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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. Agnostickids

    When you christians say, "God makes me a good person," We hear, "I would probably kill someone if God didn't stop me...."

    June 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • lol??

      you approve of the public servants doin' the killin'.

      you are not off the hook, fishie.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • eyes2see

      And that probably is what they meant. Thank God for Christianity, why don't you?

      June 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  2. topcat

    if jesus was real. he was just a man and super man would twist him into a pretzel. but super man isnt real either.
    good comparison hollywood. mock them more plz

    June 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  3. HeavenScent

    I smell a bad movie.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  4. Science

    To funny HS /bible thumpers and the purple dino and fruit loops..........chad /bill and the perv

    June 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  5. Andy Walsh

    I will watch the film, but I anticipate that the film will provide an unrealistic understanding of good versus evil and conclude that the problems of the world can be resolved through redemptive violence. If so, this film will reinforce the assumptions of many Christians, but it will not reflect the teachings or example of Jesus.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  6. Spock

    I see no logic in wanting to worship a Deity that demands that you live in a perpetual state of fear.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Peter Bishop

      Then your logic is flawed by insufficient data.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Spock

      Then provide a logical argument to back your comment.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Spock

      @ bishop...the above comment

      June 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Jessk

      Peter can't argue Spock, he's just voicing useless things to protect his faltering faith in an invisible being.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      "The best cure for Christianity is ACTUALLY reading the bible."

      Mark Twain

      June 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      (Man) is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them.

      Mark Twian

      June 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • DM

      You are right! You shouldn't follow a "deity" who wants you to live in fear...you should follow Yahuah (God) who wants you to live in obedience & faith and clearly states that fear or any thoughts of confusion are from satan. This is in the Bible! May Yahuah bless you.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  7. lionlylamb

    Fools say in their hearts, "There are no Gods" and they preach it toward others in ways dreadfully uncouth. Religious mockery is the godless tool of unsound and crass argumentative reasoning via congealing elemental fears upon base rooted lies in shallow memory chambers of any depraved unapologetic human psychic aware-isms being negatively enamored around godless ideals benefactors. Still, there is goodness within the surmounting ungodliness to be caringly weighed and measured then sent down the road of reconciliations journeys that will never find endings' way.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • kls817

      When someone asks, "Do you believe in God?"

      I reply, "the old ones, or the new ones?

      June 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      kls817,

      I prefer to consider all manifested understandings of Godly Orientations. There is no wrong in any of one's Godly perceptions. Only humanely frail faultiness against one's growths in positive Godly envisioning dares to mercilessly muddy the country's psychological structuration which by the way could either be negatively or positively ordained submissive frailties constantly encircling the wagons of hopefulness desires able aptness. "Go Figure!"

      June 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  8. Agnostickids

    Over 26,000 children will die of starvation today.

    Why should God answer YOUR prayers???

    June 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  9. WMesser58

    Way to ruin a great story with religious overtones. The one thing I will agree with is it is like christ because it's "MADE UP" !!!!!

    June 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  10. Christianpreacher

    Christianity:

    The belief that a cosmic, Jewish Zombie,

    who was his own father,

    ...can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepatically tell him you accept him as your master,

    ...so he can remove an evil force from your soul

    ...that is present in humanity because a woman created from one rib

    ...was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...

    yeah, makes perfect sense....

    June 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  11. Jesus The Christ

    You know what my favorite thing is?

    I'll tell you.

    Each week, millions and millions of middle class American citizens put on expensive dress clothes, load themselves into SUV's and drive past homeless shelters...

    orphanages, prisons, missions and halfway-houses

    to a very expensive, HUGE church building, where someone tells them how to be more like me (Jesus).

    That is Feckin' awesome, let me tell you. Awesome.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • iRoro

      I could take your comment seriously, but a little too much sarcasm prevents me.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      @ iroro...or perhaps you're just a hypocrite like all other christians???

      June 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Satan

      @ iroro...what is wrong with sarcasm when it's true?

