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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. STFU

    I think it is more appropriate to claim Jesus: The Original Ghost Rider.

    June 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Church of Star Trek

      Jesus was the original red shirt...

      June 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  2. lol??

    Who gives the A&A's their marching orders and pay??

    June 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      lollygag: Unlike you we're capable of distinguishing right from wrong without the use of a 2000 year old book to guide us. That's why there are more christians in prison than there are Atheists.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      She means aardvarks and antelopes.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  3. Portland tony

    "May you be ever condemned to Dante's infernal place for even comparing superheroes!

    June 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Wow...may you be confined to a place from a fictional work, for comparing two other fictional characters.

      Just wow.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  4. Look Up

    We thought Obama was Superman, the Messiah. He thinks he is invincible. And, we are pretty sure there is a cap under his "prezidencial suit.

    June 17, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Wrong forum bud. You want the "Political" hate blog... not the "Religious" hate blog...

      June 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Look Up

      Sorry Satan's brother. So easy to confuse the cultivated nature of believers in Obama and comparing that to religion and politics at the same time.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      That's funny that you call me "Satan's brother"

      June 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Look Up

      Lucifer evil twin = Satan's brother

      Tell me knew that. Please! Otherwise, We have more to learn – don't we.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • ME II

      @Look Up,
      " believers in Obama"

      Are you saying you don't think Obama exists? We do have more to learn...

      June 17, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • *

      Lucifer's evil twin = satan's brother or sister. My, we do have more to learn, don't we?

      June 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Raspberry Beret?

      "we are pretty sure there is a cap under his "prezidencial suit."

      June 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  5. Look Up

    Who knew?

    June 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  6. Bootyfunk

    superman is much more likely to be real than god. superman is supposed to be an alien. though i doubt aliens have ever been here, with the sheer number of planets in the universe, it's likely aliens do exist... somewhere. which makes superman a much more likely possibility than an invisible sky fairy.

    superman > god

    June 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      It is funny that Superman is an alien, and that I find the reality of aliens more real than God. Tsk.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  7. Bootyfunk

    superman doesn't kill babies. that alone makes him better than god, the child murderer.

    superman > god

    June 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Look Up

      Dictators, abortion doctors, plan parenthood,supreme court, and diseases kill babies. Not GOD!

      June 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      look up: If your imaginary friend is so powerful, why would he allow for babies to die? As for the abortion issue-you're obvious ignorant on this matter. See abortion is not 'baby' killing when done before the FETUS is viable outside the Mother's body. Then again it is not your business what any woman does with her personal body, if you don't like abortion-don't have one but you have NO right to dictate what a person does with their own body.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • G to the T

      @look – The flood and the final plague of egypt – potentially MILLIONS of babies killed DIRECTLY by god....

      June 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Look Up

      @truth

      Or better said, anti truth.

      We have as much right, once you accuse GOD for being responsible for children deaths.

      not my rules, GOD's rule.

      Sin seeks to kill and destroy families. It is sad women and you believe Satan:s lies.

      GOD still loves you. Just wants better for you. And the un born.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Look up
      SCOTUS does not kill babies. That si guilt by decree. Perhaps they enable more, or they do not stand in the way, but they themselves do not kill babies. Mind the rhetoric.

      And god has a long histroy of killing babies. He also advocates beating or stoning children if they get out of line.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Look up
      Your god created Satan knowing full well the consequences. God is OK with anything Satan has done or will do.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Look Up

      @G to the T

      A most interesting example. Since you like quoting the Bible, try quoting all the verses on this topic. Re-read the edict from Pharaoh. He cursed his own people. Those who spread the blood of the Lamb on their door post were spared GOD'S wrath. Sinners are saved by the shed blood of the perfect LAMB OF GOD – JESUS.

      Do you want to be saved?

      June 17, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Look up.

      Genesis 6:1And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

      2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

      3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

      4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

      5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

      6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

      7 And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

      7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

      22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

      23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark

      God's enthusiastic endorsement of child abuse.

