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

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THE CURIOUS CASE OF BANKAI: BLEACH

BANKAI AND UNLEASHING THE TRUE ESSENCE OF THE WORD

“I want to protect them…”

-Kurosaki Ichigo

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Bleach. The name itself is odd. Story goes that Tite Kubo, the creator of the series had a challenge coming up with the series’ title. Here we are, later looking back at this interesting decision made by Kubo to name it after a detergent. Although the idea is truly hilarious to think about, it is no joke conceptually; the content is well thought out. It offers the anime fan and the newbie (which I was back when I first heard about it), something peculiar. What captured my attention wasn’t just the fights, the main protagonist, Ichigo, or the themes but rather, the concept of the zanpakutou.

For all y’all who like me are fans of the series, forgive me for this but I have to provide a brief explanation of the zanpakutou to the newcomers to the series: Basically, the zanpakutou is a katana (a sword). It is not a regular kind of sword though, for when it is bonded to a shinigami (a death god/soul reaper) the core essence of the shinigami is transferred to the katana. This transfer now gives the katana the ability to reflect the skill, power and true nature of the shinigami’s soul. As if that weren’t enough, the zanpakutou possesses 3 forms [correct me if I’m wrong guys, I ain’t infallible]. The first form is that of the katana (in appearance), the second is the shikai that resembles something closer to the shinigami’s power, and finally the bankai, this is the ultimate form/power of the zanpakutou.

Since this post is about the bankai, it’s important that I focus on it for now. Now, the bankai is unique to each shinigami, some are similar but that is as close as it gets to comparability; it’s an aspect that I particularly like. This is because, the uniqueness manifested by the zanpakutou is reflective of human character, personality and individuality. All of these being traits we can attest to existing in the real world.

Here is where it gets a wee bit odd, the bankai and the Christian share numerous parallels. One of these parallels being that when several people, each being believers comes to the text, they come with different backgrounds that helped shape who they are as human beings, that is, people. None of these persons has the same testimony (a story recounting the often dramatic change that resulted in the individual’s life after encountering God through Jesus), and as such cannot tell the same story in the same way. That’s why I see a similarity at this point: Every manifestation of God’s power at work in each person varies. Not only do they vary, but like the zanpakutou, manifest in different forms…from art, to music, to writing literature to various combinations of all kinds of incredible things (like a double-sword zanpakutou).

Now, I tend to feel that for the Christian, their bankai comes about when the Holy Spirit, together with the Word of God, come together to bring meaning to the Christian’s already-present giftings and abilities. When, the Christian truly becomes a temple of God…I am not referring to some rules, regulations and traditions but an in-depth experience that comes about when one has fully given themselves to God. That there releases raw power, and with God’s word at that point living in the Christian he/she is able to use the best zanpakutou of all in it’s unleashed form…who they are (i.e., their identity).

Keep it anime, keep it cool, keep it Christ, keep it unusual y’all!

Blessings!