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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. trigtwit palin... America's favorite tard baby

    Sloorpffttt blurrffzzzzzkkoolss Fox News ? PPfffffffftttttt glookkrrssllp blleefffhurp ! *drool*

    June 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  2. mas enots

    Me thinks that Sam stole Faiths handle.

    June 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Jethro Tull

      Oh Charlie stole the handle, and the train, it won't stop goin' , no way to slow down.

      It was Charlie who stole the handle.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Bob Dylan

      "The pump don't work 'cause the vandals stole the handle."

      June 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  3. lol??

    Kids have it rough in these "Dark Ages" dayz, even the ones chosen to survive Planned Parenthood.

    June 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  4. Franklin

    Are there any atheist members of congress?

    June 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Yes. Try google.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • JR

      None that will admit to it.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      Although he is now gone – I don't see Barney Frank being too keen on religious BS.

      My reps in congress are a Muslim and a Jew – you can pretty much figure out where I live (down to the district).

      June 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/10/04/secular-group-27-secret-atheists-in-congress/

      June 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Iron Man

      Pete Stark retired this year but had been a conressman since 1973.

      "[I am] a Unitarian who does not believe in a Supreme Being. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social service."

      Statement from Stark, January 2007

      June 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Franklin

      Dog,
      I thought Frank was Jewish? Also, how can you have two reps?

      June 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      Actually I have three – just like everyone else. Two Senators and a Representative – my other Senator is a woman by the way. I was using "rep" in the generic sense.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      I guess I knew that Barney Franks was Jewish – I think that he considers himself a secular Jew (I never really understood how those two terms went together – they seem contradictory to me).

      June 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 Corinthians 2:14

      But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.

      Amen.

      June 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • WASP

      @HS: 1 TIMOTHY 2:11-15
      11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
      12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
      13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
      14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
      15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

      NOW GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN! XD

      June 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  5. JR

    🙄

    June 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  6. Superman

    Lois "So what does the "S" stand for? Super?"

    Superman "No, on my planet this is a symbol of Hope, Doug Stanhope! The greatest comedian your world has ever broadcast out into the universe which my planet watches all the time along with re-runs of the Man-Show. It was he who helped us see how being an atheist alien from another planet was okay and that humans might have matured enough to accept us as such instead of trying to claim we are Gods."

    Lois "Oh."

    June 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  7. Superman + Jesus =

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_7UnNDJ4bA&w=640&h=390]

    June 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Science

      Is that chad and his buddy doogie hold a show for the ICR ?

      June 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  8. teleny

    I consider the whole idea in the worst of taste: about all they have in common is that they aren't normal humans, and they're products of Jewish culture. The fact that every last good thing in America, in the world, must be labeled "Christian" or "Not Christian" is a terrible thought. Where does this leave such great things as modern mathematics?

    June 17, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      You either Love Jesus' truth and live, or, Love satan and perish. Sitting on the fence puts you on satan's team that is going to fry.

      Luke 17:32 Remember Lot's wife.

      Amen.

      June 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Observer

      HeavenSent

      "You either Love Jesus' truth and live, or, Love satan and perish."

      Simple-minded NONSENSE. Only believers can believe in and LOVE satan. Atheists and agnostics don't love satan, since they don't believe he exists. Major logic failure for you..

      June 17, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  9. faith

    I'm sorry. I no I shouldn't have stolen sam's handle, but I'm very depressed. I still haven't located my "midget of steel" since b4 weekend. I just bought some new batteries, 2.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Franklin

      Well, I bet Sam’s happy you’re now apologizing!

      June 17, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  10. AverageJoe76

    Must be pretty hard to find some original material to keep the congregation engaged. But I would think that linking the two characters would be an affront to Jesus, especially since Superman has a weakness, AND he likes Lois Lane (attraction to women = bad for the pure son of God).

    Humans play too much with these concepts, now you're willing to accept a fictional character to help relate to a supposedly non-fictional character (with whom you already have a problem proving indefinitely he had 'powers').

    Faithfuls confuse me. I don't know where your hearts are. The text, and the behaviors of the masses have placed me firmly in agnosticism. And I don't see that position changing unless I have a "Paul-riding-to-Damascus-moment".

    Which..... is highly unlikely. Unless I'm likely to be high. On something really..... really good.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • sam stone

      Hey fvcktard !!! Don't talk about God like that.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @sam stone – Eat some food, and get plenty sleep.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      AvgJoe76, some christard has stolen sam's handle and is being a fvcktard for his jesus. Can we all say it together?: Well done, good and faithful servant. Sheesh.

      Good post.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @ Cpt. Obvious – Thanks! Knew it wasn't the REAL sam stone. Sam has more wit.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I recognize the screen name theft but the level of wit is fairly equal, I'd say.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      3 words to remember.

      Luke 17:32 Remember Lot's wife.

      Amen.

      June 17, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      3 words to remember............ I am retarded

      June 18, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  11. Mellow out

    Some people on here are really uptight.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      That would be an exceptionally fragile individual that goes by the handle "faith".

