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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. CM

    So Hollywood is appealing to the largest base of people in the US to ensure success? Sounds familiar... Republicans! *cough*

    June 16, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  2. David Riker

    What utter horsesht. A very good reason why I am not a Christian much less a believer in god. A cynical PR campaign to sell their slop to a weak minded and gullible public. May they fail!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  3. evan

    What a sales job there...."It's the Christian duty to plunk down your $10 + $20 in snacks to go so a rehashed version of Superman. And take your non-Christian convert candidates because it's your duty to tell them the story of Superman at $30 a pop." I feel sick..

    June 16, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • ar

      Never mind all the major ideological NON-parallels between the two story lines.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  4. John Smith

    Just saying: all the people who say religion is detrimental, look what happened when stalin and hitler had their way.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Look at the Netherlands too.

      BTW The Hitler Stalin thing is a strawman argument and debunked.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • John Smith

      It's simple: Stalin:3 million, Atheist
      Hitler: Several million more, and what do you know, Atheist

      June 16, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Brian

      The Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch hunts, Jihad. Just saying...

      June 16, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      JS

      Your ignorance is showing.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • John Smith

      Just saying, not to make it right, but thousands died from those, while millions died from what I mentioned earlier.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Brian

      Are you joking? How many millions of people have been killed in the name of some god? Religion is a poison.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • John Smith

      By that standard so is atheism

      June 16, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Doobs

      @ John Smith

      "Gott Mit Uns"

      June 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  5. a dose of reality

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Jenny

      Oh, that was GOOD!
      I'm really spinning on how CNN weaseled religion into its top story on Father's Day 😦

      June 16, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • crossbreed

      You wasted all that space and air to say absolutely nothing..

      June 16, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Steven H.

      You're so smart 'a dose of reality'...

      June 16, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Ethan

      great post!

      June 16, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • hotsauce

      What a sad angry little man/woman you are. Live and let live my friend, stop worrying what other people believe.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • GetReal

      Either you keep this on a memory stick or you practice it in the mirror everyday. The same post come from you.....regarding each and every mention of the name of Jesus!

      June 16, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • ed

      What a pitiful, meaningless little life you live.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I think you upset them.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Jon

      Concerning 1, here's a brief bible study for Christians:
      How many of each species does it say Noah took on the Ark? Not two of each; that applied only to unclean beasts.
      Where did the ark come to rest? Not on Mt Ararat. On the mountians of Ararat, which likely means "mountains of God".
      How many sons of God does the bible name? "Only begotten son" does not mean the only one he's got. Read the last verse in Luke 3.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Doobs

      You know you've hit a nerve when they start with the "You're so angry." crap.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  6. SharingHIM

    Please don't even try to make a comparison from the past life of superman to what Christ has done for us! It just don't mix!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • a dose of reality

      Please provide proof that Christ existed at all.......we're waiting

      June 16, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • sybaris

      This Christ fellow sacrificed nothing. All it did was rent a shell of flesh for 33 years then poofed back to its "kingdom".

      Some sacrifice. (roll eyes)

      June 16, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  7. crossbreed

    Hollywoods movies suck so bad that they have to BEG people to watch them..

    June 16, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Donnie the Lion

      And yet....record domestic movie ticket sales in 2012! Who would have thought it? Guess that begging is paying off.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  8. fr114

    if you use the term "story" as being totally made up by man, then superman story is no different than jesus story. totally made up

    June 16, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Kebos

      Of course, the one big difference though is that at least the Superman story has the honesty to say it's fictional.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Steven H.

      And you base that on?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Sane Person

      Evidence, observation, experiment, fact and.. reality.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Bob S.

