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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

    Church: I'd join, but I'm allergic to nuts.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • JM

      Read Les Miserables.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Cherries

      What about "Les Miz" would cause anyone to change their minds about Christianity? It is a nice piece of fiction. Nothing more.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Already have. Is that your new bible JM? Can you think for yourself without someone else telling you how to think or feel?

      June 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • JM

      I do think for myself, which is why I don't jump on the latest bandwagons or just assume I understand the universe. I am searching for answers (rather than declaring that I know everything).

      June 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      @ JM, you're searching for answers in a BOOK.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Athy

      Christians are unable to think for themselves. Otherwise they wouldn't be christians. They're guided by what people in fancy robes tell them and mostly fictitious stories in a 2000-year-old book of fairy tales. But it helps them behave properly, so let them be.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Gawd Almighty

      You're a F U C K I N G A S S H A T troll. Go back under your rock.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • lol??

      the frankfurt school betrayed you, athy.

      that's why you are one of the "many" mob.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      @ Gawd Almighty...thank you for proving my point.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  2. STFU

    The Original Superman
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXQr37Z2Qik&w=640&h=390]

    June 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    June 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Over 26,000 children will die of starvation today.

      Why should God answer YOUR prayers???

      June 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Birdyboyz

      Yeah...let's pray to GOD for help even though it's GOD'S WRATH to create Tornadoes,Earthquakes, etc,etc. So you're basically asking the "Person" responsible for these things to help now?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  4. Aerin

    xtains are so desperate to propagate their white male supremacy, it's laughable.

    June 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • JM

      Obama's a Christian.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Cherries

      JM: and?

      June 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • JM

      He's not white. I guess he must be an idiot for believing in imaginary beings.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Birdyboyz

      What's are "XTAINS". Is that like a new group of Superheroes?

      June 16, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  5. Robert

    Boy, I'll bet the anti-theists are raging about this movie!!!!

    June 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • tony

      Which anti-theists do you think will bother to see it? The main character was a source of derision during WWII as he never intervened in the War effort.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • God

      For God (me) so loved the world that he (me) drowned everyone on it.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • JM

      He didn't have to create us, allow us to be born in the 1st place. We didn't have to exist.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I've always thought Superman was the most boring of superheroes. I have no interest in this movie, one way or another, but I think it's quite funny that they are trying to tie it in with religion.

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

      We didn't have to create Him, He doesn't have to exist.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  6. TAK

    So they finally admit it. The Jesus story is as ridiculous as a comic book.

    June 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • reality check

      Obama is a Christian.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • tallulah13

      (now with correct placement)

      The sky is blue!

      (are we done stating the obvious?)

      June 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  7. Jimmy John Liar

    Now this movie goes on my "DO NOT SEE" list. You can have evangelicals.

    June 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • mikaman3000

      Now this poster goes on my "CAN'T THINK FOR ONE'S SELF" list. You can keep him Pavlov

      June 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • JM

      You are going to have to cut out a lot of reading since so much of literature has its origin in faith/belief and so many historical figures were Christians/believers in God.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  8. brian

    Maybe we should declare religion a disaster area. That's what it is. This article just demonstrates how silly "theologians" can be. They should get back to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I think it was the archbishop of Armagh who calculated that 324 angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    June 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • lol??

      why don't you go correct wiki that sayz,

      ""The question of how many angels can dance on the point of a needle, or the head of a pin, is often attributed to 'late medieval writers' ... In point of fact, the question has never been found in this form"."

      June 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  9. corpsman

    Lame.

    June 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  10. sybaris

    Fvck, it's no wonder the U.S. education is in shambles when more attention is given to imaginary figures than math and science.

