The following is a transcript of a press conference taped by a local Philadelphia TV news affiliate.
VOICE-OVER: We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this special news report.
GEORGE KANE (News Anchor): Good afternoon. Over the past few days, there has been both a local and national uproar surrounding the foundation of a new religion that is referred to as Kryptonism. While not much is known about Kryptonism, we do know that it is a religion based upon the worship of the comic book character, Superman. Kept quiet by the worshippers, the religion has apparently been practiced by many for almost a year now. The recent controversy has been caused by the construction of The First Kryptonist Church of Pennsylvania, the first of what is believed to be many other churches to follow. We now go live to Eileen Jacobsen, who is on the scene in front of The First Kryptonist Church of Pennsylvania, where a press conference is about to begin. Eileen, what’s the atmosphere like over there?
EILEEN JACOBSEN (Correspondent): In a word, George, tense. As you can see behind me, the police have barricaded protesters an entire block away so that the press conference can take place in a relatively peaceful setting. People from all different religions have come here today to protest The First Kryptonist Church of Pennsylvania; whether they’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, or even Scientologist, people from all faiths seem to believe that worshipping Superman is heretical. The outrage has reached such a climax that, just last night, the newly-erected church was vandalized with graffiti. A brick was also thrown through one of the windows, with a note attached that said, “Superman is no God. Stop your idolatry or we’ll stop it for you.” Hopefully, Keith Elmy, who is what I’ve been told is the Head Olsen of the church, can provide the public with some answers, hopefully calming everybody down in the process.
GEORGE KANE: I’m unfamiliar with the term Head Olsen, Eileen, is that the Kryptonist version of a priest, pastor, or rabbi?
EILEEN JACOBSEN: Yes, George, that’s correct. While we aren’t certain where the name comes from, many believe that Jimmy Olsen, a character from the Superman comic books, is the basis for the title. (Pausing) Oh, sorry to cut this short, George, but it seems the press conference is beginning.
CAMERA PANS OVER TO THE PODIUM AS KEITH ELMY APPROACHES
KEITH ELMY (Head Olsen of The First Kryptonist Church of Pennsylvania): Good afternoon, and thank you all for coming. While I haven’t had a chance to prepare a formal statement, I would like to say a few words before I take any questions. The Last Son of Krypton, better known as Kal-El, even more widely known as Superman, is my personal savior. This may come as a shock to many and I’m certain that it sounds more than a little crazy but after a lot of soul searching, I’ve come to realize that believing in Superman brings me a sense of peace and balance. It seems that not a lot of people can accept that and that, quite simply, is a shame. Hopefully though, the prejudice against Kryptonists will eventually fade once people realize that we’re no different from anybody else who chooses to practice a religion. That being said, I’ll now take some questions. Yes, you in the front.
WALTER FISHER (Staff Writer, Philadelphia Inquirer): Walt Fisher, Philadelphia Inquirer. To be perfectly blunt, why Superman? Why worship a comic book character?
KEITH ELMY: Why not worship Superman, why not worship a comic book character? Superman stands for everything good in the world; he’s courageous, he fights for those who can’t fight for themselves, he’s kind to everybody, and he expects no special treatment. Not to mention that he’s risen from the dead, he can hear anybody’s cries of anguish and rushes immediately to help them, he can fly, he can see through walls, and he’s indestructible. Sounds like a savior to me. As for being a comic book character, aren’t most saviors found in books? God and Jesus are the subjects of the Bible, Allah is the subject of the Qur’an, is it really so odd that I’ve also chosen to believe in somebody written about in a book, even if it’s “only” a comic book? Just because some people don’t take comic books seriously, it doesn’t mean that all people don’t. Next question…yes, you.
EILEEN JACOBSEN: Eileen Jacobsen, WVXT Action News. Kryptonism has been compared by some to Scientology because Superman is the creation of two comic book writers, while Scientology is the creation of a science fiction writer, would you agree with this comparison?
