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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. hollywood monkey

    i'd rather have superman in my life than God... At least I can see the damn fool 🙂

    June 16, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  2. RichardSRussell

    People, don't let this ONE ARTICLE about ONE ASPECT of the movie make up your mind for you about whether or not to see it.

    Saying that "Man of Steel" is crypto-Christian propaganda is like saying "Blazing Saddles" is a covert commercial for Van Camp's pork and beans. A couple of passing allusions and vàgue imagery here and there do not const¡tute a sinister evangelical plot.

    If you want to find out whether it's worth seeing, consult MOVIE REVIEWS.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  3. Keel Hauler

    I'll never see it now. If Warner Bros. genuinely tried to (passively) market this film to appeal to people on religious grounds, then curse them for doing so instead of just trying decent movie-making. If they are are falsely being accused of doing so, then they need to loudly exclaim that to the public. Either way, it's a dumb-looking, non-original re-hash of the story and an insulting addition to the Superman franchise.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Someathiestdude

      Keel – again...This is a marketing ploy, plain and simple. The movie wasn't made with them in mind, but somebody realized they might be able to sell more tickets if they reached out and pretended it was a very jesus-like movie. So the sheep may just go watch it and pretend its about jesus. It's just marketing. Every product should be marketed to different audiences in the most effective way.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:39 am |
  4. dham

    a ridiculous question......

    June 16, 2013 at 12:34 am |
  5. TW1STD01

    Although both characters have similar characteristics, the story of Superman was NOT based on Jesus. He was created as a literary response to the horrors of World War I. He was born from the concepts of Nietzsche and existentialism, originally as a villain, in the first issue. The first edition, "Reign of the Superman" was not well received. The Superman we know arrived in the second edition. However, this all began with the Epic of Gilgamesh. Try reading Joseph Campbell's "The Hero of a Thousand Faces."

    The most important message related to Superman is that we all have the ability to be the best versions of ourselves.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:32 am |
  6. Walt Disney's frozen head

    Did the sermon notes happen to mention that the movie sucks?

    June 16, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Oh great...

      Is the movie really that bad? I was gonna go see it.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      I gave it a 6 (fair) on my 9-point scale. My major objections to it had nothing to do with in-your-face Christianity (because there was nothing in your face about it) but rather to about half of its 2.5-hour run time being devoted to trying to outdo Transformers 2 for EXTREMELY LOUD, too-fast-to-follow, chop-socky kung fu fighting. When it wasn't trying to overwhelm you with the quality and sheer freneticity of the special effects, it was a reasonably good movie of its type (comic-book superhero).
       
      Of course, Henry Cavill is no Christopher Reeve, but then, who else ever WAS?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  7. Dave

    This is a headline? Slowest news day ever.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  8. Peteyroo

    Will they set up big screen TVs in churches now so the faithful can watch?

    June 16, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Kelly51

      If they do, what are you going to do about it, cry like sniveling little atheist? Why does it bother you if you don't believe in anything?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • Redoran

      HA! LMAO!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Lots we believe in there- Kelly. Like Evolution, geological records, archeological records, astronomy...just not your BS god.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  9. Jim Slim

    This movie is a NO GO for families and this is a ridiculous ploy by Hollywood to fool churches into advocating families send their children to see this awful movie. If Hollywood wants to make a movie about Jesus, then make a movie about Jesus which Mel Gibson did. Don't take your children to see Superman. Thirty minutes into the movie, the main female character says, quote: "Are we done measuring d...ks" and it went downhill from there. This is NOT a family or Christian-like movie in any sense.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      RIght. DEFINITELY take the kidlets to see "The Passion of the Christ".
      I guarantee you it'll be an unforgettable experience that they'll still be reminding you about decades from now.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • sybaris

      OMG!

      The female character said what?

      Christians must not have metaphors or maybe very short ones.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • mcgregor_kyle

      God created d...s Jim. Maybe your's is too...SLIM. har har!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:36 am |
    • Jim Slim

      RichardSRussell and sybaris are using the same I.P. address. Isn't that special. Could it be .......

      June 16, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Jim, I have no idea where you're getting your information or why IP addresses are relevant here, but I do know that Sybaris and I are not the same person.
       
      Is this really what you do for a hobby, try to invent your own personalized paranoid conspiracy theories?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  10. Keel Hauler

    Please don't confuse this POS with a Superman story...

    June 16, 2013 at 12:26 am |
  11. KaliKid

    Superman – created by 2 Jewish guys, Siegel and Shuster – has long been considered something of a metaphor for the alien (jew) living while-disguised-in-plain sight among the indigenous (non-jews). There are no substantial religious overtones to Superman in this movie. If they think they can sell more tickets by marketing to churches because of a few specious Christ-like references.... whatever. I don't see anything wrong with it.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • darth vader

      how do Hitler balls taste?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Redoran

      probably same as pigs feet.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  12. cnow77

    I had no intention of going to see this movie before I read this article. Now, I have no intention of ever renting it either.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • tony

      I think this marketing idea has just backfired.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Keel Hauler

      Agreed, I'll never see it now. If Warner Bros. genuinely tried to (passively) market this film to appeal to people on religious grounds, then curse them for doing so instead of just trying decent movie-making. If they are are falsely being accused of doing so, then they need to loudly exclaim that to the public. Either way, it's a dumb-looking, non-original re-hash of the story and an insulting addition to the Superman franchise.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:32 am |
  13. Billy

    It's a comic book,superhero movie. Seriously, lighten the hell up. Whoever started this is obviously someone with alot of time in their hand. Just watch the movie and enjoy it or if you don't like these types of movies wait for the next Jennifer Aniston flick. If all you do is look for what's wrong or offensive in everything you're going to be pretty miserable.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
  14. AmericanPatriot

    they are the same...they are both fiction.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • darth vader

      that diildo in your rectum is also fiction?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  15. darth vader

    wow, just wow.... this world is going down the drain fast....

