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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. randomthoughts

    To echo quite a few comments, jesus and superman are both fictional, IMO – kids are marketed by Marvel comics to believe he exists, and when we as adults have kids, want to make sure there is a superman to protect them and guide them. Note the similarity that superman never really dies. That could be a reason why there is a tie. It is the fear of dying that is marketed by the church. Can't have you or your kids just rotting away now can we?

    June 16, 2013 at 1:50 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      At least your comments support the notion science can never tell us the 'why' of life.

      You are so much smarter than the rest of us.

      How did we get so lucky to have you?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • RG

      Except we are now at 2013 AD.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • mbrittain

      yeah, he is so brilliant that he doesnt even know that Marvel doesnt do superman, DC does lol

      June 16, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • Jeff

      Maybe if you actually believed in something – you just might forgo living an empty life. How sad it must be to be you. Try getting past your self!

      June 16, 2013 at 1:57 am |
    • Jeff

      First try getting past your own ignorance, then try believing in somthing other than yourself. You just might be amazed.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:26 am |
  2. Elliott Carlin

    I saw the movie yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it-in addition, they had a number of opportunities to mock Christianity and they didn't. That being said, Hollywood isn't the place to go to get your theology. Christ is revealed in the Scriptures for they are the words of God via the Holy Spirit.

    You'll recall the aggressive marketing among Christian pastors concerning The Passion-same ploy here, and many will fall for it.

    Too bad.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:47 am |
  3. Doc Ock

    it's called the "Hero's Journey". Many such stories in history, found throughout Greek Mythology, and other mythology around the world. Jesus, Superman, Luke Skywalker....different interpretations of the same concept.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:46 am |
  4. Adam

    You know, I'm actually really scared of the liberal atheist crowd. First of all, they rarely shower, so that's scary in and of itself.

    But what if they actually took over...first of all, they hate us as Christians. And why...for believing in something? Then there's that whole mass-murder, genocide thing they have a propensity for.

    Thank goodness for the Second Amendment (which they also want to take away).

    Do commie atheists even know how to have fun?

    June 16, 2013 at 1:45 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      There are 2 tenants to atheism....1. There is no God, and 2. I hate him.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • Superman

      The irony killing me and I'm not even atheist

      June 16, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  5. Pep

    Wow. Profits to be made linked to the real profit

    June 16, 2013 at 1:43 am |
  6. wade

    In spite of all the atheist protesting here and lame o mor*ns it is a MOVIE. A great movie to boot. It is entertainment not the second coming! LOl... Get a life all of you.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:43 am |
  7. silly athesit

    Hey CNN, report the news!!! Stop making every article about religon!!! oh thats right, you cant ur funded by libturds and atheist s......they THRIVE on bashing things they dont believe in 🙂

    June 16, 2013 at 1:42 am |
    • Superman

      Still raging I see

      June 16, 2013 at 1:45 am |
    • rkulla

      you do realize that the majority of atheists don't go around making fun of religion, but rather keep their opinions to themselves? So by you bashing atheists for bashing people, you're really just being a hypocrite.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:56 am |
  8. Justin H

    I was already thinking of skipping the movie due to the underwhelming buzz from people who have seen it. I'll definitely be skipping it now. If there's one thing I can't stand in a movie, it's when it starts to get preachy. Especially a popcorn film.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      your open-minded tolerance is refreshing.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • RG

      You didn't notice the same thing in the last superman movie?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • guest

      Agree.. probably at some point in the pre/mid/or post phase of the film they realized they had a bomb on their hands so they thought they would do some creative marketing. However, I do wonder how they deal with the topic of pedophilia in the film.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • jayman419

      I'm not religious. I'm not a big fan of religion. But Man of Steel is a great movie.

      I saw it Friday, and none of these allegorical representations were particularly overt. Everything was consistent with the mythology of Superman, and nothing seemed shoved in.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:15 am |
  9. chuck

    Nothing more than a Troll Bait story

    June 16, 2013 at 1:36 am |
  10. wow

    LMAO.....I dont believe in Buddha or Mohammad, but u dont see me acting the fool like *cough* atheist do. RAGE over something they dont believe in...what a colossal waste of time, effort and energy!!!

