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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. Hobby

    I am do not agree with this but how do you all feel about the following:
    http://www.gotquestions.org/global-warming.html

    June 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  2. Kenneth

    How can Jesus be a superhero if he was illiterate and couldn't even expel the Romans from his land?

    June 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • tony

      His mother told her future husband he was the son of god.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • bloodnotstorebought

      Is atheism all about being a superhero? I am trying to understand. I hear a whole lot of anger, envy and people who so much needed to be understood a long long time ago, but have decided that no one cared enough to listen, so they will chose to make their own way. I hear hurt children like discussions......kids who could not grow up "normal" and so have decided their fate of a sort of suicide through the denial of God. Denying God seems to mean to them that they can kill themselves by the stance of non-belief and by ignoring him, that He will also pretend that they do not exist either. This is what I am getting out of all this. Seriously. (just trying to understand). You verbally denying your own earthly father, who may have passed away 20 years ago, does not abate his existence, no more than your denial of the heavenly one.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  3. Reality

    JC = Superman? Give us a break !!

    See page 3 for details.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  4. Lorem Ipsum

    Marketing a movie through sermons is just beyond the pale.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Science

      Lorem Ipsum

      movie might be a flop.................so WB is trying to tie it to numbers which will flop too maybe ?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  5. disanitnodicos

    "The Soviet Union was the first state to have, as an ideological objective, the elimination of religion and its replacement with universal atheism. The communist regime confiscated religious property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools."

    http://en.wikipedia.Org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Soviet_Union

    June 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • tony

      You can't propagate atheism in schools, unless there is a contrary indoctrination in religion beforehand.
      All children are born as atheists, so unless some religious teaching is given, universal atheism is the status quo.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  6. Praetorian

    It's a Bird...It's a Plane...No, it's Superjeebus! Coming to a trailer park near you!

    June 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  7. tony

    Why doesn't superman need to carry a gun, and a dozen 100 round magazines??? How can any honest, god fearing, American go about their daily lives without carrying those with them?

    June 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  8. ReligionRules!!!

    Atheist, Bill Maher states that there is some good in religion. This can be heard a little past two minutes in the following video. Please stop the video at 2:25 minutes. There is nothing noteworthy afterwards.

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

    June 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Praetorian

      It depends on your point of view. Karl Marx called religion 'The Opiate of the Masses'. If controlling the masses is what you seek to do, then you would find plenty to like about religion. On the other hand, if you happen to be one of the masses, then the things that are in it for them far outweigh the things that are in it for you.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Hobby

      I am do not agree with this but how do you all feel about the following:
      http://www.gotquestions.org/global-warming.html

      June 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    I can read a comic book series and find many reasons I'd like a particular superhero as a god. I could write down everything they say, all of their ethics, how they punish the bad guys, etc. I could model my life after this particular superhero and call myself a "good guy." This doesn't make the comic book series that I'm reading true. It doesn't make me good just because I follow the ideas set up by the superhero in the comics that I read. It just means that I chose to read and believe and put into practice the ideas that are in a simple comic book series.

    Your Bible is a collection of books that were written before and long after your Jesus supposedly lived on the earth. He did not personally write any of them. 4 of the books alone in the New Testament are the same story told from a different perspective, AFTER this Jesus fellow was long gone, and the Old Testament is the book of the Jewish people. Two different gods really; the old and the new testament's.

    Why do you try to force people to believe in your comic book series when there are plenty around that have better stories, better bad guys and better hero's? Maybe you ought to realize that the Christian bible is a very boring comic book that just doesn't interest thinking people.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Psalms 10:4

      The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek [after God]: God [is] not in all his thoughts.

      01363   //  hbg  //  gobahh   //  go'-bah  // 

      from   01361  ; TWOT – 305b; n m

      AV – height 9, high 3, pride 2, excellency 1, haughty 1, loftiness 1; 17

      1) height, exaltation
      1a) height
      1b) exaltation, grandeur
      1c) haughtiness

      June 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Was that supposed to be a rebuttal, HS?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Praetorian

      You know, HS, that if God really smote those who fail to become a sheep and subordinate one's life to whatever flavour of worship God prefers (who knows?), then I'd b a giant sized charcoal briquet by now.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • eyes2see

      Because, if you don't then your life will be reduced to the level of a comic book hero, one that the theme, purpose and fate lies in the hands of men who will write your life off as worthy or worthless as the value of the comic book – IF it sells. God is greater by far and Jesus can be the author of your life...if you chose. Let him write your script, help you promote your true purpose and YOU decide your fate. Salvation is worth every drop of Jesus's precious blood.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The real Tom, you posted "Was that supposed to be a rebuttal, HS?"

