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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. Cacheese

    Hollywood is Hollywood. They are doing what they do well. No reason to be surprised or upset. If the movie encourages courage and love, that is great. Such character is laudable regardless of religion.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • tony

      I hope the message here isn't that young unmarried virgin girls should take gods to bed with them without protection.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Cacheese

      Tony, you hoped right.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  2. bill

    Since Superman and Jesus are both just pretend isn't this entire article irrelevant?

    June 16, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  3. msadr

    Superman has always been a Christian. This is nothing new. What's new is the marketing push. I'm not uncomfortable with hollywood marketing to Christians. But they're giving the pastors sermon notes? Hollywood is giving our pastors sermon notes?! That brings two words to mind – arrogant and foolish.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • c5boi

      Someone has to given the median intelligence level of 'pastors'

      June 16, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Scott

      Neither arrogant or foolish, just marketing schlock from Hollywood. I would suspect that the marketing pukes that came up with this idea, sermon notes, have never set foot in a church and hence have zero concept on how ministers prepare their sermons. However, the marketing schlock did get the story on the front page of CNN, so it was at least partially successful.

      Scott

      June 16, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Cacheese

      I think even that is ok. Such sermon notes only as smart or dumb as the pastors who use them.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  4. Scott

    Nothing like an article that can get the foaming-at-the-mouth religion haters and the hard-core Bible thumps dissing the same thing. 🙂 Hate away derps!

    Scott

    June 16, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • tony

      AKA Education versus wishful thinking. The latter group get tax breaks to go door to door talking about it.

      I think the hate is in your mind.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  5. Factoidlover

    I kinda always thought Superman was more similar to Perseus or Rama.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • G to the T

      Hercules – classic Demi-god story...

      June 17, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  6. Phil

    Now I won't go see this.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  7. Colin

    Dear Christians:

    God here.

    I thought I should come clean on Father's Day.

    I do not exist. Is not the concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being (age of the Universe) capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet utterly ludicrous?

    Look, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Greco-Roman Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Greco-Roman Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.

    God

    June 16, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • c5boi

      FINALLY!! Thanks, god! ..Ummm....but about this Superman guy?

      June 16, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      What are you babbling endlessly about? Your very premise is in conflict with your anti-God "religion" because if there is no God, then no one wrote your foolish letter. But Jesus, the Son of God loves you, and so I love you.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Observer

      Amen.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • bill

      Brilliant!!

      June 16, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Thomas

      You do realize that there are many, many self-proclaimed Christians in other countries, right? Just because you might've been born in the Middle East, doesn't mean you must believe in Islam. So that's fail #1 on your part. Fail #2 – In all of that sarcasm, you still didn't provide one explantion for how you believe this world to exist. Guess in all your logic, you've still failed to come up with a reasonable explanation. Funny thing that is. Faith. Some people have it. Some don't.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Colin

      voiceoftruthusa – it is called "irony."

      June 16, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Colin

      Thomas – Yes, I have the answer to the creation of the Universe – it was all made in six days, with one man, one woman and a talking snake.......

      June 16, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Observer

      Thomas,

      Not believing in the errors, contradictions, hypocrisy and nonsense in the Bible does not make a requirement that one has all the unknown answers to the meaning of life.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • melbobadilla

      I do not exist.
      Brilliant.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • VEW2012

      Thanks for telling like it is, but in the meantime Hollywood has screen adapted similar stories and plots before to sell tickets, and will do it again. Hum...E.T. and the Lone Ranger??

      June 16, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Jon

      Hey, God, I've often wondered why you would need preachers, priests, mullahs, etc.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Thomas

      Observer – You probably haven't even read 1/4 of the Bible I bet, yet you spew words of ignorance and hypocrisy, yet name not one. But hurry, do a quick Google search on random Bible passages to twist what it says for your fulfillment of replying to me and offering a rebuttal of your anti-religion stance. I'm waiting...not.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Jesus

      Thomas. How did Judas die?

      June 16, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Well stated! It's so refreshing to see reason and logic come to the forefront in the face of all the B$ that surrounds us everyday.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  8. richard

    jesus was not even a real historical figure, you fecks .... its a complete myth for morons

    June 16, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Nah, but your hurt and pain is not a myth. Jesus can set you free from the bondage of your past.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      voiceoftruthusa, what color is the sky in your world? I'd be interested to hear.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  9. Nunya

    The story of Jesus has about a gajillion parallels.

    This is just an incredibly transparent and tacky marketing scheme.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  10. cyborg

    Looks like a great way to galvanize "Christians" for the war of armageddon designed by the military industry that has used the media and entertainment industry for its own grandiose aims. The next world war? Evil aliens from space fought with star wars weaponry, with a compliant citizenry brainwashed by the movie screens of America.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  11. richunix

    And with that said, The Pope was his father....any other parallels in fantasy we need

    June 16, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • c5boi

      I thought that the Pope was his mother, and G-d was the father!

      June 16, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  12. Tim Donk

    Another parallel is that Superman and Jesus are both created by the minds of man.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Franklin

      There's actually historical records proving his existence, in fact scholars almost unanimously believe he existed. If you don't think he is a God, I can understand but to say he's fictional you sound like a clown

      June 16, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • c5boi

      (Reply to 'Franklin') : Historical records as to Superman's existence?...COOL!

