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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. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 16, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • RayJacksonMS2

      Yeah every time someone starts praying a body count starts to grow.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • nope

      @gayjackof...
      nope

      June 16, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  2. y5258162

    So how much did Warner Brothers pay to have the be the headlining Saturday story before Father's Day. So much for journalistic integrity.

    And shame on Warner Brother's by attempting to have pastors do what their faith strictly prohibits.

    Also with the way they are pushing this movie. I firmly believe Superman is the Anti-Christ.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  3. Kona

    Hey CNN, Faux News had the same story before you.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  4. cathymessinger

    Movie marketing has reached a new low. Shame on you, movie industry!

    June 16, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  5. donna

    Sounds like an advertisement for the movie.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:49 am |
  6. Sane Person

    Oh brother. Well, at least both stories are equally true.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • Ken

      Except God is real woohoo!

      June 16, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Sane Person

      "god" is just a plagiarized retelling of Horace.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • .

      i think this so called sane person is a horaces ass

      June 16, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • hoosyurdadi

      the . strikes again with it's pointless babble!

      June 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  7. maximusvad

    Very similar stories. Both fantasy.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:37 am |
  8. Tkp353

    Good grief. I think sometimes people read way too much into simple plot lines and scripts. Some similarities, yes, but not enough to commit blasphemy by comparisons.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • Sane Person

      Superman fans wont mind too much, dont worry.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • SixDegrees

      It isn't blasphemous. Get a grip.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:44 am |
  9. Catherine

    Superman -– Powerful loving and cares for humanity = But Ego orientated a bit, Strong, Overly powerful, and not necessarily using more down to earth humble features to save the world...

    Jesus --–Compassionate, Kind loving and cares for humanity, But ridded in on a donkey, Not someone whom is overly strong, Not someone whom flashed his powers around, Atlest not in the ways superman did! and was very very careful and humble when approaching such subjects containing to his divinity.

    Superman ---- Home of unknown origin, Some of kind of External place outside of Earth,,,,However came on a spaceship, Planet was destroyed....Alien

    Jesus--- Home of unknown origin, some kind of Eternal place outside of Earth, Although... Born from a virgin. Angels announced his birth. Had a star on his birth. and born in a manger, The most humble of places.....Certainly no story of a space craft! But an actual physical birth as it says in scripture....

    Superman- wears tights and says IM SUPERMAN HERE TO SAVE THE WORLD!!

    Jesus said-- Who do you say I am?,,,,, and wore rags and simple Jewish clothing!

    Superman believed in saving people physically

    Jesus believed in saving people from there sins, and so he did.... And taught us of the dealings of the deepest issues resounding the soul.

    As you can tell where I am going with this not only is Superman NOT Jesus. But Super Man can not even hold a candle to him, similarities sure, but very small and very few. Unless your someone who has self image and other conscious security issues,, Then ya...Superman is you!

    June 16, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • Utini

      Jesus was a racist and unemployed young Jew who had no magic, had no problem with slavery, hated his family, and drifted from one Roman settlement to another one step ahead of the cops.
      No, Superman was a billion times better because he made no religious pronouncements and respected our laws, unlike most religious idiots who lack any evidence or authority for their beliefs and couldn't form a single group on any subject if their lives depended on it.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • Stephen

      Good points!

      June 16, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  10. Utini

    When I found out Kevin Costner is playing Superman's dad, I knew this is a piece of trash.
    Every movie Costner has ever made has always been pathetic. I expect this one to be no different in that respect.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • You know nothing.

      This much is obvious. Though Kevin Costner isn't the greatest actor ever, The Hatfields and McCoys was really good, Tin Cup was a stellar movie, Bull Durham another classic, and even Dancing With Wolves was great. There are a lot of movies that stars him that do indeed suck!

      June 16, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • Utini

      Nope. All those movies sucked so bad the stench still lingers. You must have extremely poor taste in movies.
      Well that's your problem. If you think he's a good actor you are a pathetically poor judge of talent.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • foundstar

      What?? does Costner owe u money?? or do u owe him?? He may not be the greatest actor on earth but he has done some great work..acting and producing and directing..more than i'm sure we can say for u...Hatred and spite only affect those spewing it...wallow in it buddy..u deserve it.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • Costner TOTALLY SUCKS

      He is one of the worst actors I have ever seen. His producing and directing all SUCK BIG TIME.
      NOTHING he has ever made or starred in was ANY GOOD AT ALL.
      THEY ALL SUCKED AND HE ALWAYS SUCKS.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  11. n00b

    If I were superman, i would fight Satan and the evil governments he controls, which is the whole world.
    but that won't happen because like the Lord have said that we need the tares to grow with the good seed unless your uproot the good seed by accident. After the final test, Satan and his evil world are no more 😀

    June 16, 2013 at 6:30 am |
  12. Justin

    how about your cover story actually focuses on some real journalism CNN? You have SOOO much potential to influence and do some real good, but whomever or whatever calls your shots obviously has no interest in this. Gross, just gross.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      This is a belief blog. If you do not wish to read about 'belief' and want other news, try going to another section.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:47 am |
  13. Colin

    Want to see some REAL analogies with the Jesus story. Try the stories of Appolonius of Tyana, Horus or Mythras, all of which predated Jesus.

    Appolonius of Tyana.

