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. AverageJoe76

    Why I'm agnostic: God seems bloodthirsty.

    Old Testament God: "I will create it, then kill it"
    New Testament God: "I going to kill myself. And if you mortals don't believe I will, you'll suffer a fate worst than your FIRST deaths!"

    Am I seeing things with rose-colored glasses again?

    June 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Dan M.

      Notice no Christian reply...

      That about sums it up. Old test'e God = Jealous and full of fire and brimstone. New test'e God = Turn the other cheek, unless you don't love me, then it's burn burn burn.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No Dan. It's called straw man and it's so egregious no one cares to deal with it.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Agnostics sit on the fence not wanting to release their sinful nature. Still in the lost category.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • derp

      "No Dan. It's called straw man and it's so egregious no one cares to deal with it"

      Which when translated from christard to English = "We have no salient response."

      June 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      A salient response would require a salient premise, so you are correct. He's a question for Joe though. Rather than default into agnosticism as a reaction to your poor understanding of Christianity, can you make a positive statement about what you are? I mean in your present condition, you're still defined by Christianity even if in the negative.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Gwen

      Bill, why does your god make himself so much trouble to understand then, for the creatures that his perfect self created?

      I think you should give your god some more thought, and try to make a better one next time. Your present god clearly has some problems, lack of existence being a major additional one.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Gwen, I don't think he's all that hard to understand. I think people make it harder than it is. Sorry for the confusion.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • derp

      "you're still defined by Christianity even if in the negative."

      Typically arrogant christian.

      I am not defined in any way by christianity because I lack belief in Zeus, Anon, Buddha, Mithra, Odin, Ra, Muhammad or any other made up deity.

      Leave it to a christian to assume that atheists only disbelieve in their particular fairy tale.

      Bloviating blowhards, all of them.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      derp certainly you are even self describing as a non believer in all these things. Can you tell me why atheists in generally seem to have an reluctance to submit any sort of systemic philosophy that they can positively commit to and describe. Again, everything I know about you is based on what you are not. Tell me then, what are you?

      June 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Sciernce

      Bill and the red horn-y beast ............it is all yours billy.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • derp

      My life philosophy is probably closest to secular humanist.

      But if you are wondering what I really am, try father, husband, friend, brother, uncle, or employer.

      Any of them will work.

      I feel no need to adhere to any label or faith.

      Why do you?

      June 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      OK, fair enough. I am all of those things as well. I also am a Christian who practices in the Catholic tradition. The reason is that I find the faith informs my values, replenishes my spirit, revives my nature and aligns my purpose. I have a definitive creed that is not subject to the whims of fashion or the trends of contemporary folly. I have a community of like minded brethren who support me, hold me accountable and provide both service to me and opportunities to serve. My Catholicism enhances my life, strengthens my family serves my community and makes me part of a legacy of faith that extends behind me and projects before me.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • derp

      "The reason is that I find the faith informs my values, replenishes my spirit, revives my nature and aligns my purpose"

      I don't need "faith" for that. I have my family and friends for that.

      "I have a definitive creed that is not subject to the whims of fashion or the trends of contemporary folly"

      I don't see how following an archaic doctrine that is unchanging, based on fear, written by scientifically ignorant nomads, and flies in the face of modern scientific discovery is somehow something positive or to be proud of.

      I'm actually very happy that my life principles are NOT stuck in the first century.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Origin of War and Contention; Against Pride; Submission to God. A.D. 61

      James 4:16   But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

      212   //  alazoneia  //  alazoneia   //  al-ad-zon-i'-a  // 

      from   213  ; TDNT – 1:226,36; n f

      AV – boasting 1, pride 1; 2

      1) empty, braggart talk
      2) an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own
      power and resources and shamefully despises and violates
      divine laws and human rights
      3) an impious and empty presumption which trusts in the
      stability of earthy things

      June 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • derp

      "Submission to God. A.D. 6"

      Ahhh...AD 61.

      When the world was flat, and the sun circled it.

      What color is your triceratops saddle.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Gwen

      Bill, it's hilarious the lengths and twists and turns that you will go to, to try to excuse, obscure, or screen the rather obvious absurdities of your beliefs. However, it is overall a harmful god delusion that you apparently are trying to sustain.

      Frankly, a supposedly perfect creator that created beings unable with reasonable effort to understand it or see evidence that exists, doesn't deserve my time. You may find that hard to understand, so sorry in return that's the case. Your god is apparently not fair in how he gives out reasoning ability, among his many other flaws.

      So, will you now reconsider and re-examine your beliefs? You should do that more often. Many reasonable people clearly have strong, clear arguments opposing your weak, absurd ones.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • lol??