      Proverbs 23:13-14

      Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you beat him with a rod, he will not die. If you beat him with the rod, you will save his life from Sheol.

      Deuteronomy 21:18-21

      If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father; or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, "This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

      Odd how god would need a signal not to kill those inside. What if some people hadn't heard of this path to be saved from the threat that He made in the first place?

      June 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Why?
      Why does God allow bad things to happen? Why doesn’t God prevent bad things from happening? I don’t think anyone can answer those questions generally speaking, it would just be speculation on anyone’s part that wasn’t directly involved. Even if you are directly involved, I don’t think God will reveal the answer to you, unless you are a believer or he uses the situation to convert you. Just from mine own experiences, God has revealed the reasons for things that caused me great pain and loss in some cases and in others nothing was revealed.

      Strictly to the nonbelievers here, sometimes it is put, why would a loving God allow….? The love that God has for you as a nonbeliever is literally Jesus. He has made the way. That is his love for you. He patiently waits. He works in your life to convict you of your sin. He loved you first and is waiting for your response. When and if you are converted then there is more, much, much more. Could God be trying to get your attention?

      June 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      No robert.
      God is not trying to get my attention. He either ignored me for a couple of decades or he does not exist.

      Also Why would I have to accept the immoral act of allowing someone else to accept my just punishment in order to be "saved" from the threat he imposes?
      If Jesus appeared before me, I might acknowledge he is a god, but I would not let him stand for me for my punishment, something that he is judging on rules he made up and a punishment he created in the first place.

      Really, how ridiculous is this whole belief system?

      June 17, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Look Up: You idiot! Not everyone shares your belief, nor are we required to. The bubybull laws and what your imaginary friend supposedly said mean nothing in the real world, at least not in the USA...the only laws that matter are the laws of your country and SCOTUS has made abortion legal...so suck it up and mind your own business-you don't have any right to tell a person what to do with their body. Regardless of what you may think or have been brainwashed to believe, outside of that buybull there is no proof of your imaginary friend...so it's safe to say that your imaginary friend is simply that...nothing more than a made up concept to control the weak and suck in the gullible.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Look Up

      @truth

      Name calling. Kind low for you isn't it?

      Not an idiot, I am just a believer in JESUS, GOD the Father and Holy Spirit.

      We both have our convictions, and do our very best to express them in the belief blog.

      Don't like that, stay out.

      June 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • derp

      "Dictators, abortion doctors, plan parenthood,supreme court, and diseases kill babies. Not GOD!"

      So you are saying those things are not part of the big guys plan?

      Whose plan are they part of?

      June 17, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      No god protects the 700,000+ that believers (largely christians) abort each year in the USA.

      June 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • G to the T

      Lookup – I don't think I'm the one that needs to re-read that. What did GOD do to the Pharoh just before? HE HARDENED HIS HEART. God directly interverned against the Pharoh's free will to ensure that his will would be done.

      Even if that wasn't the case, by what logic and the leader of a nation be considered responsible for the souls of his subjects? Why would innocent CHILDREN have to die because of something between the Pharoh, Moses and God?

      And you still didn't explain how thousands (possibly MILLIOINS) of innocent children were killed in the flood if it wasn't god's will?

      June 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Knights Who Say...

    Chairman: Item six on the agenda, the “Meaning of Life” Now Harry, you’ve had some thoughts on this.
    Harry: That’s right, yeah. I’ve had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we’ve come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One, people are not wearing enough hats. Two, matter is energy. In the Universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person’s soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man’s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.
    [Pause.]
    Max: What was that about hats?

    June 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I'm interested in what you define as "spiritual matters."

      June 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Knights Who Say...

      ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
      WOMAN: Order, eh - who does he think he is?
      ARTHUR: I am your king!
      WOMAN: Well, I didn't vote for you.
      ARTHUR: You don't vote for kings.
      WOMAN: Well, 'ow did you become king then?
      ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake,
      [angels sing]
      her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur
      from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I,
      Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
      [singing stops]
      That is why I am your king!
      DENNIS: Listen - strange women lying in ponds distributing swords
      is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power
      derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical
      aquatic ceremony.
      ARTHUR: Be quiet!
      DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power
      just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
      ARTHUR: Shut up!
      DENNIS: I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an empereror just
      because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd
      put me away!
      ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
      DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
      ARTHUR: Shut up!
      DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!
      HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
      ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!

