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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. Erin

    Jesus can fly, and he punches people?

    June 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  2. Birdyboy

    I have never heard of anything dumber in my life.

    June 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Really? Try reading the bible.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
  3. edmundburkeson

    I guess Superman won't be invited to the next DNC either.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  4. RichardSRussell

    “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.”

    Well, at least he got the SPREADING part right.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  5. Xander

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZqdzbF1Qqo&w=640&h=390]

    June 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  6. cave man

    Movie studios are such furtive advertisors. I bet they say it has an Islamic message when it opens in Turkey.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  7. David Aronold

    Jesus was one of many ancient fables that had their birth on the 25th of December given birth by a virgin mother, an unoriginal and lame story

    June 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • lol??

      quote some of their scriptures.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Not many fables walked the earth like Jesus. 'Can't think of any as a matter of fact.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Donay

      Nope!

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/06/better-atheist-fact-checking.html

      June 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You haven't posted a thing that proves the historical Jesus was divine. That's because there's no evidence he was. You can believe it if you wish; doesn't make it true.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      @ edmund The Jesus of the bible never walked the earth either.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, David, I will certainly give you "unoriginal", because the evidence is abundant and unmistakable (as a quick web search of "December 25 saviors" will reveal), but I wouldn't be so quick on the rigger with that judgment of "lame". The allure of the winter solstice is unmistakable, as it has acted like a magnet thru the centuries to draw various cultural traditions and religions to it — not least of all Christianity, with its co-optation of the Saturnalia and Sol Invictus celebrations as if they were its own invention. Lately we've seen the same effect at work with the minor Jewish holiday Hanukkah and the brand-new bandwagon jumpers Kwanzaa and Festivus.

      Seems that everyone likes to party when the Sun starts heading back north and will gladly distort or invent their own traditions with any old excuse to do so. Something with that much docµmented allure over so many centuries can be called many things, but "lame" is not among them.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Dan Aldrich

      The Egyptian sun god Horus (or one of the gods to whom he has been assilimated, such as Osiris or Ra) predated the Christ character by thousands of years and shares the following in common with Jesus:

      Horus was born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th in a cave/manger with his birth being announced by a star in the East and attended by three "wise men."
      His earthly father was named "Seb" ("Joseph"). Seb is also known as "Geb": "As Horus the Elder he...was believed to be the son of Geb and Nut." –Lewis Spence, Ancient Egyptian Myths and Legends, 84.
      He was of royal descent.
      At age 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized, having disappeared for 18 years.
      Horus was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iarutana (Jordan) by "Anup the Baptizer" ("John the Baptist"), who was decapitated.
      He had 12 followers and/or fellow gods, two of whom were his "witnesses" and were named "Anup" and "Aan" (the two "Johns").
      He performed miracles, exorcised demons and raised El-Azarus ("El-Osiris"), from the dead.
      The Egyptian god walked on water.
      His personal epithet was "Iusa," the "ever-becoming son" of "Ptah," the "Father." He was thus called "Holy Child."
      Horus was transfigured on the Mount.
      The Egyptian god/Osiris was killed, buried for three days in a tomb, and resurrected.
      Horus, Osiris and/or Ra were called the "Way, the Truth, the Light," "Messiah," "God's Anointed Son," the "Son of Man," the "Good Shepherd," the "Lamb of God," the "Word made flesh," the "Word of Truth," etc.
      The Egyptian god was "the Fisher" and was associated with the Fish ("Ichthys"), Lamb and Lion.
      He came to fulfill the Law.
      The Egyptian god/Osiris was called "the KRST," or "Anointed One."
      Like Jesus, "Horus was supposed to reign one thousand years."
      That is just one for you

      June 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Even Justin Martyr acknowledged the previous god men stories when he preached, "The devil sent those false gods to confuse us before Jesus came".

      June 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Ave atque Vale

      Here are just a few of the several demigods (like yours) that folks have dreamed up over the eons (they walked among us!?):

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demigod

      "demigods are human-god hybrids. Examples of well-known demigods include the Greek hero Heracles (Roman Hercules), the Celtic hero Cuchulain, and the Sumerian king Gilgamesh."

