Reel Spirituality: "Black Panther" – Wakanda Forever!

In case you haven’t heard, “Black Panther” is the latest big budget Marvel movie to shatter box office records and garner critical acclaim. It is well deserved as writer/director Ryan Coogler’s film blends amazing spectacle with rich characters and a thought-provoking story. “Black Panther” has heart and emotion but it has something to say. It’s the rare film that needs to be watched in film schools and talked about in sociology classrooms.

“Black Panther” is also the first major Marvel film to center on a superhero of color: African prince-turned-king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), aka the Black Panther. Much of the film is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. The world is filled with culturally-rich characters who harvest one of the world’s most valuable resources — vibranium. 

While not overtly political, Coogler and company make the most of their massive canvas to address issues ranging from the impact of inner city violence, to western colonialism, to the overconsumption and exploitation of natural resources. 

But perhaps what most stands out is the real “heroes” of the film. Black Panther’s most trusted allies, advisors, and warriors, all played by a group of wonderfully strong women. Underneath his superhero outfit, the Black Panther, T’Challa is still reeling from the death of his father. He is fragile and depends on the strength of this community. His council is filled with powerful women played by actresses Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett.

As I thought about the importance of women surrounding T’Challa on his journey, it reminded me of one of the greatest heroes in all of the Hebrew Scriptures. Of course I’m referring to Moses. Moses is mostly remembered as the figure who God used to part the Red Sea and lead the people out of slavery. But we often forget the role of the greater community and the strong women who were an integral part of Moses’ journey. 

Moses faced death several times, but six brave women protected him along the way. One of them was Moses’ older sister Miriam. It was Miriam who assured his survival as a baby on the Nile. It was Miriam who later stood as prophetess. And it was Miriam who stood alongside of Moses and Aaron to help lead the people.   

And what about Black Panther’s central villain? Unlike Black Panther, Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan, is willing to scratch, claw, and kill his way to the throne. He is broken and hard-hearted over the death of his father. His masculinity is defined by violence. He is set on fighting power with power. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Revenge is his only recourse. 

There is a poetic symmetry in the relationship between Black Panther and Killmonger. Both of them come from broken pasts. Both have lost their fathers due to violence. And yet, they both see the world differently. They have drastically different views on retribution. One would prefer to take it to the council. The other would rather see violence met with more violence.

What are we to make of all this conflict? What do we do with all the strife in the world? What should be our response?

Over 1,000 years after the life of Moses, Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene. The life of Jesus embodies a life centered in reconciliation and forgiveness. Jesus died a violent death on the cross to reconcile the world to His Father. Jesus didn’t come to undo the work of Moses or abolish the law. Rather, he came to fulfill it. He came to point others to a God who loves and forgives and wants to be with us in personal relationship.

Jesus taught that instead of going the route of Killmonger and taking an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Is that a tall order? Yes. Is it difficult? Certainly. Is it possible when we surrender our lives to Christ and his purposes for our life? Absolutely. We can only truly forgive when we choose to live as those who have been forgiven.

Is there somebody in your life that you need to forgive?

Perhaps it is time to live out the words found in Eziekel 36:26. Ask God to, “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” Ask God to, “remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Live in the light and the love of Christ. You can start today by living in His forgiveness.

 

    Reel Spirituality: Pastor Chris Sikorowski


Pastor Chris Sikorowski is the lead pastor of Grace Church in Inver Grove Heights. He previously worked in Hollywood, primarily as a film producer. He was also a director and cinematographer. Sikorowski worked on over 100 films before he and his family moved to Inver Grove Heights. Learn more about Pastor Sikorowski's journey from Hollywood to the pulpit here. You can reach Pastor Chris directly at pastorchris@gracenazarene.org


Read Pastor Chris Sikorowski's review of "The Case for Christ" by clicking HERE.

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