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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. A Linoge

    Please stop it. You're ruining this movie for me before I've seen it. Superman is an alien from Krypton. Surely Kryptonians have never heard of Christ because he's a human-made fictional character.

    June 16, 2013 at 5:01 am |
    • Tia

      The Bible and other religious books are also fictional creations of mankind, so comparing one fictional character to another makes perfect sense.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:30 am |
    • A Linoge

      @Tia: Yeah but Superman is cool fiction. The Bible is responsible for real life death and war. I'll take the DC Comics version thank you.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • eh

      One thing they never do with Superman is give him any alien points of view that are inimical to human points of view.
      He is technically a non-human from a non-human civilization. A real alien is more likely to view us in a negative way since we aren't all that intelligent or sane.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:50 am |
    • Steve

      It's called an allegory. Before 4G we had literature.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:52 am |
  2. Jeff

    I can’t even imagine my church falling for this kind of blatant publicity stunt. Granted, we’re a bit different than most other Christian religions—none of our congregations have pastors, so the members take turns giving the sermons—but I just can’t even fathom someone thinking this would be appropriate. Recognizing themes and weaving them into a discourse? Sure, lots of people do that. But actually receiving a marketing blurb from the studio and using it to push the movie? That’s just sad.

    June 16, 2013 at 4:47 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      From your previous post it is obvious that you are residing in the dark ages, so it is not surprising that a movie like this would offend you. That computer and most of technology was given to you by Atheists...don't you think you're being hypocritical by using them and then preaching stupid about a movie that is meant to entertain and open the mind???

      June 16, 2013 at 4:53 am |
  3. luvuall

    Is the most ironic parallel the fact that Superman isn't real? Or is there a parallel that's not ironic at all: a deep desire that many people have to know someone so powerful who is always working for the good of mankind?

    June 16, 2013 at 4:43 am |
    • DP

      Thank you for making that observation! It didn't occur to me, and what you said makes profound sense to me.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:09 am |
  4. Mr. Nihilist

    The fact of the matter is that they focus on purpose. There is no purpose, thus no morals. Any atheist with a functional brain would understand this.

    Morals are purposeless as it is ridiculous. There is no purpose, accept it.

    June 16, 2013 at 4:41 am |
  5. Ismail

    Superman is white and they believe Jesus was white. So, I guess that is about all they have in common.

    June 16, 2013 at 4:38 am |
  6. Theseus

    Damn, and I was going to go see it. Not now.

    June 16, 2013 at 4:23 am |
    • hannah1

      Me, neither!

      June 16, 2013 at 4:24 am |
  7. Caleb Boone

    Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

    I agree with some who have written that the movie is too violent to be used as a foil for Sunday School Discussion.

    However, in the abstract, the well-known standard Superman plot could be an apt subject in church discussion groups to introduce various Scriptures.

    Use of the plot in general without displaying unnecessarily violent videoclips or movie scenes would be best.

    But more than that would be wrong, distracting or silly.

    Witness the repulsive violence of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."

    That violence was distracting and unnecessary. I did not watch his movie but I saw a few short clips and the violence in them, alone, was repulsive.

    The same must be said of other similar movies.

    But so long as the story of Superman is used only in general in church discussions, without any videoclips, I agree.

    Now I find it a little Hallmark-Cardish to deviously insinuate Superman into Fathers' Day Sermons.

    Hallmark-Cardish on the part of Ministers and Movie Promoters.

    Have a Dovely.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

    June 16, 2013 at 4:22 am |
    • hannah1

      Really, you don't think things were very violent in those days? Your precious "bible" is full of it!

      June 16, 2013 at 4:27 am |
  8. Marcus

    very cool!!

    June 16, 2013 at 4:11 am |
    • hannah1

      Just what we need....more religious propaganda. Are they aware there are MANY MORE religions on this planet than just christianity?????

      June 16, 2013 at 4:22 am |
    • hannah1

      NOT!

      June 16, 2013 at 4:28 am |
    • Mr. Nihilist

      Each religion try to focus on morality. The end of the day, it is pointless.

      Morals are an endless joke. We need to walk away from morals, and accept the truth.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:45 am |
  9. sp3ct0r

    Superman has always been rifled with Christian Motifs. If you watch the entire series of Smallville you will notice them if you aren't blind or ignorant. Superman gives hope to mankind and is a perfect role-model for people, he is the epitome of good. He has never killed a human and never will.

