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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. Lord Zedd

    Another reason I will never watch it.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  2. Chris

    Im sorry the Jehovahs Witnesses knocked on your doors to many times while you were playing World of Warcraft. Does that help relieve the "cramming religion down your throat" issue?

    June 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Observer

      Chris,

      Nope. But cutting out the Christian hypocrisy about gays or Christians pretending the Bible mentions abortion would help a lot.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Rob McCall

      Whhhhhehhhh. All better now. By the way, WoW is for mature unbelievers. Jenna Jameson is for the rest of us losers.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Chris

      Ill call the vatican and see what they say, stand by.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  3. sparky

    yeah? uhhhh no

    June 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
  4. Louie Cypher

    Ahhh.....how we humans cling to our myths.....

    June 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  5. Jeff

    God rightfully punished the sinner, Jesus, by crucifying him. Anyone that prays to Jesus, prays to a resident of Hell.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • Mike

      Your diaper's getting a little heavy...

      June 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  6. saganhill

    You have got to be kidding me.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  7. chris

    So many people making jokes and mocking our God. I pray for you and hope you will find the truth and change.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • jboom

      Chris, I do pray for them. Not sure why the hostility form them.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Rob McCall

      Awwwwww. Waaaaaaahhhhhh. Poor little dead Jesus can't defend himself. He has to enlist people 2000 years later to pester and harass us with his ghost. Go away already.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • LinCA

      @chris

      You said, "So many people making jokes and mocking our God."
      It's not your imaginary friend that I mock. It's your belief in it.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • jboom

      They are encouraged to frequent these sites in hope of alluring some to join their "God-free" groups.
      They think it will make the world a better place.

      Some of them do this day and night... Yes please pray for them, and us too.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • Mike

      Militant atheism is everywhere on the CNN boards... good place for an Evangelical to minister 😉

      June 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • jboom

      Mike, thats exactly what they do, too!

      June 15, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • OTOH

      chris,

      You mock reality... with your fantasy creatures and superst'itions.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • OTOH

      jboom
      "They are encouraged to frequent these sites in hope of alluring some to join their "God-free" groups."

      Now I know that you've lost your marbles! I have never seen such a suggestion - anywhere. This is one of the few places where we can freely discuss things like this (your Christian sites delete non-believer's posts and ban the posters).

      June 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • chris

      Not my place to judge anyone. That will be determined later on. But as far as the people that don't believe I will pray for you tonight and I can only hope you will see the light and change your thoughts. Read the Left Behind books and then see what you think!

      June 15, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • LinCA

      "One must bomb a building, fight to deny basic rights of others, engage in bigotry against our fellow human beings for attributes with which they were born, issue threats and espouse violence to defend an ostensibly all-powerful god to be thought a militant believer.

      One need only not engage in deferential treatment of the demonstrably false dogmas and bigoted belief to which the faithful choose to adhere to be thought a militant nonbeliever."

            – The Thinking Atheist

      June 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • LinCA

      @chris

      You said, "Not my place to judge anyone. That will be determined later on."
      ROTFLMAO

      You said, "But as far as the people that don't believe I will pray for you tonight"
      May I recommend that you also think?

      You said, "I can only hope you will see the light and change your thoughts."
      I've "seen the light". I realized that religion, and the beliefs they are built on, are complete bullshit. Bring evidence and I will gladly change my mind.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • jboom

      LinCA,
      See "Signature in the Cell" by S.Meyer

      June 16, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • LinCA

      @jboom

      You said, "See "Signature in the Cell" by S.Meyer"
      The entire intelligent design pseudo science is based on the "god of the gaps" fallacy. Only dimwits, and those that want to take advantage from them, are proponents of it.

      ID boils down to an admission that one is too ignorant to understand a phenomenon, and unwilling to accept "I don't know" as an answer.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      I'm not sure about truth, but I found some change under a couch cushion once.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  8. jharry

    Enough said. If it's about Heysuz, I won't be seeing it.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  9. Jc

    Geezus. Really? A film company willing to do anything to put buts in the seats, and pastors dying to put buts in the seats. It all equates to money. The more seats filled the more the coffers get filled. The business of manipulation has no boundaries I guess.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  10. jeff

    I guess if you have a flop as a movie call in the Christians to resurrect a dying movie. The rest of the time you know Christians won't stand up for themselves and you fling insults at them and at the conservative ideas they have. The Christians should tell this Hollywood flop and it's producers to take a hike.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  11. Pol pot

    Smoking and drinking predisposes you to esophageal cancer. How can someone so rational like Hitchens miss that?
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTnJ3L3g0n0&w=640&h=390]

    June 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Rob McCall

      Because he used his rational mind to realize we are all going to die and he might as well enjoy for the vast majority of his life the things he enjoyed like smoking and drinking. Death is inevitable. Its only these fool Christians trying to avoid reality.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • KingToot

      Alcohol or tobacco may have helped support states of lucidity for him. It does for some people sometimes . . .