      Even your vaunted Tacitus wrote about how Heracles joined the Germans in battle.

      Odd, just like your guy, they didn't actually write anything down themselves either...

      June 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • lol??

      Jesus claimed authorship, silly.

      "Jhn 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?"

      now quote some of their scriptures.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why do you think the existence of scriptures proves there's a god and that he hates the same people you do, lolly?

      June 15, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • 2freeminded

      David Arnold was one of many ancient fables that had their birth on the 25th of December given birth by a virgin mother, an unoriginal and lame story.

      David...do you see the offense here. Be sure to live forever here on earth disproving this one, because the minute you meet your maker, this is what the anti-DavidArnolds will do. Victimize your name, character, purpose, etc etc ..4ever and 4ever. Do you get it?

      June 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  8. rabidatheist

    "Jesus – The Original Superhero"? He's not even original, it seems everyone one was performing miracles, and coming back from the dead in the bible.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Heck, if you buy into the gospel tale of the zombie jamboree (Matthew 27:52-53), Jesus wasn't even the only JEW who came back from the dead that WEEKEND.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  9. woody

    Well we know the Pope can not be superman because superman can stop bullets and the Pope needs a bullet proof 550,000.00 car to ride in .

    June 15, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  10. caiaphas

    okie dokie then.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  11. lol??

    so how much are the Christians gonna get paid to watch the movie?? I will give a discount and only charge $100/hr.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  12. Zeev

    WTH? Superman is Jewish! What is this, a Jews for Jesus thing? 😉

    June 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      No, see, if a teenaged Jew produces an offspring WITHOUT having s¢x, then that offspring MUST be Christian. It says so right there in the Bible. Somewhere.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  13. exileon72st

    When Schuster and Segal invented Superman in 1939, it was Moses he was based on. The rocket he came to earth on, signified the basket Moses was put into. Both to escape death. Moses robe was made of the cloth he was wrapped in and Superman's suit was made from the material he was wrapped in. Superman is a symbol of Moses not Christ, but all of this revisionist history will now change Superman from a Jew to a Christian. Also, the name Superman was a jab and a dig towards the rabid anti-Semite Friedrich Nietzsche's superman.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Zeev

      +1 ^
      Correct

      June 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • lol??

      Are you sayin' Jesus wasn't a semite??

      June 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Bingo!

      June 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Russ

      "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." (Lk.24:27)

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkNa6tLWrqk&w=640&h=390]

      June 15, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Geez, Russ, I guess I must have missed the part where he explains why he isn't named Immanuel, the way the prophecy said he'd be. Could YOU supply the info that Jesus overlooked?

      June 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Alexander

      Interesting–thanks for posting.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Russ

      @ RichardSRussell: So let me get your argument straight...

      the NT claims that Jesus was God in the flesh, named Jesus (Joshua: God saves). This God-man lives the perfect life we couldn't live, dies the death we deserve, and is raised from the dead. He appears to over 500 people at once, spends a month teaching them, and then sends them out to the world.

      but your major hang up is that the name "Immanuel" ("God with us") can only be applied figuratively because his everyday name was "Jesus" (God saves)?

      seems to me your swallowing the camel & straining a gnat. if he's God, Immanuel clearly applies. It's a name that *uniquely* applies to him. If he's not, then the whole thing's out the window anyway.

      so, what's your objection: the name Immanuel or that God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth?

      June 15, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Russ, my hangup in THIS case (which is by no means exhaustive) is your use of the word "all". He obviously overlooked at least one giant whopper, which is all it takes to disprove any claim that he addressed ALL references to himself.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • Russ

      @ RSR: so I hear that you are NOT conceding Christianity is real...
      but are you claiming that LOGICALLY Jesus' name not being Immanuel is a failure?

      you don't have to agree with Christians to see how basic this is: Jesus claims to be God in the flesh in an utterly unique way in history. You think the name Immanuel ("God with us") doesn't fit? His name wasn't "Rock" either – or gate – or door – or bread – or shepherd... yet he claimed to be all of them.

