Fantastic, now I have the perfect topic for my 14-part megachurch Savior of Steel “sermon” series.
Oh, why did I say anything?
Because after I do, articles like this one come out:
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.
In response I wrote this, slightly edited here, after of course having my “called it” moment:
Do understand: I completely agree about the parallels [between Superman’s story and Christ’s true Story].
My objection, if any, is to Christians and pastors:
- Needing Hollywood PR firms — no blame on them; they are simply doing their jobs — to sell them on a fantastic Christ-reflecting film (assuming it is).
- Deciding to Use the story for silly sermon references or over-the-top “wow, we’re getting recognized in culture!” rhetoric.
Stories should not work like that, as Tools to be used for self-promotion or solely to push for others’ conversion. Stories are means of worship, of exploring God’s beauty and goodness and truths and delights (and only secondly to draw connections for possible conversion help, etc.).
At least that’s not the reason outlined by Craig Detweiler. Yesterday he “outed” himself as the author of the infamous stock sermon-notes, and shares why he participated.
I wrote the Sermon Notes for the recent Man of Steel blockbuster film. Thousands of pastors took the time to visit a website, enter their address, and download the notes. I am glad that many have found the parallels (and distinctions) drawn between the life of Jesus and the myth of Superman helpful. Countless moviegoers from different faith traditions (or lack thereof) noticed the rather obvious connections between Jesus of Nazareth and Kal-El of Krypton. Hopefully, such comparisons do not detract from either story. My sermon notes were designed to connect (and separate) the superhero film from the enduring testimony regarding Jesus.
Nevertheless, some see the structuring of a sermon around a blockbuster movie as everything that’s wrong with church in the 21st century. It is compromised and compromising. Why would we surrender a sacred service to a secular movie?
I would say this: because, after Christ’s victory, the entire world is becoming a “sacred space.”
When I find a filmmaker asking all the right questions, I make an effort to come alongside that spiritual search. As Philip came alongside the Ethiopian Eunuch, we can ask people, “Do you understand what you’re reading (or creating)?”Our attention (and ticket buying) encourages studios to create even more spiritually informed sagas.
Yet how does this inform our actions? Can Christians, for God’s glory, work with “the world” and even directly with film studios to remind others of Biblical reflections in “secular” stories?
If not, perhaps we at Speculative Faith have some soul-searching to do.