BLACK PANTHER: THE MOST UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO BLACK THEOLOGY

God works through me, the same as you. There is no feat I achieve that you are not capable of.”

-Black Panther

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As fascinating and as unexpected as it may sound, the Black Panther is indeed a very important figure in comics. This exception of the Black Panther does not exclude other significant black superheroes of authority and influence such as the Blue Marvel. But, the Panther takes first place because he came before the rest. His impact on African American thought was revolutionary. At a time when the African American community battled with self identity, Marvel Comics showed that they could rise up to the occasion and create a character who would be the image of African Americans. The Black Panther, though unassociated to the group that went by the same name did something unimaginable. It not only changed how African Americans saw themselves, it also demonstrated that though they originally hailed from Africa [which had been christened the ‘Dark Continent’ in the sixties], that they and their homeland were not so ‘dark’ after all.

In a manner that must have stunned DC readers at the time, the Black Panther was a point in and of himself. Unlike DC’s Cyborg, the Panther was not a sidekick, he was his own authority. He has remained, since the time of his creation, a king, a genius of Marvel’s top cream, a superhero and a priceless contribution to the Avengers’ team on panel. Now, here’s where some of you may ask some questions like, “Wasn’t Marvel just trying to capitalize on a present issue to earn some extra income?”. The answer, a resounding “No”, here’s why; Stan Lee had pointed out that he did not like his character being ‘shadows’ of the so-called ‘main hero’ because he felt that they took something away from this main hero. He later on went to state that he would not do to any of his characters what DC had done to Batman’s Robin and subjugate them.

At a time when comic books themselves were seeking relevance, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics were on the right path. Seeking to create characters of substance, and relatability; meaning that the selling point of the characters would not be on their power or abilities but on their diverse personalities, weaknesses, challenges and ability to ‘rise up’ as it were after being knocked down several times over. This, if I must say, is a strength. And as recent comic news is showing us, Cap’s history has been re-written. He is now a triple agent and a HYDRA project?? Anyway, many fans are a bit confused about this reveal but this story is bound to be one that may lead fans to respect the Captain even more. Some of you might be skeptical but watch this space…

Now, to the issue at hand, Black Theology and Black Panther’s contribution to the same. Black theology has had a very powerful influence on American society as a whole. Be it loved or hated, it is a force to reckon with. Seeing the likes of Martin Luther King Junior, pardon me, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. springboard the revolution in the U.S. that shook the very core of the rest of America we got the best comparison to the Black Panther character. We got Barack Obama, an educated African man who made African American history through his dual heritage as a Hawaii-born black man. It’s this point that makes me respect Marvel; they looked into the future by being great analysts of the present. I speak and express myself in these posts as a young African man of black descent and I have grown up reading comics. Not only do I love them, I relish their perspectives on several events. As an African theologian, I am thrilled to see the parallels that can be made from the comic book/fictional realm and the realm of theology. If some of the greatest ministers advised other preachers/theologians to hold a paper in one hand and the Bible in another, then comic books qualify right there near the newspaper.

Kudos Marvel on bringing the character to the big screen in Captain America Civil War!

“The more different we are, the more we find that we are the same”

-Chinese Proverb

MORALISM VERSUS GODSPEAK

WHY GOD’S KINGDOM IS A FAR CRY FROM WHAT MORALISM PREACHES

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Oftentimes, I tend to hear both friends and strangers alike ask me about why I study theology. Nearly nine times out of ten, I am also asked-in the same breath-why I did not want to pursue another occupation and ‘top up’ to my theological studies. These queries, though distressing and frustrating at times, are in my opinion, vital to bringing clarity to my innate affinity for all things God. It is this very thing that I’d like to tackle today in hopes that it will shed light on some critical issues that vex the heart and trouble the mind in matters regarding the divine.

I’ve grown up in a Christian home, with a godly family–all of whom are devoted followers of Jesus. My parents have always tried their best to ensure that my sister and I lived morally acceptable lives in the sight of God and men. Whereas I do not have any qualms with this perception-primarily because parents have a special kind of wisdom when it comes to handling their children-I still struggled with this matter. And struggle with it did I do, for a very long time. You see, I understood then as I understand now that parents’ intentions reflect their hearts. They are wired to ensure that their children flourish, prosper and become people of good-standing and repute in the community.

