June 14th, 2013
04:05 PM ET

Superman: Flying to a church near you

By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN Belief Blog
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

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. 'C' Otter

    Always interesting to see what people post when it comes to religious blogs/articles. Which usually gets me thinking:

    1: Why do so many people try to cram their religion down other people throats?

    2: Why do so many people maliciously attack other people's beliefs?

    Perhaps each wondering answers the other, but it would be a nice change of pace to see people practice love in either case. I think we'd all be just a bit happier.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • mason

      because religions have always divided humanity...they're basically political

      June 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • 'C' Otter

      @ mason

      I have noticed the same tendencies when debating with Republicans and Democrats alike. good point.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • Answer

      Get over the emotional "love" bit.. it has nothing to do with it.

      In this reality you sort out the fiction/facts and the stuff that are invented by our minds. We endeavor to get past the baloney and the fears and then we make progress as a better society. We have to put into shame the whole junk religious claims. That is what it is all about.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Just a girl

      @ C'otter

      I second the motion of practicing "love". Let's begin.

      Happy Father's Day ALL.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  2. Steve C

    Oh brother, Another biblical story retold? A ticket was just UNsold.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  3. Vic

    Other than a financial incentive (which is OK,) if there is an ulterior motive behind this movie, it would be to portray Jesus as fictional as Superman!

    On a separate note, this theme also reminds me of the television series "Smallville."

    June 15, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Steve C

      Vic – good point. It reminds of when I was a kid and I found out the Chronicles of Narnia were based on Jesus/biblical stories. All that made me think was "well I guess anyone can make up crap".

      June 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
  4. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    Dumbest fucking "faith" article ever... the irony is this movie is being called "joyless" and boring... Lol

    June 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
  5. Brandon

    Oh no not Jesus, he was such an unfriendly man!

    June 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Hilton Dickinson

      You speak of a God that you do not know – let me know how that works out for you

      June 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • Brandon

      Have you even read the Gospels, Hilton?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • Brandon

      Hilton, I was being sarcastic

      June 15, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  6. The Deist

    This is stupid. The Messiah story is a common writing theme and has been since well before Christ. What a bunch of hooey.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • jboom

      could you enumerate them here?

      June 15, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Your Jesus was modeled after Horus... There are actually several more examples... But why do all of the work for you?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  7. wow

    If Superman were real, his archenemy would be Congress

    June 15, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Akira


      June 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  8. Jon

    So this article fails to even mention that Superman was originally created by two Jewish guys? Somehow I don't think they envisioned the parallels to JC.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Brian, Detroit

      The only similarity I see is that both superman and jesus are both fictional charecters.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • c5boi

      Well, actually, JC WAS Jewish, and a rabbi. Don't worry, we do get it.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Akira

      Cracked.com has some vintage Superman comics that portray Superman as somewhat of a less than wonderful character...he is described as a dick, actually. It's worth a look.

      After seeing these, any comparison to Jesus would be an insult to Jesus.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
  9. The Doctor is IN

    Poster faith told somebody to "take 80 mg of Prozac daily, u freak. Poster faith is advocating suicide in that case: 80 mg is not even prescribed; it is toxic and unsafe.
    In other words, she doesn't know what she is talking about, and should keep quiet on things she is ignorant of.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • The Deist

      You're not a doctor and shouldn't say you are. If you were, you'd know that 80mg is the maximum dosage of Fluoxetine. Giving the maximum does to patients with severe depression and bipolar disorder is not unheard of.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • The Doctor is IN

      Most doctors do not prescribe over 20 mg. 80 mg. daily is most definitely unsafe for most patients. Stick to being a Deist.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  10. Beefburger

    A stab at the heart of Christianity by the Masons. SUPERman imposing his message over Jesus. "Did God do this to me?" I must have missed the stories of Jesus trying to beat bad guys to a pulp.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • The Deist

      ...oh here we go.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
  11. Gabe

