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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. Dane

    Oh enough with this BS. they said the same thing when the last superman film was released

    June 16, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  2. N&W 1000

    Superman loves me this I know
    For Hollywood tells me so
    Little ones to him below
    They are weak but he is strong

    June 16, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  3. Trollsalot

    JESUS is our god. superman is a story written by a human. GEORGE REEVE thought he was god but commiTed suicide

    June 16, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Charles L.

      Jesus is a story as well.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • ElvisKnucklehead

      Except there is exactly as much evidence for jesus as there is for Superman.
      That being none besides words in books.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Berserk

      well written story.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Mikeyboy

      He was actually a Jewish kid who was supposedly (seriously now folks) the son of god, who itself is as real as superman so where does that leave you ?? This is not the dark ages anymore, get real.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • grumpster

      Jesus isn't god, he's the son of god....so you show your ignorance right there. Second, Jesus was likely a real person, but no more powerful than the next guy, and certainly not with the wisdom enough to become ant food. The rest, bible and all, is pure fiction, just like Superman, but written by 100% men who had no scientific knowledge who could tell tall tales well enough to control the masses like you.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  4. Dave Harris

    if the holy men are willing to promote Republicans, they'll surely work for a movie studio. You just have to slip a little something onto the collection plate.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • M

      True!

      June 16, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  5. Charles L.

    Superman died by Kryptonite for our sins. PRAISE BE SUPERMAN~!

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

    This has really gotten out of hand (as Usual) for a CNN nonsense story....nobody alive today ever heard that Jesus was nothing more than just your average rabbi or preacher that went around doing good for his fellow man. Anything more or less is nonsense, palaver, and fodder for stupid Hollywood movie bait!

    June 16, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  7. Brenda

    And now they ruined Superman...

    June 16, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Charles L.

      Sas but true.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Berserk

      Surely JESUS wouldn't like to see an 's' on his chest.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • mjbrin

      true, true

      June 16, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  8. Austin

    i am going through this again...
    all of the dreams I had, that I discern were visioins, were because I was having dreams that were LEADING what my reality and awake life was about to actually present to me. Did I know when i wrote them down, or expect, for these dreams to be doing such a thing? there were a few where I knew that I could expect something. and they did hit .

    two nights in a row, and a little space between the third dream,

    #1I dreamt about the tile patio , a huge and beautiful rock tile with wide grout and a beautiful pattern and color, ater i had entered a stone arch entrance. There was an arm reaching into a whole, a whole chizzeled out of the ground. and the arm pulled out a leather bag full of gems. wrote these down in the middle or the night half asleep. The next day....I kept reading my bible.......

    Jeremiah 43:8-13
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    8 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, 9 “Take some large stones in your [a]hands and hide them in the mortar in the brick terrace which is at the entrance of Pharaoh’s [c]palace in Tahpanhes, in the sight of [d]some of the J.ews; 10 and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold, I am going to send and get Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and I am going to set his throne right over these stones that I have hidden; and he will spread his canopy over them.

    #2 the next night I dreamed that i was being attacked by a motorcycle gang and that the leader of the gang had a huge animal horn, att.atched to his seat. he could not even sit on his bike. he was trying to run me over. they were a rebel gang.
    the next day, i had finished reading Jeremiah and gotten into Lament.ations

    ◄ Lament.ations 2:3 ►

    New International Version (©2011)
    In fierce anger he has cut off every horn of Israel. He has withdrawn his right hand at the approach of the enemy. He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire that consumes everything around it.
    ◄ Lament.ations 2:17 ►

    New International Version (©2011)
    The LORD has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago. He has overthrown you without pity, he has let the enemy gloat over you, he has exalted the horn of your foes.

    I DID NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH AND THE STONES, AND I HAD NO RECOLLECTION OF LAMENTA.TIONS. i COULD NOT HAVE TOLD YOU WHAT ONE MAIN POINT WAS OTHER THAN I KNEW JEREMIAH WAS A PROPHET.

