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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. muslim2012

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5e2QB9y_Q6A&w=640&h=390]

    June 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  2. Rick777

    Wanna milk the flock

    June 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  3. Vic

    Some Hollywood stars who are Born Again Christians:

    http://www.onlinechristiancolleges.com/10-hollywood-actors-you-didnt-know-were-born-again-christians/

    June 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • tallulah13

      How many of those actors are still working (aside from Armie Hammer who is playing second fiddle to Johnny Depp in the Lone Ranger) and of course, Tom Hanks? And why should we care what choices these people make? I don't make my life decisions based on what others do?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Doobs

      Now that I know Steven Baldwin is a christian, I guess it all must be true.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Christianity is often the last refuge for singers and actors who can't maintain a career in the mainstream.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ tallulah13

      I believe it's called "Doing a Kirk Cameron".

      June 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  4. JesusSuperHero

    I say stupid things sometime. I take that all back now

    June 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  5. STFU

    Superman can fly; Jesus don't.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • be honest

      yeah,, but jesus could walk on water. um well,, until those holes in his feet. But he could before then.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  6. Ave atque Vale

    Bad move, Warner Bros., compounded by CNN's blaring about it here.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Apparently bad movie, too.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Ave atque Vale

      At least the Grace Hill Media founder has a bit of a sense of humor:

      "Jonathan Bock is the founder and president of Grace Hill Media. Mr. Bock began his career in publicity at Warner Bros. Prior to that, he was a sitcom writer, widely regarded throughout the industry as "not very good." Mr. Bock serves on the board of Reel Spirituality at Fuller Theological Seminary and is a deacon at Bel Air Presbyterian Church. Father of two beautiful daughters, he's married to his first wife, Kelly. He also, with a few warm-up frames, can consistently bowl in the low nineties." http://www.gracehillmedia.com/

      They've promoted several other films to Christians too, but it's arguable whether the likes of "Narnia", "Pursuit of Happyness", "The Lord of the Rings" and "Walk the Line", etc. really needed their hype; and that the likes of "Dan in Real Life"(?), "The Game Plan"(?) and "Lars and the Real Girl"(?) benefited much. –http://www.gracehillmedia.com/pastprojects/

      June 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  7. JesusSuperHero

    Jesus, like Superman is fiction.

    Both are stories of magical beings with superpowers.

    The difference is one came from comic books, and one came pre-historical, pre-science legends.

    Magic does not exist in the present, future, and yes never existed in the past.

    Magic does not exist in the present because we have science and recording devices. People generally want proof for things.

    In the past, religion was science. Then, thunder and lightning were created by God.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • lol??

      pre-historical??

      btw, was science in the wurld since the creation of man or do you claim to have discovered it??

      June 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Bryson

      lol?? If your going to try and mount an educated argument it might be in your best interest to learn how to spell basic words like world.

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

      and I should probably get you're and your untangled. Jesus

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • lol??

      Bryson,

      God loves the world. I hate the wurld.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Agnostic

      Actually, science was "in the world" since the creation of man. Plato, Socrates, the Hopi Indians, the Mayans, prehistoric man inventing fire... All were fascinated by how the world really works. It's easy to say there's a big old dude with a beard in the sky that creates everything. It's hard to scientifically reveal the processes that truly created the Earth that surrounds us.

      And yes, this is one of the most pathetic and disgusting ad campaigns I've ever seen. Thanks for mentioning it CNN.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      lol....even the moniker indicates no reasonable backing for an attempted argument. Once again, complete waste of cyberspace.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Person

      The Old Testament scripture isn't enough to help you believe in Jesus, then believe in John the Baptist (Pharaoh and the baker and possibly entire book of Esther), Paul (king Hezekiah I think), and Judas (possibly entire book of Ruth)?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  8. lol??

    Where is Mel when you need him??

    put the Special sons of the Beast, Time Warner and an inc'ed church in the pit!!

    "Two men enter, one man leaves."................................THUNDERDOME FOREVER!!!!!

    June 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Jase

      Yeah, because Mel embodies the true spirit of Christianity. Not.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  9. Godoflunaticscreation

    So I guess the new Iron Man movie is going to have Tony Stark proclaiming his atheism and then saving the planet from the evils of the church. I will be checking my email for a heads up from the director telling all atheist groups how this movie is for them and how we should use it in our discussions on the superiority of atheism.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Sir Bobowe

      You have not even seen the movie and you make these comments....what a dummy!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Sir Bobowe,

      Ah, ah, ah. Watch the name-calling. Apparently you didn't have any bullets to begin with in order to resort to such childish tactics at such an early stage. So sad.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  10. Jason

    This movie STUNK!!! Two and a half hours long, the director couldn't figure out which ending he wanted so he put all four in. And Clark, what is with the bozo nose of yours? You can actually see the difference in the CGI providers 3/4 of the way into the movie when they switched. Are you kidding? Save your money. All hype, no delivery.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Towerofpower

      It was seriously lame. I knew Joel Shuster lit the menorah, but I didn't realize Superman did until I saw that beak of his. You could plant lettuce in all that shade. This guy did not look the part and his mom character was the worst actress among them all. Long, boring, and meandering.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  11. Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

    Amazing! Glorifying fiction with fiction! How worthwhile!

