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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. Frank

    What about the hulk?... I believe Jesus was green, muscular and grumbling.... Why not teaching the hulk in churches?, in the end it bears just about the same truth as any other god

    June 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • JeffinIL

      Because Hulk SMASH pulpit.
      That why.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  2. John Henson

    I'm burned out on Supe. Wouldn't want to see another movie or television show while I AM ALIVE.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  3. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    And God said "Let there me Marketing."

    June 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • .

      do tell about "me" marketing hard to be a wit when you don't proof read your post

      June 15, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • devin

      What is with this penchant for posters trying to be copy editors all the time. It's a CNN blog, he made a typo, move on.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
  4. Pfft

    On behalf of the atheist community, by all means.. please, please, please compare your savior to a fictional superhero. You're doing half the work for us. You'll be doing the other half if you force your congregations to watch this bland, plotless movie.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • devin

      I never relish agreeing with the godless, however, you are correct.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  5. Colin

    The redemption / salvation Truths, the good versus evil form the themes for many works of art and literature. Superman is but one retelling of age old Truths, epics that stir the heart and soul of mortal man. If the godless don't see it too bad it's their loss.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  6. devin

    I've never understood why Christians, of which I am one, feel the need for verification through the secular media. There is no commonality.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • Colin

      The imagery of Gods plan of redemption runs through many great works of literature. Human suffering and the good versus evil Truths are repeated themes in all great art. Only a very few tend to glorify evil and their failure is self evident to the rest of the world.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • devin

      Colin. I'm not sure I would equate the Hollywood movie scene with "great works of literature". The glorification of evil and its bedfellows is pretty much the dominant theme in the film industry.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • Colin

      Even with Hollywood it is rare for evil not to be vanquished in a movie. The most successful movies and like it or not movies are a form of art, good wins in the end. (it might take several sequels but good always wins)

      June 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • JJ

      But your Jesus is just a re-hash of earlier "saviours" and myths. Superman is just the latest reincarnation of the myth.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • devin

      It's not the ending that I'm referring to as evil, it's the s e x u a l immorality, lying, cheating, stealing, situational ethics, relativity of truth, etc. that runs through and through the vast majority of movie plots. So you see, in the end, good does not prevail, even in the sequels.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Lou

      JJ got it on the nose

      June 15, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • What?!!!

      Devin, sadly, it is because most but not all Americans who profess belief in Jesus or the God of Abraham only because it is a socially popular perspective and not through a genuine relational or experiential knowledge. They don't know themselves what they believe and why.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    June 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Funny that this poster, who claims that prayer changes things, does not itself ever change, despite the many, many, many prayers I've offered up that it would perform the biggest change of all and simply go away.

      To quote one of my favorite lines from the season finale of _Game of Thrones_ "What, does 'fück off' mean something different where you come from?"

      June 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      it fuggs up your knees

      June 15, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Observer

      Atheism,

      Here's how the Bible says God treated children and other living things:

      – Genesis 7:21 “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings”

      June 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • .

      there is no mention of children in that account and as to the flood in general so what you know the judgement of God it is a righteous judgement and you therefore are without excuse

      June 15, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Observer

      dot,

      Where does the Bible say that God told people to no longer "be fruitful and multiply"?

      You're defenseless on this. Sheer desperation.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Lou

      prayer = spell casting

      June 15, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • One one

      I get it. Thou shall not kill doesn't always mean thou shall not kill. When god does it, it is "righteous" , and then it is OK.

      So, if people kill for "righteous" reasons is that also OK ?

      June 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  8. RichardSRussell

    Why expect anything else from a corporation, whose sole objective on Earth is to make money? Niche marketing WORKS! That's why you see ads for beer, trucks, razors, and bøner pills on football telecasts and not on soap operas.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      BTW, for those of you keeping score at home, the correctly spelled version of "bøner" will also trip CNN's idiot nannybot.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  9. Tim

    Hmmm, Christian? Kal El (El is Hebrew for "GOD;" Kal may mean "voice" or "vessel.") Remember the parent of Moses sent that "super hero" to live among the Egyptians; the parents of Kal sent their child to live among the humans. Think about it. And also think about the fact that the creators of "Superman" were Jewish.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  10. JJ

    Lol...Jesus fanatics will jump on anything that suckers them in. Hollywood loves to sucker them in for they'll spend massive dollars on anything that promotes their cult in the least.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • What?!!!

      A true believer will not find ANY reason to relate Jesus to Superman in any way. This is your uninformed view and has no foundation in knowing me, why or what I believe! You don't know me.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Geez, What!?, don't take it personally. It's not all about YOU, you know. It's just simple statistics. All Warner Bros. needs to do to justify this particular marketing campaign is to have it bring in more money than it costs to advertise to the target audience, which I guaran-damn-tee you they've researched lots more thoroly than YOU have.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • What?!!!

      I don't! Russell. I understand what I am dealing with. I just spoke from a personal perspective with the intent to not deflect toward any other for a statement I made.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • What?!!!

      By the way Russell, FYI I understand marketing and its importance to the seller/producer, be it a drug dealer, Coca Cola, Google or a politician. Make the buyer want what you’re selling no matter if it is good for them or not.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  11. Science

    Hey bible thumpers...........Bill Deacon and his chain too.

