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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. Def Mad

    Give me a button to push. One that kills. Everyone. Im def mad. I want an h-bomb, a supervirus, an ELE. 😡

    June 17, 2013 at 4:35 am |
  2. faith

    jesus is god

    June 17, 2013 at 4:34 am |
  3. Def Mad

    😡
    😡
    😡
    😡
    😡

    June 17, 2013 at 4:31 am |
  4. AtheistSteve

    "Science does not seek evidence to support a desired conclusion, it seeks evidence and follows to where it will go."

    That's the only thing you said that makes sense and the one thing that separates science from theology. Science isn't goal oriented. It's a methodology. It's conclusions are arrived at through examination of evidence. Darwin gets the bulk of fame for the discovery of evolution but he wasn't the first or even the most important contributor to the theory. If not him then someone else would have arrived at the same conclusions. Chemistry, biology, geology, paleontology and a host of other disciplines all point to evolution as the way living things developed on this planet.
    Facts lead to conclusions. Science is hard. It takes years of study to understand and rigorous testing to establish accepted theories. To the layperson science might seem mysterious, even though it isn't, and people like you try to draw a parallel with that and your own mysticism. That's a false dichotomy. There is no empirical structure to your view. It's all magic and speculation.

    June 17, 2013 at 4:12 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Hmm...coulda swore I hit reply to maximo's post below...oh well.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:14 am |
  5. Ron

    This is sad – now more than ever – especially due to the foolishness of the religious right – Americans need to distance themselves from the foolishness, short-sighted, ignorance of Christianity more than ever.

    June 17, 2013 at 3:01 am |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      Why?

      June 17, 2013 at 3:26 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Not more "...more-than-ever..." Ron, jus the same as always.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:27 am |
    • Bob Zanis

      Agreed. Read some of the comments arguing gods existence and look for signs of delusion.

      You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe. -Carl Sagan

      June 17, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      Bob Zanis doesn't know that he has to believe Carl Sagan is 100 percent correct on this one. I like the fact that we can argue God and get called deluded and Zanis can argue that he believes nothing about God and still get away with accepting Carl Sagan as the one authority on everything God, pure genius. I love you dude.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • Ave atque Vale

      fiftypercenthollow,
      "Zanis can argue that he believes nothing about God and still get away with accepting Carl Sagan as the one authority on everything God"

      Where did Zanis say that Carl Sagan is/was the "one authority on everything God"?

      June 17, 2013 at 3:55 am |
    • loops808

      Seems like the ignorance is intolerance form the left.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:05 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Non-believers don't have authority figures. Just individuals we happen to agree with. You know...when someone says that makes sense.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:19 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      "someone says something that makes sense"

      June 17, 2013 at 4:22 am |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      Ave atque Vale I get what your saying, Zanis didn't say Sagan made the claim to be an authority on God but he makes it a point to use a quote from him like Sagan saw this coming and that now I as a believer cannot be listened to because of the "I will not be persuaded otherwise tone" that he sets by using one of Sagan's quotes on how he understands the universe. The truth is that those with strong convictions cannot be easily moved when they believe something to be true, this includes you and I. It's disingenuous to label us as backwards when everyone claims to be in a monopoly with truth. If everyone is right how can anyone be wrong, including those who mean others harm.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:34 am |
  6. maximo

    Bostontola,
    Which story is more plausible:

    1 – A Divine God who had no beginning, and who has existed forever, and is maker of all things visible and invisible.
    Who comes to his creation by becoming incarnate as a man (Jesus Christ).

    2 – all of life, the human mind, love, beauty, art, appreciation for art & music, moral codes, the ability to do good, the abiilty to do bad, etc, etc, can come into existence from a single cell thru the mindless process of mutating genes propogated thru survival of the fittest and that the explanation of the single cell origin will be completed by evolutionists in the future

    Yes I know all the wishful thinking style 'pseudo-hypothesis' that attempt to pretend to lead to a someday explanation of the evolution of love. But its a stretch, stretch, stretch. Non-theistic evolution is such a fairy tale! Think about it. Its a house of cards! Its not science. Science does not seek evidence to support a desired conclusion, it seeks evidence and follows to where it will go.

    If a god created the world, it certainly seems very plausible that he would enter into it.
    And since we messed it up and live a life other than what we were made for, he comes to show us the way to live. By ultimate love. To love, love, love even unto suffering and death. Why is that such a difficult thing to believe?