Now, my struggles came in a two-fold manner; I did not know what it really meant to be good and how that was accomplished, and secondly I did not understand what God’s big deal was and what he intended/desired from me. In all honesty, growing up, these two struggles gave me a warped view of what the very definition of good and evil was! For example, if I never drank alcohol or slept around, I saw myself as a ‘better’ person than the ones who did these things. As though to add insult to injury (as old as this cliche expression is), I would judge these people by my own moral standards. What a darkness I lived in, and I did not even have a clue of how wrong I truly was.

The other struggle manifested itself in my life when I realized that I really liked moralists/teachers of moralism. The televangelists who belted out fire and brimstone on the television screen would quickly receive a huge, thundering “Amen!” from me. Yet, in my deepest, darkest hours during those times I sat alone with no one watching me, I struggled in silence. As Lecrae once rightly put it (God bless his heart), “I was sipping on some secret scene, [believing that] no one would ever love you [i.e. me]”. I really did not get it and these problems really began to show up in my high school years. I really did not know what I was doing or what I had believed in was truly something I could call “Christianity” (How many people right now are masquerading under this identity but are doing ill and hurting many in the process? Is it possible to pray for them and hope they encounter the Living God of whom they claim to represent?).

This dark veil over my eyes began to break over my eyes in those very high school years. I sincerely did not know that I, a kid studying to become a physicist would end up desiring to study something else entirely, theology/the Bible. It was during this period that, although I still struggled with my holier than thou disease that I truly met God. No, it wasn’t through some moralistic teaching on how to behave and how to do right but by God, through his Scriptures speaking to me. He addressed my selfishness, my weaknesses, my errors and began to use me in school.

One of the most important things to ever happen to me was seeing a friend of mine fully have his broken arm healed and restored, although it was due for surgery just three days away from the healing! Wow! Not only did this blow my mind entirely, but it flipped my world. This was NOT what I expected. Since then, I have been learning. Yes, I do make mistakes and sin, but I do not resort to my old moralistic ways. I have simply learnt to submit. I am humbled by him because I have realized that it’s his mission, not mine to save the world. He is the Judge, not I. He is the center of my faith, not I.

Living free is what I have come to experience because I have learned to hear his voice over my own. You know what’s even better (especially for you out there who have been hurt and wounded by those professing to be ‘Christians’) it really doesn’t matter what you are struggling with. What matters is your heart and your willingness to hear from him and be healed, be restored. For in this his reign is made manifest in your life and mine. And as the Apostle Paul once said, “The Kingdom of God is not merely a matter of eating and drinking, but it consists of right-standing with God/right-living, peace (restoration of your person as well as peace with others, including enemies), and joy in the Holy Spirit.

May healing flow,

Peace to you…

 

 

WHAT ‘GANGLAND’ HAS TO SAY ABOUT KENYA’S POTENTIAL

WHEN ALL WE NEED IS A CAPABLE GROUP OF LEADERS FOR THE NEXT PHASE…

“You know originally, the gangs were created to protect everybody in the community. There was lynching and bombing going on and the gangs were there to protect. What people don’t understand is that a lot of the leaders died. Medgar Evers (has been shot), Bunchy Carter (has been shot), Fred Hampton (has been shot), MLK (has been shot in Memphis Tennessee). These youngsters didn’t have any direction. No leaders to look up to so they imploded on themselves”

-Lecrae

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Lecrae CC3…When the Christian Artists Get Real

It’s amazing how personal this song is, personal in the sense that it speaks from the heart about the heartbreaking effects of the difficulties being faced by many in the U.S. right now. Many of these difficulties are not recent as many of us would think because each and every single one of them have caused strains in inter-ethnic relationships. These strains are presented as being brought about (primarily) by a quest for identity–an identity in a new land/time period. Whereas in the past great leaders emerged who helped make a difference and level the grounds for those from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, the need to progress, evolve and adapt is urgent.

So much crime has taken place because of hatred and indifference. These things, as the song would point out, have not helped lessen the burden being borne by either side of the conflict. Although these things are of great concern, the song would rightly point out that “it was a crooked system like this that left the King of kings bloodless”, a straight up nod to the fact that the systems in place that deny us the rights to be treated as human beings, regardless of race/ethnicity need to be acknowledged. Not only are they to be acknowledged but undone altogether.

Kenya’s current interest in advancing the nation falls under one oddly similar situation as the U.S.; it needs to accept and take advantage of its diversity. With over 40 tribes, each possessing sub-tribes of their own, Kenya’s diversity is as beautiful as the view of a rose in a kaleidoscope: Each mirror reflection interacts with another reflection from another angle and thus creates a beautiful view.Why tribal politics lets us down is yet to be understood, but the fact is, the power has been and always remains in the hands of the people to change things. Although, like the U.S., there were those who came before to fight the oppressive laws and systems that denied the people equal rights as the rest, Kenya can build right now and today from that great history and become greater.

