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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. popeye1128

    Linking movies to Christianity sells in the United States. Kind of like movies tied to Islam in the Middle East.

    Go figure.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  2. Christopher

    Yeah, it's not actually news that pretty much any movie with a larger than life male protagonist and overtones of self-sacrifice is stuffed to the brim with Christ metaphor. In fact that it was particularly overt, clumsy, and over the top is actually a mark against Man of Steel in my book, it was very heavy-handed. Some movies really do it right, like for fun, do a Christ-metaphor watching of 3:10 to Yuma sometime. But Man of Steel was just kind of clobbering the viewer over the head with it to the point that it was sort of condescending.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Doug

      Let's get real here.. The Jews who run the movie industry are playing the Christian card so that all the sheep go watch the movie... Really.. come on now... I thought he was more like the king nut job in the Koran !

      June 15, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
  3. Violet Weed

    Comparing Jesus to a comicbook character is like comparing a grain of sand to the galaxy, there is no comparison. What a joke, but 'as expected' from the hollywood folks.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      You are right, with two points. One is fiction, and the other is CRUCI-FICTION. And two, no one has ever held up a Superman comic as they were killing other human beings.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Answer

      You freaks are hilarious.

      Both imaginary figures and yet you morons want one of them to be true. Hilarious.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Hello

      violot... read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill...

      June 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • paul

      What's the big deal? Both are fictional people.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  4. Professor

    So is sin Kryptonite?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  5. rob0rah

    "Never ending battle for the truth, justice, and the American way"......right?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  6. tony

    NOTE TO NRA AND CONSERVATIVES AND GUN INDUSTRY:

    Superman is a "good guy without a gun", yet he comes out on top.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • rob0rah

      Thats because he's faster than a speeding bullet. Everyone knows this.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  7. Mopery

    That can't be Jesus, he isn't wearing his trademark red undies.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  8. Sarcasmo

    Never forget that time Jesus murdered his greatest opponent by snapping his neck.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  9. hiruu

    Jesus looked like this...lol?!?!?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  10. dgoldclark

    The connection between Superman and messiah was introduced in a covers smart essay in 1980 by Gary Engle, "Why is Superman so damned American?" In the essay, Engle insightfully points out that the originators were Jews, that Superman is the quintessential immigrant and that he is the American messiah ( btw, the Krypton names..Kal-el, etc., have Hebrew roots).
    The jump from this essay's insight to Superman as Jesus isn't a big leap. Let us not forget, however, that Superman's creators saw him as an outsider, as an immigrant and were working with the American notion as a haven. What distinguishes the films Superman is that he has been raised as human..he is moved by compassion, by the heart. Whether Christian or atheist we can accept this trait as a valued one.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  11. Alan Page

    Jesus was a Superman... have no doubt of it... not using eye for an eye rule..(this is an easy escape)...but to respect and love each other...

    June 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      And just like Superman, a work of fiction.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Splishkid

      Respect and love us common sense stuff. Why this make Jesus special? Stuff everyone knows inately

      June 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Hello

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

      June 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • tara

      Either you haven't actually read the bible or you were drunk or stoned when you did. Jesus wasn't about people loving and respecting each other, but about loving and respecting HIM.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  12. faith

    c?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  13. Mopery

    Superman and Jesus have so much in common, both have superpowers, both have alter egos(Jesus has two), and both are complete works of fiction.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Say it ain't so

      Yeah cos jesus christ never existed. Damn fool, he was an actual living breathing person. Now, if you choose not to believe he existed, fine. Just don't tell anyone, you might look like a bigger idiot than you are.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  14. Superpickle

    So a fictional cartoon character breifly mentioned the real life Jesus.

    OK.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      About that "real life Jesus".......

      June 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  15. Journey

    Christianity, Inc.

    I thought the Reformation was supposed to get rid of these sorts of things...my bad.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  16. tony

    Superman was unavoidably "on vacation" during WW II. That's why it took so long.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  17. Pikeone

    Great. Now I'm not going to watch this movie, thank Zeus.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  18. fatso sambo

    funny how DM Murdock freaks when she b proved the idiot she b

    lol

    take 80mgs prozac daily u freak

    June 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Chessie

      Your handle is blatantly racist. Reported as such. Shame on you.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  19. Guest

    Please.....please leave the Lord out of this nonsense. The Lord is very real and by the time the foolish mortals on these post realized that, it will be too late.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Pikeone

      Zeus > Lord.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Tim

      Please don't associate Superman with the weakling, Jesus.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Answer

      Superman is more real.

      Get a grip you religious freaks.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • tony

      Bring him into court then. He needs to be sued for creating Geo Bush II.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Mopery

      Odin>Zeus

      June 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Splishkid

      Lordy lord

      June 15, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  20. scootfl78

    The article asks if Superman resembles Jesus...they should actually clarify that question.

    Is Superman a good Jesus or Republican Jesus?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • OHFORGODSAKE

      And superman does not get crusified on a cross

      June 15, 2013 at 11:02 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.