    June 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • lol??

      nope u.s. educratists are rudderless thanks to doomy gloomy bloomy and his tax-on-o-me.

      look on the bright side. y'all like egyptian tombs and pyramids. they a warm-up fer yer final destination, dragonites.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Interesting as the original creators of Superman were Jewish and they based the character on Jewish legends, especially, the Golem, a being with supernatural strength who battled the oppressors of the Jews in Europe.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Novelbuttrue

      Yes and the scriptwriter for Man Of Steel is also Jewish and writes comic books...I think Warner Bros. knows it's dealing with idiots...

      June 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  12. Jesus The Christ

    Oh, oh, this is my favorite, ok, everyone sit down, this is super exciting! Wow, it's from my own book that you all love, revere and hold as the most sacred thing on earth. Ok, here it is:

    "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him."

    But all the women CHILDREN, that have not been known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

    – Numbers 31: 17&18

    June 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • tony

      And these people think they have the right to GOVERN us!

      June 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Sullivander

      @ Jesus The Christ
      Numbers 31:16 There caused the children of Israel to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.
      *Sigh* Context....
      Oh and on your way out, just thought I would inform you, those idiots already do run the country...

      June 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  13. Science

    Does anybody know is Wonder woman or Batman his partner ?

    June 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  14. Jesus The Christ

    Wow, it looks like I've cleared the board of Christians with my comments about their true beliefs and practices...

    June 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  15. tallulah13

    Off the faith topic: I've always thought Superman was the most boring of superheroes. This movie does nothing to change that opinion.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  16. God

    After magically impregnating a woman with myself,

    I pray to myself to have myself killed,

    so that I can save myself and everyone else from myself

    in the name of myself.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • A Conversation

      I thought god was all knowing–if he was, he would have known that Jesus actually prayed that he wouldn't have to die. Of course you already knew that, but since it didn't fit your hateful narrative, you decided to change that fact.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Novelbuttrue

      @ a conversation...perhaps if you educated yourself before you hatefully attack someone (hypocrite) then you would know that the Catholic church, among other christian faiths, believe that God and the Father are one and the same...derp.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • A Conversation

      novel...you have a woefully limited understanding of the trinity

      June 16, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  17. Agnostickids

    Religion:

    The practice of training your mind to ignore evidence, logic and reason, while being able to believe in a book of fairytales, based on faith alone.

    And being proud of it, rather than ashamed.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Robert

      Atheism, the irrational religion of hatred, bigotry and intolerance.

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

      Sorry Bob. I can love you, just like I can love all members of my species that are good to each other, and yet still not believe in god, just like you don't believe in Zeus or Ra.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      @ Robert, I'm not an atheist...

      June 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Robert: Huh? I think you meant theism.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Athy

      Robert, you just described religion. And you probably don't even realize it.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  18. Agnostickids

    RELIGION:

    It's like history class without the facts.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • 42

      Just like evolution.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • tony

      DNA analysis has provided all the facts necessary. Pity you don't read any facts.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • JM

      DNA, the motherboard, which proves that there is no random chance. Random chance hasn't created a computer; DNA is far more complex than a simple computer.

      June 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • JM

      Before they 'discovered' DNA, it's not like it didn't exist. They just didn't know about it...what a concept...just because you haven't seen something yet doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • tony

      Oh dear,

      Random chance only brings things into proximity, like the fact that all our own atoms came from long ago supernovae. In proximity of useful building blocks, we have cause and effect and evolution. Producing over long periods of time, more complexity, if successful, than any god could be.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Hear This

      JM,

      Ah, so tapeworms are made "on purpose"? The malaria virus – made "on purpose"? The tuberculosis bacilli? Down Syndrome? Harlequin syndrome? "On purpose"? "On purpose"???

      Take your nasty "God" fantasy and shove it...

      June 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  19. Agnostickids

    Sorry to repost, but I just love this from the last page:

    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 1:43 pm |
  20. John Las Vegas

    Rolled my eyes and shook my head more than a few times at the in-your-face Jesus references. Made the movie that much more ridiculous.

    June 15, 2013 at 1:43 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.