      Derp is a member of the "fat and happy" mob. Bet his job is related to taxpayer funding, like most Beasties. it's fundamental.

      June 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • derp

      Chief Operating Officer of a multinational chemical company.

      I work globally, so I have odd hours. Often, I am not working during the day, and busy with work at night. Sometimes I have a great deal of down time during the day. Sometimes I don't.

      I work in the world of science and technology, as an atheist if suits me well.

      June 19, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  2. Look Up

    Okay, the wait is over.

    The "S" stands for "SAVIOUR"

    Everyone needs to watch the other Superman movie. Quote from Lois Lane article, the world doesn't need a "SAVIOUR "

    for any reason you may disagree, please do so. You will anyway.

    Last question, this one is easy, even an atheist or tree hugger or knuckle dragging evolutionary thinking monkey's uncle can figure this one out.

    Who's Your daddy? It starts with a "s" too.

    Be back with that answer very soon. Be patient.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Could it be, oh I don't know, maybe.... SATAN?!
      Well isn't that special.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      You're not impressing anyone with this nonsense.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • meifumado

      Do you realize how much of an idi0t you are?

      June 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Look Up

      My nose makes it's own bubble gum

      June 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Mr. Mr.

      The "S" stands for "Silly" which is what Christians faith and beliefs in the supernatural are.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • meifumado

      That's called booger gum.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  3. AverageJoe76

    Let's be clear; the reason why the Christian God has been scrrutinized [in my eye] has been because of the 'punishment'.
    God created everything (reality-everything). Nothing escapes God's all-knowing eye. God made sin. God made us. Told us not to sin. We didn't follow that. God gets mad, destroys most the world, leaves a few to start over. Man rebuilds the numbers, and sins the entire time. God gives us his son (who is himsself -- yeah.) to pay for all of mankind's sins. Accept this, go to heaven. Do not; "Die Darkman, Die".

    Here's the problem; God created everything. And in my mind, he didn't half-ass-it. God knows every atom to decay. Designed everything without falter. So........ to say there's something in 'God's Universe' that upsets God..... kinda makes me look at God like, "and.......? what do you want ME to do about it?" You made me, you fix it. [then I get hit by lightening and dissappear].

    On human terms; There's no surprising God, if one exsists. So everything's already laid out [if your God is all-knowing]. If your God is not 'All-Knowing', then it's not what I would classify as a 'God'. To make me, just to break me, is cruelty.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Not to mention with all the murder, commandments, sacrifice, and "holy words," according to Christians the world is still in a mess. God's fixes don't appear to be very effective.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Look Up

      Luke 19: 41 – 44

      Spiritual blindness is a serious disease of the soul.

      Help find a cure.

      John 3:16

      June 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • sam

      Look Up, if we douse you in Lysol, can we be cured of you, too?

      June 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • meifumado

      @ Look Up

      You should be more concerned with finding a cure for your massive delusions.
      Do everyone a favor and stay away from children, You are a threat to society.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Ernest T Bass

      @Look Up.... "Help find a cure"........... = end of religion, that's the cure.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  4. lol??

    Doc Vestibule qoutes,
    "If you want to deny evolution and live in your world – in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe – that's fine. But don't make your kids do it, because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future."
    – Bill Nye (The Science Guy)

    Nah, you're lookin' fer the next generation to pay all the debt you ran up. Slave makers.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You make less sense with every post.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • meifumado

      It's the religious who brainwash children, Therefore the religious are the slave makers.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Doc, do you really not understand the function of the Federal Reserve System?

      June 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Bill, What's the connection between the Fed and evolution? The debt is not unmanageable and could be reduced significantly if we had a functioning congress.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Here's the connection Santa; Bill Nye says we need scientist. Every atheist "knows" this is true because that is how advancement is made and advancement is what is needed to pay off the debt. So, we need to elect politicians who will borrow money from the Federal Reserve to build schools and help foster "advancement". The congress borrows our money from us and uses it to buy our votes, ensuring their careers while the Fed runs the printing presses full speed to fund "advancement". Of course, the money has to be repaid so we need a little agency called the Internal Revenue System just to make the minimum monthly installment. Of course, we could retire the debt if we just had better politicians who would build more schools so we could hire more scientists.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Bill, So you think we should not educate our children? Because they might realize how bogus religion is? Or because it costs money? If the latter I think it is worth the price – if we want to offset that cost there are plenty of places we could trim: reducing the defense budget would be a good start. Also think what price we'd pay to have an uneducated generation.
      Actually if the former I also think it's worth the price.

