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. faith

    don't b shy dodo. nothin wrong with smelly c v nts and donkeying palin in front of tarded lobed ones. what b the matter DM Murdock?

    June 16, 2013 at 2:31 am |
  2. Bunt

    I'll give the directors' this......Both characters are equally real.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:31 am |
    • Superman

      What an original comment

      June 16, 2013 at 2:38 am |
  3. faith

    lying mambas making more biz for the boneless chickn market too

    other lawsuit will put those cloners in prizz

    June 16, 2013 at 2:29 am |
  4. faith

    or we could discuss smelly c v n ts

    June 16, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • faith

      that's a fav topic of dodo. she likes smelly c v nts

      June 16, 2013 at 2:30 am |
  5. chuck

    This wouldn't even be a story if it was comparing Superman to Satan, but
    compare him to the Son of God, and the media flails its arms.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:28 am |
  6. RichardSRussell

    Jim Slim, you still there? I got different glasses in the spring 🙂 Apparently the black ones were a bit much. Anyway, well said and you proved your point. Thanks for not elaborating.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • Oso

      All he did was google the shit out of your username. You are so gullible.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:30 am |
    • Ella

      Extremely gullible. It took me all of 10 seconds to find the same info on you. Google your username and click on the second result. You weren't hacked, just easily tricked.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  7. faith

    look at all her girlfriends defending her when they don't no what she is. explain that dodo, u sick lying black mamba haha

    June 16, 2013 at 2:24 am |
    • faith

      too easy

      June 16, 2013 at 2:25 am |
    • Superman

      You leave Kobe out of this!

      June 16, 2013 at 2:26 am |
    • JR

      Are you drunk?

      June 16, 2013 at 2:27 am |
  8. Jim's friend

    Lance = Athy

    June 16, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • Lance

      Lance = Lance. Sorry.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:25 am |
    • Athy

      Athy = Athy.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:27 am |
    • Superman

      Superman = Jesus

      June 16, 2013 at 2:36 am |
    • Jesus

      Jesus = Superman

      June 16, 2013 at 2:41 am |
  9. faith

    this is the end my friend

    say goodbye murdock. at least u could have been honest as u pursued ur lies

    June 16, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • eric carney

      The man of steel who uses a rod of iron to rule.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:16 am |
  10. Bassel

    How did a belief column article get on the front page??

    June 16, 2013 at 2:17 am |
    • Superman

      Because God wanted it there!

      June 16, 2013 at 2:19 am |
    • JR

      (Disclaimer: CNN, like Warner Bros., is owned by Time Warner.)

      That's why, lol.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • Oso

      CNN does this every Sunday. EVERY SUNDAY YOU CLUELESS CATTLE FART! Try visiting more than once or stay over at fox.

      June 16, 2013 at 3:58 am |
  11. Matt Houston

    No. Nothing like Jesus story.

    He's a superhero made up by two Jewish guys. Get over it.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:16 am |
  12. Joffery Dulinski

    Anything to avoid talking about REAL news (NSA) eh CNN.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:14 am |
    • Superman


      June 16, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • calamata

      You realize that this blog is the Belief Blog? Try the other CNN blogs for updates on the continuing 2006 saga of NSA. If they're even covering something that is VERY old news.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:18 am |
  13. Diane

    Unless Jesus is coming via CGI I don't care for the comparing the two. The movie was amazing to look at, but lacked any kind of warmth or heart, unlike Jesus 😉 also the acting of the lead was terrible, as was the chemistry between him and LL as in there was none. Drumming up interest in a mostly lame film by trying to use religion is rather crappy. Thank God for CGI, this film dearly needed it and it is it's star, however I severely doubt that Jesus would need any.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:07 am |
  14. Jim Slim

    RichardSRussell – Sorry I took a while to respond. My other I.P. apparently got blocked. hmmmmm. I don't mean any offense Richard. My point is that the net is not very secure. Especially on a server like this which has no https. By the grey beard, receding hairline and black glasses you wear, I imagine you are computer savvy and already know this. The net is a funny place. So many people assume it is anonymous, then make statements they normally wouldn't if they were face to face with someone. I hope that little bit of information helps you in determining my credibility. Have a pleasant evening.

    June 16, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • Lance

      La la la liar.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:03 am |
    • Jim Slim

      Lance, I can't do anymore, sorry. Time to sign off. That was four in a row. Just thumb through the comments. If that doesn't convince you, nothing will. I am not going to post I.P addresses. That could be construed as unethical. Adios.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:11 am |
    • Oso

      He's not going to post IP addresses because he doesn't have them.
      He's just a kid googling and finding facebook and other links on those idiots who use the same username all over the internet like a senior citizen shuffling down the middle of a freeway.

      Jim Slim is one of our regular christian idiots who is convinced that all of us are just two or three people posting under different names, when the real number is much higher, and he's bluffing and fooling the more clueless of you into thinking he's got x-ray vision. He doesn't. That's why he doesn't post any IP addresses. He doesn't have server access.
      CNN has actual IT people. Jim Slim is not an IT person or hacker, just a kid pretending to mysterious knowledge he conveniently never reveals to the gullible idiots who swallow what he is shoveling.

      June 16, 2013 at 4:38 am |
  15. Z

    Nothing but The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell all over again. Stories live on by being retold, whether it's Superman, Jesus, or the intersection where they meet.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:57 am |
  16. trent

    This is actually setting up up to believe the false Christ. Christ did not come back to fight evil in this way. Good does not fight evil by doing evil. Christ isn't coming back with a sword to set up his kingdom by fighting. Christ comes and the Bible says the faithful meet him in the clouds, he never touches the earth. This movie is preparing our minds for the fake Christ who will come and attack those people who refuse to follow the beast power(Vatican).

    June 16, 2013 at 1:57 am |
    • jayman419

      Matthew 10:34, though.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:24 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      I think you're the one who's feet aren't touching the earth.

      June 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  17. mbrittain

    Seems like the ones that are smart enough to know that Jesus never existed give some of the stupidest replies on here.

    I love how they all "know" he didn't exist, and know so much more about Jesus than I do

    June 16, 2013 at 1:56 am |
  18. Gregg

    Sounds like they're trying to drum up interest in a movie that's getting mixed reviews.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:55 am |
  19. IpseCogita

    Using the pulpit to sell a product. Thinking (way) back to Sunday School, I seem to remember a similar story. Just saw a cool painting of Jesus locked and loaded and about to bust some dude's nose when I looked it up.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:51 am |
  20. silly athesit

    superman ur amazing powers of deflection astound me..ever actually answer to any concerns people have about athiest? or do u just twist it to ur benefit and gain?

    June 16, 2013 at 1:50 am |
    • Superman

      Do Christians ever answer to the logical concerns people have about the Christian faith or do they just twist it to their benefit and gain?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • Lance

      What's an athesit?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:59 am |
    • Athy

      You had two chances to spell atheist correctly. And you blew them both.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:04 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.