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. Albert

    Yeah, in the Bible Jesus walked around with the military to fight crime just like the picture above (sarcasm). This is pathetic. Religion continues to make a mockery of God for the sake of popularity and members (= money). If you want to draw parallels of Jesus and Superman, have superman talk about how corrupt the religious leaders are like Jesus did, and them have him destroy all false religion like the Bible says.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • One Man Among Others

      No doubt.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "Yeah, in the Bible Jesus walked around with the military to fight crime just like the picture above"

      In handcuffs?

      June 16, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  2. disanitnodicos

    Oh look, the people who killed Jesus (the Jews) are now trying to cheapen the life of Jesus by saying the main character in a movie they made is like him. One thing about the Jews: they never change.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Doobs

      Christian bigotry at its finest.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  3. Dan

    Superman is more believable.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  4. 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 superman 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 superman 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 10:01 am |
    • One Man Among Others

      Your comment is your opinion which you have the right to, however, I think it's total b s.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  5. Kerry

    In a Muslim country comparing Allah to Superman would be reason for a call to arms. But then the fanatics often mistake fantasy from reality.

    June 16, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  6. Willyboy

    How pathetic is this? Producers groveling for Christofascists hoping they will endorse a stinker of a movie. Pathetic...

    June 16, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  7. rla

    So if it's not a movie slamming and degrading people who have faith it is viewed as outside normal???? Wow I hope these people realize how wrong they are and how devistating to this country their radical secular ideas are

    June 16, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • tony

      Err. It's a secular country.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Sane Person

      Sorry, but these arent the United Christian States. If you are looking for a place with no atheists, no government regulations, lots of religion and even no gun control, try Somalia.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  8. padillacury

    I like superman a lot, but Jesus is the original and the only superhero. Besides superman has a bad message because he pretend to be what Jesus is: all mighty, come from other place, fight for justice and true and the name of God (YHWH), is similar to the name of superman biological father.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  9. Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

    A Superman movie analogous to the life of Christ? And the point would be?

    June 16, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • tony

      Worship of Mammon

      June 16, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  10. cleve

    I despise the very fact that Man of Steel is being compared to Jesus. Oh wait, ok it works they are both fictional characters based on a fictional story. Ok run with it.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • jesus is faKE

      you are right. jesus was a big joke. jesus was just a human shown as superhero..jesus was a superzero

      June 16, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  11. Simon Lloyd

    I've always thought that the Big Guy's story was a jesus fable and as an atheist thats about all that I like about Superman. The most interesting part about his story is he is a more real jesus than the one christians present. Far more morally vulnerable. Interesting as all get out.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  12. Lucky18

    where is it written, Jesus was 33 years old? Where is anything written about Jesus, in his time?

    June 16, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • tony

      The bible is the afterthought book of the movie. Plus it comes with a prequel.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  13. Portland tony

    This would be a worthwhile debate.....Except too much CNN/employee money is involved Religious blog......? No the CNN money machine. Go pay the bucks and see the film!

    June 16, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  14. Enough

    Give me a break, not everything is about religion. This is a sci fi movie, nothing else. Talk about stepping on my consitutional rights.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  15. Bette

    Because we all know that Jesus had a thing for wearing tights. And that pin-curl on his forehead....

    June 16, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  16. Superfan

    Google "Superboy S2 College man of steel" for a nice analysis of that look of superman

    June 16, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  17. Antiatheist

    And here come the whiny atheist trolls...

    June 16, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • fr114

      and yup you sound EXACTLY like the Fing religious jerk that you are.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • john

      Stories of Man of Steel and Jesus have similarities, both fictional.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • CM

      Perhaps this has something to do with why "Christians" are becoming the "hated" minority – YouTube "michelle bachman gods judgement" loon loon loon loon... You think WE want a religious extremist controlling OUR government? lol BTW, I'm Christian. (not to be confused with "Christian".)

      June 16, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      And here come the evidence-lacking, fearful, gullible believers.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • tony

      Might be an idea to be pro religious, rather than anti atheist. Then you'd have a message. As is, you sound like a Republican

      June 16, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  18. joe

    What's wrong with you people? "Christians" are supposed to buy anything that "Christian" marketers tell them to. It's God's will, or else he wouldn't have made all kinds of stuff to tempt them with.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  19. GetReal

    Superman is really from Cleveland!!! What is with all this madness anyway?

    June 16, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  20. Socalmcgraw

    Face palm! Well, duh. Most good versus evil stories involve some element of the story of Jesus Christ. It's part of the small set of universal themes and symbolism in literature and theater / movies. The Superman story has always had this element. If we're somehow now surprised, our society is becoming less educated.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Socalmcgraw

      Forgot.....movie wasn't that good.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • sybaris

      Finally, someone who gets it.

      I learned this in High School 35 years ago but I don't think Christianity corners the market on perpetuating the good v. evil story line. That was in literature long before the God of the Bible was invented.

      June 16, 2013 at 9:51 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.