    If any of you want to believe, want to be convinced, then just ask God to help throw some light your way! If you are sincere, truly sincere in wanting to know, I guarantee you He will.

    June 17, 2013 at 3:01 am |
    • Ave atque Vale

      maximo,
      "If any of you want to believe, want to be convinced, then just ask God to help throw some light your way! If you are sincere, truly sincere in wanting to know, I guarantee you He will."

      Are you saying, then, that I was not "truly sincere" in the nearly 50 years of my life that I did this "asking"? Your "guarantee" is bunk.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:28 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      If you wish to invoke a god, then it is up to you to provide the evidence for that god. I get that you don't understand or accept evolution but regardless of your lack of comprehension on the subject, it is the most plausible answer available. DNA alone shows evolution to be true.
      Science will always build upon itself as more evidence is discovered.

      June 17, 2013 at 5:28 am |
    • Colin

      You said " 1 – A Divine God who had no beginning, and who has existed forever, and is maker of all things visible and invisible. Who comes to his creation by becoming incarnate as a man (Jesus Christ). "

      This requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,700,000,000 years for h.o.mo sapiens to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life (when, at H.omo Erectus, Ho.mo Habilis, Neanderthal man?) and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

      While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

      Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it

      "2 – all of life, the human mind, love, beauty, art, appreciation for art & music, moral codes, the ability to do good, the abiilty to do bad, etc, etc, can come into existence from a single cell thru the mindless process of mutating genes propogated thru survival of the fittest and that the explanation of the single cell origin will be completed by evolutionists in the future."

      Yes, exactly. Just becuase science is difficult to comprehend, that does not make it untrue. More to the point, this is what the evidence tells us.

      June 17, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • maximo

      Colin,
      The universe is 15 billion years old. Scientific evidence is pretty solid there. But to think God must be pretty bored because you can't imagine what it would be like to sit around that long is misguided. Time is irrelevant to God who is eternal, exists forever, never created, had no beginning.

      Colin " 'explanation of the single cell origin will be completed by evolutionists in the future.' "
      "Yes, exactly"

      Then its putting hope in future scientific explanations.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  7. Apple Bush

    Folks, here's what we know. He been kilt. No life in 'im. Now it's a shame...a damn shame when a good one kills one of the people involved in a war. Not fair. Not fair. The good one.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:11 am |
  8. Stormy

    tada....superchrist. When was the last time Jesus or god struck down a movie?? Oh wait, Debbie does Dallas is still on the shelves so as long as you keep the movie cleaner than that, i can pretty much guarantee Jesus and god don't really care about superman flying around in tights. Who really cares what man thinks??

    June 17, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • Peter

      No, it's "Jesus Christ Superstar!" 😆

      June 17, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  9. Stormy

    tada....superchrist. When was the last time Jesus or god struck down a movie?? Oh wait, Debbie does Dallas is still on the shelves so as long as you keep the movie cleaner than that, i can pretty much guarantee Jesus and god don't really care about superman flying around in tights. W

    June 17, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • Stormy

      couldn't delete it sorry.... look to the above actual finished comment.

      June 17, 2013 at 2:07 am |
  10. Bootyfunk

    superman would fart in jesus' direction and disintegrate him.

    superman > jesus

    June 17, 2013 at 1:23 am |
  11. jboom

    "unfortunately for Meyer, someone told SETI"

    But Shostak argues against strawman, since he apparently did not read all of Meyer.
    Meyer discusses these very things ! ! !

    Consider Meyer here in footnote #12 to reference i posted at 12:55 above:

    June 17, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • Science

      Hey jboom...............do you have one.................brain that is ?..............clue NO divine creator needed.

      Ötzi the Iceman's Dark Secrets: Protein Investigation Supports Brain Injury Theory

      June 10, 2013 — After decoding the Iceman's genetic make-up, a research team from the European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen (EURAC), Saarland University, Kiel University and other partners has now made another major breakthrough in mummy research: using just a pinhead-sized sample of brain tissue from the world-famous glacier corpse,
      the team was able to extract and analyse proteins to further support the theory that Ötzi suffered some form of brain damage in the final moments of his life.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130610084123.htm

      June 17, 2013 at 6:48 am |
  12. Max

    I saw the movie today. I liked it. I don't think it's fully Christian ideas. I didn't find hateful ideas in it. It could be about Humanism or any effort to be decent human being. Superman was okay though. No genocidal, blood sacrifice requiring gods in the movie.