      Sorry but the only thing in common is the fact that they came from somewhere else (Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh). One is some man-made comic book hero. Jesus is the king of kings and lord of Lords. He will speak and all the dead who have ever lived will rise. He will judge all men. He paid the price for the sin of men, and conquered death. There are no dead atheists, all those who pass from this life to the next know the truth. If you wait until then, it's too late.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Sane Person

      Oh poor bob. Yes, the unprovable threat works best. "After you're dead, you'll see!" A wonderfully safe thing to say, since, after death, you're gone. There is no one coming back to verify that. You can believe whatever nonsense you want, the rest of us will rest comfortably in reality.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Kebos

      @Bob S. – All the dead will rise? Good, I would like to see my grandfather again. He was a good man. Will he come back just as he appeared before he died? If so, not good because he was in awful pain and had lost an incredible amount of weight due to the cancer eating away at him. Or will he come back as a 20-something? If so, he was a good looking guy then. I hope he didn't get his message crossed while in "heaven" and come back with 72 virgins in tow. My grandmother will not be pleased.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Kebos

      Thank you, Sane Person. The world needs more of your type. Which we'll get, in time. Slowly but surely.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Jon

      But Bob, the prophecy of a messiah did not say the Word of God would come into flesh, it said that God himself would. Also, it said he would lie dead for three days, not all of one and part of two others. And that would have to be God days. So if someone really did die for your sins, you still have to wait another 1020 years for his resurrection.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Jon

      Actually, Kebos, we'll probably never be rid of religion. When civilization collapses, the con artists will say it was because the masses forsook god. And the gullible will give their treasures (i,e, food, clothing, and trinkets) to them in hopes of bringing back Eden.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Bob S.

      God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. Believe and you will see, instead of trying to see and then believe. God will reveal himself to those who seek Him.

      June 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  9. thegadfly

    One myth is as good as another. Do you suppose, a few generations hence, that there will be those who think Superman was a real person, and that perhaps there will be churches where you can go to worship him? Oh, that's right. There already are. There are people today who believe he's real (and angels, zombies, and vampires), and they go to worship in these churches called "movie theaters".

    June 16, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  10. Dham

    Waking up to this headline on frontpage makes me ill..... truly.
    Ya know why Man of Steel and Jesus are the same story?
    They are both FAKE

    June 16, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Steven H.

      And you base the falsehood on...?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Dham

      @SteveH I base it on the fact that religion can offer no proof as to the existence of a god.
      Just like a fictional story cannot offer proof of the existence of superman.
      Religion was invented ( all religions, mind you) when we as a species had no way to explain the world around us through science (meaning being able to test and verify how and why things happen in nature)
      So a question like " what is that thing in the sky that wasn't there yesterday with a tail on it" would be answered with something like " it is a sign from god that we are going to have a good/bad year". When in fact it was a comet which we know has been circling our solar system since the beginning. We can even now predict when it will come back around. Try doing that around the time of jesus.
      Or how about why crops grow, " it is a gift from god". Nope, it is the energy from Sun combined with the nutrients in soil and water that produce a photosynthesis effect which acts like food for plants and allows them to grow.
      I could go on and on and on....

      Bottom line : Religion is the longest running work of fiction on this planet. It was invented as a way for early humans to explain the forces at work in the world around them before the notion of science ever entered their mind.
      Provide proof of your claims about god and I will gladly listen. Tell me that god and the world around us is the proof and I will point you to science, the universe, the inner workings of the human body and all of the proof that studying those has given us in the past few hundred years.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    My father, a Southern Baptist deacon, would not allow me to see "The Wizard of Oz," reasoning that it might damage my faith in God. He told me that it was not a good film. Viewing it after reaching my majority, I understood his mentation.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Kebos

      "Mentation" .... Is that a combination of the words "Mentaility" and "Retardation"?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Yes he intended to keep you blind and gullible...the two big requirements for believing in that imaginary friend of yours.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Steven H.