      June 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  9. ReligionIsALie

    Just more proof that the story of christ is nothing more than another fictional tale written by men, based on the typical hero model of writing. Dingalings who believe in god, christ, allah, etc., might as well believe Superman is real too. Humans are so gullible.

    June 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • lol??

      Oh, ooooohhh, proof.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • ReligionIsNotALie

      There is no proof that Jesus is a never existed.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol?, YOU need to provide the proof that he ever existed.

      or just tell me how to prove a negative and i'll get right to it.

      christians hate logic and reasoning.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • *

      They don't hate it, they just can't understand it.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • lol??

      BTW, be sure and hail Hermes for help in understanding the Word of God. He was also the god of herds, so the socies wouldn't feel left out.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      we understand it all to well - that's why we run in the other direction. religion warps the mind, makes good people do evil things in the name of their particular invisible sky fairy. we want you to leave the cult and think for yourself.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • lol??

      No thanks, the "Wegod" isn't all that impressive. No idea of origins or destinations.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Booty
      * was responding to the "christians hate logic and reasoning" comment.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • lol??

      hate reason and logic?? not a good plan.

      "Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

      June 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • pred

      ReligionIsALie- "Just more proof that"

      A Superman movie is proof??

      I think you need to refresh yourself with the concept of proof.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  10. STFU

    “I think it’s a very good thing that Hollywood is paying attention to the Christian marketplace,”

    lol where it says Superman was a christian character from Bible?

    June 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      why not? the bible has unicorns. just about as ridiculous.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  11. derp

    This make sense.

    There is equal evidence of superman existing as there is of god existing.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • pred

      To bad you are not making much of a point though.

      June 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • David

      Maybe his point is that you can either go on believing Superman isn't real and someday die from the wars mankind often rages or you can believe in a nearly all powerful ebing who will fly in faster than a speeding bullet to save us. So there is no downside to believing... right Christians? Not sure if Pascal would have agreed, but there you go...

      June 17, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • David

      ebing = being.

      Or a new internet word...

      June 17, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • lol??

      how many men of steel can spin on the point of a needle?? ballerina men.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Webinitions

      ebing – an electronic cherry that is popped the first time you watch something on the web that you cannot unsee. i.e one girl one cup.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Webinitions

      I closed my eyes so fast I never saw the other girl... 🙂

      June 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sorry, david, there's a huge downside to believing a lie and living your life by that lie.
      superman and god are both fictional characters. superman is just more interesting. also, superman doesn't kill babies, unlike yahweh.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  12. Bootyfunk

    if you get a devil's pentagram made out of kryptonite, you can keep jesus AND superman away. whammy!

    June 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • lol??

      Tryin' to divert the hexes you use with the hexagram??

      June 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  13. faith

    nite nite girlies

    June 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  14. faith

    0!!!

    June 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  15. faith

    0

    June 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  16. Uncouth Swain

    The movie wasn't bad. I recommend it. There are some issues with Henry Cavil's performance but that's more the writers fault than his. They just didn't give him a chance to show off his humanity and I swear he has to be the least talkative Superman ever.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Delicious Dumpster Diving

      *fart*

      June 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  17. palintwit

    " Sarah Palin is like herpes. You're glad to see her go, but you know she'll pop up again. "

    June 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Only because you keep making her pop up.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  18. faith

    girls, that's y u r going to b sued until there's nothin left but ur formal apologies and empty pockets!

    lol

    June 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • David

      And with all that money you win you can head back to school and learn to spell I take it?

      June 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • JR

      Are you drunk STILL? Sleep it off already.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • dodo

      Eagerly awaiting my subpoena, you obnoxious git.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  19. faith

    zeus is just alright with u

    June 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  20. faith

    i love zeus

    June 17, 2013 at 2:38 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.