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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. Keith

    How funny it is FAKE talking about FAKE or can I/we say make-believe....

    June 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  2. J. Alexander

    **********THIS STORY SHOULD BE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT SECTION********************************

    June 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  3. Larry L

    The parallels are quite obvious. Both performed miracles, both were raised in humble surroundings, and both are purely mythical.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  4. popeye1128

    Good grief ! My dirty shorts parallel Jesus. Come on people ! Ridiculous.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  5. pazke

    Well, I can cross that off my list of movies to see.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Tallus

      Same here. Comparing Jesus and Superman effectively made me not want to see it at all.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  6. Christianity is not healthy for children or living things

    Brainwashing children to conform to religious beliefs they don't even understand is evil. God shouldn't want zombies. He should want people who seeks him out. Religious indoctrination of children is immoral and evil.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • KidZoloft

      Yes, the message "Love one another" is vile indeed.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Hello

      read Caesar's Messiah. by Joseph Atwill.. before you see this silly movie..

      June 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • cp

      ur 100% right my fren. i watch this movie. from beginning to end it only it simply puts evil on kids n adult brain. a worst movie for american with lot of violence.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Christianity is not healthy for children and other living things

      Yes, nothing says love like taking a young childs choice from them by indoctrinating them before they even understand this is a personal choice. Sick minds will attempt to rationalize anything in order to confirm their own subjective belief system.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • anchorite

      First thing I've ever agreed with you on that I've seen on here. I like the whole "wait until you're 13 and have read the book" plan that Jews have.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Tallus

      God actually commanded his followers to consign themselves exclusively to faith rather than into their own minds. The 'love one another' thing was made rather recently. In either case, brainwashing children into anything is beyond reprehensible.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Nikolai

      CP, please try to at least have an elementary level grasp of the English Language before posting here. Thank you for your cooperation.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
  7. nisan 14 1450 BC

    Exodus 12:
    6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • nisan 14 AD 30 something

      Mark 15:42 'When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43] Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • nisan 14 AD 30 something

      1450 minus 30 something is =one thousand four hundred twenty years, from the death of the first born/ passover lamb blood

      to the crucifixion of the Passover Lamb.

      This is how the prophetic voice and power of God reign.

      And we have direct access to that God.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  8. grayman

    it's so cool that both stories are works of fiction and related somehow ....

    June 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • pazke

      Good one.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  9. KidZoloft

    Don't fret non-believers. You still have the SAW movies.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Shalisa

      The Jesus Story: created by a small Jewish Group.
      The Superman Story: created by two Jewish kids.

      Yep, makes sense to me.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Jason

      .....and just like God, Superman is a fictional character created to give weak minded people hope. Superman is just as real as any god you can think of. In other words, fictional. Not real. Fake.

      If you believe in god you might as well believe in superman as well. They are both just as likely to exist as the other one and until there is evidence to prove otherwise, I will not take either of them seriously.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • KidZoloft

      If you need "evidence" than it's not "faith" it's something else.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Hello

      the jesus story was created by the Roman Flavian family as a political tool. Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill for the details.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  10. Hadenuffyet

    Deny the messenger if you wish , but please try to understand the message.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  11. Adam

    As I sit here trolling atheists on the internet, I realize how lucky and glad I am that we all live in a country based on Christian principles and beliefs that teaches compassion and tolerance....thus allowing us to even have this conversation, to express our ideas and opinions.

    You know, the kind of thing you can't do in godless commie societies!

    June 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Edd0

      Not much compassion and tolerance in your post.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • bobjones2012

      I truly enjoy how christians conveniently re-write the history books to support their hypothesis. This country was not founded upon christian principles. I almost wish it was because the founding fathers were slave owners, that's a great christian principle of which to be proud of.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • pazke

      Fail.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Splishkid

      USA is not based on Christian beliefs. it is based on unalienable god given rights. Has nothing to do with Christianity. Many signers of the Dec of Ind and Consti. Were Unitarians and agnostics.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Hello

      slave ownership is very christian.. it you read the bible you will see that. Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill.
      check out his web site for video / audio links..too

      June 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  12. Cynthia

    It is my great hope that Superman would not be used as propaganda against Jewish Pharisees, as the Christian mythical "new testament" invented a story of oppressive rabbis persecuting Jesus.

