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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. Rick777

    For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.This includes athesists and agnostics well as christians

    June 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Religion: Comedy for the intelligent, reality for the ignorant.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Kim Clark

      As and atheist, I don't believe your God exists, and I am offended to be lumped in with a bunch of loonies.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      And that beautiful newborn baby is deemed sinful and unworthy of life.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  2. Drunken Dago Dad

    Makes sense. Superman and Jesus Christ are both works of fiction who no rational person believes exists.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Austin

      your carnal short sighted head hasnt ever seen the supernatural and so when and if you experience it , you will still have doubts, unless God makes an impression on you that you cant forget, or lie to yourself about.

      Then its real. For sure.

      which it is. I have experienced God.

      John 15:26-27
      New International Version (NIV)
      The Work of the Holy Spirit

      26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

      June 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Drunken Dago Dad

      Oh look, "Austin" his moronic book to quantify the non-sense from his moronic book.

      I'll pass

      June 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  3. Agnostickids

    Whenever you're feeling stupid, just remember that there are still people out there that believe the earth is only 6,000 years old.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • RationaistKC

      @JesusFans – you keep bringing up math and logic as though they exist, as though they are innate qualities of the universe . Math and logic are not discoveries they are inventions, human inventions (a convenient way to measure) - However you want to spin that is up to you... I'm just saying.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • JesusFans

      I'm not saying they are provable. I'm really saying that if an atheist shouldn't believe that math and science are provable.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • JesusFans

      Just go read my posts again. I never say that Math and Science is provable. However, you claim they are inventions. This is also not provable. There is no way to be sure that math is either an invention or it is real. In other words, there exist great arguments for either position. And very smart people have argued both positions very well. Just read "What is this thing called Science?" You'll know what i'm talking about. But no, my point is that an atheist should not believe that Math and Science are provable. But, my new point now, based on your comment is that You should not claim to be 100% sure that Math is an Invention. Because there is no proof of that. Only reasoning using... guess what? LOGIC. which is a BRANCH OF MATHEMATICS, the thing you are trying to claim is unprovable.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  4. Agnostickids

    Christian: Is skeptical about proven math and science, but not skeptical about a guy walking on water.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • JesusFans

      why would a world exist in which you could prove laws of the universe if there were no god

      June 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • JesusFans

      of course, though, there is NOTHING provable about mathematics and scientific laws. they themselves are interpretations. They just SEEM provable because they are so useful and applicable to us.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      @ jesusfans...

      LOL!

      June 15, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • JesusFans

      it would make sense to be an Atheist if you believe that Math and Science are RANDOM. As in, you are against the Platonist philosophy of mathematics. But if Math and Science are REAL, you really have no choice but to believe in some form of a creator or higher power.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Yet you yourself are an atheist. Everyone on earth, even agnostics, are atheist to other religions... unless you claim to believe that all 3700+ gods exist.

      June 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  5. Agnostickids

    "When people tell me 'God has blessed you with the gift of music', you're d*m n right I get offended. I did not practice hours a day for 18 years to have my success attributed to a myth."

    -Josh Groban-

    June 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • JesusFans

      I'm the opposite. I wake up everyday and I'm amazed that anything in the universe actually exists. I'm amazed that physical laws are the same ever day. That the universe actually has a speed limit–the speed of light. That there are equations that seem to have a poetry to them, as if they were created by the most gifted artist you could imagine. I'm amazed that atoms have properties to combine and form molecules that can come together to form chains that meters long that fit inside cells that are tens of micrometers in diameter. INSANE, yo.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  6. Rick777

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness

    June 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Athy

      Why can't he just do it without the confessional?

      June 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Unrighteuos for being complicit in the torture and sacrifice of a human being.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      How kind of "him". Will he wash my car, too?

      June 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  7. JesusFans

    Jesus' miracles and tricks aren't that special. I know it's because Jesus was trying hard not to show off. If he wanted to, Jesus could fly around the world, build futuristic spaceships in one second, and appear in the dreams of every human being and animal on the planet. But that would make him a showoff, which he didn't want. So he only did small miracles like walking on water, healing people within his vicinity and rising from the dead, although disciples could not recognize his face afterward. It is because when you heal yourself from decay after you die, your face changes drastically. That's why you have to check for the holes in Jesus' hands. If anyone has a hole in their hand, they must be Jesus. Who in the world would put a hole in their hand on purpose? That's just crazy talk.

