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. Vic

    "I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don't know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do. The Unitarian believes that God is good, and believes that God believes that man is good. Inherently. The Unitarian God is not a God of vengeance. And that is something I can appreciate."

    Christopher Reeve

    June 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • tallulah13

      That's very nice for Christopher Reeve. I never liked him as an actor (thought he was too bland), but he never blamed the horse for the accident that paralyzed him, and as far as I'm concerned, that is the mark of a decent human being.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • STFU


      June 15, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  2. Jesus The Christ

    We live in a culture where people are more offended by "swear" words and the middle finger than they are by Famine, warfare and the destruction of the environment.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all [is] vanity.

      Ecclesiastes 12:8


      01892   //  lbh  //  hebel   //  heh'bel  //  or (rarely in the abs.)
        //  lbh  //  habel   //  hab-ale'  // 

      from   01891  ; TWOT – 463a

      AV – vanity 61, vain 11, altogether 1; 73

      n m
      1) vapour, breath
      1a) breath, vapour
      1b) vanity (fig.)

      2) vainly

      June 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      HS is the expert on vanity. There is no one more arrogant than she on this blog.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      tallulah13, that is Jesus' truth. If you lived righteously, His truth wouldn't irk you.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  3. Redoran

    Well, better than 95% of christians believe in talking snakes, burning bushes and rising form the dead, so NO contest!

    June 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • lindsey

      please site your source. thanks

      June 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      @ lindsy...em, your bible would be the source of Redoran's comment...read it lately? Obviously not.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  4. Puzzled in Peoria

    Superman was, and is, America's greatest mythology. He first appeared in Action Comics about 1938, but it took several decades for his writers to explore the psychological aspects of being a "super" man.

    I don't know whether the original creators deliberately included messianic elements in the origin story, but the parallels with the story of Christ are unmistakable. The only problem with drawing similarities between the two in this movie is that Jesus came to save human beings from their sins. Superman came to save humans from evil aliens, natural disasters, criminals, etc.

    Today's people don't want to acknowledge that there is a God, let alone that their behavior offends him and that they are in need of a Savior. This is the most serious question in every person's life: What will you do with Jesus Christ?

    We are each free to choose what we wish to believe, but as with all choices, we must also accept the consequences of our belief.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      For God so loved the world that he drowned everyone on it....

      June 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, the question of Jesus Christ has no bearing on my life. If he actually existed, he was likely a radical rabbi with some good ideas. Some of the words attributed to him are very wise, but hardly earth shattering.

      It's simply christian arrogance to assume that your religion is important to those who don't believe the same things you do.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      tallulah13, I can tell Jesus Christ had no bearing on your life. You lose.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  5. Jesus The Christ

    If moonlight is technically sunlight, why doesn't it kill vampires?

    June 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  6. JRNY

    If Eve condemned the human race for an apple, what would she do for a Klondike bar?

    June 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  7. historygeek6

    Really, really fun question:

    How different would this discussion be if Superman were played by a black actor???

    June 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Redoran

      Yes, a True Fun Question!! Ha HA and HA!

      June 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Al

      Some people think that Jesus was a middle eastern terrorist, but most people know that he was a nice white man from Mobile.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  8. Roger that

    Using religion to make the sale. This is right out of the Republican Party playbook.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  9. JRNY

    The Bible: Slavery good, gays bad, snakes talk.

    'Nuff said.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Grampa

      And the sun goes around the Earth.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Jason

      You obviously have not read the Bible. Slavery is bad, love the sinner, and miracles happen.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Son of God

      Sheeple, these are very good points.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • JRNY

      @ Jason. DO NOT assume that you know me. I have read the bible, multiple times. I was a missionary. Please tell me, where in the bible does it say that slavery is bad??? Where does it say to love the sinner??? And miracles happen in comic books as well, does that mean you believe they (the comic books) are true?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • JRNY

      For god so loved the world that he drowned everyone on it.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jason

      Slavery in Bible times significantly differed from slavery in more modern times. It was not based on race.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Cantbelieve

      @ Jason, you're just being stupid and argumentative, which is the sign of someone who has doubts...

      June 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Jesus The Christ

      If God said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," isn't he admitting that there are other gods?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  10. Jason

    As an English teacher, we often discuss Christianity as a major theme in some of the best classical literature.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  11. Grampa

    And I thought you couldn't really sell refrigerators to Eskimos.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • JRNY

      Indeed...well evidently christians aren't as smart as Eskimos...

      June 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  12. Jason

    Many uneducated people here are commenting how they are offended or thing it's just terrible. A GREAT deal of class literature contains major biblical themes. So marketing to churches is actually a great idea.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  13. Vic

    "I've always had deep faith that there is a Supreme Being; there has to be. To me that's just a normal thing to have that kind of faith."

    John Wayne

    June 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Grampa

      A philosophy lesson from John Wayne??? Yeah. Right!

      June 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  14. JM

    Les Miserables should be required reading.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  15. JRNY

    Em, so the bad news to all you christians that are buying this – that the movie is the story of Jesus Christ – is that the scriptwriter is Jewish and he writes comic books. So....

    June 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • ?

      Jesus was Jewish.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • JRNY

      @ ?....LOL!!! I don't think the Jews of today are big fans of your mythological Jewish jesus....

      June 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • ?

      One is born Jewish.

      Dude, he was a Jew. He claimed to be the son of God so people followed Him because He claimed to be the Messianic Christ the Jewish people had been waiting for (hence, his followers are called Christians). His original disciples were Jews. They then called themselves Christians.

      Some Jewish people today accept Him; most don't.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • JRNY

      @ ?, Dude, who cares...your argument is pointless save for the simple point of arguing, which says nothing of your credibility. Jesus was/IS a myth. You cannot prove he existed at any point in history. So who cares what religion he was supposedly born into???

