<<<<<<< SPOILER WARNING>>>>>>>>
First let me simply say that Black Panther is the superhero movie we deserve. And the one we need. It is beautiful, has some excellent acting – even for a superhero movie – and really nails the hope and expectation of this character and his heritage. I loved it and hope it skyrockets all over the world as a symbol of new highs for storytelling and diversity in film.
All that said, what struck me most is the “moral to the story.” It’s always interesting to see a moral to these types of stories. It’s usually, forgive me if I offend any writers/fanatics out there, extremely shallow. Simplistic. It has to be really.
Not this time. I think the story really addressed a kind of problem that we as Americans have faced, mostly successfully (though I would certainly be open to debate on that) throughout her relatively short history. America has been “blessed” in her industry and economy. I can’t and won’t go into the political and social strife that got her there, but there is no denying that on the whole America has been “successful” by many standards. That said, she has also suffered in her ability to, first, take care of everyone in the country and, second, to take its leadership in the world by serving the world. Leadership and servanthood is not a uniquely Christian concept, but it certainly is exactly the outline Jesus gave us. America has had a history of doing the most good (to borrow a phrase from the Salvation Army motto) for many parts of the globe and has had its ups and downs in taking part of a global advancement for the good of all people.
But we’ve seen it shift backwards of late, haven’t we? Take care of ourselves first has slowly started to sink into take care of ourselves only. Americans individually and through organizations that are globally minded are certainly still out there and active. But as a country, as a government, are we making choices to isolate ourselves, much like Wakanda, to protect our way of life?
Like most issues, it isn’t simple. It doesn’t fit into a two hour movie. Especially if half that time is devoted to fight sequences and exploding stuff. But I couldn’t help but see a good analogy in it all.
Wakanda is a good analogy for The Church present day. Vibranium is like our gift – the Holy Spirit you could say – in that we have been given power to help the world, to free others from oppression, defend the poor and needy, rescue the suffering. How the church has had its struggles throughout history! For centuries she has decided to cloister itself away, hording God’s goodness and strength and ignoring (looking down their noses) the rest of the world and its evils. The Church has also horded the gospel, making it difficult if not impossible for the world to join. They have been focused on defending themselves and separating themselves from “heathens” and not corrupting the purity of the Gospel.
But in the words of T’Chala, all of them were wrong. The Gospel cannot be corrupted for one thing. But the mandate of our Warrior-King was this, to love God and to love neighbor. When we parse out what it means to love, we cannot then defend the position of isolating ourselves and hording our wealth and resources from all others. We cannot be blind to the injustices and heartache that the world experiences daily. We cannot turn from the suffering of our fellow person, striving for our own peace and success. There is no peace, no true peace, when your neighbor suffers.
“It’s hard for a good man to be king.” It will be hard to do what needs to be done, what must be done, in the days ahead. Many will try to undo us. Many will try to fight us and strip us of power. Many will try to destroy. Many will try to divide and conquer us. We cannot let them succeed. The Church must advance all the more fiercely, confident in the work that was begun, confident in the Spirit-power that emboldens us, piercing through the hard dark and the hard hearts, crushing sin and death in our wake.
Who will lead us? Our Warrior-King, who CAN fight with swords and shields, but who finds another way. A peaceful and peace-giving way. We must find a way to follow him…
Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.
Lead on, King eternal!
(Though, King T’Chala, I would like to discuss that ritual combat thing….)