KEITH ELMY: Of course I agree. It would be both stupid and shortsighted to say that parallels can’t be drawn between Scientology and Kryptonism. They believe in aliens, we believe in an alien; L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author, created Scientology, Superman was the creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a writer and an artist, respectively. Of course comparisons can be made. Then again, comparisons can be made between Kryptonism and Christianity, Kryptonism and Judaism, Kryptonism and Islam. They all believe in a God that can’t be seen with the naked eye, we’ve never seen Superman with the naked eye; Jesus performed good deeds for thousands according to a book, Superman has saved millions of lives according to a comic book. All religions share at least a few things in common, whether people choose to accept it or not. Next question.
PATRICIA NEWSOME (Correspondent, WPHL): Trish Newsome, WPHL News. Is Kryptonism conducted like most other religions? In other words, do you have Sunday services where you get up and preach “the word of Superman”?
KEITH ELMY (smiling): Sarcasm notwithstanding, Ms. Newsome, we don’t have what I’d call boilerplate services; I never stand at a podium preaching the lessons that Superman has inadvertently taught us. We Kryptonists actually prefer a roundtable discussion of what we’ve learned from Superman and how we apply that knowledge to our daily lives. Thus, the main sanctuary of the church doesn’t consist of pews and a pulpit. Instead, we have chairs that can be arranged into a small circle, a large circle, or several small circles depending on how many believers have gathered. We feel it’s a more organic approach to exploring our faith. We also don’t have any hymns or songs that we sing since….
PATRICIA NEWSOME: Pardon me, Keith, but if the services consist of roundtable discussions, why do you address yourself as Head Olsen? And what exactly are the origins of the title “Head Olsen”?
KEITH ELMY: The title was bestowed up on me by the other believers, Ms. Newsome; I never referred to myself as Head Olsen, please get your facts straight. And don’t be mistaken, the title of “Head Olsen” simply refers to the person who organizes and moderates the discussions, looks after the church, performs various administrative duties, things like that. In other words, “Head Olsen” isn’t synonymous with “priest”, “rabbi”, “pastor”, or “imam”; “Head Olsen” is actually closer to “custodian”. As for the origins of the title, we thought it apropos that we incorporate Jimmy Olsen’s last name into the title simply because Jimmy Olsen looked up to and worshipped Superman more than anybody in the comic books. In all honesty, we just thought it was a clever play on words. Next question, please.
NORMAN BROWNFIELD (Correspondent, Fox News): Norman Brownfield, Fox News. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the formation of the Kryptonist faith. Specifically, a lot of people have been referring to Kryptonism as “nothing more than a cult.” Care to comment?
KEITH ELMY: All religions are cults, next question.
NORMAN BROWNFIELD (chuckling): Care to elaborate on that statement?
KEITH ELMY: The word “cult” has many negative connotations attached to it; when people think of a “cult”, they think of the Branch Davidians, they think of people who believe in aliens and drink Kool-Aid that kills them. While those groups are cults, they’re actually no different from any other religious group because a cult is simply a group of people who share the same beliefs and ideals. The reason you don’t normally hear Christianity or Islam or Judaism referred to as cults is because “cult” is commonly used to describe a smaller group of people who share the same beliefs and ideals. Since Kryptonism is comprised of a much smaller group of people than, say, Christianity, people scoff and say we’re a cult and that’s true, we are a cult. However, I’m sure that at one time, when Christianity was first established, people probably referred to Christianity as “nothing more than a cult” as well. The same could probably be said for Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or any faith-based religion. The only reason that they aren’t referred to as cults anymore is because they’ve been around a really long time and have accumulated millions of believers. Therefore, given time, Kryptonism could grow beyond “cult” status too. Next question.
MEREDITH YATES (Staff Writer, Time Magazine): Meredith Yates, Time Magazine. Do you think that your cult status has anything to do with the vandalism to your church; do you think people have vandalized your church because they think that what you believe in is heretical?