Although there are issues that have kept many suppressed and kept under the feet of oppressive powers and laws, there still remains a great chance that they can rise up again and produce amazing people. As though things couldn’t get any stranger, Obama was Kenyan and became the president of the U.S. for two whole terms. Whereas some disagree as to his heritage, they should remember that Kenya, like the U.S. had great leaders that suffered to give the people freedom. No one bred from this beautiful land is without worth and value (forgive me here, I am letting loose on my patriotism here. I am Kenyan after all!).

Hence, if Obama can lead, so can any one in the world, but it starts here. No more crime, No more violence. No more pitiful fighting and squabbling. No more lying. No more corruption and stealing. No more negative tribal politics. No more extortion. No more robbing the people. As Lecrae and Propaganda’s ‘Gangland’ rightly point out, Jesus is the best example to learn from regarding leadership and making a difference, as well as living a life worthy of God in the midst of difficulty. This, I believe is what the Gospel of Jesus offers my people and the world today.

Why don’t we make a difference by tackling our issues differently?

Why don’t we dare to be better?

Why don’t we dare to love?

Why don’t we dare to share when it hurts?

Why don’t we dare to be different?

GENESIS: BEAUTY’S TRUE NAME

WHY BEING MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE AND LIKENESS IS THE PRIME ACHIEVEMENT OF OUR SPECIES, AND THE ASPIRATION OF THE ‘TOMORROW’

“Adam, where are you?”

-God to Adam

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I have no idea how this topic came to me, but ever since it dropped on my lap I have had this pressing feeling that I have got to do something about it. What is that something, you ask? Blog it, of course! Ha ha. I think every blogger out there appreciates the thrill of sharing from their various fields of interest as they provide insights that were never before witnessed and/or shared by others. To all my fellow bloggers out there, I salute you and appreciate you for the work you do, keep the fire burning. For it was because of you that I gained interest in this art and for that I remain forever grateful.

So, down to the subject of interest, the creation of man in God’s image as the ultimate objective of our existence. What I love about this post today is its uniqueness as it is both the example and the hope of mankind. Our starting point on this subject? God’s question to Adam. When the the first couple experienced the effects of the catastrophe that was the identity changing Fall, they were not prepared for what came next. “Adam, where are you?” Are the first words that the first man heard from God after eating from the tree of good and evil. These words were timely as they were a reflection of concern; they were not words that came from God immediately after the disobedient act of the couple, but rather, later on.

What could Adam have been thinking at this point, as he was being sought after? “Oh no, I’m a goner. That does it, Eve, we are through; we had this coming…”, he, together with Eve probably riddled themselves with guilt to a standstill, with the guilt eating into their conscience. But what’s more peculiar about this is that, although we tend to ask why we as people are in trouble over an issue in life, we often look at the one who confronts us rather than look introspectively at ourselves. If we take the latter option we find that we gain more of our personal identity and character and we actually do become better people in the long-run, an option that the first couple did not consider.

Here’s where I wanted to take this discussion for today; whereas the story of Adam and Eve has been one of the most debated narratives of all time, it offers profound insight into the first sign of our loss as human beings. This loss being the very first sign of the shortcomings of our new identity, person and being. No wonder the name of God, I Am, is of such significant value when it comes to cracking the message of the Bible especially as far as humanity finding its being is concerned.

Although we are at present imperfect, we should be able to understand imperfection as a gift of mortality. We do not live forever, but we can’t surely conclude that it’s Y.O.L.O. either (catchy as the slogan might be). We are limited, we have various flaws and imperfections but we are not hopeless, neither are we useless. We are each of us one of a kind with a journey ahead of us. I’d like to propose that the fullness of this being that was once lost has been regained and that it is attainable today-and right now. God wasn’t concerned about destroying Adam, because as the texts show us, he was looking for him. He wanted to restore him and not merely finish him off.

His mercy is amazing and his greatest desire is that we rest in him in the midst of our failures and crowning achievements. Because, at the end of it all, what defines is not the material but the immaterial. And so begins the search for human beauty, the restoration of being to humanity; filled with purpose, drive, enthusiasm, joy, wholeness, love and peace.

May we truly unlock our potential in His name.