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. Savior Vs. Hero

    Jesus is the savior of all mankind,
    superman is a hero, there are many heroes, but only one SAVIOR!!!

    June 16, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • a dose of reality

      please provide proof. we're waiting........

      June 16, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Papa's Day

      Happy Father's Day to all dads,including my heroic dad!!!

      June 16, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Savior Vs. Hero

      We worship the Savior,
      we recognize a hero!

      June 16, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • infidel


      June 16, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Jesus SUCKS

      You worship a dead piece of trash and pray to nothing. Jesus was never a hero. He was a scumball.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Kimki

      Amen! It seems to me that the very people who say that God does not exist are trying the hardest to get rid of our beleifs. Why? What are they so afraid of besides their own disbeleif.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • One one

      What is he saving us from ? Oh yea, from the eternal curse he put on all mankind because, in the beginning, two people wanted knowledge. So he agreed to lift the curse, but only if you agree to worship him.

      June 16, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  2. Ben Franklin

    Doubt is human kryptonite

    June 16, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • M

      Doubt is what helps us see truths.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  3. bobbie

    The other superman spent his last days in a wheel chair...wonder what will happen to this one.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • M


      June 16, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  4. mb2010a

    This must be one of those megaflops that Speilberg was predicting a few days ago....

    June 16, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  5. Me

    There is only one super hero and his name is Jesus Christ. He is the only one that ever lived, the only one that could pay for our sin and save us from eternal hell.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • george

      Well said

      June 16, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • bajadelmar

      Of course you have zero proof, right??? Typical xian, sorry to burst you bubble but you're just whistling past the graveyard. Afraid of your own mortality so to ease your fears you believe.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • F

      Yeah, tell that to all the children burned alive in his name. Go ahead, they're DEAD because of people like YOU.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • M

      No, but you could save yourself from the torment you've created for yourself here with your religion.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Jesus SUCKS

      Yeah, tell that to all the children burned alive in his name. Go ahead, they're DEAD because of people like YOU.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • huggylove


      June 16, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Brennan

      Superman and jesus have a lot in common. The mainly, they are fictional characters.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • One one

      So let me understand. Jesus will agree to not toss me into hell to suffer eternal torture, but only if I agree to worship him. Does that pretty much sum it up ?

      June 16, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  6. bencoates57

    Yes all that heavy Marvel Comics subtext. Superman as a Christ figure. Lex Luther as Pontius Pilate. Hulk as King David.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Quasi

      Superman is not a Marvel character. He is a DC character. Better you learn your cartoon.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  7. george

    ..and.why is this the main news item on CNN ? Surely CNN can do better than this ..... or can they?

    June 16, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  8. Frank

    Leaving faith out of it, most people know the elements of the story in Superman, Jesus, The Matrix and a host of others are compelling elements that we human beings resonate with. Good vs bad, single savior persecuted etc....

    June 16, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • One one

      Don't forget the punisher. That flick was awesome .

      June 16, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  9. tom

    Well I was gonna go see the movie but not now.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • .

      if all the qu eers and so called atheists boycott the movie it will make less than a 1% difference in the profits so do everyone a favor stay home

      June 16, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • mb2010a

      I agree...I will wait until it comes out on DVD and then won't be able to see half of it because most of the scenes are filmed with too little lighting. Pathetic filmography and directing lately...

      June 16, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  10. poppa rob

    Well, THIS has certainly turned me off from seeing the movie.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • .

      being a turn off is so natural for you

      June 16, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • superdood

      Me too. I want to watch a movie, not be subject to Christian rhetoric. Myself and everyone I know are boycotting this film. This reboot is only suitable for showings at Sunday morning Mass. Watch it tank like no other movie before it. Good use of studio money for sure.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Costner SUCKS

      Anything with Kevin Costner in it SUCKS.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • twowheeler


      June 16, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  11. bajadelmar

    They know xians will swallow this tripe whole and then ask for a second helping. Xians will do anything to force others to believe as they do. It's funny how desperate they are for validation of their beliefs that they must force it onto everyone they come in contact with, just simply believing for themselves is not enough.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • andrew

      At least they give you the option to convert and don't threaten with death like muslims.....er I mean necromancers...

