The Superman Gospel, According to Warner Bros.
UPDATED: The theologian who wrote a special Superman sermon entitled "Jesus -- The Original Superhero" for ministers across the country defends why he aided a Hollywood studio.
Aggressively going after faith-based audiences, Warner Bros. is comparing Superman to Jesus as a way to trumpet Man of Steel and encourage ministers across the country to speak about the film.
The comparison between Jesus and the marquee D.C. Comics superhero is repeatedly referred to in sermon notes posted on MinistryResources.Org written by Craig Detweiler, a theologian, author and cultural commentator who is an associate professor of communications at Pepperdine University.
Entitled "Jesus -- The Original Superhero," the nine-page document is available for download on the special Man of Steel Ministry Resource site, the brainchild of WB. The site also includes a Father's Day conversation guide, all part of an effort to encourage ministers to "educate and uplift your congregation."
On Tuesday, Detweiler posted a defense of his Superman sermon notes on Christian Today after several media outlets reported on the sermon, including CNN. He said while the sermon isn't appropriate for every congregation, there is no way to shut out Hollywood's influence on society.
"Rather than turn our back on those who are gauging our influence and testing our engagement, I want to affirm their interest. Hollywood is testing our faith. Thanks to thousands of responsive pastors and congregations, the studios are discovering we are as large, vibrant, diverse and influential as we claim to be. We are finally getting the stories we've been clamoring for," Detweiler wrote in the column.
According to the sermon outline, which includes a cue for a clip of the movie: "Superman's mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response. Jesus was sent by his Father to bear our burdens, to right our wrongs, to rise above our troubling circumstances."
"How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again? Let's consider how Superman's humble origins, his high calling and his transforming sacrifice point us towards Jesus, the original superhero," the notes continue.
It's routine for studios to market to faith-based audiences using firms including Grace Hill Media, which worked on Man of Steel. These efforts can result in sizeable family business, a demo that turned out in force for Man of Steel, which opened to a record $128.7 million.
Detweiler himself has written sermon notes before, including for The Blind Side. That film, however, was a much more obvious fit.
Other passages from Detweiler's sermon outline include:
-- "Superman faces grave choices that may cost him his life for the sake of the planet. After he turns himself in, he tells Lois Lane, 'I'm not surrendering myself to Zod. I'm surrendering myself to mankind.' Sound like anyone you've read about in Scripture?"
-- "Although fully aware of the bloody cost, Jesus decided to willingly submit himself to Roman soldiers. Jesus is arrested and tried as a common criminal, sentenced to death for crimes he did not commit. He pays the price for our individual and collective sin. The one genuinely innocent man takes on the burden of a gravely fallen people. The Man of Steel is faced with a similar test. Should he lay down his life for humanity? Do we deserve such sacrificial justice from Superman? The words of his father, Jor-El, resonate, 'You can save them ... you can save them all." He places Superman's life in context. 'You will give people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonder.'"
-- "The Man of Steel shows us what sacrifice looks like in the mythical Metropolis. Jesus Christ shows us what sacrifice looks like in the historical Jerusalem."
-- "It is no mistake that the creators of Superman [Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster] tapped into their Jewish roots to give him a majestic name. 'El' is a Hebrew name for God ... with the planet Krypton breaking up, Jor-El and his wife send their baby away. Like Moses placed in a basket, "Kal-El is whisked towards Earth for his safety and protection."
-- "We may want to soar like Superman, but most of the time, we feel quite earthbound. A movie like Man of Steel provides a thrilling picture of what sacrifice, duty, courage and honor look like. It is a rousing story. Thankfully, a genuine superhero, Jesus Christ, intervened on our behalf."