KEITH ELMY: I find that “heretical” is a very ambiguous word. If I referred to Christians or Muslims as heretical, I’d be pretty much saying that I’m right and they’re wrong; I’d be assuming that what I believe in is an absolute and, therefore, what they believe in is highly questionable and probably incorrect. The fact of the matter is that all faith-based religions, when it comes right down to it, are highly questionable. Nobody has any proof that they’re right or wrong because it’s impossible to know the truth when it comes to religion. After all, that’s pretty much the entire idea behind having faith. So when other religions refer to Kryptonism as heretical, one question springs to mind: what proof do they have that they’re right? Personally, I’d love to hear the answer to that question. As for the vandalism, yes, I do believe that prejudices are driving whoever to vandalize our church. What the vandal or vandals probably don’t realize is that, despite their efforts, they can’t scare us into not believing what we believe in. Now, I’m not saying we’re martyrs because we’re not; none of us are looking to get hurt or injured to prove a point. All I’m saying is that if you want to burn our church down, it’s fine with us as long as nobody gets hurt. But don’t think for a second that we’re just going to stop believing in Superman. Don’t think we won’t find another place to meet to discuss and worship Superman. Don’t think you’re going to scare the hundreds of other believers who are scattered throughout the country to stop believing either. You can’t bully Superman and you can’t bully us. Next question.
RAYMOND WOLFF (Correspondent, CNN): Ray Wolff, CNN. You mentioned there are hundreds of Kryptonists all over the country, how exactly was Kryptonism founded?
KEITH ELMY: Like many groups in today’s age, we started out as a chat room on the Internet. And like any other group, we grew to a point where we wanted to start to get together and discuss our beliefs face-to-face. Thus the reason for the church.
RAYMOND WOLFF: Do you anticipate the construction of more churches all over the country?
KEITH ELMY: Certainly. In fact, I’ve spoken to other believers in other parts of the country and in a few major cities, construction has already begun on other Kryptonist churches.
RAYMOND WOLFF: Which cities are those?
KEITH ELMY: I’d tell you but I honestly don’t want to endanger them. There’s no reason for them to go through the same persecution we’re going though. I will tell you that I wouldn’t be surprised if word got out sooner rather than later though. Next question please.
HEATHER CONLON (Correspondent, WDSR): Heather Conlon, WDSR News. How did you secure the funds to build a church?
KEITH ELMY: Well, we simply all chipped in. Some were naturally able to contribute more than others but it was definitely a group effort. We actually got the building at a really good price and then just all worked together to fix it up. The other churches that I mentioned that are under construction are being built in pretty much the same way. It’s a grass roots sort of effort so we figured that it would be best to get the churches built as frugally as possible. The pomp isn’t important to us, we just wanted a central place to meet. Next question.
WALTER FISHER: Are there Kryptonist missionaries?
KEITH ELMY: No, definitely not. We think that missionaries are, well, intrusive. If somebody wants to become a Kryptonist, they know where to find us. There’s no reason for us to go out and push our beliefs on people. Superman would never do something like that so we won’t either.
WALTER FISHER: What about “mercy” missionaries though; what about the missionaries who just help others? Are there Kryptonists who go out and simply do good deeds?
KEITH ELMY: Oh of course. It’s one our most highly regarded beliefs. Superman spends 95% of his time helping people so we certainly follow suit or, uh, in our case, cape. (Chuckles echo through the crowd) I know, bad joke. At any rate, yes, many of us are involved with Habitat for Humanity, others volunteer at various soup kitchens, and a few of us also volunteer at local hospitals. Speaking of which (looking at wrist watch), I apologize but I must end this press conference now, (tearing off a button-up shirt to reveal a royal blue t-shirt with a red and yellow “S” shield underneath) I’m due at the hospital in about 20 minutes. Thank you all for coming. (Various reporters shout questions as KEITH departs)
EILEEN TURNS BACK TO THE CAMERA
EILEEN JACOBSEN: There you have it. While Kryptonism may seem unorthodox to many, it appears that Kryptonism is here to stay. I’m Eileen Jacobsen reporting. Back to you, George.
GEORGE KANE: Thank you, Eileen. We’ll return with a follow-up report tonight at 5. I’m George Kane, thanks for watching.
VOICE-OVER: We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress.