US mega churches embrace Jesus Christ Superman

By Phillip Sherwell in New York

With its promise of action and romance, a cast led by Henry Cavill and a slick marketing campaign, the new Superman film was always expected to be a box office hit.

But the takings for Man of Steel can be attributed in part to US mega-churches, which encouraged congregations to see the film by likening the superhero to Jesus. The film took in US$125 million ($156 million) at the weekend in America, the biggest June opening in cinema history and one of the biggest openings ever. Warner Bros, the studio, employed Grace Hill Media, a public relations firm focused on the Christian market, to arrange screenings for pastors, supply churches with free film clips and even draft sermons that draw on themes that can be given a Christian interpretation.

"Superman's mythical origins," the sermon notes say, "are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response. How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?"

There can be parallels drawn between the Superman story and the Bible: a celestial father figure who sends a son with super powers to earth; a reluctance of the son to assume his role as saviour; and the earthly powers who fear and reject the messianic figure. He also operates to a moral code. "He has the most extraordinary powers. He has the most extraordinary ideals to live up to. He's very God-like in a lot of ways and it's been difficult to imagine that in a contemporary setting," said film director Christopher Nolan, one of Man of Steel's producers.

It was long the case that God-fearing heartland America regarded Hollywood as representative of licentious excess and liberal politics - its output often condemned from the pulpits as sinful.

But the younger church leaders understand that they must embrace contemporary culture if they are to attract greater congregations.

And for the film industry, middle America is a major market where millions take their social cues from pastors. Grace Hill Media has promoted about 300 films through more than 150,000 ministers.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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