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. JOE B

    II'll take Tebow over a fictional Hollywood character.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:19 am |
  2. jp2123

    This is just sad. To compare Jesus to some fictional alien character of a comic book. You can take a message, a lesson from a movie, a story, or a character. But directly comparing Jesus Christ to Superman? Pastors need to be careful, and whoever doesn't see that Hollywood or whoever is promoting this is just doing it for money then they are blind. And how can a blind man lead the blind?

    June 16, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • djwazu

      Well if he wasn't fictional he was def alien!

      June 16, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      You can compare ANYTHING to ANYTHING ELSE.
      Apples to oranges is the classic example.
      Alike in some respects, different in others.
      That's the way comparisons work.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:28 am |
      • jp2123

        Richard, when you believe and profess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and you compare it to something like superman as if they are similar in any way. You are ultimately degrading Christ to the same position as superman. Saying things like superman is like Jesus or Jesus is like superman is taking the name of God in vain in some ways.

        June 16, 2013 at 12:47 am |
      • jp2123

        For example comments like, "superman fell and had his arm stretched like if he was crucified but rose again."

        June 16, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • sam stone

      "To compare Jesus to some fictional alien character of a comic book."

      A fictional alien character in one comic book is as credible as a fictional alien character in another comic book

      June 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      "And how can a blind man lead the blind?"

      Ask your pastor

      June 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Saying things like superman is like Jesus or Jesus is like superman is taking the name of God in vain in some ways"

      And prayer is blasphemy. What is your point?

      June 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  3. john

    F Superman and F Jesus.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • djwazu

      What about spider maaaaaaan?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      And F. Murray Abraham.

      Is that a trinity?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • john

      Spiderman is cool.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:45 am |
  4. albie

    Christians are pretty easy to dupe (the fact that they believe at all shows the lack of logic and reason), so this is kind of a genius move for the studios – that being said, I will not see the movie now because of this tack

    June 16, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • J. Wilson

      Well your here reading this stupid article! Look's like you've been "Duped" Too....

      June 16, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • djwazu


      June 16, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Chris

      Google Catholic Scientist and Mathmaticians, I bet theres plenty of em with more logic and reason than you.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • jboom

      Most atheists eventually find God. At least some of them are thinking!

      June 16, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  5. Chris

    Catholicism > Atheism

    (over/under of angry responses is 10)

    June 16, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Not according to adherents.com, which lists the world population of Catholics at 1.05 billion, with atheists at 1.10 billion. Islam clocks in at 1.5 billion.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • ScottCA

      Say what you want, Atheism is growing faster than any religion, knowledge and rational deductive reasoning are the death of religion, and with informaiton flowing as abundantly as it now does, faith based religion has no hope of surviving.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • jboom

      ScottCA, yawn... thats been said before in every century since enlightenment. Hitler in last century.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:18 am |
  6. Joe Smith's #4 Wife

    Jesus is so annoyed by Christians.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:17 am |
  7. crossbreed

    Ok ,so now superman died on the cross and batman and the hulk are his deciples.im guessing that the joker is satan ...? Wait , hold on ...ok..no wait a minute , are you sure that superman is god..? Im confused..

    June 16, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • wolfRayet

      Thor is a god... You can see that in the movie.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Captain America met 2 gods face to face. Still a Christian.
      Iron Man met 2 gods face to face. Still an atheist.
      The Hulk met 2 gods face to face. Kicked the crap out of both of them.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:25 am |
  8. jed

    The concept of a super man is based on the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. I can tell you with certainty that the Christian intellectuals are not going to like this.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • albie

      "christian intellectual" – is that along the same lines as military intelligence – made me chuckle nonetheless

      June 16, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  9. Smitty

    What does light have to do with darkness? This is just another instance where false religion has accepted another Santa or Easter bunny.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  10. Michael

    Well, that's one movie I won't be watching. Friggin bible thumpers.

    Get the FU** away from me,

    June 16, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • Keel Hauler

      Yep. I may never watch another superhero movie again especially one by Warner Brothers...

      June 16, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • ScottCA

      Seconded, I will not be buying a ticket for this movie in the theatre. I want nothing to do with insane christian cultists.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Dave

      Pass the cheese.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • albie

      I am with you – out of principle I will not see it now

      June 16, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  11. Daniel

    Superman was created by Jews look it up.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  12. ScottCA

    Oh yeah, Jesus is just like superman, both are fictional characters, from rediculous stories that have no baring on reality at all.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • jp2123

      I'm pretty sure that most scholars agree that Jesus did exist and that he wasn't a fictional character.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  13. wolfRayet

    That's quite appropriate. using a Comic book to spread the word of another fictional creature.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • ScottCA

      Yeah its like how Jim Lee's Wild Cats was all based on X-men characters, or how Family guy was based on the simpsons.
      Jesus's story is all just a rip off of egyptian stories anyways.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  14. Robert

    I’m sorry what was your name again? Oh, really? Your name is Mr. Make Believe Fantasy? Wow! Because that happens to coincidentally be the name of the Mr. Make Believe Fantasy that I wanted to introduce you to. What a match made in delusional fantasy, ahheemm, sorry, I meant to say, what a match made in totally 100% real HEAVEN.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:14 am |
  15. Mercury

    We can only pray that Jesus flies out of the sky with a big "S" on his cape at the last possible instant to save us!

    June 16, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  16. ScottCA

    Oh yeah in Jesus is just like superman, both are fictional characters, from rediculous stories that have no baring on reality at all.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  17. Superpickle

    The movie is a made up story. The real life event is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, showing up and dying for the sins of those that believe him and repent. That's real power, the power of God, the one that made the universe and expands it out.

    Read the New Testament, it really happened.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Em

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the creator of the universe. its right there in The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      Read it, it really happened

      June 16, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • wolfRayet

      Of course you do know that the city of Nazareth never existed during the supposed time of Christ. We know it from history, (The Greeks and Romans created the city a few hundred years later) there happens to be existing records, and archeology.
      What other fairy tales you like to spread?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Susy

      If another person uses the juvenile worn-out term "flying spaghetti monster" I'm going to throw up.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • Pete

      Susy that is just more proof of the power of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      June 17, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  18. Bob

    Leave it to Hollywood to find deep meaning and parallels between two fictional characters, one ancient, revered and holy, the other modern and created to sell comic books to kids. And just when I thought the film industry couldn't sink much lower than it has in recent years.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • albie

      The church sinks pretty darn low itself

      June 16, 2013 at 12:22 am |
  19. Shangey G.

    Does this mean Superman is also killed by the jews? 😛

    June 16, 2013 at 12:11 am |
  20. Joseph

    Superman alludes to the biblical story of Moses. The people who created Superman were of the Jewish faith and weren't Christian.

    June 16, 2013 at 12:09 am |
    • zeyn2010

      Here they assume everyone is Christian LOL

      June 16, 2013 at 12:10 am |
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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.