    June 16, 2013 at 12:22 am |
  16. Jajajaja

    Hahahaha, look at the stupid atheists bitter fools out on force as always. They say Christ is a fiction and God doesn't exist, but here they are like bees attracted to honey, they can't seem to stay away from God.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Rodney

      I thought – as a Christian – that you'd feel compassion for us poor, deluded unbelievers. Instead, you express contempt.

      Seems like you suck at being a Christian.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • darth vader

      totally agree. same people 300 years ago believed the earth was flat, and iPhones did not exist.... they have their heads in their rectums....

      June 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • AmericanPatriot

      You know Christianity is in trouble when they look to comic books for validation.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • darth vader

      Rodney <- someone has sand in his v@gina.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • darth vader

      AmericanPatriot, not only christianity.... everything is going down the drain...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • tony

      Perhaps it is in the bible that atheists are bitter fools and stupid? Or that you know a few million of the billions of atheists and can attest personally?

      In that case why is your god a jealous god? Jealous of whom or what?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • sybaris

      which god?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Jim Slim

      As Christ himself said: They cannot hear my voice, they are of their father the devil and to him they belong.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Jajasfavoriteathiest

      Discussing not believing in god is now called "coming to god?" You're even more mentally ill than the regular god freak.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Bees are attracted to pollen/flowers. They make the honey in their hives.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • tony

      Gosh! You mean god didn't "create" honey as well?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  17. Adam

    I can't decide what's funnier...clueless, liberal Hollywood execs attempting this mockery, CNN for giving this an ounce of credence, or the hippy atheists on here with their panties in a twist.

    Man this is some fun reading. I love it.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • sybaris

      yeah, it's like christards whining about removing their 10 commandments from courthouses

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Someathiestdude

      Well...I'm going out on a limb here, but....all athiests are not "hippies"..whatever that's supposed to mean.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • tony

      Out on a limb is best with both parties panties removed.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Someathiestdude

      Amen Tony! haha!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • sam stone

      I don't know what is funnier, you a-s-suming that the hollywood execs are liberal or that atheists are hippies. In any case, you are an imbecile

      June 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  18. Keel Hauler

    HEY W.B. You couldn't pay me enough to watch this now, and I sure as Hell won't subject my family to your manipulations. How's that for effective marketing?Whatever underpayed goob you have reviewing these comments, you be sure to tell them this...

    June 16, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Someathiestdude

      Keel – I don't think they're saying the movie was made for god freaks or jesus lovers...They're just trying to take money from the god freaks pockets. Look at them as Joel Osteen...or some other complete A hole...except Warner Brothers at least delivers real entertainment for 2.5 hours, not Joel, who makes up crap and personally rakes in millions and millions because of his sheep.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  19. Knight Poet

    Affectation is the ridiculous effort of the ignorant to appear wise, the attempt of the barren soul to appear rich. To paraphrase, it is what many anti-God spewers of atheistic propaganda display in the tragic waste of virtual space occupied by countless impotent remarks seething with arrogance and ignorance at the very bottom of the forgettable garbage bins of forever-phony trailer-trashy comments...lifeless lumps of lunacy-laced lines with layers upon layers of laughably lame la-la-land declarations of black-hole unholiness fresh from the rotting pit of sin-slimy blasphemy and the quicksand abyss of cosmic insanity where sacrilegious insinuations of foolish ignorance insipidly ooze forth like an endless barrage of freshly burst pimples condemning all lost souls and wandering imps who lurk amidst that aromatically nasty type of dead-flower tastelessness that feverishly ferments in the doomed-by-darkness minds of the affectation-inflicted.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Tresúr

      Well, this was a whole lot of flowery-prosed bullshit. What a vapid example of vanity writing!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Hunter

      A bit like you're doing now, huh?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Someathiestdude

      What kind of ridiculous ridiculousness are you talking about? Is that supposed to be a statement of some kind?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Someathiestdude

      Actually, I give you credit for a lot of big words! Whoowhee!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Lance

      If I counted right, that second sentence had 129 words in it...what the hell were you paraphrasing, a thesaurus?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Holy Shiite! LL you switched handles again?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Word salad may describe a symptom of mental conditions in which a person attempts to communicate an idea, but words and phrases that may appear to be random and unrelated come out in an incoherent sequence instead. Often, the person is unaware that he or she did not make sense. It appears in people with dementia and schizophrenia, as well as after anoxic brain injury." —Wikipedia

      June 16, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • sam stone

      wow, you sure use lots of purty word, knight poe

      June 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  20. J. Wilson

    Really?!!! Lmao!!!! Time Warner has lost their mind's, if they think Jesus needs some lame movie to promote His message. Get real! Go back to making Bug's Bunny cartoon's now that was funny!!!! ;0)

    June 16, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • ScottCA

      You are right bugs Bunny is much more like the Jesus story, both are completely laughable.
      Superman is slightly more believable, since aliens are likely to actually exist.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:27 am |
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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.