      And you base the friend being imaginary on...?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • sybaris

      More evidence that religion is a perverted disease of the mind

      June 16, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Wayne

      Kebos – Mentation is a real word. It's not Joey'sfault that you don't know it.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Kebos

      @Wayne – Right you are. My apologies. I just learnt a new word. :^)

      June 16, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Cacheese

      Let's keep it civil. There is really no reason to be offensive – from either perspective.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  12. helpmemakemoney

    CHRIST is MUCH MUCH more than a superhero!!!!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Christ is imaginary! No evidence outside of the buybull to support it. Children and the gullible have imaginary friends...time for you to grow up.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • crossbreed

      Part two will be named "The Passion Of The Superman "

      June 16, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Steven H.

      and what do you base that on Truth Prevails?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Sane Person

      Hes also an international product placement expert. Great lobbyist, and supreme fund raiser. That guy can fleece sheeple of thier cash better than Bernie Madoff, sell crap better than Sam Walton and spin nonsense better than Karl Rove.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Brian

      Steve H, you have all the insight of Eliza. They are all based on a complete absence of evidence that your god exists.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  13. cnn is a joke

    Wow, what a news story. What a joke! Promoting a movie. A news site? What a pathetic joke this has become.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You are reading a belief blog, not a regular news blog.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  14. Kebos

    A fictional man able to fly. Yeah, sounds about right.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  15. Calvin Hobbes

    Just thought I'd say that the book Superman and Philosophy: What Would The Man of Steele Do? gives a facinating account of the Christian/Supes connection (as well as a lot of other things).

    The word "Clark" is an Old English name meaning "cleric" or "priest" . " Kent" is derived from the Hebrew word ""kana" which, ints k-n-t from, appear in the bible, meaning " I have found a son".

    Regarding Kal-El, "El" is the Hebrew word meaning "of God" etc

    June 16, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • smallville sense

      being a superman fan I have known for some time the connection that Kal El had to the Jewish faith; supes first tag line was "The man of tomorrow" it was not until "Steel Sterling" went under that supes coined "Man of Steel"; for all those NOT in the know, there has ALWAYS been the bible connection. I mean really think about it, from up above someone sends their only son to earth... I just hope in the next movie they go with the Kal El and Diana storyline from the graphic novel "Kingdom Come"... ha, there is another reference

      June 16, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  16. HenryMiller

    I guess it's appropriate–two works of myth and fantasy, neither of which having any bearing on reality.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Tom

      I was going to say (type) the same thing, but you beat me to it.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Steven H.

      And what do you base that on HenryMiller?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  17. WW_Dagger

    Yet, ANOTHER news story that ISN'T news reported by CNN like a shiny object to distract the attention of mouth breathing Americans everywhere. Meanwhile, Obamagate continues to grow...

    June 16, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Sane Person

      Its a blog. An opinion piece. They have them every Sunday. The other 200 links on the page are "stories." There are no shortage of scandal stories. I'm sorry you need help figuring this out. Maybe we can increase education funding so eventually you won't look quite so stupid.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Donnie the Lion

      It is a BLOG for goodness sake, not the regular news section.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • WW_Dagger

      Front page, lead story, big print... and it's an opinion piece? A 'blog' is in the #1 news column for CNN? Like I said, shiny objects... (Didn't intend to offend you mouth breather Sane Person)

      June 16, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Sane Person

      I realize its hard to figure out the mystery of CNN's page. You dont offend me, the uneducated sheeple section of CNN is what provides my entertainment every Sunday whilst I drink my coffee. If you click on a sports story link and get lost wondering why all the stories are about sports and not about obama, just yell, I'll help guide you back to the news section. Enjoy your tea.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  18. Reptillian

    It's also the same story as E.T. the Reese's Pieces loving space alien. Ever heard of the Monomyth or The Hero's Journey?

    June 16, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  19. Seabat

    This is a lead story? The CNN leadership (?) and staff all need to go back to journalism school. Perhaps they need to study news-editorial and forget about the talking head classes. Refer the story to religion or entertainment. Learn the difference between hard news and puff.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      This is a belief blog, not a regular news blog.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  20. Cambridge Ray

    Zorro was the original character, Batman was cloned from it.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:23 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.