      Answer: It is Jesus' truth of why you refuse to believe.

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

      Praetorian, you posted "You know, HS, that if God really smote those who fail to become a sheep and subordinate one's life to whatever flavour of worship God prefers (who knows?), then I'd b a giant sized charcoal briquet by now."

      Answer: Be careful for what you ask for, Jesus will oblige you.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  10. Steven

    Well so much for wanting to see this movie. If it has anything to do with the so called god that created this world. What they couldn't tie it into something more important, Like Obama.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  11. Dyslexic doG

    superman wouldn't tell women to be silent and be in submission to man. That’s the difference between superman and your God.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Psalms 41:6
      And if he come to see [me], he speaketh vanity (ego, pride) : his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; [when] he goeth abroad, he telleth [it].

      07723   //  awv  //  shav'   //  shawv  //  or
        //  wv  //  shav   //  shav  // 

      from the same as   07722  in the sense of desolating; TWOT – 2338a; n m

      AV – vain 22, vanity 22, false 5, lying 2, falsely 1, lies 1; 53

      1) emptiness, vanity, falsehood
      1a) emptiness, nothingness, vanity
      1b) emptiness of speech, lying
      1c) worthlessness (of conduct)

      Psalms 10:4
      The wicked, through the pride (vanity of ego) of his countenance, will not seek [after God]: God [is] not in all his thoughts.

      01363   //  hbg  //  gobahh   //  go'-bah  // 

      from   01361  ; TWOT – 305b; n m

      AV – height 9, high 3, pride 2, excellency 1, haughty 1, loftiness 1; 17

      1) height, exaltation
      1a) height
      1b) exaltation, grandeur
      1c) haughtiness

      June 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • bloodbought

      LISTEN TO JIMMY SWAGGART MINISTRIES – TODAY. "THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS"!

      June 15, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    superman doesn't need endless money collected in his name.. That’s the difference between superman and your God.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • HeavenSent

      doG, God made man in His image. What is it that image isn't getting done?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • The real Tom

      HS, you can repeat it all you want, but that won't make it true.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  13. tony

    Religion is the opposite of democracy. Mixing the two usually results in conflict. The Religious always want to govern.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  14. IvotedforObama

    I'm waiting for the "CONservative Christians" to come out against this version of Superman since he did abort hundreds of Kryptonian fetuses during one scene in the movie.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    superman wouldn't flood the world and kill everybody just because people didn't do everything he said. That’s the difference between superman and your God.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  16. tony

    @Travis. Happy Fathers day to all the fatherless kids (And kidless fathers) resulting from the Iraq war, which was unilaterally started by someone I think you voted for.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    superman does not need endless saccharine adoration. That’s the difference between superman and your God.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    If superman could stop a tornado from killing innocent elementary school kids, he would. That’s the difference between superman and your God.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      Yup. and what is the idea in letting us know this?

      June 17, 2013 at 5:58 am |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    If superman could stop a child from starving, he would. That’s the difference between superman and your God.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • HeavenSent

      doG, God made man in His image. What is it that image NEEDS TO DO?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • The real Tom

      No, HS. Man made god in his image, just like man made up Superman.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • HeavenSent

      The real Tom, what about mute point to you not understand?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why don't you explain it to me, Lucy?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ HeavyStink

      What part of "moot point" don't you understand?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Doobs, ssh! She thinks she's making a funny. Don't spoil it by pointing out the obvious.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      You make the obvious point of your disappointment and having a beef with God and believe it makes you way smarter then him but then your argument is that I know there is a God but why is there injustice? Am I correct? Or are you so attached with your sense of irony and saying that superman is way better than Jesus,but you say that they are both fiction, is this one right?

      June 17, 2013 at 3:11 am |
  20. Dyslexic doG

    If superman could stop a person from raping a child, he would. That’s the difference between superman and your God.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • HeavenSent

      I'll keep posting this until the big egos get it.

      doG, God made man in His image. What is it that image NEEDS TO DO?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • The real Tom

      What's a "mute point," HS?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Tom, it means to please be quiet or humble yourself and stop living in ego.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • The real Tom

      What's "living in ego?"

      "It means please be quiet." Since when? I'm absolutely silent. I, unlike you, don't need to sound out the words I read and write.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all [is] vanity.

      Ecclesiastes 12:8

      Amen.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      Yeah superman offers you no realistic avenue physical,emotional, or moral to combat said child rapist and it's also not considered making a sacrifice when you always know you'll come out on top like superman.... you want someone to do it all for you, I'll say right now that convincing everyone that God is out to get everyone is like yelling bomb in a crowded building, your doing it to create confusion and to enjoy making others helpless. Tell me I'm wrong.

      June 17, 2013 at 5:56 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.