      June 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • lindsey

      If you do not believe Jesus existed (not whether you think he is God; that's a matter of faith), you must not believe half of the historical figures from antiquity ever existed. If you look at historical writings regarding Alexander the Great, Xerxes, Hammurabi, etc, often we take aspects of their lives as fact based on single sources written centuries after their deaths that were rarely copied or distributed. There are numerous copies of the Bible in multiple languages dating back to within 150 years after the Crucifixion. There are numerous copies of non-christian writings that corroborate many of the events in the New Testament. Anti-Jesus writings of the time actually confirm several of his exploits, but explain them as 'works of the devil'. It's your choice not to believe in his divinity, but to claim he never existed is like claiming Socrates or Plato never existed.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, Lindsey, there is plentiful archeological evidence for those historical figures. Not everything is in writing. You also have cities, coinage, monuments, and radical changes of cultures that take place at the time of these people. None of these exist for Jesus. All you have is some non-contemporary accounts.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  16. Paul Willson

    This sounds like a maoney grab by Warner Brothers . This is al;;sop friendship with the world. A world that believers are called to come out & be seperate from

    June 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • the reason it's good news...

      Jesus came to save the world. That's why the religious hypocrites (the Pharisees) were irate. They didn't like the fact that he hung out with/loved 'the sinners'.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  17. Ricky

    Oh great, they probably ruined the movie o try to appeal to religious nuts. Spielberg is right; the movie industry will end up imploding.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • JRNY

      Yep, and by writing this article, they are now going to lose anybody that wanted to see the movie because they liked the superhero aspect of it. Who wants to go to a movie and think that the studio it came from is actively pushing it at christian churches? Yuck.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  18. JAG

    Why am I not allowed to believe?

    June 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Who says you are not allowed to ?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Who said you weren't allowed to believe?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • JAG

      A lot of people on this site are against the belief in a higher power.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • midwest rail

      That does not equate to not allowing you to believe what you wish.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • The real Tom

      So? Are they preventing you from posting? From worshipping? From believing? How?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • JAG

      I suppose I should have asked why shouldn't I believe.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Believe what you wish. Disagreement is not persecution.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Who said you shouldn't?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • JAG

      Well the guy below says that belief in Christ is stupid. I'd assume he'd think I shouldn't do so.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • midwest rail

      And you obviously disagree with him – his belief is his, your belief is yours. How is disagreement preventing you from living your life the way you see fit ?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      In the USA, you have the freedom to be as deluded as you like provided you aren't harming anyone else.

      June 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So JAG, you are trying claim persecution on the basis of your assumption of the intent of another anonymous internet poster? That's a rather large stretch. Are you always such a drama queen?

      June 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  19. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Jesus is just like Superman. Neither one exist. However, it's ok for kids to believe in Superman, but sheeple believing in Jesus are fools.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • JAG

      why is it stupid to believe He is the son of God?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Psalms 37:11
      But the meek (humble, rejected the sin of pride) shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

      06035 // wne // `anav // aw-nawv' // or [by intermixture with 06041 ]
      // wyne // `anayv // aw-nawv' //

      from 06031 ; TWOT – 1652a; n m

      AV – meek 13, humble 5, poor 5, lowly 2, vr meek 1; 26

      1) poor, humble, afflicted, meek
      1a) poor, needy
      1b) poor and weak
      1c) poor, weak and afflicted
      1d) humble, lowly, meek

      Psalms 41:6
      And if he come to see [me], he speaketh vanity (pride of ego): his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; [when] he goeth abroad, he telleth [it].

      07723 // awv // shav' // shawv // or
      // wv // shav // shav //

      from the same as 07722 in the sense of desolating; TWOT – 2338a; n m

      AV – vain 22, vanity 22, false 5, lying 2, falsely 1, lies 1; 53

      1) emptiness, vanity, falsehood
      1a) emptiness, nothingness, vanity
      1b) emptiness of speech, lying
      1c) worthlessness (of conduct)

      Psalms 10:4
      The wicked, through the pride (ego = erase God out) of his countenance, will not seek [after God]: God [is] not in all his thoughts.

      01363 // hbg // gobahh // go'-bah //

      from 01361 ; TWOT – 305b; n m

      AV – height 9, high 3, pride 2, excellency 1, haughty 1, loftiness 1; 17

      1) height, exaltation
      1a) height
      1b) exaltation, grandeur
      1c) haughtiness

      June 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • JAG

      The guy who came up with the scientific theory of the big bang believed Jesus was the savior. Was he stupid?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • The real Tom

      AE/Austin, how many times are you going to change your screen name?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • JM

      Does/did anyone you admire (in life, in history) believe? If so, why?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      You do know that your own Atheist Leader Richard Dawkins has accepted that Jesus Christ existed right? He said this in public and in open debate. As i recall correctly, he bases his believes on hard actual data. That would explain his recanting his opposition to Christ's existence. Will you now debate your own leader?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Leader"? Why would you think that atheists have a "leader"? And did Dawkins use the term "Jesus Christ"? Did he say that the historical Jesus was divine? Where?

      June 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Richard Dawkins is a fascinating writer - always very informative as well as entertaining. (And he married Romana 2!) I enjoy his books, but he is simply a fellow atheist, not my leader. Why do the religious have such difficulty with the concept that not everyone needs someone to tell them how to think?

      June 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  20. Paul Wilson

    The costume is not right.
    It looks like that of the Eradicator, a Kryptonian artifact that took on human form -and evolved human needs, as it evolved from anti-hero to hero. I'm referring to the "Reign of the Supermen" story-arc.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Huh. The only "Eradicator" I know if is Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall.

      June 15, 2013 at 1:30 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.