    June 16, 2013 at 1:35 am |
    • Superman

      You seem to be raging pretty hard

      June 16, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • silly athesit

      naaa just having fun pointing out the 100% nonsense of athiest actions.....you dish it, surely you can take it 😀

      June 16, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • LinCA

      @wow

      You said, "I dont believe in Buddha or Mohammad, but u dont see me acting the fool like *cough* atheist do. RAGE over something they dont believe in."
      Get a fucking clue, you dimwit. Atheists don't rage over shit they don't believe in. I couldn't care less about your imaginary friend. It's noting more than imaginary. No more likely to exist than the Tooth Fairy.

      It's dimwitted believers and their actions based on the fairy tales they cling to, that do the real damage. It is adults still clinging to infantile beliefs that I rage against. It's the cancer on society that religion is, that I rage against.

      Stupidity isn't illegal. Being an ignorant dumbfuck, willful or otherwise, isn't illegal. You are free to believe whatever childish nonsense you want. You just don't get to push that bullshit on me.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Check out LinCA raging against Christianity.
      Lighten up–remember, God doesn't exist. No need to throw out f-bombs etc.

      chill pill dude.

      LOL

      June 16, 2013 at 1:55 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Sometimes 'descriptive adjectives' are needed to put the proper 'English' on a point.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:10 am |
    • jayman419

      Yeah, every time I crack open the ol' newspaper, I see just how Christian and Muslim unity is driving the world into a new age.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • LinCA

      @Elliott Carlin

      You said, "Check out LinCA raging against Christianity."
      Not specifically christianity. All forms of religious ignorance.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:18 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      LinCA-how about including your ignorance as well.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • David S.

      WOW: First...I'm not an atheist. However I certainly do not believe in Christianity ( former christian ) or any other organized religion. You have to be educated in Christianity to understand how it developed. However it is completely unacceptable that our childrend are exposed to this ridiculous mythlogical primiitve nonsense. Atheist and other do have a right to " rage " against what is affecting our children. Lies and myth should never be taught as truth. The damaging dogma of Christianity should never be taught to our children as moral.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • LinCA

      @Elliott Carlin

      You said, "how about including your ignorance as well."
      My ignorance about what? Please enlighten me.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  11. asygifvasi

    Wow... they've made me want to not see the movie now...

    June 16, 2013 at 1:34 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      bigot

      June 16, 2013 at 1:50 am |
    • jayman419

      They hired an ad agency to reach out to a target demographic. This is not a Christian movie. It's Superman.

      The scene they mention, with Supes falling after Zod cracked him a good one ... it's just a dude falling out of the sky. It's not like Matrix Revolutions where they lift up a wounded Neo in the Christ-pose, pause, and play dramatic music.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:19 am |
  12. wow

    Leave it to CNN, while IRAN is moving troops, and obama is wrecked in his beloved 2nd term, to post an article on there front page which allows atheist to post there immaturity over something they dont believe in.....just Priceless!!!!!!

    June 16, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Superman

      Well somebody has to bring some logic to this article

      June 16, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • LinCA

      @wow

      Do you really want to talk about maturity? I'd like to remind you that it isn't atheists that still believe in creatures for which there is just as much reason to believe they exist as the Easter Bunny.

      You are free to hold infantile beliefs, just don't expect a rational person to accept them.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • silly athesit

      With all due respect superman, this article never should of been front page....should of been near the comics. It also never should of mentioned anything religous...but CNN is a BAIT network.....

      June 16, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • Dippy

      "Should have," not "should of." It's difficult to imagine someone so stupid, but being a religious person certainly helps explain it.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:14 am |
    • Dippy's Aide

      Yes, silly athesit [sic], the contraction "should've" can sound a bit like what you typed, but you should've learned that in around 3rd or 4th grade.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:29 am |
  13. Zack

    Riotting in the streets of Turkey and the NSA hearing and this retarded crap is on the front page? Come on CNN, report actual news, not the crap you're paid to plug.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • mountainlady

      I would point out that this is the "Belief" page and not the front page. It is actually possible to have an intelligent discussion about religion and faith without name calling and bigotry, though you wouldn't know it from most of the posts here. I agree with the person above who said they don't want to be preached at during a popcorn movie. But if some folks want to read Jesus into it, who am I to argue? Doesn't hurt anything. Freedom of religion is just that....freedom to find faith or not wherever you want.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:50 am |
    • jayman419

      The riots were the main picture for most of the day. The NSA story was the main picture for most of the week.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:20 am |
  14. David S.

    I'll say one thing...even though the article is talking about Christian BS....Superman is totally hot in that suit!

    June 16, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Superman

      Careful, if God reads that comment you'll burn hell!

      June 16, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  15. David S.