    #3 a few days later I had a dream that there was a huge pile of feathers underneath a bed. that day, I was reading in the book of daniel, ◄ Daniel 4:33 ►

    New International Version (©2011)
    Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

    the kid who i had the dream about, got into trouble that day, which i had suspected the feather was a sign that he would be humiliated. he had his work pass suspended which was a major blow.

    #4 dreamed I was poisoned by mercury in alcohol. the next dream, didnt have a single dream for two weeks, this next dream I had just let two snakes out of a cage. one was a viper, the other was a rattler. but I had not thought even thought the word viper for a long time. when i woke up, i said to the kid next to me................."something is going to happen today, this one is a sign" i knew the snakes were a sign..

    two hours later i went down to bible study, the leader, on the second passage, said turn to proverbs 23:32

    29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaints?
    Who has needless bruises? Who has blo.odshot eyes?
    30 Those who linger over wine,
    who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
    31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup,
    when it goes down smoothly!
    32 In the end it bites like a snake
    and poisons like a viper.

    #5 Dreamed i was in a wh.ore house and I flooded it because i turned on a water spitot upstairs and just let it go and left it on. I had been praying about lust. I didnt catch this dream, until a few week later i did a study on water. I had no clue about this dream. i seemed like a random joke. but i got kicked out for letting the water run and flood.

    15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. 20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man's wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? 21 For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths. 22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast.

    # 6 dreamed i was touring a house and went out back and there was an ABOVE ground pool with an flush deck and a privacy fence right around the deck.

    two days later the kid sleeping next to me pulled out a piece of paper , sheldon clay was his name, and he showed me his blue print he drew, of a new house, with an above ground swimming pool , with a flush deck around the pool, and a privacy fence on the deck.

    #7 this kid on night threw a roll a tp and racked me. I was furious and said to myself, I wonder if he has the light in his eye. and then i rebuked my judgment of his spiritual condition. THE NEXT MORNING he woke up and came up to me and said, "i had a dream last night that i was going around to see who had a special light in their eye to see if they were possessed or not"
    this kid was not a bible verse type of guy.

    #8 had a dream that the kid who was ripping on me lost his money
    a month later i over heard him talking about how he lost his money, and i said watch this, and pulled out the dream i had that he had lost it.

    #9 the cat dream. I had a cat at my house, that night i dreamed that a demonic voice sang to me which inverted my body and then presented the same cat, covered in blood.

    I woke up and the cat was dead in the highway, 550 feet from my house.

    #10 I had a dream i was inside the st. louis arch and I was in there with my cousin, and she was pointing at a glass case , with a bust of someone. she said "look, its thomas Jefferson" and the place was very nice. very expensive and ritzy.

    I had no idea what the st. louis arch was about. but what i had been doing, was getting heavily into the rumors about masons, and this dream just came to me. and when I googled this and I started trembling . this is called "a word of knowledge" which is a type of spiritual gift.

    There have been numerous other ones that I believe were spiritual words of knowledge that i wont get in to .

    None of this stuff, is me trying to fit things together. everything i dreamed, and then experienced in real life as i have stated. Some of these, are totally obvious. others, I have complete faith that they were also spiritual revelations, because I know %100 that some were, so I can have faith that others probably were too. and 8 of the first ten there, all happened in jail.

    This is organized, and relevant information that is a dream, relating to reality that i was about to live.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • midwest rail

      Fascinating, I'm sure – proof of nothing.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Charles L.

      Have you thought about seeing a shrink? Sounds like you need some meds.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • One one

      I'm sorry, I fell asleep while reading your post. Would you please re-type it ?

      June 16, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  9. One one

    As far as religious themes in movies go, I prefer The Wizard of Oz.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • a reasonable atheist

      Agreed. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

      June 16, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  10. McBob79

    How rich! Hollywood catering to Christians. Money is powerful indeed... they'll even take it from those they despise.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • M

      Funny, that's what republicans do with the religious right.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • mjbrin

      i was wondering though, what happened to all the jews who owned a lot of hollywood?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  11. Charles L.

