Hollywood is reaching out to Christianity

(Photo: Reuters / Daniel Munoz)Cast member Henry Cavill, who plays Superman, poses for pictures after his arrival to the Australian premiere of "Man of Steel" in central Sydney June 24, 2013.

By now, Warner Brothers' new Superman reboot, Man of Steel, is now established as a parable for Jesus.

Not exactly a new idea, the Last Son of Krypton sent to Earth to save us from ourselves, has been cast in this light many times before.

Indeed, several previous Superman movies, including the 1978 original, could be praised (or accused) of making these connections even stronger than the 2013 reboot.

Yet, with a modern marketing campaign and striking visuals like Superman making the "cross" pose while floating in space, the superhero flick that grossed $125 million in its domestic opening 4-day weekend has become ubiquitous with comparisons to Jesus as of late.

One of the major reasons for this newly noticed allegorical Christianity is the growing Hollywood trend to reach out to the American faithful with specifically targeted marketing.

There are early screenings for congregations, church leaders and promotional materials presented on how best to connect pop culture with Christian culture.

Before Man of Steel's release, Grace Hill Media, a PR marketing firm solely focused on promoting specific Hollywood fare to religious communities, invited church leaders to early screenings where sermon notes were provided as to how best to preach Superman and Jesus comparisons for the then-upcoming Father's Day Sunday.

"Let's take a look at the trailer for 'Man of Steel,'" the notes begin after pointing out that Clark Kent visited a Catholic Church with a stained glass, red caped Jesus during a moment of soul searching.

The notes were written by Pepperdine University Professor Craig Detweiler who said, "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."

Yet, for all his helpful analysis, it should similarly be noted that Detweiler has written appraisals of The Blind Side (2009) and The Book of Eli (2010) for Grace Hill Media.

Founded in 2000 by its current president, Jonathan Block, a deacon at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Grace Hill Media has been reaching out to Christians for over a decade.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) being one of its biggest and most successful campaigns, Grace Hill has also strongly promoted the Christian values of everything from the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Signs and Walk the Line.

"Every weekend, 43 percent of Americans attend church or synagogue," Grace Hill's Website reads.

"That's nearly 130,000,000 people! Grace Hill is committed to making these Americans aware of entertainment which shares in their beliefs, that explores their values, enhances and elevates their view of the world and draws them closer to God."

Yet some Christian leaders are less enthusiastic about corporate outreach to the spiritual world.

Mark Sandlin, Minister and Co-Founder of the Christian Left, wrote a skeptical editorial for The Huffington Post this week in reaction to the "Americanized Jesus."

While enjoying the movie as a "geek," he said that leaving the film as a minister left him disturbed.

"Jesus was the antithesis of the might-makes-right solutions which we find in superhero stories," Sandlin wrote.

"In the Christian story, salvation is offered through a cross, through the hero laying down his life rather than wiping out all of the bad guys. His life and death are the embodiment of an argument which says, 'there is nothing redemptive about violence.'"

However, whether you think pop culture being used as a gateway to true Christian understanding is a good thing or not, the numbers coming in for Man of Steel's global box office - it is poised to make $1 billion globally and is currently the second most successful film of 2013 - likely mean there will be more flying in from the same direction.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News