    No Comment

    June 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  12. Athenasaints

    I never admired Superman that much. Compare him to some fictional characters, I actually like Son Goku from DBZ better. Goku consistently improve himself over the years through rigorous trainings. From a tiny little kid to a powerful hero, he also consistently taking on more challenges. You see "growth" in Goku, you don't see growth in Superman. For 75 years, I keep seeing Supes stuck in neutral. Besides, this so call all American hero is a joke, the man of steel speaks more than 20 languages, I am more inclined to believe he sees himself as an outsider. He is an alien, who probably is an atheist, given that they are more advanced than us, believe more in positive ideals and principles more than believing in God.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Brandon

      Oh no, not Jesus! He was such an unfriendly guy.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Brian, Detroit

      But both superman and jesus are fictional charecters from fictional stories.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  13. Keel Hauler

    CNN, you've completely lost it. It's a frigging Superman story. I'ts been dragged though the dirt, and it's all fiction, not news. But here you are listing it as such. You've lost it CNN, you've really pfhucking lost it...

    June 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  14. Chris

    Theres plenty who claim there isn't and there pretty hellbent about advertising it, its a two way street.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      No, there are plenty who say there has never been any proof whatsoever to back up Christianity's claims so why should they believe it.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
  15. Jaun

    It is still odd to me that not many people understand that Jesus was a mythical construct.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  16. Chris

    I love how these Athiest say theres no proof in Christianity, well you guys dont have any proof the other way either so don't get all butthurt when people want to put faith in religion.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      Burden of proof is on the claimant. Atheists don't claim anything, they simply say: You claim there is a magical man in the sky? Then prove it.

      Basic rules of debate there genius.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • jboom

      Yes indeed.

      Christians believe in existence of God
      Agnostics say they are not sure.
      Atheists believe there is no God.

      Nothing can be proved. Both are matters of faith.

      What's interesting is that at least Christians will admit theirs is a matter of faith.
      In fact, the 'reason' that Atheists stand on is slowly eroding.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • eflows

      y'all can believe the moon is made of Silly Putty if you want. Just don't force it on the rest of us.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      @jboom "Both are matters of faith." Oh I see. So it takes an equal amount of faith to have a worldview that aligns completely with all physical and scientific evidence ever collected, as it takes to believe in magical sky people, for which there has never been any evidence whatsoever.

      Interesting logic you have going there.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Answer

      A cop pulls you over for speeding and asks you for your license and registration.

      Notice HOW our society works! The burden falls on you! Religious freaks can never understand this simple relationship between making a claim and providing the evidence to back up a claim.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • ettuhealy@yahoo.com

      You can not prove something does not exist. That's very basic logic.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Steve C

      @Jeebusss – exactly. Chris, you can't just make up whatever you want, then tell clear-headed people that they have to prove it's NOT true. I say that when we die, we turn into magical pink pixies on the planet Ozkaboom. I know it's true, because no one has been able to prove it's not true.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Dogodl

      Burden of proof is on who, lol? I have no burden.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • PikeRover

      It's called faith not fact for a reason

      June 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • jboom

      "you cannot prove something does not exist"

      Science is the study of material. Science has nothing to say about the existence of God, except to perhaps show evidence rationalism behind design.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Answer

      "Prove to me that I can't see."

      "Prove to me that I can't drive."

      "Prove to me that they can't draw.."

      -In the whole series of trying to prove the negative – IT IS A WASTED EFFORT. In society you prove what does exist/belong; what there is to hold and nurture; you prove the stuff that are tangible.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Brian, Detroit

      @jboom, the only thing eroding is the childish belief in your fictional deity.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • jboom

      Steve C, you are making our point.
      Nobody can prove the non-existence of your pink fairy god.
      That is Chris's point.
      Atheist cannot prove the non-existence of any god.

      Atheism is a matter of belief or faith.

      Saying there is no proof of pink fairies is silly if we presume by definition pink fairies are beyond the physical material world.

      Atheism is a matter of faith.
      So is theism.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • jboom

      Brian, thats conducive to meaningful dialogue.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Em

      i believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the creator of the universe! you cant prove that he doesnt exist, can you? the burden of proof is on YOU, NOT ME

      June 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Answer


      You freaks all spout the same asinine bs. "Your atheism is all faith too."