    Superman is just Superman, not Christ. Its bad enough the bible and Jesus is fiction that people believe, we don't need this mashup of Fictions now. Leave Superman alone and stop making compairisons.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • jesse

      I was thinking the same thing.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  12. 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 8:30 am |
    • M

      This is interesting...

      June 16, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • rlinc

      Please not that Colin is talking out of his ass – or he has bought this parallelism nonsense from someone else without thinking for himself. There are minor parallels between these three and the Jesus story – about as significant as any ancient story. What little we know about these three is nothing like what is portrayed by Colin. Don't take my word for it – and for sure not his – look them up on Wikipedia for some unbiased information.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  13. Roddy Hovey

    Superman is a much better god than Jesus ever was. But it's sad when Hollywood tries to pander to the ignorant.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • M

      Why, that's what Fox News does all the time, and see how well it works for them.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Mark

      Psssssst. Superman is a comic book character, get out of your basement.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • One one

      @mark, Psssst, so is Jesus.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Mark

      Nice try. Read Josephus's accounts. Try education first.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  14. Bleh

    Hail Satan!

    June 16, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Mark

      You'll get your chance someday, enjoy the heat.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Charles L.

      I would sooner believe in Superman before I believe in Jesus. HAIL LEX LUTHOR!

      June 16, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Mark

      And sooner you will perish. Sorry, your choice.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  15. froSTed

    It's the same basic story that has been around for over 3300 years, this is just the latest retelling. Horace, Mytheria, Dionisis, Krishna, Jesus, and now Superman. The huge difference is that this time it is well known that Superman is fictional, but give it 1000 years and Superman may pass into legend, belief, religion and worship. People of that time maybe convinced that there was a man who walked the Earth named Clark Kent. All the same elements are there. The trinity (3 names for one deity, Clark, Kal-El, Superman) wanting to do good with his power, a gap in his bio around his teen years, idealism, betrayal by a friend (Lex), and so on. It's a good story, usually.
    The new movie, however is decidedly dark, poorly written with a casual disregard for the message of the actual story. Hope is NOT murdering your enemies in front of children then kissing the girl. That's the worst lesson ever. What the filmmakers failed to see is that the story hinges on 2 aspects: 1. Superman is the good guy and NEVER kills his enemy, he ALWAYS finds a better way, thus giving us hope for peace, THIS IS NOT CAMPY, IT'S THE OVERALL MESSAGE! 2. The dynamic, as absurd as it seems, of the love triangle between Superman/Lois/Clark is paramount to the story, if there is no tension there, you lose the heart of the story.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  16. Jajajaja

    Nothing and no one can ever be compared to Jesus Christ, our King, Lord, and Savior. For He alone is worthy.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      He can and is being compared all the time. You are in denial.
      He can most directly be compared to the previous stories of gods that your jesus character was taken from.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • M

      A recitation, but not an original thought.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • saggyroy

      2000 years from now they won't be able to tell Superman from myth. Just like Jesus.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • S12

      GOKU!

      June 16, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  17. John Deatherage

    Article is a paid placement to promote a film. CNN how far you have fallen.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      they do whatever their billionaire owners want:

      billionaire fears poor finally getting fed up with the current game and revolting...orders CNN to focus on gun violence to get the public to disarm themselves.

      billionaire has a massive amount of stock in the Defense Industry – Orders CNN to focus on that war zone and get us involved.

      Keep us stirred up so we don't focus on them.....

      June 18, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  18. scrogs22us

    I wouldn't go to a church that actually uses this series, it is a money making attempt. If a pastor can't preach on his own without stuff like this, he shouldn't be a pastor

    June 16, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • NoOneLikeJesus

      I agree. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that a pastor can preach. That's the only One he/she needs to be able to preach.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  19. mjbrin

    funny how they are attempting to compare superman to jesus. when i do that it actually proves that jesus was an alien rather than a son of a god.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  20. Brian Hartman

    Maybe I'm confused, but does Superman die in "Man of Steel"? To be a Jesus figure, wouldn't he have to die first?

    June 16, 2013 at 8:22 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.