    I wish I could be like Clark Kent in how he carries himself and how he has grown to have such confidence. Everyone should strive be better!

    June 16, 2013 at 4:10 am |
    • eh

      You see what you want to see and interpret what you see according to your preconceptions. There are no gods.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:59 am |
  10. required

    It's empty and fake, a made up story, they all are. It's escapism, to emptiness. It feeds on itself, and it leaves you with nothing.

    The only real history that matters is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The son of God. That's who matters and what he did. It's him dying for our sins if you believe him and repent. That's happiness and joy, that's life, the source of life, helping you for an eternity. That's what matters.

    June 16, 2013 at 3:58 am |
    • devin

      Nice to see a little clarity in the midst of the fog.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:09 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "real history that matters is Jesus Christ of Nazareth"

      If you can verify that without the buybull or anything that circles back to it, then it might matter but until verification is there, it doesn't matter.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:32 am |
    • Mr. Nihilist

      Exactly, thus it is pointless. This is focusing on the path of "morals".

      Ever since I accepted the fact that it was made up, I decided to not care anymore. Life is purposeless once you think about it. This also ended my morality, as I found it pointless.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:43 am |
    • eh

      What matters to each person doesn't matter in the long run.
      As sentient life-forms, we are limited by our individual brain structures as to how we respond to any stimuli.

      Our values and instincts are those of mammalian primates, not some ethereal fantasy imagined in despair at our circumstances by brainwashed ignorant members of our species.

      If we are to agree on anything, it would be common needs and nothing else.

      The stylized concepts we tend to use are not guaranteed to be logical or effective, so avoiding subjective irrationalities should be of prime importance, but who listens to anyone but themselves?

      What do you imagine our world will look like in the future, four thousand years down the road?
      Will there be any humans left alive at that time? Will certain tendencies remain firmly entrenched in human affairs?

      Those who live in the future will not need to see what we talked about, they will see, instead, the results of our actions and inactions. Actual real-world effects are what will actually happen, not some imaginary magic-driven apocalypse.

      Our common needs include certain freedoms that we need to have implemented for us regardless of our abilities.
      And the preconceptions we often have about how things "should be" need to be dealt with extremely harshly and unemotionally, saving the compassion for the people themselves, not the ideologies and prejudices we hold dear.

      Where am I going with this? Into the future. Farther than most of you can comfortably speculate upon.
      We will not see what happens, but we can try to advance things before then, to help make everyone's common needs part of any solution to any problem.

      What legacy do you intend for those people far down the path into the future?
      Should everyone be allowed to abuse their children for thousands more years?

      Or do we start protecting children as the potential adults they have always been?
      We are raising the ancient ancestors of those distant days. We should at least try to do something intelligent with this world while we have any sort of chance.

      Morality aside, having a truly objective view requires the removal of all subjective points of view.
      Can you do it? There is no intrinsic purpose to any life-form. We all function as we are able, nothing more.

      If our functionality is in question, then perhaps technology and effective methods can improve that instead of being used as a club to beat down those who are already disadvantaged from having their common needs met.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:23 am |
    • eh

      *unmet

      June 16, 2013 at 5:25 am |
  11. Joke

    Well, if this Jesus angle doesn't make a few hundred million more for Man of Steel, I will be surprised. Having said that, I am now convinced, more than ever, that christians are the most gullible people alive. So, what's next? Terminator 2 is a tale of redemption and salvation? Or, maybe the Dark Knight is a tale of one man overcoming a dark past to a great cause? Geez! At least muslims know that can cause change by wearing an explosives vest and doing some real good for their cause.

    June 16, 2013 at 3:56 am |
  12. Lance Webster

    Bottom line for the churches and for Warner Brothers is.....Money. If the studio can use the churches to bring in more money, they will. And if the churches can use a popular super hero to stem the tide of people leaving the fold, so they can keep some bucks coming in to the collection plates, they will say and do anything to justify their actions. Some of that money, of course, goes to help the poor and downtrodden. And some of the Warner Bros. money from Christians will go to make the next violent action movie to appeal to kids and teens, and generate more revenue from action toys. Sounds like a winner of both sides. All that suffers is our culture.