    June 17, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      no baby killing means it's not christian.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:20 am |
  13. Adam

    Liberals/atheists=communists.

    'Nuff said

    June 17, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Observer

      Adam,

      You can troll better than that. Try throwing in some facts so you might appear to have a clue.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • Adam

      You don got trolled observer!

      June 17, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      Nothing worse than a lazy troll.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      liberals have always been on the right side of social justice, conservatives on the wrong side. but keep trying.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Get a grip, Adman. You are confused. Conservative Christians are the real problem. They're mean and nasty, plus they belief absolute nonsense. Superman, Jesus, God, unicorns, and leprechauns aren't real.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Adam=IGNORANT

      'Nuff said

      June 17, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • jboh

      Talibangelicals/dominionists = tyrants/inquisitionists.

      June 17, 2013 at 6:38 am |
  14. brian

    Silly

    June 17, 2013 at 12:52 am |
  15. faith

    I'D B ASHAMED

    June 17, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • sandy

      me too.

      YOU, mr. scott, disgust me!

      June 17, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • HotAirAce

      I'd be ashamed too if I was delusional and claimed the jesus myth to be true, There's nothing to differentiate christianity, or any other cult, from astrology.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • jboom

      HotAir, are you trying to convince yourself of that?

      June 17, 2013 at 2:01 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Nope! Already convinced.

      June 17, 2013 at 2:09 am |
    • jboom

      hotair, then you have not studied it.

      June 17, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • oOo

      jdud: "hotair, then you have not studied it."

      (perhaps the lamest Xtian ASSumptive "challenge")

      June 17, 2013 at 2:34 am |
    • HotAirAce

      jboom, or quite likely Chad, the only appropriate response is "Fuck Off – you don't have a clue about what I have studied!"

      June 17, 2013 at 2:41 am |
  16. Miked

    What's with all the Jesus and superman similarity. Don't people know that the reason these icons are constantly portraid in this race color is to imbed it in the subconscience of the people to recognize which governing body wants to be on top. Nothing real about the idea, faking it to making it.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • John

      Can you speak English? That didn't make a lick of sense!

      June 17, 2013 at 12:44 am |
    • sandy

      Jesus isn't the defender of ANY country, and ours is in judgement because of this kind of garbage. Superman is nothing like Jesus. Jesus is God...not LIKE a god. Nor does He have any weaknesses. And He came to save all people from themselves (sin), and that includes criminals.

      This makes me sick (this movie), and so do some of you idiots writing things like "bring back slavery." Because you disagree with someone and can't say anything intelligent, that's what you descend to.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • Observer

      sandy,

      Speaking of idiots, do you support slavery like the Bible does?

      June 17, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Peter

      sandy
      The only difference between being like a god and being a god is telling someone to worship you.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "can't say anything intelligent"

      Says the one claiming that god is real...hypocritical idiot!

      June 17, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • sam stone

      "Judgement" is a bad joke played on believers

      June 17, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • sam stone

      sandy: you are purporting to tell us what god is and you complain about people not saying anything intelligent?

      June 17, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  17. Bart

    Should I wipe after each fart? Yes.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  18. CLaV

    One more reason to not watch this movie...

    June 17, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  19. mon

    I was most certainly not thinking godly thoughts while watching Henry Cavill!

    June 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • Austin

      Speaking trul

      June 16, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  20. Austin

    Hey foundation for Islam ' this ones for you!

    The Duke of Cambridge's maternal lineage was revealed on Friday by a genetic ancestry testing company, BritainsDNA, which carried out tests on the DNA of Princess Diana's two matrilineal cousins and compared them to a global database of samples.
    Those tests reveal that the prince's fourth great-grandmother was the daughter of Eliza Kewark and Theodore Forbes (1788-1820), a Scottish merchant who worked in Surat, north of what is now Mumbai.
    Prince William's Indian heritage
    Kewark's mitochondrial DNA - which is only passed on from mother to child - was then passed down, the company says, through the couple's daughter and female descendants, one of whom, Frances Roche (1936-2004), married Earl Spencer and bore a daughter, Lady Diana Spencer, the prince's mother.

    June 16, 2013 at 11:39 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.