      Go fvck yourself you freaks. We have material evidence that can be reviewed – and re-reviewed endlessly to progress our understanding of this physical reality. You freaks love pulling that junk "faith" into every bit of discussion because that is the only word you have.

      We have the word called "confidence"! Look it up freak.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • Answer

      How do we build a microwave? How do we mass produce cars? How can we route electricity to any point we like.

      ALL the knowledge is built upon the smaller dwellings and foundations in our confidence that we CAN REPRODUCE THE IDEAS that we have founded. So pay attention you freaks. Get a fvcking education.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Ave atque Vale

      "I love how these Athiest say theres no proof in Christianity, well you guys dont have any proof the other way either"

      In instances such as this the fall-back, default stance is to withhold belief until proven one way or the other.


      "Atheists believe there is no God."

      Very few atheists say that (other than in a shorthand sort of way). They withhold belief in a god or gods.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • jboom

      Answer, are you familiar with the SETI project? Its a project started in ~1984 and is funded in part by NASA and National Science Foundation. Scientists on SETI constantly analysis radio signals from outerspace to see if they can find any signs of intelligence in the signals (as opposed to background cosmic radiation, etc.). Presumably, identification of intelligence in the signals would be evidence of an intelligent alien species. This real life project was featured in the movie Contact, starring Jodie Foster many years ago.

      Researchers are beginning to use the same mathematical, scientific techniques to test for whether things on earth show a higher probablility of design than not.

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

      jboom, you said above: "In fact, the 'reason' that Atheists stand on is slowly eroding." I beleve the opposite is true – that the more we learn (acquire facts and knowledge), the less room there is for supernatural beings and their delusional cults. Care to explain your previous assertion?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • The real Tom

      jboom, you are obsessed with the notion that SETI is intended to find evidence of intelligent design. It isn't. And citing a B movie about it says much about your level of understanding.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • jboom

      Hello HotAir,
      yes, scientific progress has over the past few centuries explained numerous matters that used to be assigned to "the mysterious works of God" – thunder, earthquakes, etc. Now of course we can observe and predict many of these things thanks to enlightenment era philsophers – of whom today we would call scientists.
      But ...

      June 15, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      To summarize, the existence of the universe does not imply a creator (intelligent or otherwise) nor would the discovery of evidence of extraterrestrials.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • jboom

      real Tom, not sure if you are intentionally "muddying the waters" or if you are just not reading my full post on SETI

      June 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • jboom

      real tom, SEIT is not about intelligent design. google it

      June 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • jboom

      agreed, however, the same techniques employed by SETI in analyzing the signals can be used in analyzing other information content


      June 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • jboom

      Do you want book recommendations?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • jboom

      See chapter 18 of "Signature in the Cell"

      June 15, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      jboom, please provide a reference for "Researchers are beginning to use the same mathematical, scientific techniques to test for whether things on earth show a higher probablility of design than not." I am especially interested in the researcher's definition or criteria for determining "whether things on earth show a higher probability of design."

      June 15, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • jboom

      "In actual SETI research, scientists are looking for more subtle indicators of intelligence, namely, unnaturally modulated and focused radio signals.12 Either way, SETI does presume that the presence of a complex and specified pattern would provide grounds for suspecting the existence of an intelligence. Moreover, SETI seeks precisely to establish the activity of an intelligent cause in a remote place and from a remote time in which intelligence is currently unknown. If scientific methods can—in principle, at least—detect the presence of an extraterrestrial (and nonhuman) intelligence in a faraway galaxy, why can’t methods of design detection be used to establish the activity of nonhuman intelligence in the remote past as the cause of the specified complexity in the cell?"

