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. Captain Obvious

    I see CNN is trolling again. This is an article that can anger people in all shades of the spectrum. Keep up the good work CNN, finding new ways to push peoples emotional response buttons..... sensationalism.... because after all, life is all about viewership isn't it?

    June 15, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Mike

      I think you're right. However, any article that even remotely mentions God (see the belief section) stirs up a small army of atheist keyboard warriors, chomping at the bit like a pack of rabid dogs eager spew venom at theists. There are a lot of unhappy folks out there...

      June 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Capone

      Obviously it works because it got you to read the article AND to take the additional time to make a comment about it.

      I'd say mission accomplished from their perspective.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  2. Jez

    This story also follows Zues, Thor, Odin, and we coud go on, and on and onl Gods are a hilarious joke! I'll pray to Ppersephoe and Demeter for yummy herb growth.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  3. Brooklyn Bridge For Sale: Cheap

    Pretty obvious Hollywood is courting more money for the flick. I saw it and it was a never ending, mega-violent ride.
    Lately, every superhero movie has gotta throw in a slice of a Transformer robot. The whole Hollywood schtick has gotten
    full of silly cliches.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  4. Jim J

    If God isn't real, how did He create man in His own image? Checkmate, atheists.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Andres

      You think you are so smart but you must surely must be closer to the apes genes. What a dumb statement.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Your brilliance is underwhelming...

      June 15, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • Observer

      JIm J,

      You are trying to be funny, right?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • Joe B.

      Checkmate? That has to be the stupidest comment ever written, with the worst attempt at logic.

      You sir are the reason us atheists look so lowly at "believers".

      June 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • maybrick

      If god isn't real, then he couldn't create us in his image because he doesn't exist.. Checkmate, idiot.

      PS, maybe he meant cats to be made in his image?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Capone

      Do you have any proof that God created man in his image other than someone told you so?

      If God created man in his image, why do we all look so different?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • NavinJay

      How the he11 did he ceate himself?

      June 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Matt J

      So God is an ape? Checkmate.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • zeyn2010

      God(s) was an alien – maybe....

      June 16, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      It was the other way around, moron. You have the intellectual capacity of a gnat. No insult to gnats intended.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  5. Mennoknight

    Sorry, I like Superman, and I am a born again Christian and that is stupid. If I were in church and the pastor was preaching on this I would not come back again.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Brooklyn Bridge For Sale: Cheap

      Check: You're still sane.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • Andres

      I am not that technical, regarding designating myself born again Christian, but if I ever saw a preacher comparing Superman to Jesus it would freak me out. Not sure what would be worse, the comparison or the fact that a preacher is making that comparison. Peace

      June 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      I was on that bridge that you write about a few months ago helping rebuild from Sandy. It was pretty amazing. How much are you asking? I might be interested.
      From a Mennonite looking for a good deal.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • wilecoyote21

      Why would you not appreciate this...there are many avenues to preach the word of God and this is just one of them...maybe God is reaching out to us in ways that are trendy and not old fashioned....do not ever forsake the word of God in what ever format he decides to teach us...whether it be a Superman move or whatever...just believe....maybe by the movie more people can understand and appreciate the word of our Lord!!!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • Mennoknight

      Superman is entertainment. His message is interesting and good and he is nothing like Jesus.
      If you want to read and learn about Jesus read the New Testament.
      Superman is based on the American Dream not Jesus. There is a big difference there.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:07 am |
  6. Jason Roberts

    ...this is the funniest thing I have read all week.

    Please, CNN. More tardicles.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  7. Skeptic

    This could backfire. I can see fundamentalist and evangelical churches banning the movie, if they think it "demeans" Christ by making a correlation between Superman and Christ. Remember how "The Life of Brian" was banned in South Carolina because of its supposed blasphemy?

