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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. Ben Irwin

    But Superman came from his own planet. Sounds like more of a Mormon to me.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  2. Tutuvabene

    Marx said it best.. Religion is the opium of the masses.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • lol??

      The white horse used opium in the Far East.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  3. faith

    yawn

    nite nite

    June 16, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  4. faith

    O soul are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There's light for a look at the Saviour,
    And life more abundant and free.

    Refrain
    Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
    Look full in His wonderful face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
    In the light of His Glory and Grace.

    Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    Over us sin no more hath dominion –
    For more than conquerors we are!

    June 16, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • tony

      Follow him there ASAP

      June 16, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Zoroastrian Freddie Mercury

      We are the champions – my friends
      And we'll keep on fighting
      Till the end
      We are the champions
      We are the champions
      No time for losers
      'Cause we are the champions of the World

      June 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  5. faith

    surely someday someone who hates to be wrong will try some new fangled approach. these old discredited attempts r boring and redundant.

    do not misunderstand. as christians, we welcome debate. u have much to learn about inerrancy.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Nason

      You haven't debated anything yet, faith, so whyare you pretending that you even know how?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • tony

      When you start learning instead of wishing, your posts will start to make sense.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • JR

      Did you wake up drunk, faith?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Seyedibar

      How does a christian explain Ugaritic mythology? Thanks to 20th century archaological finds, we know that Yahweh was one of 70 sons of El, the god that created the garden of Eden. We also know now that El, the god that christians, jews, and muslims hold so powerful, is recorded to have died of a wild animal attack.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  6. God

    Two thumbs up!

    June 16, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Religion is fiction. But fiction herds of people want to believe is true. It's interesting to go to a megachurch session. Perhaps thousands of people all claiming to have seen, heard, or otherwise directly experienced God, but basically telling solemn lies about it because they believe that many of the people around them have actually encountered God. They hope to seem sufficiently pious for God to contact them one day too. Every one of them is waiting on God to make her or him less of a liar.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Step by step, Christians follow Jesus' righteous teachings which adds another tool to our tool belt of life. I'm sure you atheist will say the same, talking the talk, never to walk the walk.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:55 am |

    • HeavenSent is pleased to see anyone who is not a liar of righteousness go the eternal hell of fire.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  8. faith

    nothing. it is a pity for the enemies of god, but we have known all along god's word is true

    June 16, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • tony

      Yup, watch out for those lightning bolts from Zeus, when he's in a grumpy mood, that we've known about since ancient Greece.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Is your god really that petty? Is he really that insulted if someone doesn't believe in him for sheer lack of proof? That doesn't fit in well with the idea of his so-called perfection. Talk about human frailty and weakness! But keep posting. I love responding to posts that have no forethought or reason. 😉

      June 16, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  9. Andrew

    I'm excited to see this movie. Oh and check out some of the John Lennox debates if you're interested in really smart people debating God's existence. Meanwhile, try not to type hate messages on comment forms. Whichever way you look at it, hatred and name-calling is detrimental to everyone that reads it.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • lol??

      dialectical diabolical demonical forked tongue dragons debating???? you the "straight man" for those comedians??

      BTW, which came first, the serpent or the egg??

      June 16, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • LiveLife

      John Lennox?? A smart person?? I beg to differ. Hitchens destroyed him in many debates. You want a real intellectual, watch or read Christopher Hitchens works.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  10. faith

    if there was one single word that could be shown not to b true, they would celebrate

    June 16, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  11. faith

    a reasonable person would b impressed

    June 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  12. faith

    not bad, huh?

    June 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • tony

      Atheism is organic. Babies come that way.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Jeff

      @tony, Atheism is NOT natural. Babies are born believing in the one true God because God puts belief in Him into your brain at conception.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • tony

      Gosh. How did Hinduism happen then?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Jeff

      @tony, That is the work of the devil.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • tony

      @Jeff. Oh I see now, god plants original thoughts in white babies and Satan gets to do it brown ones?

      Some sort of power-sharing deal between them?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Veronica

      @Jeff, how do you explain the BILLIONS of people who don't believe in your god, or don't believe in god at all? Your statement is laughable.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Doobs

      Apparently, Jeff's pastor pulled out the old "Everyone has a god-shaped hole in his heart" sermon this morning. It's a nice change of pace from the usual god hates gays and fire/brimstone shrieking. Those can be so exhausting.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  13. tony

    Without the myth of collection plates being needed, christianity would have died out completely around 100 AD.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  14. faith

    not one word

    June 16, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Nason

      Answer the posts by "Colin" and "Jesus", liar.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  15. Jeff

    God rightfully punished the sinner, Jesus, by crucifying him. God took great joy slowly murdering Jesus. It was a just punishment for his crimes, falsely claiming to be God. Anyone that prays to Jesus, prays to a resident of Hell. There is no use in repenting. You are already damned.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Jesus

      JEff is right. I was a real sinner and now I am burning in hell.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Jeff

      Asks yourself, if you were really God, why would you kill yourself before fully forming your religion? Why would you leave your bible to be written centuries later by men that never met you? Christianity is a false religion started by an imposter. God killed Jesus to stop him. Those foolish enough to not catch on are doomed to put their faith in a false narrative.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  16. faith

    the new testament describes jesus in great detail and no one has ever refuted one word of it. pretty good evidence

    June 16, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Colin

      Really? How did Judas die?

      Who was Jesus Grandaddy?

      Did both robbers mock Jesus or did on mock and one defend?