    Superman was created to show us what Jesus is really like. Jesus could have all those powers if he really wanted them. But Jesus would have even MORE powers. Like time travel. Jesus could do ANYTHING. Even morph into other humans. He could even kill the devil any day, though THAT would be something only a total show off would do.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • RationaistKC

      You exemplify the mentality of a Christian. Keep it up, it's good for my side.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Jesus' miracles and tricks aren't that special. I know that's true because Dumbledore, Merlin, Gandalf, and Obi-wan had even better ones.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Hear This

      If Jesus were a real smart god, as purported, he'd know precisely what to do to convince *everyone* - not just the easy, gullible ones...

      June 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Hear This

      p.s. And before you start waxing rhapsodic about your legend of "Doubting Thomas", I do not think that anyone would demand nor desire to be "more blessed" than ol' Tom.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  8. Agnostickids

    If someone has an imaginary friend, they are considered crazy.

    If everyone has the same imaginary friend, it's considered religion.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  9. RationaistKC

    @Agnostickids – Christians are deeply bothered with the notion that it is possible to exist as a human and genuinely not believe in some sort of god. They will sooner ideologically side with believers of other 'false' gods before seeking common ground with us. Our lack of belief scares them that much. On the other hand, I do understand perfectly well why humans can and do believe in deities - I simply call BS on the whole lot of it. I feel sorry for people who's minds are held hostage by these ancient religions.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  10. Agnostickids

    Tell people that there's an invisible man in the sky who created the universe and the vast majority believe you.

    Tell them that the paint is wet, and they have to touch it just to be sure.

    -George Carlin-

    June 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • JesusFans

      Someone created this universe in which atoms seem to follow Laws and when many of them come together, they form Gravity? Someone created a world with Logic in it? In which time only flows arbitrarily in ONE direction? A world in which e^(i pi) + 1 = 0 ? IMPOSSIBLE!

      June 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  11. Skepacabra

    John McClaine also willingly sacrifices himself to save lives. Where's the John McClaine is Jesus article? Also, Superman is trying to save the world while Jesus is trying to destroy it. So technically, isn't Zod the tre Jesus figure here?

    June 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  12. Rick777

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

    June 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      For god so loved the world that he drowned everyone on it.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      @Rick777

      False. And coersive if true.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Rick! Tickled to see that you got that promotion up from Rick666 that you'd been hoping for.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Frends of Rick777

      ***CONGRATS TO RICK777 FOR THE UPGRADE FROM RICK666****
      You were so beastly before, and now look at you! We're all so proud!

      June 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Willow

    Superman was loosely based off the Jewish Messiah, not Jesus. There is a difference between the two. Please learn it.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  14. RichardSRussell

    “Jesus: The Original Superhero"
     
    As an atheist, I am totally down with this. Once you think about it, the parallels are so obvious. Both Superman and Jesus are fictional wish-fulfillment fantasies. Both of them were created by teen-aged Jews who had never had s¢x. And both are now completely in the service of America's one great god: money.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  15. Agnostickids

    Agnostics and Atheists aren't arrogant. living on a tiny blue planet, located far out in the backwoods of a massive spiral galaxy, in an indescribably huge universe teeming with galaxies, with an near infinite amount of space between them, and thinking that the whole thing was made just for you by a single god...

    That's arrogance.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      What??? You mean the universe does not care about humanity! (scarcasm) Oh the inhumanity!

      June 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  16. John

    Uh, people.....we are taking about a comic book character here. You decide which of the two mentioned I'm referring to.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Reminds me of a fantasy novel I was reading some years back in which Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula are both operating in London at the same time, and one of the other characters remarks on the physical similarity between the two, to the point where either could be mistaken for the other. I thot to myself, "Well, that's easy enuf to explain. The author could do it any way he wanted to, because ONE of them is fictional."

      June 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  17. Loop

    Hahaha dying cult of christianity, with all of the religions soon to follow, getting desperate?
    Welcome to the age of reason... christians, don't worry we will treat you nice 🙂

    June 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  18. Agnostickids

    Christianity had its chance to run the world: It's called the Dark Ages.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  19. Rick777

    How can we wilk the flock

    June 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "How can we bilk the flock?"

      There, I fixed it for you.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  20. Agnostickids

    Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes,

    or he doesn't care to,

    or he doesn't exist.

    God is either: impotent, evil, or imaginary.

    Take your pick and chose wisely.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
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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.