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. Bob

    I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me. ....Jesus John 14:6

    June 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Savior Vs. Hero


      June 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener"
      The Book Of Wiener Songs, 19:19

      June 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  2. Bob

    The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword. ...Hebrews 4:12

    June 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Savior Vs. Hero

      Amen & amen

      June 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Bible verses

      Bob, why not take the time and post the whole stupid fvcken book, it would ensure your spot in your delusional heaven?

      June 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener"
      The Book Of Wiener Songs, 19:18

      June 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener"
      The Book Of Wiener Songs, 19:16

      June 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Ben

      Attack, you sound like a wiener.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      He Brews...isn't that the part of the bible that talks about beer?

      June 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Ron

      Richard, I think you need a new cranium.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  3. Bob

    You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. ...Psalm 139:13

    June 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Savior Vs. Hero


      June 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener"
      The Book Of Wiener Songs, 19:14

      June 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  4. Bob

    He upholds all things by the Word of His power. ...Hebrews 1:3

    June 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Savior Vs. Hero


      June 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  5. Bob

    He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. ...Colassians 1:17

    June 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Savior Vs. Hero

      He is the alpha and the omega!

      June 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Bob

      Savior vs. Hero, amen "The first and the Last".

      June 16, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  6. rickku

    I saw the previews in a IMAX before and it looked pretty good but mixing marketing it with the invisable man...WB you just lost my ticket sale

    June 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  7. Bob

    In Him we live and move and have our existence. ...Acts 17:28

    June 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Savior Vs. Hero

      He is the author and finisher of our faith!

      June 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Bob

      Savior vs. Hero, amen His work, start to finish.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Bob

      You go Bob!

      June 17, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  8. Rico X

    Superman, created by two Jewish kids in opposition to the slaughter of Jews by a Christian Germany, being used to sell Christian dogma.

    Or is it the other way around?

    June 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  9. Bob

    You. Lord, In the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. ....Psalm 102/Hebrews 1:10

    June 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Pikeone

      The LORD is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and wrath. He takes revenge on all who oppose him and furiously destroys his enemies! The LORD is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet. At his command the oceans and rivers dry up, the lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wilt. In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. Who can stand before his fierce anger? Who can survive his burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence. The LORD is good. When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge. And he knows everyone who trusts in him. But he sweeps away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He pursues his foes into the darkness of night. (Nahum 1:2-8)

      June 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  10. jules

    I am glad to see this news. Religion as a whole has not had nearly enough corporate influence and they certainly are way to disinterested in money. This is truly as they say "good news".

    June 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  11. Bootyfunk

    superman and jesus certainly do have a lot in common:
    both are fictional characters

    June 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Brian

      Actually, the historical figure of Jesus is very real. It's his "divine powers" that are in question.

      Sweet attempt at being witty though. Now get me my number 5 with fries please.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, the historical existence of Jesus remains unproven. There are no contemporary records of him: The books of the bible that portray his life were written decades after his alleged death and the Romans wrote nothing of him. And before you cite Josephus, his most detailed account of Christ is believed to have been added much later by a different author. The other account is little more than a mention of a name; not exactly the reference you'd expect for a guy running around performing miracles.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  12. Superman + Jesus =


    June 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • JJ

      LOL...Awesome. I wonder who's on top?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      jesus grabbed my ass in an elevator a couple years ago. total perv.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Now that song is gonna be stuck in my head all day.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  13. Vic


    June 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  14. Morgan

    They're capitalizing on an audience that already enjoys a fictional savior story. Well played, WB. Well played.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Ken

      Everybody enjoys a fictional savior story. Ever watch Star Wars?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The earliest stories are all about heroes. It's the nature of cultural mythology. Comic book heroes are just the modern take on the theme.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  15. Vic


    June 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • .

      some of us found a dead qu eer out behind the garage

      June 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • The real Tom

      dot, you're gayer than anyone else here.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Nah. Dot is just a brain dead troll who offers nothing of value to the conversation, or to the world in general.

      June 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  16. The World is in need of a ...

    “If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist.

    If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist.

    If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician.

    If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor.

    But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior. ” ~Carson

    June 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      That's a long way to go to say you believe in a character from a story book.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • John 3:16


      June 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Son of God

      Yes, so I am the savior. And I say I'm not real. So, how do you resolve that paradox? Oh, and by the way, I did a great job saving everyone from sin, didn't I?

      June 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Fields

      and if God perceived we needed a hero he would have sent us a super hero like the hero in Man of Steel, but he perceived we needed someone above a super hero that is why he sent us a SAVIOR!

      June 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Ken

      Maybe it was only his idea that we needed him more than all these other things? Kinda like Christian charities that make hungry people wait until after the sermon before handing out the "free" soup. The condo guys down in Mexico do the exact same thing, but at least they don't pretend not to be selling you something.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • tallulah13

      But god only sent his savior to a certain group of people in the Middle East. The rest of the world was apparently doing just fine without him. Sadly, those "saved" people had to ruin it for the rest of the world by forcing their religion on as many people as possible and killing several because they wouldn't give up own true beliefs.

      I think god should have sent a doctor.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  17. Jesus Christ Son of God

    For all you believers out there, I am Jesus, Son of God. To doubt me, is to doubt god. Now listen to me. I am not real.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  18. muslim2012


    June 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  19. tim k

    So many hateful comments from the bath-house boyz!
    We are not capable of live and let live. The sechular huminists want to cram their beliefs down everyone's throats.
    The Christians have (as warned in the bible) tried to judge the non-believers.
    We were told not to try to remove a splinter from another's eye with a timber in our own. We were told to take care of each other (espescially the weak). To only be salt and light. The message is true, but the messenger is flawed.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  20. Richard Cranium

    It's not the CNN editor...it is one person hitting the report abuse...CNN doesn't check for content..it will just automatically delete it.

    June 16, 2013 at 1:16 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.