    June 16, 2013 at 3:55 am |
  13. DarrellSF

    You have got to be friggin' kidding me! I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

    I've now decided I will NOT be spending my hard-earned heathen money on watching "The Man Of Steel".

    It is absolutely disgusting and preposterous that Superman would be marketed to the Christians specifically! It really speaks to the illness of our society when it spends so much time focused on the Christians, especially since there is supposed to be no official religion in the US. But we all know the day of reckoning is coming, when "the others" have to stand up to the insanity of the radical Christians taking over this nation and turning it into a theocracy.

    I was soooo looking forward to watching this movie, but will now boycott it and spread the word!

    June 16, 2013 at 3:41 am |
    • devin

      Yes, because we know there are SO MANY movies out of Hollywood that are marketed towards Christians. If one of my arms were amputated, I would still be able to count the total number on the hand I still had.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:06 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      devin: Feeling slightly persecuted?

      June 16, 2013 at 4:47 am |
    • pallas_athena

      We Christians ARE persecuted by the media constantly. We are supposed to be tolerant of everyone, but everyone can bash us- hypocrites....

      June 16, 2013 at 5:19 am |
  14. Steven B

    This is an analogy that has been discussed for seventy five years.

    Way to stay current, CNN! Way to cater to your lowest common-denominator, who are, after all, your average viewer/reader.

    June 16, 2013 at 3:28 am |
  15. Jeff

    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 3:07 am |
    • evansusmc

      I will tell you the same thing I tell the bible thumpers (and Quran thumpers). No one will ever know what is on the "other side" until you die. THEN and only then will be know if any religion was right or not.

      June 16, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • NavinJay

      THEN and only then will be know if any religion was right or not.

      Actually, incorrect. If after you die there is nothing, then you will never know anything. You have to have a conscious to rationalize if you are right or not..and if there is nothing, then you will never know anything.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:05 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Jeff: Obviously you don't know your own book of fairy tales. Even Atheists know that what you spewed is not what the buybull says.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:47 am |
    • pallas_athena

      What is wrong with you flaming atheists? (pun intended)

      YOU know what you're saying isn't true AND is hateful, immoral bigots....

      June 16, 2013 at 5:24 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      pallas_athena: The burden of proof lies on the one making the claim. Show without using the buybull that any of it is accurate. Jeff is a moron who doesn't know his own buybull because his version is not what is taught within it but this is not surprising...every christard has their own interpretation depending on which sect of the cult they follow. Suck it up, it is very unlikely that jesus ever existed and if such a man did he was nothing but a man...nothing special.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:31 am |
  16. mistamista

    This seems perfectly fine. I mean, both are mythical beings who come to save us from ourselves. Personally, I like the Mayan ending...

    June 16, 2013 at 2:43 am |
  17. Superman

    Can Dodo say something so Faith can stfu already

    June 16, 2013 at 2:40 am |
    • Lance

      I don't even know who the hell dodo IS.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:44 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      No-one knows who dodo is. Faith uses that when her meds are wearing off and she hasn't realized it's time to step away from the keyboard.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:29 am |
  18. Canderson

    Comparing Superman to Jesus Christ is going to backfire on Warner Bros. The Evangelicals are going to resent it and those that are sick of the intolerance and prejudice of the Christian right are going to stay away. This will be marketing suicide for a film that looks like fun for any demographic.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:39 am |
    • Superman

      Everything will be ok

      June 16, 2013 at 2:40 am |
    • jayman419

      This is a very violent movie. The body count is easily in the tens of thousands. Superman snaps a dude's neck. If people hear about it in Sunday school and take their family thinking it's going to be a Disney movie, I can easily see a lot of people getting upset about it.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:57 am |
    • pallas_athena

      Exactly..... what is wrong with Warner Bros?! You can't compare Jesus to a fictional character.... that's sick....AND I'm pretty sure most Christians will see it as blasphemous to even try to make that type of association. I will not see this movie now for sure...EVER... even if they were giving away free tickets.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:31 am |
  19. faith

    dodo, where b rectum luver?

    June 16, 2013 at 2:35 am |
  20. faith

    and they don't even no who that black mamba be. u r 2 cute dodo.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:33 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.