      June 16, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • bajadelmar

      Xians don't threaten??? Yeah right. You sound like a xian.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • One one

      @andrew, is this the option?

      John 3:36 (King James Version) “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

      June 16, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  12. chad

    this is simply media setting the stage for the false prophet. An alien from space comes to be our savior, he'll even come in the name of Jesus. It's in the Bible, in the Book of Revelations. Please, ppl, do not fall for this indoctrination.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • midwest rail

      Book of Revelations ? You don't even know its name.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Bobpitt

      I guess people figured out it was not Pat Roberson...

      June 16, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  13. Fred54

    Nah! It's Ron Pauls Story..

    June 16, 2013 at 7:22 am |
  14. buttnose

    Why is this on the homepage as a lead story?

    June 16, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • .

      it lures lemmings to this blog

      June 16, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • labrat

      The very question I ask of so may of CNN's headlines. With so much going on in the world today they so often lead with the silliest claptrap.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • BBCCDD

      CNN does a religious-angle article on the front page EVERY FUCKING SUNDAY!!
      I guess you don't come here often or you would already know this.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  15. Chris

    The stories that reference the saving and sacrificial act of one person have occurred from ancient Egypt until today. Tom Curies made "Oblivion" which had much the same them. Atheists claim it as a prove of the falseness of Christianity, but that is ridiculous. It is simply the echo of reality.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • bajadelmar

      Ok then prove that your magic sky fairy exists then zippy. Go ahead the burden of proof is on you.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 16, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • bajadelmar

      Nice brain washing job they did on you. LOL

      June 16, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Bobpitt

      Religion is much healthier, promotes pedophilia, home violence, forced submission of women, conformism (after all it will be better in the next life), promotes fantasies and not reality, promotes mediocrity.
      Yes religion is much better...

      June 16, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • caw

      How many people have died while praying to god to save them? One of the most famous saying is that there are no atheist on a battlefield, but look at how many soldiers, many of them true Christians die.

      Statistical probability is only true answer to a prayer.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • .

      do not look to unbelievers and qu eers for a clean mind perversion sin and death is the lot of those life thieves

      June 16, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Atheist


      June 16, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • M

      As an atheist, I don't believe religion promotes pedophilia, however, it does require a lack of accountability of the spiritual leaders to the followers, and that can and has led to all sorts of atrocities, bigotries, and cruelties over the millennia.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:46 am |
  17. Reality

    Only for the new readers of this blog:

    JC = Superman? Give us a break !!

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched" and any super powers were only in his head. After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the super odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would like or dislike, bless or curse, do or not do?

    JC = Superman?? Give us a break!!!

    June 16, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • Bobpitt

      It will sell lots of tickets...LOL

      June 16, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  18. Chris

    I enjoyed the movie alot, but I don't think the Christian themes had any effect in the movie. I'm an atheist and it didn't bother me, I still saw Superman for who he was.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • .

      enjoy what you can here after the judgement you will be with the damned forever

      June 16, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Bobpitt

      Did you figure out who Superman was? it took two hours...!!

      June 16, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • mb2010a

      No...he won't.

      June 16, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  19. Jay David

    Some people love a good fantasy tale about mythological beings. I used to like mythology and sports when I was a kid.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • .

      now you just hate everything yourself included

      June 16, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  20. liz

    A made up story about a Superman and a made up story about an all knowing God Hollywood and the Christians were made for each other it's all bullsh$t.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • .

      Jesus is a Super man and Jesus is a Super God!

      June 16, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • hoosyurdadi

      ".", you mispelled "supermyth"

      June 16, 2013 at 2:35 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.