      June 16, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Franklin, nice try but how do you explain the idea that there was no body in the supposed tomb after Christ's death? To me, the fallacy-based idea of the resurrection was a lame attempt to address the distinct possibility that there was no person Jesus. A little food for thought for you.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  13. tony

    A real god doesn't need collection plates.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • msadr

      But a real community does. Churches are made up of neighbors. And neighbors take up collections for one another. fool.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      msadr:

      Yeah, for one another. That means people! You said it yourself! Therefore, no need for this fictional god. Back at ya and you're welcome. BTW, as for the name-calling, judge not lest ye be judged.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  14. Thomas

    What's really troubling by all these comments is that so many people are willing to accept the fact that they apparently have no hope in any sort of life after death. So eager to sarcastically point out your realistic logic as someone who mocks the possibility of a God. If you were so smart, might you consider the potential that it might be better to believe in a God to increase your chance of life in a possible heaven after death, as opposed to so willingfully accepting no existence beyond? Are do you hate your life so much that you simply can't wait til you cease to exist? Lol. Or better yet – Why is it such a stretch to believe that maybe, just maybe, a God created this world where everything works the way it does? Why is it so much more logical to believe in a theory that some big bang took place and everything magically fell into place so perfectly? Afterall, the most important questions of our existence are the ones no scientist has been able to answer in the history of our existence. Wonder why? Just food for thought.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • tony

      I have a 1 in 175,000,000 chance of winning the Lottery. So I should arrange my life and thinking around that being certain sometime?

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

      ** "Or" do you...

      June 16, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • c5boi

      Not even the Superman comics were so far out in terms of magical thinking. That afterlife place must be getting awfully full with the victims of religion....

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

      Better than Simple-Simon-Says, don't fear death, it is part of life. Only the weak in mind fear the unknown. Enjoy your life, live it to the fullest, with or without deities of the mind

      June 16, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Thomas

      tony – Considering the fact that winning the lottery has no affect on what happens after death, your point is laughably moot.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • richard

      stop with your selfish and childish desire to keep living, fool

      June 16, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Whoooooooooodeet

      Isn't god supposed to be sooo smart to the point that "he" would know that we are tricking him by acting like we believe in the life after death? or he knows the future? guess not..

      June 16, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Mary

      Thank you for a very good post Thomas.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Thomas

      ^^ "effect". And just because you don't believe in God or life after death, that hardly makes you any less fearful of death. You may try to believe that in that "tought guy" sort of thinking, but realistically, you're probably more afraid of death than the believer living next door.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • tony

      No actually, you called discovered science "magic" versus believing in your evidence free fantasy (which is also "magic" but just by another name) . So the odds of your "magic" being the true case is about 175,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 less likely.

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

      Nope, they would rather just assume that they know all of this "just happened". Everything that makes life possible here, all the stars and planets, all the species of plants and animals. Except for us humans and all our blindness hate and the way we are destroying our only planet, this is a perfect concept and setup.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Those questions science hasn't answered – no religious cult has answered them either. Unless you call the mountains of bullsh!t, with absolutely no evidence to support them, in books such as The Babble an answer.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Why waste your time on hoping for something that may or may not be? Live in the moment, dude! Besides, what if you're hoping for it and it doesn't come to be? Years wasted! Go on to something productive and worthwhile.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  15. tessadoghor

    Apologies
    But Superman did not go to the cross for me
    Jesus did.
    Thank you, Jesus, for the cross!

    June 16, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • tony

      He's taken millions upon millions of innocents prematurely since. "Acts of god" "disasters, y'know.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • tessadoghor

        Really, did you see his hand doing that? I am pretty sure a human's choice was involved somewhere.

        July 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Amen. If Hollywood really wanted to portray Jesus, they would have called this movie "Man of the Cross" and used the name Jesus in place of Superman.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      And you can honestly and in good conscience believe in and have respect for a god that condones infanticide? Man, that's really sick!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • tessadoghor

        Who do you believe in? Did you drop from the sky?

        July 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • G to the T

      Then go watch that anti-Semite's movie – "the Passion"...

      June 17, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  16. Marc Perkel

    Really? The NSA is spying on everything we do and this is the lead story? You got to be kidding me!

    June 16, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Observer

      Marc,

      What are you doing that makes you so scared that people might find out?

      June 16, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • richard

      observer: you are a fecking tool.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Observer

      Richard,

      Grow up.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • voiceoftruthusa

      Correct. The NSA scandal exposes us to what the anti-Christian forces in our un-representative government have in store for the future persecution of Christians here in America.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Look out! Voiceoftruthusa is showing his/her extreme level of paranoia in bright dayglo colors! Run for your lives! 😉

      June 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  17. ~M V P

    How stupid can Hollywood get.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  18. kd

    Not sure why this is news. Superman has always had these parallels, from the publication of its very first comic book.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  19. philman

    'They're using us and we're using them', huh, Rev. So the ends justify the means? I know as a 'man of faith' some of you are actually true believers...it's just so hard to find the 1 in 100 of you that are.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  20. Dan

    The story of Superman is more believable than that old fairy tale.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:03 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.