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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

    Why do christians think that the best way to argue for their beliefs is to attack Atheists and Agnostics? Because they know we are right and christianity is wrong.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Actually, only about half of them think that. The other half think we'll see the light if they just quote the Bible often enuf, as if that's all they need to say to make a convincing case. But for some odd reason, THEY'RE never convinced when I quote Harry Potter back at them.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  2. 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 3:30 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      One of my favorites as well!

      June 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Edwin

      String Theory is goofier, and the Big Bang theory accepts that physical laws like inability of matter to move faster than the speed of light can be violated without any attempt at explanation. Just because you accept theoretical physics as true does not make it so. Indeed, some of the more complex bits (like the 26 dimensional tensor products) are inherently untestable – not just unproven, but unprovable,

      That sounds a lot like faith to me.

      Just to clarify: I like science, too – it's the belief system I accept – but it gets pretty weird sometimes. The idea that humans have a soul that is inherently corruptible is not as strange as Quantum Mechanics.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  3. Agnostickids

    When one person is delusional it's called insanity. When many people are delusional it's called religion.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Robert

      The tiny cult of atheism has the least believable dogma of all religions. It will never be more than a tiny cult embraced by more than 1 or 2% of the population.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Robert...I've already told you I'm not an Atheist. Don't you read? Have you looked at my username? Do you think? At all?

      June 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Robert

      A true agnostic says he does not know if God exists or not and would never call all religions delusional. Therefore I conclude you are in fact an atheist, and seem to be of the anti-theist brand (a Dawkinite) based on your posts.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Agnostickids

      Wow Robert! You know EVERYTHING about ALL Agnostics! I'm truly humbled by you and your great, wise words. LOL! Seriously man...you're that kind of person that argues just for the sake of arguing. You're only making yourself look foolish.

      Oh, and thank you for reading ALL of my posts! Sounds like you're searching for some truth. Couldn't prove them wrong could you.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Hear This

      Robert,

      You are atheistic toward all of the other gods that have been dreamed up over the eons (unless you really do believe in Allah, Zeus, Ra, Vishnu, etc. and you just hate them?!)

      We simply believe in one less god than you do...

      June 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Veronica

      @Robert, atheism is not a religion. It is a lack of religion. And I believe that if there is a god, he is more offended by religion than by atheism.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Edwin

      Robert, it does not bother me that you consider atheism to be unbelievable: all it means is that you are not an atheist. But the percentage you quote is inaccurate because it only indicates the percentage that do not have other affiliations.

      Did you know, for example, that 28% of self-identified Christians do not actually believe on God? They are not uncertain, either – they simply do not believe God exists. I would call them atheists, but they call themselves Christians – hence the unrealistic percentage you quote. Incidentally, that also means your argument that atheism is unbelievable is not shared by everyone... or even bha large group of people.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  4. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Jesus IS JUST LIKE Superman. Neither exist! Sheeple, wake up.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  5. Agnostickids

    Genesis 6-9: A 600 year old man builds a boat that houses millions of animals.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Athy

      Perfectly sensible, to a religie.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Sure, Noah was actually Dr. Who, and the Ark was really the Tardis. Makes perfect sense.

      June 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  6. tallulah13

    The sky is blue!

    (are we done stating the obvious?)

    June 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Shoot! That was a reply that went the wrong place!

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

      Okay...don't move around so much I'm trying out a new scope today...! Hold still.......

      June 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  7. There. Are. No. Gods!

    This is funny, a story about a frictional character (superman) that inspires thought about another fictional character (heysus christie). Lol! There are no gods and you know it!

    June 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Robert

      Atheists must believe in one of two irrational and unscientific fables.
      1) The universe created itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing; or
      2) The universe is eternal.

      Neither atheist fable matches known science or current observations. Atheism is an irrational religion.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Robert, "I don't know" does not equal "god did it". Putting your ignorance on a pedestal and worshiping it does not make your ignorance "god".

      June 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You've presented two alternatives. There are more. Why are the two you presented irrational and unscientific?

      If you are a theist, you have a belief in a God (or gods), and that may not be a justified belief. How is that less irrational than my not believing in something for which there is no necessity or evidence?

