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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. Chuckles

    @Cornerstone

    You mad bro?

    June 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  2. Beauty

    Beauty makes idiots sad and wise men merry.
    -George Jean Nathan

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

    @*

    Thanks buddy, if I had your will power I wouldn't have to parry with this guy in the first place.

    @The Troll

    First, the jokes are getting there, Having gone through the Bar Mitzvah I'm sure the catering people probably hate it, though the Hitler imaging steamrolls the punch line

    Also, I didn't realize you were waiting for an A plus joke, I got some, but they aren't jewish jokes, sorry to disappoint....well, sorry was probably too strong a word I guess I'm sorry I'm not sorry.

    June 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  4. Camus

    Dang..so many haters and trolls out tonight.
    Go get a date, buy some overprice popcorn, see the movie and enjoy.

    June 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Stolen quote for good reason

      Xerxes, Is being an idiot like being high all the time?

      June 14, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  5. *

    Chuckles,

    Props to you, friend. I wish I had half your talent in parrying with this dip. Don't think it's because we are not wichoo.

    (hopefully his stuff will disappear soon anyway)

    June 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  6. Gosling Brian

    The atheist can't find God for the same reason that a thief can't find a policeman.
    –Unknown

    June 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Hokum.

      June 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Wow. That was incredibly lame. No wonder it was "anonymous". No one would want to put their own name on that stinker.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:09 am |
    • NavinJay

      Well, if a thief called 911, he could get a cop actually talking to him on the other line?
      What phone number do I dial to get God to speak to me on the other line?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  7. Chuckles

    @Sam

    Right? Where did they/he come from?

    @Stalin

    At least you're owning up to being a troll, so kudos on that. Still missing the joke parts though clearly. Work on that.

    June 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  8. sam

    Jesus, it's nonstop troll heaven in here today.

    June 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  9. Chuckles

    @Stalin

    I fail to see the punchline, or the joke. Honestly if you want to be funny and use racy humor. Go for it, but c'mon at least make me... chuckle.... a little bit.

    Seriously troll harder

    June 14, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  10. #gospels

    Hebrews 11:6

    And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

    June 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Gosling Brian

      There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.
      G.K. Chesterton

      June 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • haime52

      Whiskers, If you have kids and they had never seen you, would you want them to disdain and hate you, deny you exist?
      You may not be able to test or analyze something like God. That doesn't mean non-existence. Have you ever seen a quark? A neutrino? Yet you probably believe, why? Ever seen a black hole? Yet many believe in them, while never having seen, touched or tested for themselves. You believe, by faith in someone else, who may not have seen either. Light cannot escape so NO one can SEE one, still, we believe.

      June 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Amen

      June 16, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  11. One one

    Who would win an ultimate fighting match between Jesus and the man of steel ?

    June 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Hu

      Between a pile of bones all mouldy and gross and a comic book character? Depends on what you call a win.
      If actual bones win because they existed, or the comic book character because a comic book is better than a pile of gross bones, I can't really say I'm all that interested in who would win. Fake nonsense is fake nonsense -nobody wins anyway.-

      June 15, 2013 at 2:01 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm thinking that Thor would kick both of their asses.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:10 am |
    • Hu

      Anyone can kick their asses. My dead dog could kick their asses. A dried up cat turd could kick their asses.
      But we all lose when they make crappy movies. Someone should ban this movie for heresy or something laughable.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:52 am |
  12. sam

    All preachers are false teachers...so yeah, I guess all women have to stfu.

    June 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  13. Chuckles

    @Cornerstone

    Now that's a solid jewish joke

    @Troll Chuckles

    Oh goody, I get the troll treatment now. What am I going to say next? Something anti-semitic and unfunny? Most likely. Shoot for the moon troll!

    June 14, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  14. sam

    Damn, anything for a buck.

    June 14, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  15. Context

    He is talking about a group of women who have been deceived by false teachers. Not all women. That verse is situational, not universal.

    June 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  16. #gospels

    John 8:24 – I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins

    June 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Answer

      "Take out the trash!"

      -Your mom 8:30

      June 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • sam

      We don't get nearly enough bible quotes in here, that's what I always say. If there aren't, like, 10 per page it just doesn't seem like anything's getting done.

      June 14, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Gosling Brian

      People who wanna get laid on the belief blog? Horrny is as horrnie does!

      June 14, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Hu

      "And there did come upon that city of greed and gossip a great conflagration of burning foreskins falling from the sky, and storms of frogs and tiny pinecones. And then did the people cry out to the Gourd, "O Gourd, why are you so stupid?
      Then the Gourd was filled with wrath and three parts vermouth, sharing amongst the people as did the snakes in the trees, filling the people with vim and vinegar, and woe unto the next day of soggy wrath." – Third Book of Magoo, chapter 12:22

      June 15, 2013 at 4:03 am |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Amen

      June 16, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • test

      test

      June 16, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  17. #gospels

    1Timothy 2:5 – For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

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

      "Got babble? Yes you do."

      June 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  18. Answer

    Useless babble quotes for useless people.

    June 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  19. #gospels

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

    June 14, 2013 at 6:45 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 10:19 pm |
  20. *

    He can't say buttfuck either.

    June 14, 2013 at 6:31 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.