    June 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  12. Charles Darwin

    Well....so much for going to see that movie.
    It's been done before and not believable at all.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • lol??

      yeah, and Noe is fed up with the CONcept of racism, daaaahWIN, loser.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Get any foam on your shirt there, lol?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  13. Bryson

    Of course the Hero is a christ figure, it's a well known, and used, literary technique that authors use to draw allusions between their characters and the biblical Jesus Christ. When the Christ story was written they might have referred to him as an Achilles figure..... but probably not. There are inaccuracies in everything from Jesus' birthplace to his genealogy, virgins don't give birth, water isn't miraculously turned into water, and people don't miraculously rise from the dead ...etc etc But, and this is my point, you do find theses miraculous stories in the the Bible, and previously in the stories of Horus, Attis, Mithras, Dionysos amongst others. We love stories and we pass them down. And, there are certain character traits that make characters more or less heroic, likable, appalling, pitiful or whatever the author desires. There are also certain actions such as being betrayed by a friend, being the son of god, self sacrifice, and so on that really appeal to audiences across the board. That makes them good stories, but doesn't mean they're true, whether you have faith in them or not. "A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." Friedrich Nietzsche

    June 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Carl Stein

      Virgins lack the Y chromosome and so can only give birth to females themselves.

      Of course those making up these stories in the past didn't know that.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • lol??

      "A casual stroll through the BELIEF blogs shows that unfaith does not prove anything." lol??

      June 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • dshipp17

      It wasn't said that Jesus lacked a father, just that he was from a virgin birth. Point falls apart.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      lol??,

      We non-believers are simply asking you believers to supply us with evidence. No, the onus is not on us to prove your god's non-existence. It IS, however, on you to PROVE his existence. After all, you're the ones making the claim. Evidence, please.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • lol??

      Nicodemus Grumpschmidt, your own propensity to favor lies should be sufficient evidence.

      "Luk 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

      June 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  14. emobile9

    This is a good help site. i already visited his site. i like this site. i come back aging .

    BD NEWS

    June 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • bob

      me like you long time

      June 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  15. don in albuquerque

    Which is precisely why I will not even bother to rent this when it comes out on DVD, much less go see it at the movies. With all the games Warner has played over they years I certainly do not need them preaching to me.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  16. keeth

    How original. Yawn...

    June 16, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  17. will4203

    Well, "Superman, Man of Steel" has been scratched off my list. If the producers want to play kiss-ass with the "Religious Right", they might attract some so-called "Christians" – but they are repulsing many others, including me....

    June 16, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • lol??

      Mar 3:25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • will4203

      That "House" has already been divided against itself by so-called "Christians". In other word: "Religion" has already devastated and divided (and continues to do so) America...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • will4203

      Put another way: "Religion" and "Christians" have already destroyed our nation. Put still another way: Religion is the main source of all evil and destruction...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  18. Say

    Good to know Time Warner feels the needs to spread Christian propaganda. Definitely will avoid this movie like the plague~ do my part to keep it from being successful.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  19. a dose of reality

    Please Christians, prove that Zeus and Apollo don't exist, and then I'll use your method to prove your god doesn't exist. Any Christians up for the challenge?

    June 16, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Careful there. There is some evidence that the ruler at the root of the Zeus fable was a real king. And Apollo was almost definitely real.
      But if you read the old Canaanite fables, it's pretty clear that El, the creator of the Garden of Eden, was once a real man too. He had two wives, lived on a mountain, cut down trees by hand, and ate the local wildlife. He even died by a wild boar attack, leaving his two sons to fight over his throne.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Zeus is thought to be the Cretan king Saasitepi (also known as Sheshi or Shalik) who ruled at Lato and Tiliss between 1650 and 1600 BCE.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  20. a dose of reality

    Dear Christians:
    God here.
    To the extent any of you died for your faith, I am afraid you threw your life away. Because, you see, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, 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 is ludicrous.
    Second, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age 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 Iron Age 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 11:54 am |
    • HeavenSent

      dose of nonsense, .

      Christians follow Jesus' righteous spiritual 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, staying spiritually dead. You whine about everything in life, preventing you from learning, comprehending, and applying His righteous spiritual teachings to you life so that you do not remain spiritually dead.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      The phrase "spiritually dead" is completely meaningless. There is no such thing as a "spirit", nor is the above commenter or any atheist posting here "dead".

      June 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • will4203

      Superbly put...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm |

    • HeavenSent is a tool herself.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
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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.