      June 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      Sorry Robert, but recent research from Oxford using microwave radiation to trace the spread of matter has peered beyond the big bang and offered tantalizing evidence that the expansion and contraction of the universe is indeed cyclical. The "big bang" is not a theory of how the universe began. It's a theory of the mechanism of expansion of matter into the void. And it's useless to deny that expansion is a reality since we can measure the speed and distance the stars move using the naked eye and see that it advances outwardly from a single direction.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Sorry, I was addressing Robert.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Athy

      Religies must believe in one of two irrational and unscientific fables.
      1) The universe was created by some unseeable entity which created itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing, or was created by another unseeable entity which created itself somehow, etc, etc, etc; or
      2) The universe is eternal.

      What's your choice, Robert?

      June 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Cherries

      I'm sure you think that way, Robert; where you err is thinking that atheism is a religion at all. It isn't.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  8. Agnostickids

    Oh, you need religion to guide you morally? You couldn't figure out that murder is wrong by yourself? Huh?

    June 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • lol??

      tell the wurld how you survived the abortion attempt by your mommy temptress.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  9. Non

    Maybe they could use this scene from Superman II:

    The President: "Oh, God."
    General Zod, shaking his head: "Zod."

    June 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  10. megatalldave

    Is progress every made with a dogfight? Every single faith story posted here on CNN has comments with noisy and insulting people who want to make a point of how stupid everyone is that doesn't agree with them. Can this do anything but entrench people in their current beliefs?

    June 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Athy

      It's not a matter of agreeing, it's a matter of seeing the truth, which religies cannot possibly do.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Edwin

      No, but they are already so entrenched that they cannot understand that a rational human being can have an opinion that is not identical to theirs. So they ridicule the others who are irrational, failing to grasp the obvious concept that ridicule does not make a person more likely to believe you.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Edwin

      Athy: I think you missed the point – megataildave was not talking about religious people.

      Or, rather. He was talking about BOTH sides – the religious nuts who bash non-believers, and the non-religious nuts who bash believers. At least a few of your comments suggest that you fall into the second group.

      Why is it so hard to accept that not everyone sees the universe as you do? Some of the deepest most rational thinkers I know are very religious. And some are atheist... and some are uncertain. A certainty that there is no god is as unfounded a belief as the certainty that there is.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Athy

      I fully accept that not everyone sees the universe as I do. As for rational thinkers being very religious, they are much more likely to be atheists than the general population. A certainty that there is no god is a much simpler and logical concept than there being a god. I go with common sense snd logic, since I don't suffer from brainwashing as many religies are.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Edwin

      What makes belief in no god simpler or more logical? Those are value judgements, and I believe that are actually incorrect.

      It is absolutely simpler to believe that God created the universe according to unexplained whim, as opposed to believing extremely complex physical laws that are mutually incompatible (a sticking point, actually) are in charge. Belief in God is utterly simpler – though much harder to use to predict future events.

      As for logic, it neither side can really hold water. Logic has to do with self-consistency, and both the pure science model and the religious models have logical flaws. In religion they are attributed to god's will; in the science model they are attributed to hitherto unknown physical laws. In other words, neither model explains the universe well, but each has proponents that fervently believe the logical holes will be filled with new revelations.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Athy

      What created god, then? Did he just appear spontaneously? Believing god somehow was created and then he created the universe is a much more complex concept than the universe simply creating itself. Why go for a two-stage process when one will do? What logical person prefers a complex explanation over a simple one?

      June 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • megatalldave

      Yeah, I see dogfighting on both sides. But really, is it rational to defend rationalism with name-calling? Is it faithful to defend faith with mudslinging? I shouldn’t be throwing too many stones on this one, since I used to engage in this sort of pointless jabbing, actually on both sides at different times in my life. But there is a better way.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  11. Agnostickids

    If we don't teach our kids to think, then christianity will teach them not to.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • lol??

      you only teach them to classify. plenty of creation to classify, alright.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      lollygag: Christianity taught you well...it's clear with your every post...without your giant book of multiple choice you can't think for yourself. If tomorrow you were told that you could no longer practice your religion in any way, shape or form-not prayer, no talk of it, no buybull in your home...your world would crumble.
      The wonderment of being a non-believer is we're forced to weigh the pro's and con's in this life because we don't depend on a single book...we depend on many books and unlike you, we are likely to change our opinions based on the evidence. Part of that for you is that you think you have to accept it all, like a gullible fool or you'll burn for eternity....so you grip on as tight as you can because you're not capable of thinking for yourself. That's the reality of religion largely.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  12. Agnostickids

    Why is checkmating a christian so hard?