      June 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Bill Deacon
      It isn't necessarily about building a larger educational infrastructure to train more professional scientists, but it is about having a scientifically literate citizenry.
      It is about parents not shielding their children from facts they've decided are heretical.
      Not every kid is going to be an evolutionary biologist, but instliing a basic understanding of the workings and development of life should be a part of everyone's education.
      I know that, as a Catholic, your faith isn't threatened by science that contradicts the Bible – but you must admit that there are a good number of folk *cough* SOUTHERN BAPTISTS *cough* who go to great lengths to insulate their children from such blasphemy.

      June 19, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  5. tony

    Religion with an afterlife idea was probably invented by ancient leaders so that young warriors would stick around to fight for their side in battle, without realizing that death is final and smart losers run away to fight other day.

    And that's why we have the miserable and wicked situation today, where religious extremist terrorists can send in almost endless numbers of suicide bombers, to kill many times their number of innocents. If we'd never had religion, we'd probably never have any suicide bombers.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • G to the T

      I think the idea of afterlife can be traced back to some fairly simple questions/observations. Where do people "go" when they sleep? This can lead to idea of an existence beyond the mind (i.e. the soul). Once you have the soul idea, it's very easy to extend that thinking to the idea of a "next life" after this one.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  6. faith

    Even tho I can't find my midget of steel he can be real in my dreams. maybe my remote takes the same batteries, don't want them 2 go 2 waste.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • tony

      Don't let your mom see the the bump under the bedclothes.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  7. Secular Humanist from Ohio

    Christianity is false and immoral. There is no evidence for the divinity of Jesus and torturing and sacrificing a human being to absolve humanity is scapegoating. How wicked.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Sound famiilar? Satan also has copied the name "morning star."

      Revelation 22:16

      16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (KJV)


      June 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • fintastic

      "“'There are all kinds of courage,' said Dumbledore, smiling. 'It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends ..."

      Harry Potter

      June 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • meifumado

      @ HS

      Pure dribble, You quote utter nonsense that has nothing to do with anything.
      Please stay away from children and you should not be allowed to own firearms.
      You suffer from wishful thinking and you are one step away from being a fanatic if you are not already.
      Seek help now.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  8. Look Up

    The "S" is for........

    Still waiting for the answer?

    June 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • tony

      No unless it's funny or improves the lot of the people on earth.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • meifumado


      June 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • sam

      Silly, boring troll?

      June 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  9. tony

    Religion is the opposite of and the enemy of democracy

    June 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Look Up

      Relationship with JESUS is the opposite of being lost and without hope.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • tony

      So religion is the same as hope? As in Cargo Cult?

      June 18, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I am not lost and I have hope, and I do not have a relationship with Jesus ( and neither do you ).

      You have posted a lie.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • meifumado

      A relationship with Jesus means you suffer from wishful thinking.

      June 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      i am not without hope. folks like you have desire an eternity with the pr1ck from whom you have to be "saved". spend a lot of time on your knees?

      June 19, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  10. faith

    nitie nite

    June 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  11. faith

    I suspect they dont hear me. wise guys, a?

    ware b da proof? i says, war b it? i demand al qaeda nswer me ritch now! NOW! OR B DEEMED A BIG NAUGHTY BU DM MURDOCK

    June 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  12. Look Up


    The "S" stands for........ wait for it......... are you on the edge of your chair yet?????

    Please join us next time for the conclusion of this post.

    Baiting you is so much fun.

    Who will be first, Tom, Tom junior, captain obvious, waspy?

    Post you real soon.

    June 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm |

    to all hindus, I am on Jihad blog, see ya

    June 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  14. faith

    oh no! nazi gawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwd haters b comin back with proof. hold on everybody. here it is

    June 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • faith

      where it be tom the moron? did u go runnin away with murdie?

      where's horus? dag nabit. i want horus, right now!


      June 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • faith

      I am an ignorant troll, ignore me

      June 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  15. faith

    they don't even no how to insult gawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwd !

    what 000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000oes

    June 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • faith

      I am an ignorant troll, ignore me

      June 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  16. faith

    i could get used to this

    June 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • faith

      I am an ignorant troll, ignore me

      June 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  17. tony

    >>>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 <<<.

    Probably his home schooled church women wouldn't be able to see well enough with their veils on.

    June 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  18. faith


    June 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |

    • (zero proof of God)

      June 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  19. tony

    An d"who" s so powerful and righteous, they need (and someone takes) offerings from all in their congregation, every week.

    June 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  20. Thoth

    "As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood’s sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people’s souls are neglected,"

    Ironic he speaks of bondage considering that's the fundamental requirement of most religions. You can spin it how you wish, but at the core you have a "god" that you must serve.

    June 18, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • lol??

      Nope, servants don't share the inheritance. They are not related.

      June 18, 2013 at 5:49 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.