      June 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus The Christ, by the handle you chose, you prove the sin of pride is blinding you. As for my handle, we are all sent from Heaven.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  12. tsaad

    That is horrible. How low can they go? Using God, religion and faith to market movies. Movie makers writing sermon notes, to market their movie. It is not God who is worshiped in the churches, it is MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and now the money machine is writing the sermons. Outrageous!

    June 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Chris

      And this somehow surprises you? Money is the only thing the various churches actually care about, regardless of their claims to the contrary.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  13. Jesus The Christ

    I, Jesus promised the end of all wicked people.

    Thor promised the end of all Ice Giants.

    ....I don't see any Ice Giants around....

    June 15, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  14. Jesus The Christ

    The reason people use a crucifix against vampires is because vampires are allergic to bull***t

    June 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Richard Pryor

      That's what I said.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      @ Richard

      Yep, you did! :o)

      June 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  15. Jesus The Christ

    "The Word Of Christ!" Surprisingly indistinguishable from one's personal opinion really...

    June 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  16. Jesus The Christ

    For God so loved the world, that he drowned everyone on it...

    June 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  17. Jesus The Christ

    If God said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," isn't he admitting that there are other gods??

    June 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Trevor Bryant of Flagstaff, AZ

      No. He is saying there are other spaghetti monsters that fly, and he doesn't want you wasting your time with other flightless manicotti because HE is the best pasta you can buy.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus was referring to your ego being other gods. Not being humble. Seeking amusement to stroke your vanity (ego).

      June 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      @ Heavensent...did I (Jesus) personally tell you that????

      June 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      again @ heavensent...or did some preacher teach you his interpretation of it and you bought it???

      June 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      AND again @ heaven sent...I mean, that was one of the freakin' ten commandments and you're telling me that he was telling a bunch of people in the desert that they needed to get over their ego? SERIOUSLY??????

      June 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Noel

      There were the Greek gods, the Roman gods, Norse gods – all false gods before the one true God, and that's what he was talking about – do not worship false idols/gods. But you know that, and you are a false god, the lord of the trolls.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      Noel, that's an awful lot of mirror-talk you're doing there. Don't be so hard on yourself, and stop calling yourself a troll. Why do you christians get so angry when your faith is challenged? Perhaps because deep down, you don't really believe and that scares the **** out of you.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Heysuz the anti-christ, see below for Jesus' truth.

      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 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  18. Nitwit

    Stories that reflect or parallel the life of Christ don't bother me one bit, but I think this is a marketing play by the studio to try and generate dollars from the Faith community. Why would it be important for a person of faith to watch or hear about a story mirroring the life of Christ when they already believe in Christ? I'm sure most Christians would tell you that no matter how many parallels or references there are in a another story, nothing could match or even compete with the power of Jesus in the Bible.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      That's true, since the bible is the biggest graphic novel of all time.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  19. Jesus The Christ

    "So I get back to earth and they've put all these crosses everywhere, and I'm like, W*TF! You think that if JFK comes back, he wants to see sniper rifles everywhere???

    June 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • kcv

      I agree and I'm a Christian! If Jesus was executed or hung, would we be wearing eIectric chairs and nooses!?! I don't do ANY religious symbols like crosses, Buddhas, don't pray to saints, etc. I'm not overly religious, I just believe faith is between u and God and the ten commandments says NO false idols...including all those pics of blue eyed Jesus ( just beyond wrong and direct contradiction to yhe Bible), Black/Brown Jesus, Pics of Mary, Nativity scenes etc.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Two unbelievers, babbling as usual.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  20. dsad

    This is too pathetic for words. They condemn Harry Potter, but embrace a man who shows off his muscles in a tight bodysuit and also flies. Are all fundamentalist Christians secretly gay?

    June 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      Yes, they are. Superman in the movie has a NICE hairy chest...YUM, gonna get me some of that!!!

      June 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • kcv

      It's something about good looking white boys that get the crazy Christians approval. They will overlook faults and make excuses if they look like the idol "son". Harry was too British, telletubbies too colorful, but Superman is the shining example of a Christian American to them..and he's done more harm than either. I actually like Superman, butche has nothing to do with my faith, and a fictional character is not a truw role model.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      dsad, Christians are openly righteous.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:23 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.