    As devout Christians assert their "freedom of religion" to believe in and broadcast the "basic tenets and events" of their faith, that they should not be hindered from declaring the "truth" about Pharisees. The freedom of one religion to declare their purpose in life and death is to replace the reason for Jewish existence.

    The freedom of Islam and Christianity to declare that Gd had chosen them over and replaced the Jews. The freedom to equate Jews to the obsolete Leah and Christians to the rejewvenated Rebecca in statues all over Europe.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Ron

      Perhaps you meant Rachel (not Rebecca).
      I do not see why you perceive that New Testament as just an attack on first century pharisees. The New Testament narrates God's message and the work of salvation.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Jim

      INteresting conspiracy theory Cynthia. Just like all good CS' – based on pablum and brought forth by bigotry.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Steve

      There are many Christians who DO NOT believe that the Church has replaced Israel. Many of us continue to believe what the Bible says about the special relationship that God has with Israel, based on the Abrahamic Covenant. The Church (the world-wide group of born-again believers) has its own special relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, which is entirely different from the relationship established by God with Israel.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Hello

      read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill on who wrote the bible and why.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    June 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Imoen of Telengard

      Shut up.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • pazke

      Are you suggesting that cows should be Christian?

      June 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Jonas

      Yes, indeed it does. Prayer makes people stupid. Very dangerous stuff to be playing with.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Dan

      Lets review, OKC tornados, sandy hook, hurricane sandy, boston, fires in colorado, PRAYER DOES NOT WORK> IF IT DID THESE THINGS WOULD NOT HAPPEN> WHAT KIND OF MONSTER GOD KILLS KIDS>

      June 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Atheism,

      The Bible shows that God did FAR WORSE to living things than all atheists combined.

      Read it someday.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Hello

      Dan... read the bible.. that god kills kids without any problem.. then read Caesar's Messiah my Joseph Atwill...

      June 15, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  14. Portland tony

    You really insult the intelligence of your blog readers..........Comic books (Graphic Novels) bear no relationship to the histories of the various Christian religions.......well maybe "Sponge Bob" does?"

    June 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  15. faith

    wait. nazi god-hating fascists consider cnn a news source? r u kiddin? DM MURDOCK A SOURCE 4 NEWS?

    sambo, u said no more hurtin my stomach howling

    June 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Chessie

      "sambo, u said no more hurtin my stomach howling"

      This is very racist. Shame on you. Reported for blatant racism. Violation of TOS.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  16. John Wayne

    Secure the borders
    Redact the Patriot act
    Where are the jobs
    It's the economy stupid
    IRS investigations
    Benghazi
    NSA warrant less recordings

    This is what is important!

    How about reporting on that CNN!

    June 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Chessie

      You do understand you are on the Belief Blog, correct?

      June 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Jessica

      Apparently you haven't been reading CNN or watching it. I've heard plenty about all those stories.

      If you want a website that only reports on things that you deem important then start your own web site.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  17. Truth

    Truth is Jesus never wrote any book and he alwasy had stomach problems, roamed city to city to work as an average carpenter, spent nights in downtown shacks, paid extra money for nice time and has crook friends.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • george

      It is very likely that you are unemployed or depressed.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  18. Joe Helfrich

    Amazing what two jewish boys wove into their character...oh, wait.

    While there may be messianic elements to the Superman story, but they're not Jesus.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  19. Austin

    1.

    You must not have any other god but me.

    2.

    You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Thomas

      Your statements imply that there ARE in fact other gods, but THIS ONE seems to think he's more important than them. I can't get behind that kind of arrogance. I'll stick with Odin. He's got a lot more style and he's been around a LOT longer than your guy.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  20. Willow

    Anyone who has been a longtime Superman fan knows that his creators were actually Jewish and he was supposed to be loosely based off the Jewish Messiah. Hence the name Kal-El.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:46 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.