      June 16, 2013 at 1:34 am |
  12. are122

    This CNN article is a bunch of bull. I just came back from watching the movie. EXCELLENT action movie. Better then the "Fast and Furious" I went to see last week. If the very short Church scene bothers you just keep telling yourself you originated from a meaningless gob of primitive snot and maybe you'll survive.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
  13. Redoran

    The movie of jesus? This is one must NOT see movie, for me and wife.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
  14. allenwoll

    .
    Good Grief Charley Brown ! ! !
    .

    June 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
  15. MagicPanties

    yeah, I'll go see so this movie... right after the passion movie.
    oh, wait...

    June 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  16. Dean Gullberry

    All the more reason to not care about this movie. Mythical stories using people who believe other mythical stories to help peddle it. Boring and sad.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Mike

      People who use the word "sad" to describe people they disagree with are... sad.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  17. lancesackless

    Never fails...just mention religion and the "logic and reason" trolls become unhinged.

    Quite amusing really. It's like a unreasonable Pavlovian response.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • LinCA

      @lancesackless

      You said, "Never fails...just mention religion and the "logic and reason" trolls become unhinged."
      I guess while there are people like you, we'll never run out of idiots to argue against.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      Yes, it's so amusing to see grownups still believing in Santa Claus.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Em

      Dam logic and reason!!

      June 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • LinCA

      @MagicPanties

      You said, "Yes, it's so amusing to see grownups still believing in Santa Claus."
      Actually, a belief in Santa Claus, or creatures like Loch Ness Monster or the Abominable Snowman, is far more reasonable than a belief in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or a god.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Chris

      "we'll never run out of idiots to argue against."
      Is that a full time hobby?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Em

      Majic panties you can't prove Santa doesnt exist so STFU! Lol!

      June 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Chris

      You said, "Is that a full time hobby?"
      It can be if you want it to be (there's little chance of running out of idiots). For me it's only an occasional pastime.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Chris

      Yeah LinCA what part of CA you in, I'd love to see it live.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  18. GodFreeNow

    I find this pretty ironic, because to the best of my knowledge, Superman is a mashup of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Mars" series and Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra", of which both author's were staunch atheists. On top of that Nietzsche sees the "superman" as being evolved to a point of no longer needing the god concept. Superman is NOT a story of christ. The only thing that christianity and the superman universe share is that both are based on mythology.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  19. Jeff

    We have to face the truth. God crucified Jesus for his sins. Jesus started a false religion and falsely claimed to be the son of God. That upset God greatly and He punished Jesus and his followers. They are condemned to spent their lives believing a false narrative and forever being ignorant of the truth.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      How one can sacrifice, if one has no son, or have no wife to have a son, seems like human hinduism, assertion by hindu atheism, ignorant self center ism.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Dean Gullberry

      Also, it was actually Mama Bear's porridge that was juuuuuuuust right. Revisionism, I tell ya.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Celie

      So what's the truth?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Jeff

      God sacrificed nothing when he crucified the sinner, Jesus. He was merely meting out a punishment worthy of Jesus' blasphemy.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Jeff

      The truth is everything before the bible.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Redoran

      INRI.. Still trying to heal thems nail holes.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Keith

      Wow Jeff you sure are skewed on the Biblical Scriptures think you might want to go back and read the Gospels of Matthew , Mark , Luke and John...not the book of Jeff!

      June 15, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • Celie

      So you believe in God but deny Jesus?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Jeff

      Keith, you are believing a false narrative and will forever being ignorant of the truth. Matthew , Mark , Luke and John are liars.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Jeff

      Celie, Jesus corrupted the teachings of Abraham. Follow Jesus if you want to be led to Hell.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  20. Rahul

    US Christianity as schlock. Period.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Thousands of years of Faith only- well almost only, there where sun flares of anger ...followed by a couple years of magic...then 2k more years of faith only.....what is suspect about that?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:42 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.