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. me

    Superman is -not-Tim Tebow.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  2. Chris

    Some crip in long beach tells me i need to get off the bball court cuz im white...natural reaction is i wanna whoop on this dude...but i chill, remember the our father prayer which says forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...Theres a perfect example of religion working on a daily basis

    June 15, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Ave atque Vale


      And you think that forgiveness deal originated with Jesus? Nope.

      Even Buddha, waaaaaaay BEFORE the alleged Jesus had stuff to say about it.


      June 15, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Chris

      Thats fine to each is own, just an example in general about religion, not Christianity specifically.

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

      The word is prophetic. Our God is supernatural. Our faith is supernatural. And the seal of salvation is eternal. The Holy spirit bears the truth.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
  3. TheTruth

    2 Peter 2:1-4 :'However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among ​YOU. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.2Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.3Also, with covetousness they will exploit ​YOU​ with counterfeit words. But as for them, the judgment from of old is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering

    June 15, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Austin

      The way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.

      Help us oh God.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  4. Jeff

    The stories do parallel each other! They are both myths.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  5. Mack

    Wow, so mostly liberal Hollywood is going to the church to help promote a movie? Total sell-out in the name of greenbacks. Uber lame.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  6. Reinaldo

    Jesus was real, comparing Superman is not appropriate. I believe "Studios" just want to make more money out of a movie that was not that great. I saw it yesterday.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • LinCA


      The superhuman Jesus was just as real as Superman.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • edward

      Was he?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Atheists are more Moral

      You may believe Jesus was real (yet no one knows his true birthday do they?), but the super powers attributed to him were surely not, yet here you scoff at Superman and praise Jesus? Superman is way cooler if you want to choose fictional powers. Why people follow a religion made by humans 2000 years ago in the middle east with no education is beyond me. Santa Clause for adults, that's what religion is, and most never grow out of it. Good sir, you have been conned.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • desert tripper

      Oh really? Please explain, then, why Jesus doesn't appear in any texts of the time other than the bible / quran. If he was real and as high profile and controversial as the bible proclaims, someone outside of the Abrahamic religions would certainly have known about him.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Mr. Nihilist

      @Atheists are more Moral

      So wait, you're saying that not believing in God, also means that you don't believe in Morals. Life has no purpose, as there is nothing to it. Morals are pointless, and meaningless. God doesn't exist, as life is an imaginable waste. Religion is indeed a waste as they try to think about purpose, which is meaningless. They want the moral choice, they failed. Atheism isn't about morals. If you don't believe in God, then you don't believe in morals.

      I am an nihilist, as we're atheistic as well. If you believe in morals, then you believe in purpose, which goes against what the idea of atheism. There is NO purpose, and there is NO morals.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:38 am |
  7. Badboy

    But Jesus changed time....Superman could only do that in the first movie by spinning the earth backwards! Jesus did it by just being born!??!!

    June 15, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Superman has more staying power though. Jesus apparently ran outa juice after a couple years..

      June 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  8. Tj

    Check out American Bible Society's Man of Steel conversation guide at abs.us/movie!

    June 15, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  9. Butters

    If the pastors fall for this, well that should be a warning sign. Come on, this is ploy to fill seats and drive up profits. You can make these comparisons with many fictional characters. Warner Brothers is only doing it now to cash in, simple as that. How very morale of them.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • LinCA


      Are you saying that only those that peddle a religious message can fleece the sheeple?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Patty

      Why else would they make a movie if not to fill seats and make money? The story of Jesus is interesting as long as you're willing to suspend disbelief. I don't see a problem with it. I don't see a moral dilemma.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  10. more2bits

    "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."

    Mythology and Science Fiction as holy brothers? I don't think so!

    June 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  11. Morgan

    I was already deeply uninterested in another "Superman" reboot, but I'd like to thank Warner Bros. for turning me off even more. But hey – they're just encouraging what pastors and preachers already do: fleece their flocks out of money.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  12. JimmyTwotimes

    It seems that atheists are a most disagreeable bunch of folks. Why so much hate?

    June 15, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • popeye1128

      Don't Christians talk about non-believers going to hell? I call that hate.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Kathleen

      I've never heard an atheist gleefully subscribe to the notion that other people will suffer eternal torture. If the notion of hell is not hate, what is?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  13. MV

    Comic books and organized religion: both are stories for children.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • Answer

      Comics are better. There is talent within those pages.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  14. Big D

    He's not Jesus, He's Moses. It's well known. But then, Moses was based on someone else as well...

    June 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  15. Brandon

    Whenever a shooting occurs, the gun nuts come out...

    Whenever, God or Jesus is mentioned, the athiest nuts come out.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • popeye1128

      Whenever anything comes out, the trolls come out.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  16. popeye1128

    He has to have some shwetty bawls in that costume.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  17. Hilton Dickinson

    So much hate for someone that loved you before the foundation of the world.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Answer

      Then go to your heaven tonight. Have fun with that loaded rifle. Good riddance.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • popeye1128

      6000 years ago?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Hilton Dickinson,

      Everyone should be free to decide on their own religion as long as it doesn't infringe on equal rights for others. That is the problem with many Christians who hypocritically pick on gays or fantasize that the Bible ever mentions abortion.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Hilton Dickinson

      You said, "So much hate for someone that loved you before the foundation of the world."
      There is very little, if any hate for imaginary creatures. The actions of its deluded followers is another matter.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Love....I guess I don't know what that word means, because Love to me is that you wish the very best for a person and do whatever you can to make life sail as smoothly as possible for those you care about.

      Look at the history of the world....look at the supposed history of Bible....is that love to you?

      This Jesus guy is the type of 'dad' that hits the road the moment the kid is born....never to be seen or heard from until the kid is 22 and then shows up demanding the kid account for those 22 years – critiquing every step every twist and turn.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:09 am |
  18. TheTruth

    Who ever though about this is mentally ill, and just thinks about the "holy profit"!

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

      Superman is make believe. Guess they are the same if you want to compare.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  19. yama

    LOL, what?!?! so religious nuts for most of their life have denied the existence of aliens cause its not written in their man made book. Although even the Vatican has started to change their tune now that they realize that ONCE AGAIN their man made hocus pocus is probably wrong because its probably unlikely we are alone in this universe. But here we are claiming that a man made movie alien can be compared to a man made lord and savior...... you religious nuts are in some real trouble.... you know your base is slipping and you have to start doing what you always do, making up old stories to fit modern time.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Austin

      John 15:26-27
      New International Version (NIV)
      The Work of the Holy Spirit

      26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • The real Tom

      When are you going to grow a pair and post your recent dreams, Austintasia? Or should I call you by your other moniker, AE? Or maybe JAG?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  20. JimInAla

    If Superman saves America from the gay abomination than I would watch it.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Answer

      Then die without ever watching it.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:06 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.