June 14th, 2013
04:05 PM ET

Superman: Flying to a church near you

By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN Belief Blog
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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. HenryB

    Oh, boy, marketing to the ignorant Christians. This is a movie, not some sort of religious thing.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  2. fatso sambo

    y r god hating nazi fascists so funny? and lighthearted, and amusing, and stupid, and angry, and full of hate, and bigots? nobody nos

    June 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Your "nazi fascists" were Christian, so I don't think equating us to them is a good idea.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  3. Nodack

    I was going to see the movie, but now that I know its religious undertones I will pass. A marketing ploy to get Christians to see the movie?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  4. Adam

    ....in a related story, atheists find themselves transfixed by Human Centipede.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      It is a better written story, and the "human connection" in it is touching.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • tony

      I way prefer the Harry Potter story. But apparently the Catholic Church doesn't like "his" magic, as it opens the door to wondering about "theirs" and which is a better fantasy.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Christianity is not healthy for children and other living things

      ... and in another related story: yet another Christian who judges, doesn't turn the other cheek, casts the first stone, doesn't really (admit it) love his neighbor.... all things Christ said they should do, but for some reason or another they just can't. Anyone surprised?

      June 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  5. 760 BC Messianic Prophecy the suffering servant

    Isaiah 53
    New International Version (NIV)
    53 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
    2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
    He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
    3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
    Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
    4 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
    yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
    6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
    he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
    8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
    For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
    9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
    though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
    10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
    he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
    11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
    by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
    12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
    because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
    For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Yep, the authors of the New Testament read the Old Testament, and based their new messiah on it, thank you.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  6. tony

    Don't tell me. In the spirit of Christianity, Warner will donate all the movie profits to . . . . . ?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
  7. Rick Medina

    It's pretty funny that Superman is being presented in this way. Being that Superman is the product of two Jewish guys, lol. Too bad their descendants don't get the benefits of this

    June 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Hello

      just an example of history repeating its self... read read Caesar's Messiah my Joseph Atwill... for the details

      June 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  8. anchorite

    This is the most craven marketing I've ever heard of. I hope anyone who uses Superman in their Sunday sermons realizes the character was created by two Jewish American comic book artists, Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel, and that, according to the book Men of Tomorrow, it was based on an earlier work called Gladiator, which was itself based on Nietszche's Uberman. The core point in Nietszche's (and Ayn Rand's rip off of Nietszche's) idea is that some people are born superior and will always be superior and torn down by all the normal people who hate, fear, and are jealous of them. Jesus was absolutely the opposite of this. He was born a nobody, never used force on anyone, and turned the other cheek when he was struck, and he fought and his ideas won through being that way, not through force, not through being obviously superior, not through ego.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • tony

      I understand Jesus' ideas (and possibly the idea of Jesus "himself") predate Jesus by many thousands of years.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Thomas

      Joe SHUSTER was Canadian.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  9. Alice

    Superman was invented by two Jewish kids from Cleveland and this is gross misuse of their creation.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  10. Austin

    nisan 14 1450 BC
    Exodus 12:
    6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

    June 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    nisan 14 AD 30 something
    Mark 15:42 'When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43] Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    nisan 14 AD 30 something
    1450 minus 30 something is =one thousand four hundred twenty years, from the death of the first born/ passover lamb blood

    to the crucifixion of the Passover Lamb.

    This is how the prophetic voice and power of God reign.

    And we have direct access to that God.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      The Exodus never happened.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Hello

      read Caesar's Messiah my Joseph Atwill... on what the passover lamb thing really was all about.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm |

    You jesus freaks need to get a real life, Superman did not have disciples.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  12. NavinJay

    Another reason not to see it. If you want a super-hero that pre-dates Jesus that Jesus was copied after, try Odysseus.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  13. bobjones2012

    All religion was written by the hand of men in positions of power in governments to control the masses. Even the bible expressly states to obey the government and laws, if their really was a God I assure you such a being would not insist that humans obey those in government or positions of authority.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • bobjones2012

      Romans 13

      1 Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. 2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. 3 For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well. 4 The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong. 5 So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience. 6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due. 8 Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law. 9 For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting - and any other commandment - are all summed up in this one commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God's requirements. 11 Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don't live in darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light. 13 We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior. Don't participate in wild parties and getting drunk, or in adultery and immoral living, or in fighting and jealousy. 14 But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don't think of ways to indulge your evil desires.

      Come on people is it not obvious who benefits from religion? Hahahahaha!!!

      June 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Hello

      read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill...

      June 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  14. Jason

    .....and just like God, Superman is a fictional character created to give weak minded people hope. Superman is just as real as any god you can think of. In other words, fictional. Not real. Fake.

    If you believe in god you might as well believe in superman as well. They are both just as likely to exist as the other one and until there is evidence to prove otherwise, I will not take either of them seriously.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • bobjones2012

      dont forget santa claus, the easter bunny and the tooth fairy. All stories to captivate the imagination of children, god the ultimate story the captivate the masses which are oppressed financially including the U.S., as away to explalin away the inequities of their existence which is truly controlled by the most manipulative, selfish and powerful humans amongst us.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  15. Eyes2C&Ears2Hear

    They do NOT parallel. Superman has a weakness, parallel debunked. 😀

    June 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm |

      Jesus had a weakness as well: mary magdalene

      June 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
  16. eric

    Get over yourselves it was a good movie it should faith and a belief that people can be good so why beat it down being silly is one thing being dumb is another and right now this whole talk about a pretty good movie is just dumb

    June 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  17. Darris

    Superman is superior mythology to Jesus. More fun and relevant. The Christian bible itself is an awful piece of fantasy fiction because it's full of contradictions, morally evil ideas, and thoroughly outdated, iron age concepts of how to live one's life.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  18. Dennis

    Mormon should sue for having their religion stolen.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  19. squidgal

    This is a top news story .... two ficitional characters. Go figure.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Parker

      Awesome comment. I got a chuckle out of it. xD

      June 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm |

      Gotta bury that NSA story ya know.....

      June 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Professor

      I'm thinking that most CNN is fictional.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Chessie

      The NSA did the same thing in 2006. People have short memories.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  20. Kieth T. Maxwell

    Pretty sick really..... Religious parallels or not, this is a money making marketing ploy on the part of Warner – plain and simple. Warner has no actual religious interest... They simply see the MONEY MAKING potential of pandering to the religious. Believer or not, this transparent ploy should be equally insulting to everyone. Of course, Warner also has a "Soldier of Steel" marketing campaign going as well.....

    June 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      I thought conservatives were for businesses making money?

      June 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      How about the money making ploy by the religious? Pretty insulting wouldn't you say?

      June 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • J

      Rabid, you are confusing economically conservative with religious.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:22 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.