      Meyer, Stephen C. (2009-06-06). Signature in the Cell (Kindle Locations 6319-6324). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

      He then goes on to show example. This is not your father's Oldsmobile – er, not your father's creation science.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • HotAirAce

      jboom, Re: SETI, from http://geoffsshorts.blogspot.ca/2012/01/signature-in-cell-part-3-book-of.html:

      ". . . Meyer speaks frequently of SETI, and I've chosen some samples:
      NASA’s search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) presupposes that any specified information imbedded in electromagnetic signals coming from space would indicate an intelligent source.
      -Page 344
      SETI does presume that the presence of a complex and specified pattern would provide grounds for suspecting the existence of an intelligence.
      -Page 383
      SETI scientists do not already know whether an extraterrestrial intelligence exists. Yet they assume that the presence of a large amount of specified information ...would establish the existence of one.
      -Page 542
      Emphasis mine. Reading this it seems SETI and ID are brothers in arms, using the same methods with the same goals. Dembski's "specified information" term is given credence by the implication that the rocket scientists of NASA use it for one of their longest-running projects.

      Unfortunately for Meyer, someone told SETI.

      In a highly entertaining essay Seth Shostak of SETI opens by comparing the ID movement to drunkards playing with tuberous vegetables and goes on to explain in clear tearms the misrepresentation in Meyer's statements.

      Here's a brief excerpt, do read the whole thing:
      "...the signals actually sought by today's SETI searches are not complex, as the ID advocates assume. We're not looking for intricately coded messages, mathematical series, or even the aliens' version of "I Love Lucy." Our instruments are largely insensitive to the modulation–or message–that might be conveyed by an extraterrestrial broadcast. A SETI radio signal of the type we could actually find would be a persistent, narrow-band whistle. Such a simple phenomenon appears to lack just about any degree of structure"
      In other words they're looking for the equivalent a single tone, something entirely different to Dembski's Complex Specified Information."

      It looks like Meyer made a false claim that you have swallowed, hook, line and sinker. Do you believe everything you read?

      June 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • jboom

      testing this for now

      June 17, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • jboom

      But "someone" did not give Shostak Meyer's footnotes.
      Therein Meyer addresses Shostak's criticism!

      Here is Footnote 12 from Meyer referenced in my post at 1255 above

      June 17, 2013 at 1:27 am |
  17. Bruce Leckey

    If you mean parallel in the sense that there both made up than yes.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • PushingBack

      Only Superman is a better work of fiction.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • jboom

      Pusingback, read the mythology of old. Red today's mythology. Read the Christian bible. Even non-believer scholars admit it is in a category by itself, unlike any other mythology. Of course you will find similarities, but taken in its entirety, its absolutely amazing.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • The Deist

      No it isn't. It's absolutely unremarkable.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
  18. hal

    so who is lois lane?

    June 15, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

      mary magdalene

      June 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  19. Bill

    Yep, definitely not watching it now. I've had enough religion crammed down my throat, thank you very much.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • Bob

      So you are not going to see a movie that has no religious references because a studio is trying to use a marketing gimmick? That's pretty sad.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Keel Hauler

      I agree. And Bob, get a pfhucking life....

      June 15, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • popeye1128

      Says a lot about the studio and I will not put money in their pockets. They should have got Mel Gibson to play the part. At least then it would be up front.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Rev. William

      Yeah... Ok so as a Minister, I'm not really sure what to say about this. I grew up with the comics and of course am a big fan. For those of you who are angered about this, I'm sorry. For me, it's a telling of one of my favourite super heroes. The story of the Christ can be told and found in any underdog story. Rocky, StarWars, Firefly, Avatar, Wheel of Time... you name it! So this is nothing new. Unless Lara immaculately gave birth to Kal-El.... and I don't remember reading that.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Ave atque Vale


      "...Unless Lara immaculately gave birth to Kal-El...and I don't remember reading that"

      And I don't remember reading any verified medical reports that Jesus's mother did that either. It's too late now - the time for verification is long past on that one, as well as the other legends associated with him. A real (smart) god could've done a better job of it.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

      Going to see this movie now will only support those who believe in the invisible man.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  20. Kobe

    Warner Bros is distributing the movie. CNN and Warner Bros are all part of Time Warner.
    There you go, front page news.

    June 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Answer

      So you expect Time Warner to perhaps flog Disney movies then?

      Do you know anything about running a corporation? You must be a freakin moron.

      June 15, 2013 at 10:42 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.