    Because they are all pawns and their king doesn't exist.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Gawd Almighty

      So I guess you'd say the same thing about muslims, hindus, jews, scientologists, and all other religions then? Od do forget the biggest sham religion of all, liberalism.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • jake

      gawd,

      yes – all religions are shams. "liberalism" is no more a religion than "conservatism." however, most "liberals" I know have genuine concern for their fellow humans. most "conservatives" I know are religious and profess to caring, but really don't.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  13. Agnostickids

    Jesus: "I can save you from h***. Hunger? Not so much..."

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

    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

    -John Galbraith-

    June 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Robert

      Oh, atheists say the most bigoted things. How cute.

      The fact is Christians give far more to charities than atheists do, so NAH, Christians are not by in large a selfish people.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, Robert. You say the most foolish things! The quote was about conservatism, not religion.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Athy

      Of course christians give more to charities. There are far more of them than there are atheists.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • Robert

      @tallulah13

      Conservatives give more to charities than liberals . That is a fact. Google it.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @Robert,

      Or it could be that liberals give without announcing it and therefore aren't counted.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      The Taliban has charitable enerprises as well.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  15. NewSupermanSUX

    What a dingy dirty looking outfit. What ever happened to truth, Justice and the AMERICAN WAY???

    June 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  16. Agnostickids

    What if satan wrote the bible to convince people to be ***holes so that they'd go to h***?

    June 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  17. Athy

    I'd like to be a born-again christian, but my mother said no damn way.

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

      Tell mommy to stop working the streets.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Denise

      Your Mother does not make your decisions. She is not the one who will answer for them in the end either. Make your own decision, with respect for yourself and others.

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

      Thank you, Denise. That was truly a profound comment which I will take to heart at once. And congratulations for being so intelligent that you recognize humor when you read it.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  18. Agnostickids

    I think that when jesus died for our sins, he wasn't aware of some of the **** we'd get into. LOL!

    June 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  19. Agnostickids

    "God works in mysterious ways."

    If your doctor worked in "mysterious ways," would you trust him?

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

    Christian: Needs more evidence to believe in evolution. Needs ABSOLUTELY NO evidence to believe in Jesus Christ.

    Huh.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • truth?

      The missing link would be nice.

      You assume that they don't have proof for believing (answered prayers, the presence of the Holy Spirit).

      Obama's a Christian. EJ Dionne's a liberal and a Christian.

      You do realize that many people (whom you probably admire) are believers, right (current, historical)?

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

      @ truth? I don't need people that lead the country to be or not to be christian...your point fell rather heavily. Epic fail. LOL!

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

      Ah, you're 15. Who else would use the word epic in relation to something that isn't actually epic?

      So, you're saying there is no need to consider why other people who one admires think/believe the way they do, that it simply intelligent to assume that no one else knows anything and that if I assume that what I have seen/known is the end all and be al of everything, well then it must be so?

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

      @ JM, bless your heart, now in your fear, you're reverting to insults. Actually I'm in my 40's, I was unaware that certain phrases were used only by certain age groups. LOL!!!!

      June 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • rational minnesota

      truth?...

      We have missing links – lots of them. The fact that you head there as a first rebuttal point only shows your complete and utter ignorance of what evolution is and how it works.

      Answered prayers? Really? How about unanswered prayers? How about insane amounts of suffering and death that anyone with the power to prevent would stop in a heartbeat? How about natural disasters? Childhood diseases? If your god gets credit for the good, he must take blame for the bad.

      So what if so-and-so is a christian? Massive appeal to popularity/authority fallacy.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Joey

      The good thing for you truth is that every time we find a new fossil you will have 2 more missing links to complain about.

      June 17, 2013 at 12:55 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.