Like so many others, black people in particular, I have waited for the “Black Panther” movie for a long time. I was not a comic book reader as a kid, but the Marvel universe and its heroes have grown on me. Regarding this particular hero and story, my recent trips to Africa gave me a desire to see more of the continent’s beauty brought to the big screen for all the world to see. Additionally, I am a fan of many of the all-star cast’s bodies of work. The line-up included Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o, Academy nominees Daniel Kaluuya and (my favorite) Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and break-out performances by Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira.
I love that this movie allows the world to see and celebrate a world where a community’s black identity is good all by itself. And I love how this movie gives us glimpses of our forgotten church history, including the present and future kingdom of God.Black Panther allows the world to see and celebrate a world where a community’s black identity is good all by itself and gives us glimpses of our forgotten church history, including the present and future kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
In Wakanda, Black Identity is “Very Good”
Upon my first viewing of the film, I thought, “This is what some white people in America are afraid of…” The idea of brown people leading and living well, asserting their God-given identity, standing strong and un-shamed, defining their own beauty, using their own voices, and not being oppressed by the history and lies of slavery or colonization. They are afraid of the idea that a story can be told when they are not on top as heroes, when they cannot determine another nation’s fate, and when they are not the writers of other people’s stories. The very truths and images that the movie celebrates exposes everything that is wrong about the racism and white supremacy that has continuously plagued America.
Wakanda represents all that is good when people’s cultural identities are affirmed and celebrated in an authentic way. This is why black people dressed up to go see “Black Panther” in the movies. It is why I wore my Rwandan and Nigerian clothes to see it on two separate occasions. It is why people from the “Coming to America” era wore their Zamunda attire to a Wakanda movie, why people from other ethnicities went to celebrate and stand in solidarity, and why they sometimes wore their own ethnic and cultural garb.
In the land of Wakanda, it is good to be black!
How Wakanda Helps Us See the Kingdom of God
In addition to providing a vision of blackness that is unhindered by centuries of oppression, the movie also excels at providing deep insight about the Kingdom of God for those with eyes to see. Here are a few of those parallels from the fictional country of Wakanda in the movie “Black Panther” and the kingdom of God revealed in our Good Book.
- Light in a Dark World: Wakanda is the kingdom of abundance that was hidden in plain sight from the rest of the outside world that has a distorted view of it.
- Love of God’s People: The love shared between the people and their ancestors, a man and a woman, a king and his people was pure, unwavering, and sincere. The love made them loyal, innovative, and unafraid. Their love made them lay down their lives for the king and their kingdom.
- Love and Healing for the Nations: Wakanda was where people from different tribes, languages, and people groups came together to worship one king. The glory and honor of the nations are brought into this kingdom, and the fictional metal of vibranium has the same healing effect as the leaves of the tree of life which bring healing to all nations (Rev. 22:2).
- Love for All Creation: With every outfit, every hairstyle, every ritual, and even the uniqueness of every weapon, their beauty and the unity in their diversity was on full display. The earth and the animals were all in harmony with the people who shared time and space.
- Laying Down One’s Life: And when the kingdom was threatened, they all came together to defend it. The women and men were mighty warriors. In Wakanda, every Barak had a Debroah and Jael! In Wakanda, we learn that when tribes truly submit, no one challenges the king. And if they do, when the king is a righteous warrior, they will either yield or die. We learn the truth that in Wakanda and the kingdom of God: “It’s hard for a good man to be king.” In so many ways, Wakanda’s King T’Challa did not become king overnight. He was taught, trained, and prepared by his father. From his first day on the job, his life was in danger and threatened. Yet, he understood his mission, and his commitment to that mission caused him to determine the type of king he was going to be. In Christ, we have the world’s greatest King. He was better than a good man, and the powers at work in the world still came against him.
The Work of the Spirit Across Time and Throughout Generations
Wakanda presents a deep spiritual and historical connection between the ancestors, the country’s leaders, and the entire community of Wakanda. There is respect and responsibilities for each generation. In Wakanda, the elderly are not abandoned or tossed aside. Old men speak with great authority and queen mothers are adorned with honor.
In watching and hoping at the big screen, I was reminded that our God covers generations of people groups. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the one who caused Jesus, the Christ, to eternally sit on the throne of David. He is God who took the spirit of Elijah and caused it to rest on Elisha (2 Kings 2:9-15), the prophet for the next generation. This has always been the African way.
Contrary to the myths of some, African thought and spiritual reality is not all based in pagan ritual. Christianity cannot be ruled out and is indeed among many of what we would consider traditional African religions. In fact, Thomas C. Oden continues this understanding in his book, “How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind,” when he wrote:
Judaism and Christianity have their roots in the story of a people formed in the interface between Africa and Asia. Jews and Christians would travel from Egypt to Jerusalem to Samaria to Antioch, and from there to the uttermost parts of the earth. And from Pentecost on, Africa would always have Christians.
Even before Pentecost, God’s people were led and inspired by the Spirit which speaks to us through our ancestors in the reading of scripture. The Bible says that:
You must understand the no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21
The Spirit of God is at work redeeming all things. He brings light to expose the darkness and gives beauty in place of ashes. This is what Wakanda has done for many people, and for the generations that are to come, thanks be to God! Because of the Spirit at work in the world, the king lives and his kingdom will have no end!