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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. Marquice Moore

    You have to love astrology and myths to comprehend faith (falsehood within the imagination).

    June 16, 2013 at 12:55 am |
  2. jeanine

    Wow we have more important news like our rights being stripped away from our government

    June 16, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • Superman

      List all the rights that have been stripped from you and how it is impacting your life right now.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • Professor

      @"superman"

      not now, but possibly later. like, dissension against the government or its foreign allies...

      room 101 is waiting for you...

      June 16, 2013 at 1:04 am |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    "Gimmick:" you've got to have a gimmick in any show-business endeavour. This marketing scheme provides press for Jesus and press for Superman. Regarding the "truth" of either myth, Jesus or Superman, the latter is more believable than the former. Also see: Wotan. Greta Garbo transformed herself into a myth and walked among us. I saw her twice.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • Professor

      "more believable"

      really?

      planet krypton or 3 day dead, arising...

      really?

      that's like believing the big bang theory is fact.

      steady state, all the way forever...

      June 16, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  4. Keel Hauler

    CNN, you really have no standards, do you?

    June 16, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Their standards are sufficient to draw not only your eyeballs but a comment to boot.
      Their advertisers thank you for your patronage.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Why do you say this?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • Keel Hauler

      And what draws you to respond to my comment? WELL?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      They do what the boss wants: Make Money

      Nothing is out of bounds – (interviewing traumatized kids at Newtown removed all doubt for me)

      June 16, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  5. Jim Cone

    Just what the left wants to compare fictional idol worshiping to God. Don't take the bait.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Superman

      > Non fictional idol worshiping
      > Worshiping a God

      Pick one

      June 16, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  6. pr0gress

    I'm trying to recall the part of the bible where Jesus (spoiler alert) snapped the neck of his greatest enemy, as Superman does in this movie. Did I miss a book somewhere?

    Oh well, both are rank fictions made up to entertain and manipulate the masses, so they'll always have that in common.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • will

      Jesus didn't snap any necks, but He did exercise a demon, so that counts. And the Bible doesn't have stories to entertain and manipulate the masses, they were written to educate, and persuade free will to believe or not believe.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:55 am |
  7. Happy Father's Day

    Do good. Stop arguing. Love your kids. Help others. Sponsor an orphan.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:48 am |
  8. rconatser1

    Yet another reason not to watch this movie.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • Jim Slim

      Ron, you have your Facebook open. I won't reveal you, but remember the recent news: All this is tied together. We may not agree on politics or anything else, but I just wanted to give you a heads up. (nice plane by the way)

      June 16, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Ron

      Jeeesh man. Please don't and how did you do that if I may ask? Is that legal? Thanks for the head's up.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  9. OCCUPY WALLSTREET FOR CONGRESS

    They need to get Tim Tebow to play the next superman!!!

    June 16, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Sure nuff he's got the acting chops for it. Look how convincingly he played the role of an NFL quarterback — well enuf to completely fool 3 different head coaches.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:51 am |
  10. Gort1

    well.....i guess pandering to the christians isnt a deal breaker for me....after all they believe in a guy wearing a long white robe and sandals doing magic and miracles and living in the sky.....

    June 16, 2013 at 12:45 am |
  11. Hex Angel

    Just another reason I find Superman to be lame.

    Religion-The most powerful cult in the world. Don't forget to drink your kool aid.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:44 am |
    • Adam

      Or you could drink atheist Jim Jones' kool-aid.

      At least mine won't kill me!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      So, Adam, do you refer to the same Jim Jones alluded to in this Wikipedia article?

      "James Warren 'Jim' Jones (May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978) was a Christian preacher and the founder and the leader of the Peoples Temple, best known for the cult murder/suicide in 1978, 909 of its members in Jonestown, Guyana, and the murder of five individuals at a nearby airstrip. Over 200 children were murdered at Jonestown, almost all of them by cyanide poisoning. Jones died from a gunshot wound to the head."

      June 16, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • Sane Person

      lol, poor Adam doesnt even know who his christian superstars are. Jim Jones is one of your loonies deary.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  12. Jim Slim

    For those of you clever enough, you can see that the I.P.s of a dozen or more of these posters making anti God references are the same. CNN pointed this out two weeks ago. It is only two or three people in reality. Posers! Losers! You have been busted.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • Jim Slim

      Gort1 = Hex Angel

      June 16, 2013 at 12:46 am |
    • AmericanPatriot

      you are a tool.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • pr0gress

      Feel free to link where "CNN pointed it out" – plenty of room left in your post limit.

      And why be coy? Show how you're getting the IP addresses of posters here. If you're telling the truth, feel free to share!

      If you're lying, keep implying things with no evidence whatsoever!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Jim Slim

      AmericanPatriot, wait for Ron's response (see above)

      June 16, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • Jim Slim

      pr0gress, one at a time. finishing one now..... Do you want me to send that info discreetly on one of your previous blogs? You have been quite busy.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Superman

      Somebody takes CNN.com comments way too seriously and has no life...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • Ron

      pr0gress – KMLU

      June 16, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • Professor

      right.... what's my ip?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • jboom

      Jim Slim, it fits, and its been said before

      June 16, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • jboom

      slim jim, using xrevsnoop?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      When Jim writes "AmericanPatriot, wait for Ron's response (see above)", the wait is probably necessary because he needs to sign out as Jim and sign back in as Ron.

      I've discovered that CNN makes no effort whatever to keep people from logging in using a name that's already in use. I learned this the hard way when some jerk started posting using my own screen name, saying things that I'd never utter in a million years.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:22 am |
  13. Dennis

    Joseph Smith called, He wants his religion back.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:42 am |
  14. 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. God rightfully punished the sinner, Jesus, by crucifying him. Anyone that prays to Jesus, prays to a resident of Hell.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • will

      You have to face the truth that you are an idiot, we already know this. God is Jesus in human form. God came down to Earth as Jesus to relate better to mankind, and for mankind to relate better to God, and to foreshadow the future.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • Jeff

      Jesus lied. You cannot trust what he said. He was not God.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  15. IpseCogita

    Pretty much all stories echo the story of Jesus, which pretty much echos all the hero stories before it. It's a formula and it goes back to Sumer, at least.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Dennis

      and Jesus stole his trick from Hercules and Prometheus

      June 16, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  16. Chris

    Guys I think the athiest won all the arguments using reason and logic, we should comment only on religious articles, they wont be trolling around there I swear...

    June 16, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  17. Jim Slim

    Add mcgregor_kyle to the same I.P. address. Got ya!

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

      La la la liar.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:39 am |
  18. Bill

    Since Superman was created by 2 Jewish teenagers around the Cleveland area I doubt they created him to be a parallel to Jesus.

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

      Warner bros made this movie based off of the original.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • MommaWolf

      And why not? Jesus was a Jew.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Actually, they said they were inspired by Moses — rocket instead of basket of reeds, wonder worker, secret ident¡ty, hero to his people, etc.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:01 am |
  19. Moxin

    The only similarity they share is that they're both made up.

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

      Each has a hero willing to sacrifice himself for others, each hero has his tragic flaw, each hero faces death. The details and the setting are different, but each follows the long established formula.

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

      So does Batman...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:45 am |
  20. morgan

    Hollweird--desperate to maintain its influence over the movie viewing audience.

    They haven't received one cent from me in the last five years.

    people pay way too much attention to hollywood persons and too little to what really matters in life.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:37 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.