      On which day did JEsus die?

      Was the stone rolled back at the tomb where JEsus was buried when the women arrived?

      Were JEsus and MAry from Bethleham or NAzareth?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • tony

      You can't refute something for which there is no historical evidence, except a much edited book of chapters first written a couple hundred years later , and then re-written over and over to suit the politics of dozens of different popes over 1500 years.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Birdyboyz

      Do you mean "Refudiated"? Bozo's like you will believe every word from a 2300 year old book written by uneducated middle-easterm men but, If someone would tell you "Don't touch the wall because it has wet paint on it", you go over and touch it anyway.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Jesus

      Actually faith, that is not so. I said the World would end with the seond coming of the Son of Man with a generation. It never happened. I scr.ewed up. So did Saint Paul when he adopted this philosaphy. So did John, the author of Revelation.

      John, who wrote the Gospel of John also scr.ewed up when he said my ministry lated three times as long as in the Synoptics. He also got it wrong when he said I threw the moneylenders out of the Temple at the start of my ministry. I did so at the end (unless Matthew, Mark and Luke are all wrong on the subject.).

      Luke also scr.ewed up in claiming people in the Roman Empire had to return to the home of their ancestor from 1,000 years ago to be assessed in a tax. That is just silly. Augustus Ceasar never ordered that!

      June 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Nason

      People refute it all the time. You just don't want to believe it, and that's perfectly fine; but don't flat out lie about it, faith. If you want to believe, by all means believe. But when people prove you wrong, lying about it has you breaking the 9th commandment, and makes you look like just another silly Christian. I've read your posts. You lie all the time.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Wrong on (1) no one has ever refuted it and (2) pretty good evidence. It appears your comment was a complete waste of perfectly good cyberspace.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • tarlton

      You really need to read something other than pamphlets self-published by your pastor Larry.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Veronica

      @faith, no one has ever refuted Spiderman, either. Does that mean he's real?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • will4203

      To use "faith" or words written by someone and put in the Bible...is ludicrous...

      June 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  17. Dwight

    Superman is fake. The original was made man of steel was made up by men in the 1930s. Now, about religion. Religious people are going to endorse a fake man who can fly faster than light and be proud of a man who can fly in space with out a space suit. ( Yea I used to read comic books. ) Now back to religion. Religion is real..!! Well not so fast....

    June 16, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Thomas

      What are you suggesting? That all religious people must somehow now be Superman fans thanks to this movie, while those who don't believe will no longer endorse Superman? Seriously. This is why I don't rely on CNN for my view of things.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • RG

      Well we all know superman is fake... Thanks

      June 16, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  18. lol??

    INCEST by the Special Sons of the BEAST!! Might even be worse!!

    ".........................(Disclaimer: CNN, like Warner Bros., is owned by Time Warner.)..............................."

    June 16, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • lol??

      Who knows what the qweirdos do in a telephone booth, when they're faster than a speeding bullet??

      Qweirdo Corps!! Sons of the Beast gone bad!!

      June 16, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  19. John

    This coincidence is due to the sociological plotline within all stories of heroes, or heroines. The similarity that is being drawn is from the pathology within the concept of the 'hero'. 1. There is a disturbance in the society, and a character who has the capability to recreate harmony feels drawn to the conflict. 2. the character experiences inner conflicts between his/ her significance to the dilemma. 3. the individual is emotionally overwhelmed by the impact and adheres to the task at hand. 4. the individual puts their heart into helping the society. 5. the protagonist and the antagonist have an exchange of ideas, and/or actions creating tension. 6. the protagonist's willpower through the heart perseveres over the vengeful. 7 the evil force is naturally prone to it's own destruction, and the charismatic only grow and replace the chaos with harmony.

    This is not unique to these two. A similar debate erupted over the movie Groundhog Day and the nature surrounding the mythology of the Samsaric Cycle. Harold Ramos explained that the concept just appealed to him, and coincidentally fit the plot sequence of the theological concept of the Samsaric Cycle. Heroes come from the inside, and come in various faces within culture, therefore there is no direct connection between The Man Of Steel and the messianic scriptures in the Bible. There is only a large amount of similarities in the cognitive construct in the story of these two honorable men.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  20. Fr Frank Schuster

    I saw the movie last night. As a Catholic Priest, I was interested in the hype comparing Superman with Jesus. Although I saw some deliberate attempts of the movie to make this comparison, including a stain glass window of Jesus over Superman's shoulder at one point, there are some very basic problems with this comparison. First, Jesus practiced radical non-violence. Superman solves problems through violence, even struggled with his anger (if you own a semi-truck, don't get Clark upset). Jesus "emptied himself" in becoming human, becoming truly like us in all things but sin. Superman is an alien who essentially joins us by adoption. What I am grateful for, however, is that religion is placed in a good light in this movie. I liked it when Superman seeks the advice of a priest, and the priest was actually a pretty good guy! At the end of the day, good popcorn movie.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Dwight

      Will the people who worship the muslim religion be happy with the movie?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • poopmeister

      I don't know, I kinda disagree with you. As far as the non-violence vs violence....it's more of a loose comparison. Jesus sacrificed himself for mankind where as Superman also sacrificed himself to save mankind in the sense that he knew that revealing himself would mean that he could never have a normal life. General Zod represents the embodiment of evil trying to vanquish Earth, not a "man" that suffered at Superman's hands (sorry spoiler alert for anyone that hasn't seen the movie).

      June 16, 2013 at 11:31 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.