    June 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      I am a born again Christian and I love "Life of Brian". It was called comedy.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  8. bobjones2012

    Religions true purpose is to ensure that humans have something to fight about and kill one another over to ensure those in power can and will continue to reign while the majority of the population destroys itself over an idea that is based on the fears of mortality and the age old question why does one exist.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • bobjones2012

      In addition to ensuring the basis for war, it also ensures that most of the populations time will be occupied with meaningless dissertation and arguing as is obvious from these posts. Everyone can be expert on arguing faith even if they have the IQ of a red beet. These same people do not have the mental capacity to truly understand the realities of existence. So they can fight about their "faith", sorry but believing something irrational doesnt make you right it just proves your stupid.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  9. Mike

    Let's have a movie that celebrates the atheistic meaning of life – oh wait – there is none. Just watch a blank screen...

    June 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin


      June 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • sybaris

      Ask a atheist combat veteran what the meaning of life is.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • zeyn2010

      Are you saying the meaning of life is to ask forgiveness to a higher power and hope to live after we die??? LOLLLLL

      June 16, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @sybaris – ok, I'll answer that... Survival... And hopefully in one piece...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  10. NavinJay

    Science itself is a religion these days – Umm, no. It uses reason and logic, something totally missing from religion.
    It's governed by extreme dogma – Umm, no. Its govern by facts, testing, natural laws and thinking.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  11. Joseph

    For Hollywood to say they have made a movie to appeal to Christian faith, and then try to put a made up story of some man with super powers, and compare him to Jesus, Only shows how low the movie industry will go to sell tickets. There is no one made up or from human history, that can compare to Jesus Christ. The is no need for the use of this movie to draw up a sermon about the Love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy & Grace of God thru His Son Jesus Christ, The Word of God, The Bible has enough true to life accounts of the miracles, love and kindness Jesus showed to all of us who are sinners.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  12. Adam

    Little known fact...there's an atheist version of Superman. Stalin-El sends his son out into the world as a righteous "agent of the state". He blasts away freedom and tolerance with his powerful eye beams and rounds up dissenters and kills them by the millions. All in a good godless days work, Mao-El often tells his father.

    Randomly it did not sell well in the USA.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  13. Gorsh

    So many bitter, angry little boys, pounding away on their keyboards. Really very sad.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  14. Iceaxdave

    Yeah...Superman's like Jesus....except for the Immaculate Conception thing, the miracles thing, the crucifiction thing, the resurrection thing and the assention thing...no difference!

    June 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • sybaris

      and there is just as much evidence for either

      June 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Andres

      and the tribulation

      June 15, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  15. NavinJay

    And Jesus' superpower is - invisibility!

    June 15, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
  16. Secularbear

    I guess now I don't like Superman anymore.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Gorsh

      If you had even half a brain, you never would have. Superman has always been an analogy for Christ.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • CNNistherealestnewsthereis

      Awesome headline, CNN. This is some serious National news. I am so glad you decided to put this up as a headline, because I might have missed it otherwise.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  17. Andres

    So Jesus said: "Many will come in my name". By these actors portraying Superman as some sort of doppelganger of Christ, they convert him in the opposite, an Antichrist.

    Why? First they are portraying this movie as christ like story for profit, that itself is like the pharisees on the temple and Jesus would never have done that. Second, Superman is the super powerful all capable, magnificent, perfect super humanoid (Semi-God?). That portrays the idea of the Messiah the Jews had, one powerful and great that would restore the Jews in Power over Earth as the people chosen by God, and that was the opposite of what Jesus really was in person, pure definition of humility, so different that precisely got Christ crucified. 3. Jesus never preached violence, ever, that I am aware of, but always love, even in the most extreme cases by turning the other cheek to the enemy.


    June 15, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Celie

      I think you're reading waaaaaaay too much into this, myself.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  18. jboom

    Anyone 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.

    See the book "Signature in the Cell" for just one example if interested. Caution: If atheist, it might challenge your position.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • sybaris

      Ah yes, another junk science book written by a Christian "scientist".

      It holds about as much credibility as the Lee Strobel books.

      June 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  19. SimonRubio

    wow, who gives a crap about a superhero that never really existed? and who gives a crap about superman either?

    June 15, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Andres

      Damn. I cant believe it took me that long to realize that! you must be really smart! lol

      June 15, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  20. Gorsh

    So many bitter, angry little men out there bravely pounding away on their keyboards.

    June 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      The irony of your post is hilarious...

      June 15, 2013 at 11:49 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.