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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. shipwreck73

    I watched the movie today and I have to say to the idea of this blog that Superman is a parellel to Jesus is complete bull! Oh and a little FYI for you christians out there, the Jesus myth is an tried and old myth used by many other "religions" predating your religion......

    Just saying!

    June 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  2. rednaxelat

    Isn't this in incredibly bad taste? Weren't those who believed in the ubermensch (German for superman) pretty much the very definition of human evil? And I do recall a poem by the openly Fascist Ezra Pound trying to recast Jesus as some kind of macho man. Please, America is confused enough as it is. Let's not add this to the evolving fiasco.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  3. GBfromOhio

    I was on the fence as whether or not to watch it. After this bit of information I've made up my mind. Think I'll pass, tired of religious dogma being shoved in my face.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  4. scheriedee

    Please. You are all making me so tired. Just keep driving around and causing accidents because you cannot follow the traffic laws with your "Not of this World" decals on the back of your gas-guzzling SUVs'.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  5. Matt C

    God is a Concept by which
    we measure our pain
    I'll say it again
    God is a Concept by which
    we measure our pain
    I don't believe in magic
    I don't believe in I-ching
    I don't believe in Bible
    I don't believe in Tarot
    I don't believe in Hitler
    I don't believe in Jesus
    I don't believe in Kennedy
    I don't believe in Buddha
    I don't believe in Mantra
    I don't believe in Gita
    I don't believe in Yoga
    I don't believe in Kings
    I don't believe in Elvis
    I don't believe in Zimmerman
    I don't believe in Superman
    I don't believe in Beatles
    I just believe in me...and that reality

    The dream is over
    What can I say?
    the Dream is Over
    Yesterday
    I was the Dreamweaver
    But now I'm reborn
    I was the Walrus
    But now I'm John
    and so dear friends
    you'll just have to carry on
    The Dream is over

    June 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Hilton Dickinson

      He believes in you

      June 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Answer

      But not in you, Hilton.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  6. Hilton Dickinson

    God bless you all. Seriously,

    June 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • Matt C

      Thanks but no Thanks Hilton.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  7. Chris

    Never mind any of this. Do you really think Superman couldn't bust out of those handcuffs and fly away faster than a speeding bullet from the military personnel? Suspect.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • montclair

      That's the point. He explains that in the movie.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  8. heliocracy

    Just more proof that religious people are ripe for manipulation in order to separate them from their money.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Give a hindu ignorant christian an opportunity to promote Mithra savior of hindu Mithra ism, savior ism, and they will jump off of a cliff without any thought, they may end up in hind mud of hinduism, ignorance deep enough not to survive the jump.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
  9. winkeroonie

    Jesus? Really? I think the two Jewish guys who first created Superman are probably laughing their @$$es off right now.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  10. Victor

    The only Superman and Jesus have in common is that their "super" acts are both a work of fiction.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  11. Hilton Dickinson

    I wish y'all would stop with your hate rhetoric. He is the Only One that loves you.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • D

      nonsense! my mom and dad love me too 😛

      June 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Superman?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • OHFORGODSAKE

      Bet jesus loved lil boys too....

      June 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  12. J B

    so what they are saying in short is jesus is a man made fictional idea. 2000 years from now mankind will have forgotten about the shroud of turin and replace it with a red cape. i am embarrassed for humanity

    June 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  13. Athenasaints

    God created man (to model himself) and a woman for humanity to continue, but he never explained who were his parents. Thus, I am more inclined to believe God do exist, but he (or she) is not a life form, but a set of positive ideals and principles. This explains perfectly why god is all around us, it explain why sufferings exist, it explain why religious men or women are capable in committing atrocities.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Plato? Is that you?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • DJ

      God has a Father too. How else was he created?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      However it does NOT explain why your grasp of English is so poor.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  14. Willyboy

    This story is revolting. Movie producers calling on witch doctors to try and boost their disaster of a movie? Pathetic.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • Jeanette

      "Like"

      June 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
  15. c5boi

    This is actually hysterically funny. Finally Christendom (DUMB?) has found its own level...a fantasy comic book as the basis of understanding the Christian mythology! One must remember that the original and continuing appeal of Christianity is that it is geared at a 12 year old intellectual (or lack thereof) level for the masses who could not read or write, let alone understand the vast complexities of the Torah. So this is just a continuation of the comic book view of spirituality based on the "Son o' God' comics! Unfortunately , if the underlying goal of Christianity is Jesus' message of peace, it is an utter failure. From the Crusades to the shocking proliferation of radically , rabid fundamental Christianity in the US armed forces, it is a religion of violence and simple-mindedness.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Jeanette

      "Like"

      June 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • JimmyTwotimes

      That's what I thought for many years until I actually studied (not just read) the bible with a critical eye. The richness and depth of its stories are by no means geared towards 12 year olds. You may choose to believe or not to believe, that is your prerogative. But I believe you are criticizing the bible without truly understanding its message.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  16. whee

    Both are fictional guys who inspire people to do good. Superman's books, however, are a lot more interesting.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • J B

      i agree. although praying to superman actually sounds kind of cool. it even has the same results as praying to jesus. .... nothing

      June 15, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  17. mason

    Superman or Jesus Zombie, both mythical characters that defy death, gravity, and reality.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
  18. Gab

    And this is headline news? And supposedly out countries main source of information. This is pathetic that people r dying all over the world as a result of wars we have caused and the headline news here is superman. We def need another source of real global news and genuine information not this propaganda bull

    June 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Celie

      You are aware that this is a Belief Blog and not a news blog per se, yes?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Ave atque Vale

      Celie,

      In all fairness to Gab, this story IS the headliner (with huge pic) on the front page right now...

      June 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
  19. Larry L

    I hear Warner Bros. actually tried to get a character that looked even more like Jesus. Unfortunately, Willie Nelson didn't look good in those red tights.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • sixin

      Don't quit your day job..

      June 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  20. ettuhealy@yahoo.com

    The NSA just admitted today that thousands of low level analysts listen to domestic phone calls.... but CNN has an article about Jesus and f – ing SUPERMAN??? Trash!

    June 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Steve C

      6 soldiers were killed today in Benghazi, and all you care about is people listening to phone calls??

      It's all relative. They're not going to post stories that only you care about.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Using you email address on a public hate forum is not wise

      June 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • jasonmooncnnCNN

      Thanks for your comment. The NSA story is on the site as well. As are stories about North Korea, the Colorado wildfires, Syria, Kim Kardashian, Iran's election, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Father's Day, bombs in Pakistan, Michael Jackson and violence on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.

      There are a lot of stories here. This is one of them.

      Thanks for continuing to read.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:22 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.