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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. Mike S

    Typical of Jewish controlled CNN, to equate superman with Jesus, CNN and FOX

    June 16, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      It's not CNN doing this, it is the churches. CNN is only reporting the story!

      June 16, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  2. Hampi

    Nobody allowed to the shoes!!! of Jesus! in all human history!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • snowboarder

      what in the world does that even mean?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      What????

      June 16, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  3. mac t

    There are more historical records of the existance of Jesus than any other person in history. You guys dont doubt that Julius Caesar was real , you simply accept it as fact. If you ignore the factual evidence of Jesus existence then you guys are the ones with blinders on.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • snowboarder

      that is a complete untruth. a blatant lie.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Mac
      It is possible, even probable that Jesus existed...there is not enough evidence indicating that "There are more historical records of the existance of Jesus than any other person in history"...that is just a lie and quite ignorant.

      Whether or not Jesus existed is moot. The question is more of the claims that he was somehow magical, that he was a god. There is NOTHING to indicate that that is true. The character Jesus as described in the bible, is nothing more than retellings of older stories. SO who cares if he existed or not, The claims of what he was is what there is no proof of, regardless if the man existed or not.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      mac: Point to this so-called historical proof and try not to use the buybull.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • One one

      Do you mean like the gospels ? Two of the four gospels don't even mention that Jesus was born of a virgin. That seems like an important detail for the "historical records" to be inconsistent about. The gospels also don't agree on Jesus final words on the cross. Your records are not reliable.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      i'm sorry, did julius ceasar perform miracles with his super powers ? did he claim to be the son of god, like some greek demigod ?

      please tell us in which other 'historically accurate' nonfiction work do humans get super powers ?

      ..but we're the ones out of touch, eh ?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Dan

      Amen, my friend!

      June 16, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • noone

      What people need to realize about "history" is that, just because some people a long time ago said something happened, doesn't necessarily mean it really happened or happened the way they claim. The way I see it, historical events have a probability of actually having happened. The probability that an event actually happened increases the more records we have (from different sources) that agree on the details of the event. The probability an event actually happened also increases as hard evidence (i.e. archeological artifacts) is found to support the records. Let's say i have a bunch of old writings that claim a great battle occurred at a certain location. So, I gather up some archeologists and we go to that location and start digging for evidence. Now, if a great battle did indeed occur at this location, i could expect to find all sorts of evidence. There should be weapons and bodies and the like. If none of this is found, i can conclude that the probability of this battle having occurred at this location is extremely low and most likely didn't happen. But all my old writings tell me with certainty that a battle occurred here, which leaves only two possibilities. Either the battle actually occurred somewhere else and the writers got it wrong or there never was any battle. In the case of Jesus, there really has not been any hard evidence of his existence uncovered. We simply have the gospels and maybe four contemporary (Tacitus, Pliny the younger, Josephus, and The Talmud) non-Christian writings which briefly mention (someone who may be) Jesus. Personally, I think there's a pretty high probability (but not a certainty) that Jesus, the man, was real. As for all the claims of his divinity, there is simply no evidence to support that.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  4. Thomas

    It works both ways people. I see a lot of people here making an anti-religion point in the name of separation of church and state, but failing to address Freedom of Religion. There's a reason we have both. We also have a justice system to deal with extremists who use murder in the name of religion. And just because a prayer is said in public by no means does that force a non-believers hand to believe. Trying to somehow make a connection between public prayer somehow going against the separation of church and state is absurd beyond comprehension. Period.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • midwest rail

      Well, since you said "Period", I'm sure you're right.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Prayer used in the public square violates the rights of all others who do not share the same imaginary friend as the christards do. It is not only non-believers who see how wrong it is. And it's freedom of and from religion!

      June 16, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Thomas
      Take some courses in const!tutional law and get back to us so you don't sound so completely ignorant of the subject you are trying to address. There is so much wrong with your statement it can only mean you do not have the slightest grasp of the concepts.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      i would like to see us get to the point of not just respecting someone's point of view in life simply because they have one, and instead respecting it for what it actually is.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Thomas

      ^^ That works both ways. But there's an awful lot of anti-religion hatred going on in these comments. It's always the non-believers that seem so insistant in making their views known in a sarcastic manner to those who believe when it comes to religious discussions.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  5. StormCat42

    While I was still waffling on whether or not I would go see this movie, the fact that they're touting it as a X-tian movie, has made the decision for me... I'm not seeing it... I go to movies to be entertained, not proselytized to...

    June 16, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Dan

      They're sure going to miss your $8 bucks!

      June 16, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  6. Hampi

    Nobody allowed to the shoes of Jesus in all human history!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  7. Tom Bowers

    Ok, Superman is a fictional character that men created. SO is Jesus.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  8. JD

    Hollywood will use any angle to sell people on a movie.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  9. tomfoolery

    I expect an earthquake of magnitude 14 on the 10 point Richter Scale to swallow up this Soddom and Gemorrah world any day now. We have for quite a few years now been living the high life on borrowed time. Things will end soon...Many signs have come down to roost upon us lately and they are only the beginning. We are living in a virtual hell on earth at this time!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • midwest rail

      Posting this again only reinforces the fact that it is nonsense.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • snowboarder

      thankfully we have opportunists like tom here to "interpret" natural events for "signs". they are the easiest loons to spot.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • noone

      I got a sign for you right here between my index and ring finger 😉

      June 16, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  10. Jon El

    “(Jerry) Siegel seems to have touched upon a mythic theme of universal significance. Superman recalled Moses, set adrift to become his people’s savior, and also Jesus, sent from above to redeem the world. There are parallel stories in many cultures, what was significant is that Siegel, working in the generally patronized medium of comics, had created a secular American messiah. Nothing of the kind was consciously on his mind, apparently; his explanation for dropping Superman from the sky was that ‘it just happened that way’ and (Joe) Shuster echoed him: ‘ We just thought it was a good idea’.”

