GO forth and tell thine flocks to pack cinemas for the latest Superman blockbuster, Man of Steel.
That’s the essence of an aggressive marketing campaign by Warner Bros to get faithful bums on seats for their newest offering.
According to this report, it has set up a special ministry resource site touting a nine-page pamphlet entitled Jesus – the Original Superhero, intended to help pastors base sermons in which parallels can be drawn between the fictional antics of Jesus and those of the Man from Krypton, played by the hunky Henry Cavill .
The movie studio even asked a theologian – Pepperdine University professor Craig Detweiler – to provide the sermon notes for pastors. The notes pose the question:
How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?
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 writes in the sermon notes:
What Jesus and Superman both give us, through their `hero’ actions but also their `human’ actions – is hope.
But Seattle reviewer Paul Constant vehemently disagreed. Describing the latest Superman movie as “shitty”, he wrote (warning: with a spoiler):
Man of Steel is definitely not a Christian movie. The amount of death that happens off-screen – cleanly, without mention – is astronomical. You can’t make those sorts of visual cues to 9/11 and also suggest that everyone got out of those collapsing buildings alive. We know what happens when buildings fall down. The only individual human lives that Superman explicitly tries to save at the end of the film is the family that Zod is about to incinerate, right in front of him.
So the message to me is that collateral damage is fine, but when you’re faced with violence directly, you should employ any means necessary to stop the violence. That’s not a message that a Superman movie should be sending, and it’s definitely not a strong Christian message. It does very much remind me of the American response to the War on Terror, where we applaud surgical air strikes that are made far away from the personal level, but we get squeamish when we see photos of torture.
Death and destruction is fine as long as we don’t directly have to look at it. This is a sermon that a pastor would want to make?
P J Wenzel, a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Dublin Baptist Church in Ohio was also scornful:
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.
As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood’s sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people’s souls are neglected.
Incidentally, a young Illinois pastor – Scott Bayles, from the First Christian Church in Rosiclare – was way ahead Detweiler. In 2012, to mark the annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Ill, he wrote a sermon – Jesus is My Superhero – in honour of the event.
Hat tip: Ivan