      This person is quite vile (especially to sam stone for some reason) and frequently uses racial epitaphs. I have warned this person repeatedly, but they really are incredibly dense in the head.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • *

      *epithets

      June 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      Sorry * – thanks for the correction.

      Everytime I see "faith" refer to sam as "sambo" – It just riles me up!

      June 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • *

      My dog,

      And thank you for being a good hound on @faith's dreck. I don't even bother reading anything he/she posts anymore.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  12. STFU

    Jesus believed in Superman.

    June 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      STFU!!

      June 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • STFU

      lol stop leaking Hot Air from your Ass

      June 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Glad I could make you laugh. That was the only intent.

      June 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  13. sam stoned

    Fools !!!!! Do you not know that the mighty sam stone is God?

    June 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      one click, filth, and you could have jeebus spraying his "truth" all over your face

      June 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Fake Sam, It just shows how little faith you really have in your god if you cannot articulate why you believe and more importantly why you expect others to.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      fake sam is filth. filth has no faith, filth is a troll

      June 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  14. meifumado

    Superman would kick the crap out of Jesus if they fought.

    June 17, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • tony

      But we MUST create a No-fly zone and heavily arm Jesus – it's the right thing to do

      June 17, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • meifumado

      Superman still takes Jesus out in under two seconds,But without flight there's no flashy entrance before the kill.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Well duh...

      Superman weakness? Kryptonite...

      Jesus weakness? Two logs and a couple nails...

      June 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Robin

      "Superman would kick the crap out of Jesus if they fought."

      Holy Crap! Batman... er... Superman!

      June 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      "Superman would kick the crap out of Jesus if they fought"

      So you are saying Jesus is full of shlt?

      June 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  15. tony

    Re: Bill

    ME II, I do not know the answer to that.

    If God does exist then only He knows the answer.

    SEE! That's Piety without goodness. Goodness would want a god to answer that, in order to justify continuing to worship it. Most normal good people wouldn't be happy worshiping something that was not good itself.

    June 17, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  16. AverageJoe76

    Using an obviously fictional character to press the agenda of a 'suspected' fictional character (not so much as in historical validity, but in deeds done). Rather, rather strange.

    Does Michael Douglass in 'Falling Down' promote the story of Job? I dunno, I'm reaching here....

    June 17, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • meifumado

      Love that movie!

      June 17, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Ave atque Vale

      AverageJoe76,

      Yeah, Jobishness can be found in "The Pursuit of Happyness" too.

      They do it for lots of movies, from "Star Wars" to "Hannah Montana". Christians are a large, paying audience. We just don't hear about it so much. This time CNN decided to blare it from the front page.

      June 17, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  17. palintwit

    " If Sarah Palin is not some kind of a massive political joke in the USA, wheeled out to liven up the political scene from time to time with nonsensical displays of sheer and utter ignorance, then it is worrying. It is even more so if anyone other than a manic depressive suffering from a chronic lack of lithium takes this...female...seriously. "

    – European newspaper –

    June 17, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • meifumado

      Dude, She is not newsworthy anymore,Stop bringing her up.
      Nobody cares about her, She was an idi0t.
      I think you should find a new Sarah.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I thought Austin was going to hookup with faith, but it appears she's not interested, so maybe she can replace your obsession with Sarah P. On second thought, you are better off with Sarah. . .

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

      MORE FAKE TAN CREAM PLEASE!

      June 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  18. sam stone

    I am a Moron who loves to put people down. Deep inside me I know that there is a God..

    June 17, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Well, at least you recognize that you're a moron for believing in god. That's a good step. We're here to help.

      June 17, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Franklin

      But, I’ve read through your comments before and you seem to be an Atheist. What caused the switch?

      June 17, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • sam stone

      wow, taking my screen name. very clever, gash

      June 17, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • sam stone

      tell us about putting people down, filth

      June 17, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Bill

      I would never take your scene name, Sam.

      June 17, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • pretending to be sam stone

      Just because I have no better argument for my God than to pretend to be you claiming to also believe doesn't mean I have no valid argument for religion... oh, wait, scratch that, it does.

      June 17, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • sam stone

      bill: not you, filth

      June 17, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Bill

      I know you were referencing him. I just wanted to make it clear that I would never post under your name.

      June 17, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  19. tony

    Piety is of no good or useful purpose and is harmful to children and other living things.

    June 17, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      What is piety tony?

      June 17, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • sam stone

      bill: an outward showing of devotion

      June 17, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      And that has no value to tony?

      June 17, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • tony

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piety

      Worship separate from goodness

      June 17, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      tony seems devoted to wikipedia

      June 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ed

      Bill, if the existence of your god is so certain as you seem to be claiming, why is there so much disagreement about that?

      Also seems like a big flaw in your perfect being's messaging. Why can't he get through clearly and consistently to all his human creations, if he is so powerful and smart? I'd fire him if he was my ad guy.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Bill Deacon
      What good comes from showing my utmost devotion to The Great Pumpkin?

      June 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  20. tony

    gods need collection plates. I wonder why they are gods then?

    June 17, 2013 at 11:25 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.