      In John 8:58, the Jews pick up stones to kill him because he's claiming to be God. They got it loud and clear.

      Again, you don't have to be a Christian to recognize that Immanuel fits. But claiming it doesn't by Scriptures own self-understanding is simply failing to catch the main point. It's like telling Henry Ford his car isn't an automobile because he named it "Model T." You can hate Fords, but failing to admit by the maker's logic they fit the definition of self-moving "auto-mobile" basically makes genuine conversation impossible. is that the hill you're going to die on?

      June 15, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Not being a christard, I am actually capable of learning, and I've learned a few things on this blog. From the atheists, not the thible bumpers. Thanks for that.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:29 am |
  14. ChrisA

    @RichardSRussell

    haha I've never heard that before, but that definition definitely describes his comment.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  15. woody

    If God is all way people say God is , and if God is invisible . Why does God need your money ? God doesn't purchase anything . So why are you giving people your money when God does not need it ?

    June 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I was made in God's image. That's why I, too, am invisible. So there!

      June 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • lol??

      gubmint gods take more. they must be more powerful.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • i12bphil

      People give offerings at church to pay the Pastor or Priest, to fund the facilities and schools and any staff, pay for repairs and maintenance, keep the lights on and pay for all the other things which are not free. Are you really that daft?

      June 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • 2freeminded

      Woody – uh, giving money to god is figurative, not literal? Not a legit question. However, your elementary level questioning is exactly what God loves. He wants YOU to go to him, as a child would to their earthly father. So, go for it. Ask and you shall receive..knock and the door will be opened...and shhhhh.......God is still and always will be – the most renowned and yet still remain the best kept secret. He is awesome! Atheist hate him because they crave power, and envy Gods ability to control peoples mind with a book. How does He do that – they ask.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  16. Dave - Phx

    Haha guess I will skip this one...Superman = Jesus/magic fluing fairy of goodness.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Robert

      Yeah, it seems many atheists would rather go watch movies praising Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin, or other famous atheists.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Are there any good ones coming out? I appear to have missed all the previous ones.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      @Robert

      And atheists eat their babies.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  17. Christopher Leithiser

    It's a long-standing tradition to compare and contrast two fictional heroes. Could Batman beat Spider-Man? Who's stronger, Superman or God? Nerd hobbies.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  18. woody

    The bible was written by man . Then the wealthy men created a God . Then the wealthy men got people to believe that there was a heaven and hell and a God . After the people were trained to believe in invisible beings . The wealthy people began to make the peoples money disappear into a life of luxury for the wealthy people that brainwashed to poor into believing in an invisible being . Its your money ! But the priest are flying to Rome and your minister has the fancy car and house . Not you ! Priest and ministers are magicians sent by an invisible being to make your money disappear and that will make you feel better about it . Personally I keep my money for my own house, car, and a trip . Me giving my money to an invisible being would be plane stupid when I know the ministers and priest use that money to enhance their lives . Not mine ! The Pope rides around in 550,000.00 cars . Do you ?

    June 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      And Woody correctly identifies this as a trait of "religion" in general, not "Chrstianity" in particular. Nor is he the 1st to make this observation:

      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
      —Lucius Annaeus Seneca (5 BCE – 65 CE), Roman statesman

      June 15, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • lol??

      envy much, dude?? those high rankin' generals put a lot of effort into their endeavors. don't be so lazy. start yer own religion.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • lol??

      ................................all rise!...................................

      will the real mediator please stand up, err rise.

      now there is no need for mediators for the mediator.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • 2freeminded

      YOU give the rich man too much credit.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • GadgetCanada

      "plane stupid"...........nuff said

      June 15, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  19. lol??

    these dragonites aren't even smart enuff to find the right Jesus to hate.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  20. faith

    correct. god is. hitler said so. watch atheists try to squirm out of this one. got 2 love these morons. go get em dodo

    June 15, 2013 at 6:17 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.