    Christianity isn't real, it's a mythology.....so now the movie doesn't compare to " Jesus ".....because 1) Jesus is not proven or regarded as an actual historical figure and 2) if he did exist ( not all scholars agree ) he was just one preacher of many. NO one regarded him as divine in his day. That was made up centuries later.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  16. John

    Only today's Christian would attribute movies to Christ. Superman is not Christ, and Christ was not a man. I am so over the conservative movement that likes to attribute Christ to guns, polluting, greed, war, flags, pride, politics, divisiveness, the rich, etc. You people don't know Christ from holes in your asses!

    June 16, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • Superman

      Well the hole in my ass actually exist, but just like religion, it's full of crap.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • David S.

      Conservatives are also not educated in Christianity. They know nothing about it. It's a man made mythology. Christ if he existed was nothing special...just a man. A preacher one of many. No one thought he was divine or the son of God. That was made up centuries later. Many things about Christianity were made up long long after he allegedly died. Christians also have no clue how the Bible was made, when, and who wrote it. None of the Gospels were written by the claimed authors...that is a fact that very few Christians know because they don't the origins of the book at all. Ignorance.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • mbrittain

      so all those christians are wrong, but, let me guess, you know exactly everything about all that stuff, right David S?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • David S.

      mbrittain: It's called history. Yes " all those christians are wrong "...of course. Me and Biblical scholars are not talking about " the story " passed on for centuries which is constantly being changed and made up. We are talking about history and what actually happened. How the Bible was made and put together. Who were the authors, what was banned, changed, edited, forged, ....etc. etc.....Kids are certainly not taught that in Sunday school....because it would ruin an already ludicrous and ridiculous story. You have to look at the Big picture as well as actual history...would the creator of the Universe filled with countless intelligent alien civilizations create such a nonsense story? Aliens would have zero knowledge of this. It is a myth created by humans based on the time period and culture. jesus was one of many messiahs and religious groups of the time, all competing with each other. That isn't taught in sunday school either...kinda kills the story.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  17. Poodlepuff

    The level of believability in Superman and Jesus Christ are about the same. None either way.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • David S.

      Amen Poodlepuff. Christianity is a hot steaming pile of BS. The studio should be ashamed of themselves.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • mbrittain

      excellent mind-blowing commentary by someone named poodlepuff....LOL

      June 16, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • guest

      Agree..and like the church , they still will suck millions of dollars out of people. Next hing you know Time Warner will be filing for tax exempt status.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:59 am |
  18. mariosphere

    Thank you, CNN and the movie studio behind the latest Superman, for giving me a reason to avoid this movie. Way to ruin a franchise and a beloved hero.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • Jeff

      Maybe if you actually believed in something - you just might forgo living an empty life. How sad it must be to be you. Try getting past your self!

      June 16, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • Doobs

      @ jeff

      What in that post gave you the idea that the poster has no beliefs and lives an empty life?

      Geez, what an arrogant as<b<shole you are.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • tallulah13

      The arrogance is all part of believing that you are the center of attention of a supernatural being capable of creating the universe. Humility is not a christian trait, no matter how they pretend.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:31 am |
  19. VeritasLuxMea

    Maybe the writers or moviemakers are hinting that Jesus, as well as many other deities that humans believe in, are ETs, which seems a very plausible and probable scenario, perhaps more so than the various other scenarios that people have been sold.

    What we deem to be "miraculous" or "supernatural" is merely a void in our understanding of the natural. Seeing the feats we perform many animals would think we were "Gods", or if we landed on a planet with an intelligent species more primitive than ours, they would hold us in high regard. Scientists will probably be able to create synthetic life forms (if they already haven't done so) and it wouldn't make us Gods anymore than it will make those who engineered us Gods.

    Of course if we wish to pursue salvation through the pursuit of knowledge alone, then it will be a never ending process, and so then it becomes necessary for us to realize our common underlying reality, the energy field that we are part of, that transcends time and space. We become what we believe. If you are brainwashed into believing that you are a perpetual sinner, then that is what you will remain as.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • Superman

      Yea yea I hear ya OR maybe they just made a movie and CNN is grasping for straws that are located in their butts

      June 16, 2013 at 1:31 am |
  20. Poodlepuff

    Way to go Warner Brothers. Another movie I'll never watch. Sucking up to ministers, and preachers......disgusting.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:26 am |
    • I wonder

      It seems as if this co.ckamamie PR stunt is turning off both believers and non-believers. It might just cost them big time.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:18 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.