    Before he was born, his mother was visited by an angel who told her that her son would be divine. His birth was accompanied by miraculous signs and as a child he was religiously precocious. As an adult, he left home to be an itinerant preacher, teaching the good news that people should live for what is spiritual, not the material things of this world. He gathered disciples and performed miracles. He raised the ire of those in power who had him brought up before the Roman authorities. His followers saw him after he died and he ascended into heaven. – Bart Erhman

    Horus

    Before Jesus, Horus was a mythological figure from Egypt who was said to be born on December 25 to a virgin. A star in the East heralded his arrival and three kings came to worship the baby. At age 12, Horus was a prodigal child teacher and at age 30 he was baptized and began his ministry. He had 12 disciples, travelled about performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water and was known by terms such as “the good shepherd.” After he died, he was buried, but three days later he rose from the dead.

    Mythras.

    Similarly, two centuries before the appearance of Jesus, the myth of Mithras held that Mithras was the son of the sun sent to save mankind. He was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25, and his birth was attended by shepherds. Mithras sacrificed himself and, on the last day of his life, had supper with twelve of his followers. At that supper, Mithras invited his followers to eat his body and drink his blood. He was buried in a tomb and after three days he rose again. The cult of Mithraism, which evolved out of the earlier Persian religion of Zoroastrism, was popular in Rome at the same time that Christianity was spreading.

    Unfortunatley, there is good reason to think that many of the stories about Jesus are a collage of existing Mediterranean mythology. This is not surprising, given that the frist Gospel, Mark, was not written until 40 years after Jesus' death and that stories about hiw swirled about the superst.itious Greco-Roman Mediterranean for all this time before being captured in writing.

    Indeed, it would be very, very unlikely, to the point of impossibility, for stories about him NOT to grow over time and be influenced by the prevailing mythogy.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • mb2010a

      I have been saying this for years and apparently I am not alone. Everything you have said is historically true. Even the ten commandments were written by other religions long before god supposedly cast them in stone for Moses. Religions are such a waste of time...

      June 16, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Richard the Lionheart

      Satan has many lies. And these are a few of them.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • Colin

      Richard – if you simply characterize every fact that is inconsistent with your faith as a "lie from Satan," how do you ever subject for views to scrutiny?

      June 16, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • marsally

      So what is the true story about Jesus? How do we sort all of that out? How has Judaism and Christianity managed to endure for so long given that much of what is central to their faith is mythological or legend? It is a bit of a mystery to me, I must say.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • marsally

      Right, Colin, I agree. One of Christianity's bigger problems is that most Christians won't engage in true dialogue, not even among themselves. Richard is the norm in my experience.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Colin

      Marsally, do you accept that Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism and astrology are based largely on myths? They have all survived just as long or longer.

      Truth is not at all relevant to religion, people do not arrive at their religious beliefs based on facts, but on a deep desire to believe, and the only thing in history that has ever been shown to reduce religious beliefs is education.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • devin

      And if you would have taken the time to verify the validity of these claims, you would have realized the majority of them are simply false.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      @ Marsally

      The answer to that is Emperor Constantine....Christianity would have died out if not for a Roman Emperor...because he was to consolidate various factions within the fracturing empire.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  14. Science

    No divine designer needed.

    Video animation: RNA interference

    http://www.nature.com/nrg/multimedia/rnai/animation/index.html

    June 16, 2013 at 6:17 am |
  15. mique

    Cheap shot at ticket sales.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:14 am |
  16. hoosyurdadi

    A Messiah story is a common theme. It predates Christianity as it is. The chosen one or the one predicted in a prophecy are themes in about every culture...

    June 16, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • hoosyurdadi

      I don't recall jesus killing his enemy in the end though

      June 16, 2013 at 6:16 am |
  17. Davin

    It seems fitting to relate this movie to religion since they are both fiction.

    June 16, 2013 at 6:10 am |
  18. Bravo15

    Shouldn't be any conflict with this , "Pastors" are simply Thespians playing the daily role of clergy. These Theological Thespians have gone unappreciated by Hollywood far to long.

    June 16, 2013 at 5:56 am |
  19. Not A Bloomberg Fan

    No, it's more like the story of Moses.

    June 16, 2013 at 5:44 am |
    • eh

      Except they avoid the slavery angle and all the other stuff. If Superman was Moses, he'd take us all to a different planet away from our oppressors, but they never include mention of them because free speech ends where the money begins.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:56 am |
    • mb2010a

      Actually, it sounds more like the Book of Mormon, The Book of Abraham and its planet Kolob....nonsense.

      June 16, 2013 at 6:54 am |
  20. Mandor

    Oh just come on now. I'm an atheist granted, but i've lived 43 years surrounded by a culture that is majority Christian and I have never seen a single parallel between Superman and Jesus. You could make a better case for Frodo and Jesus.

    Last I checked, Jesus was not about physically subduing bad guys or using laser beam eyes to melt steel.

    June 16, 2013 at 5:27 am |
    • eh

      It is the more basic imagery that appeals to us on a more primitive level that makes the biggest impact.
      Superman is a father-figure, just like Santa. It is geared towards children and the childish emotional needs we retain as adults.
      A president, a king, any parent-type figure can be used to mess with our heads.
      We want someone to save us from our problems because most of us are powerless against our problems and enjoy thinking of things that can solve our problems as we also like to identify with the problem-solving father-figure.
      Psychology is such a sordid mess. You view any multimedia at your own risk. Brainwashing can be easy to do.

      June 16, 2013 at 5:47 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.