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…

 

 

TEARS OF A SISTER: THE POWER UNSUNG

WHY THESE WOMEN ARE MORE THAN JUST BLOOD, THEY ARE GOD GIVEN EXAMPLES OF STRENGTH

“She’s my sister, break her heart I break your face”

-Unknown

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Why we have these treasures in this life, we shall never truly know. One thing is for sure though, they are here for a reason. I don’t know about you, but I have one and I would love to appreciate mine as well as every other sister out there with this post. There is much to learn from your wit and wisdom, your love and your insight, you are more than a relative, you are an adviser, a friend and a source of joy to us all. I doubt that many can disagree with this one fact; sisters rock! If you doubt this, well, I hope you’ll take a keen look and see it for yourself, she is a gift.

This is a personal story, I know it’s kinda easy to say all sorts of wonderful things about one’s fellow family member without demonstrating how she earned her respect and praise. As way to demonstrate my praise, I want to be clear and dedicate this to my sisters, Bertha ‘Kaka’ and Sharleen. Both of you are walking wonders. How you have been with me and supported me all this while, I shall never understand. For never giving up on me, I am truly indebted to you. Keep being such shining examples of what it means to be women of influence and impact. I believe you both to truly be embodiments of the feminist ideals that your hero, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks of (wherever you are, Chimamanda, I hope you are hearing this! You are a sister too so this article is for you).

When I was going through a cycle of my life as a guy, a cycle of low self-esteem, self-doubt, fear…just to name a few, I didn’t have many people that I could count on. There weren’t many people who knew me that well to support me and help me up on my feet and help me become who I am today. Being the first child in my family from both my paternal side and my maternal side to study theology, I had my share of challenges from the very start. I never though much of it initially, but until I went through a long stormy season that rocked me to my core, that’s when I truly understood. Dealing with a calling in this day and age is not easy, sometimes it feels easier to fall away and be someone else–which is exactly what I sought out to do during this dark period in my life.

Trust me, it may not seem like it right now but having that one family member, especially a sister (even that one cousin/family friend), helps. It’s even much better, several times over, if she prays; that is the one thing that astounds me to this day. For when I began to push people away, when I began to act different, when I no longer so my call as being of any worth, my sisters understood and stepped in to pray for me as well as provide counsel. And it was at this very time that I realized that I was merely falling short of the example I had been since the beginning. I did not see it myself until I got out that I sank real low. I wanted to be ‘that’ guy, the kind who could go out, the kind who could be ‘a ladies man’, the kind who could say all the right things but not commit to them. Yeah, ladies, gents, that was me. If you are at this point disgusted at this, I do not take offense, I was filthy, an ingrate.

There are many things guys like me go through, especially ministers and its largely due to one’s own insecurities. Lead a mega-ministry, but be weighed by an equally mega blemish. It is not unheard of. I, do by no means intend to belittle my actions, but intend to make it clear through this story that I am a human being with numerous faults and that I fess up to them and own them. Because of my sisters and their support, I have been able to find my way back to the Lord. I am not fully perfect but I cannot let a day go by before praying for these mighty women of valor. Kaka, Sharleen…I honor you. May the Lord increase, sustain, guide, nourish, provide and hunt you down with his favor and blessings always!

Sisters, we might have grown up with them, but we don’t know what the word means until the crisis comes. May I sincerely be blessed with a wife of such mettle as you.

In tears, I write this. I honor you sisters around the world. Keep making a difference, especially in the lives of your fellow siblings.