    The nasty e word wins............and Adam and is bone is for the birds.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • lol??

      better lay off the spahgetti monster sauce. you might end up in a spahghetto.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Science

      With green soup as main dish.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  12. keb carerra

    I guess the christians are looking for another angle to explain " gods word " .

    June 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  13. Chris

    The same studio which produces filth for your children are now patronizing churches for a quick buck.

    June 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Exactly.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The Big Book o'Horrors (aka the Bible) IS filth for your children.
      Anyone who pushes Christianity on unsuspecting, trusting, innocent little kids is guilty of child abuse.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • lol??

      what?? They're not gonna pay the viewers?? That's it. I'm cancelling the contract.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • Science

      And WB might now the movie is a flop and going after the numbers to try and save it ?

      June 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • TruthIs

      Have you ever read the bible and some of it's crooked/unfair/immoral underlying rules/messages that the church rarely brings up... You know, since people only pick and choose what they want to believe from the great book of the high and mighty spaghetti monster.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  14. Stickynote

    Atheists could use anger mgmt., a bit of humility and take a pill for narcissism and an inoculation for vindictiveness ...but....but... there is hope: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and HE SHALL LIFE YOU UP. That way many of you can take a break from your D-I-Y attempts..

    June 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Gonna LIFE ME UP, eh? Thank you, Mikey. But, speaking of anger, I thot you hated EVERYTHING.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • One one

      It seems god has an anger management problem.

      "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 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  15. Bostontola

    As a story, I wish the bible started out better. Couldn't god give a hint on how the universe really got created? The earth created before the sun? Birds created before land animals? This is page 1 stuff.

    June 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Worseyet

      Wow....and I bet you believe that your mother created YOU.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Worseyet,
      Do you believe the earth came before the sun?, birds came before land animals?

      June 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Cherries

      I believe my mother and my father created me. Why, Worseyet? Where you brought by the stork?

      June 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • TruthIs

      Interesting fact about the bible is that even it is confused on how things started...One passage says that man AND woman were created from the dusts of the earth....while the one we know more commonly which follows shortly after goes by the classic Adam And Eve references....

      June 15, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
  16. jboom

    "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," he writes. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.

    And science findings support this? Get informed. His own peers are embarrassed. He's stepped out of the realm of science and into metaphysics/philosophy.

    BTW, I never said Hawking was a believer in God. Read my original post clearly. Your remark does not refute anything.
    Bottom line: Hawking devotes nearly a chapter showing the vast evidence for intelligent design. Its not proof. And Hawking clearly is not persuaded by the evidence.

    June 15, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      This lacks context.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • Athy

      Who're you talking to, jboom?

      June 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • One one

      ??????

      June 15, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Please list the peers that are embarassed by Hawkings' statement.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  17. ha

    Thanks for not letting me down w/the comments.

    June 15, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  18. One one

    Personally I prefer Superman.

    Unlike Jesus, He didn't put a curse on all mankind that commits us to eternal torture after death. Then offer to lift the curse if we agree to worship him.

    Superman is just a regular guy that happened to have super powers. He helps out, but doesn't demand anything in return.

    June 15, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Mixo Lydian

      Yes! Superman is even better than Jesus because he gives us inspiration to do good, and yet we all acknowledge that he's a myth, and those who don't believe in him are not actually destined to spend eternity in Hell. No one is going to start looking for archaeological evidence of Superman (except maybe a first edition Action Comics buried with some ceiling insulation in Minnesota!).

      June 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  19. Lou

    I can'y wait till we start teaching the bible in our schools....under mythology.

    June 15, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • What?!!!

      Hitler, Stalin and Mao did?!

      June 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Athy

      Only if they teach evolution in Sunday school, under science.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      A better place would be a college course in literary history, where they could do a proper "compare and contrast" effort with similar mythologies. The problem with introducing concepts like this at much lower levels is that they are developmentally inappropriate for young minds that are ill equipped for abstract thinking, nuance, and ambiguity. We learned that back during the "New Math" experiment, where mathematicians with no understanding of cognitive development convinced educators to start the kids off with set theory, because it was "more fundamental" and thus (so they had convinced themselves) "easier to learn asa a foundation for the rest". However true that may have been from the perspective of pure mathematics, it turned out that, from an EDUCATIONAL standpoint, the kids were better off with blocks and numbers.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Jim W

      They already teach evolution and their version of historical science which both leave the realm of science and enter faith and assumptions but they still teach that ..

      June 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  20. What?!!!

    FYI, there is not one scripture in the Bible or one instruction from Jesus or God for believers to convince anybody to believe there is a God! We are instructed to believe for ourselves and live the life of “The Christ” The Anointed, because only God can call or convince. It was really well put by Louis Farrakhan, a Muslim and a non-believer in Christ, when he said “It is your vanity that makes you think that someone can convince you that God is or is not". You don’t believe because you chose not to believe, period, which is perfectly acceptable to me and God because I am not a bully and I don’t think God is either.
    Be honest with yourself! “When truth becomes a problem we are ALL in trouble” by Me, What?!!!

    June 15, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Lena

      Here, here!

      June 15, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • lol??

      nope.

      there, there!

      June 15, 2013 at 8:29 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.