 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Wind-Bag, Badger-God and Typist of the Cosmos™

      @Chuckles
      Anti-Semitic is a nonsense term and you keep feeding this neo-nazi troll. Why?
      You make a Jew-supremacist sort of post and seem surprised some neo-nazi punk decided to poke you back?
      Did you notice how Israel is treating non-Jews in ways extremely similar to how Nazis treated Jews?
      Did you notice that Muslims are using quite a few tactics used by Jews to bully their way around?
      Muslims are the worst, but Jew-supremacists are racists.
      You do your perceived ethnic group no favors by showing their racism up in this way.
      You might say, "But I thought this was a Christian-oriented movie and they can't help but use Jews as superman because of the old testament!"
      But consider all the movies made by "Jews" in the movie industry. Would you swear that none of them were racist in favor of Jewish supremacy? You'd better not do any such stupid thing. There is racism all over the place, Chuckles, and feeding racist trolls is not helping, especially not in the thread you started with a racist post.
      Don't pull the race card. You'll lose every time. And how old are you, anyway? Old enough to know better?

      June 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Windbag

      Wow, where to begin? I guess we'll start on "Jew-supremacist" post. Huh? Literally only stated facts. What I originally posted comes from the creators themselves and clearly points to Superman being jewish and NOT christ. This is no way supports the jewish people or Judaism as a religion.

      Second – What does Israel have to do with this post? Furthermore, attempting to equate israeli policy with nazi policy is idiotic and belies the fact that you clearly have no grasp on the situation that is currently happening in Israel. Is it fu.cked up? Yes and are some israeli policies wrong? Sure. But those policies also stem from the christian israeli and arab israeli policies. Israel is occupying enemy territory won in a war and with a local population that uses every dirty trick in the book to try and kill every single member of the IDF. Please actually do research on whats happening over there instead of just spouting uninformed nonsense, you're embarrassing yourself.

      You also keep throwing the term "racist" around. I don't think that word means what you think it means. Look it up.

      As for your final point, I think if I understand your random garble of saying that jews in hollywood are making racist movies (please..... give me one movie showing "jewish supremacy") you pretty much said to not waste effort on curbing racism because it's there and there's nothing we can do about it. All I have to say is thank you buddha that you weren't part of the civil rights movement. You would probably have told Rosa Parks just to get to the back of the bus because thats what everyone does and trying to change that is pointless. Kudos buddy for taking the long way around to accuse me of being a racist (somehow) and then ask me not to engage with the trolls because they're racist. Or some such nonsense.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:40 am |
  11. ME II

    Is this Hollywood marketing to Christians or Christians seeing through Krypton Red glasses?

    June 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Chuckles

      A little bit of both. The studios know that giving any movie a christian tinge is going to drive up sales and the christians like to believe that everything is all about them and draw similarities, sometimes when there are none.

      This movie is just a perfect storm of the two

      June 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  12. Jesus Christ Superman...

    Tell us that you're who will say you are!!

    All:
    He is dangerous

    Priest 2:
    The man is in town right now to whip us some support

    Priest 3:
    A rabble rousing mission that I think we must abort

    All:
    He is dangerous

    Mob outside:
    Jesus Christ Superman!

    June 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Friatt7

      Too much tv.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  13. David

    Well my excitement over this movie just went from an easy going 35 mph to zero in under 60 seconds.

    June 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  14. derp

    I guess satan is cryponite.

    June 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • God that hurts...

      Apparently nails and some bits of wood are his kryptonite...

      June 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      One says cryponite and someone else writes kryptonite. Holy hypocrite batman!

      June 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  15. Reality

    JC = Superman? Give us a break !!

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched" and any super powers were only in his head. After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the super odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would like or dislike, bless or curse, do or not do?

    JC = Superman?? Give us a break!!!

    June 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Yeah, but he made a mean sp!ce-rack

      June 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Friatt7

      The reason to believe is that Gods word never changes! He will do all that he says he will do. Atheists may never admit to it, but the last thing they want to see happen during their lifetime is for Christians to give up, regardless of how minor, the practice of their belief. The thought should be concerning.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Steve

      Friatt. God's word never changes eh? Earlier: Eye for an eye. Later: Turn the other cheek. Earlier: A man is put to death for picking up sticks on the sabbath. Later: The sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath. Earlier: the law is perfect. Later: The law no longer applies. Earlier: Genesis Chapter 1. Later: Genesis chapter two (different order of creation). Mark: those that are not against us are with us. Matthew: Those who are not with us are against us. Mark: Moneychangers in the temple episode at start of ministry. John: Moneychangers episode is at the end of his ministry.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  16. STFU

    don't surprise if you see streets in your towns are flooded with Supermen on Sunday.

    June 14, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  17. Doc Vestibule

    Didn't the Catholics just brand Jesus "the original hipster"?
    Now He's the original superhero?
    Zombism is not a super power.

    June 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Science

      Hello Doc

      All about marketing.................up front..............then word of mouth is suppose to rake in the money !

      June 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  18. #gospels

    “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.”

    Amen & Amen

    June 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Don't forget to spread Genesis 6:3 and Luke 17:21 and 1 Corinthians 3:9 and 2Peter 3:8

      June 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Jesus is the world's greatest superhero

      🙏

      June 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Xander

      Matthew 5:13-16

      June 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ Jesus is the world's greatest superhero

      Granted, I don't have my glasses on, but that looks like a glowing dick with blue balls.

      June 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Latte

      @Doobs, increase that pixel size, that is an ideogram of 'folded hands'

      June 14, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • #gospels

      John 8:58
      "Very truly I tell you," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

      June 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  19. STFU

    Ya I saw the movie "Jesus The Original Superhero" too, but the movie had the bad ending; the Superhero was defeated and hanged on the crossed by villains.

    June 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • *

      What's a "crossed"?

      June 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • STFU

      "cross"

      June 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  20. S stands for

    .

    June 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Joe

      Symbol for 'hope'

      June 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • #gospels

      Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

      June 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Hu

      S stands for S
      I learned that in tautology 101 where the 101 is 101.
      lol is lol, ha is ha

      June 15, 2013 at 2:07 am |
    • Wren

      'S' stands for stupid as in the case of the person using the handle 'Hu'

      June 15, 2013 at 3:05 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.