As the new Superman movie "Man of Steel" prepares for its second weekend at the theaters, following a very impressive first week showing, pastors are being urged to show trailers for the film to their congregation and preach about the noted similarities between Superman and Jesus Christ.
"How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?" read a sermon note that was sent to Christian pastors by Warner Bros. Studios, the film company behind "Man of Steel," according to a CNN report.
Several commentaries on the internet have already compared and examined the ways in which the popular superhero can be seen as a reflection of Christ. The new movie, directed by Zack Snyder, features several scenes with symbolism, such as shot where Superman is placed right next to a church painting of Jesus, and a scene where the superhero stretches out his arms in the air like a cross.
The origin of Superman's story can also be seen as a reference to Christ – a father from another world sends his only son to Earth to battle evil and save mankind while inspiring hope. So while Snyder's Christian-centered symbolism isn't something new, the marketing campaign behind the film, such as the sermon notes for pastors to preach about Superman on Sundays, is causing some debate.
"There was an actual push to say 'We're putting out something that speaks to your group,'" said Quentin Scott, one of the pastors of Shiloh Christian Community Church in Baltimore, as noted in the CNN article.
"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," he offered. "It was something I was very excited about that with the consultation of our senior pastor, we could use in our congregation."
Scott admitted that he could see the financial incentive for Warner Bros. trying to push the movie to Christians, but said he saw it as an opportunity to spread Christ's message by using the popular movie.
"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."
Other Christian pastors, however, such as P.J. Wenzel, a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Dublin Baptist Church in Ohio, objected to this marketing strategy.
"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," Wenzel said.
"As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood's sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people's souls are neglected."
Forbes.com also reflected on the issue, highlighting that some may feel uncomfortable with this marketing strategy.
"What's troubling about this is the seamless connection being forged between mass marketing and spirituality, the exploitation of Christian themes to put more money in the pockets of Time Warner," reads the article, published on Tuesday.
Neil Cole, chief editor and publisher of the online Superman news source the "Superman Super Site," offered The Christian Post further examples of the parallels between Jesus and Superman last week.
"First of all, both the Bible and 'Action Comics No. 1' (Superman's debut) originally had Jewish writers," said Cole. "Another strong parallel is that Superman's Kryptonian name is Kal-El, which is a direct Jewish reference to God," Cole said.
"For example, just as Jesus died on a cross for the forgiveness of sins, defeated the devil, and was resurrected from the dead by God; in 1993, Superman died fighting the Doomsday while saving mankind from creature's path of destruction, later Superman was resurrected by his father, Jor-El."
As of Tuesday, "Man of Steel" has earned over $200 million worldwide at the box office, including $113.1 million domestically, making it the top June opening ever.