    Taken from “Superman, the Complete History” by Les Daniels

    June 16, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  11. RixRR

    I always thought it was more like Moses' story... kid set adrift in a rocket/basket, adopted by an "alien" family, achieves great things with supernatural powers.

    Siegel and Shuster, after all, were Jewish... 🙂

    June 16, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  12. caesaro

    Please don't tell me Superman is a republican conservative adulterer bible freak promoting women as second class citizens, wars, anti abortion campaigns, hate against gays and more taxes for the middle class to help the rich?

    June 16, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Eriador

      He is already on his way, Clearly hiding his assets in overseas Arctic hideouts. Freakin tax dodger.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • DavidV

      No that was Forest Gump.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • tfaust651

      Please don't tell me your not generalizing, hating and discriminating... Liberals don't do that do they? They love and accept everyone, except conservatives..... ironic.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      tfaust651: I don't see liberals trying to deny equal rights to all based on a 2000 year old out-dated book that can be debunked over and over again.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • tfaust651

      So are you justifying yourself? or dodging the accusation?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  13. tomfoolery

    I expect an earthquake of magnitude 14 on the 10 point Richter Scale to swallow up this Soddom and Gemorrah world any day now. We have for quite a few years now been living the high life on borrowed time. Things will end soon...Many signs have some down to roost upon us lately and they are only the beginning. We are living in a virtual hell on earth at this time!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • snowboarder

      that is just plain loony.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Eriador

      Well even the greatness of Rome was followed by the Dark ages. Did God do that too?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • One one

      Have you ever thought about seeing a doctor ?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • caesaro

      It's obvious that you were brainwashed with fear.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      tom: Not understanding what is happening only means that you need to go back to public school, it does not mean the end is near.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  14. Eriador

    I just watched the movie and I can say honestly that I did not think of Jesus one time. Now if Jesus could fly, knock down buildings and shoot fire out of his eyes then I might change my mind. What a more kick ass Jesus that would be. I bet the church wished they made that up.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • One one

      He can walk on water, turn water into wine, cast out demons, raise the dead, heal the sick, and raise himself from the dead. I'm sure if he wanted to shoot fire from his eyes he could manage.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Vic

      Revelation 1:14
      "14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire."

      Revelation 2:18
      "18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

      The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:"

      Revelation 19:12
      "12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself."

      All Scripture Is From:

      New American Standard Bible (NASB)

      Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

      http://www.biblegateway.com/

      June 16, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  15. DD

    By the way, the concepts of "faith, sacrifice & service" applies to every human being, not just Christians, not just religions.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      faith=belief without evidence....so for a great many of us it doesn't apply...some of us happen to care that what we believe is evidence based.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  16. nelson4truth

    This conversation is stupid because Jesus is REAL AND SUPERMAN IS NOT. JESUS IS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF THE ONLY TRUE AND LIVING GOD WHO CREATED THE HEAVENS THE EARTH AND THE SEAS AND ALL THE THINGS IN THEM. Jesus is TRUTH. He is so powerful whatever He says, happens. That's right antheist and agnostics, The universe, earth and mankind and everythuing was created by the spoken Word of God from nothing. Glory to God in Jesus name.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • One one

      Who created god ?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Eriador

      You would have a better chance of convincing me of Superman

      June 16, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • snowboarder

      @nelson, or so the story goes, though there is no legitimate reason to believe it to be true.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Poe

      June 16, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • caesaro

      Jesus is real?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • P. Epper PhD

      You should definitely precede all this non-sense with "I believe" to sound less crazy. Just because you believe something doesn't make it real.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Proud Atheist

      Sure, sure. Light, water, Earth, and vegetation before stars, whales and birds before land animals, man created from dirt and woman created from man's rib, man created last in the first chapter of Genesis but first in the second chapter, and the list of fallacy goes on and on. If you truly believe that the Babble provides the truth behind the universe and all life on Earth, then you truly lack a proper education of science.

      BTW, there's NO evidence whatsoever that Jesus existed. Moreover, there's ZERO evidence that He was God's son, arose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven. In a time of knowledge, I cannot believe that so many intelligent human beings can believe in these nonsensical fairytales. You believe that Jesus is 100% real, existed, and was God's son??? Provide the evidence and receive your Nobel Prize.

      God = Santa Clause for adults. The only problem is that, unlike children, no one ever tells adults that God doesn't exist the same way that children tell other children that Santa Clause doesn't exist.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      What is an 'antheist'?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • noone

      And your empirical evidence for all this is what?

      June 16, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  17. joe

    Well of course there are strong parallels. They are both fictional characters

    June 16, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  18. John

    Superman is Jesus. Ok.

    So what is Kryptonite? A Jesus juice from Heaven that can be used to kill Jesus?

    Is that what was used to crucify Jesus? Kryptonite?

    June 16, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • One one

      What is kryptonite ? The bible of course. For many people, critically reading the bible results in Jesus disappearance.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • tfaust651

      Jesus gave his life up, it wasn't taken from him...

      June 16, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  19. David Keeber

    While I can see the parallels, I guess I am frustrated with the fact that "faith (in humanity), sacrifice and service" are construed as based on religion. These can be qualities that we teach regardless of one faith practice, or even lack thereof. It is a great story and inspiring, but it need not be considered religious, in my view.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  20. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Studio SELL:
    SOCIAL DEPRAVITY

    Perhaps WE should have a SOCIAL POLLUTION TAX

    June 16, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • midwest rail

      Won't happen – too many televangelists would cry persecution.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:54 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.