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 CHRISTIAN HOPE AND THE CONCEPT OF AN UNENDING TOMORROW

WHEN TOMORROW CAN NEVER DIE...

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Hey y’all! I hope that your week has gone well and that Friday the 13th didn’t give you the spooks, because what I have for you is something to give even the dead hope. It’s been such an amazing journey so far with you and I do hope that these posts do make a difference in someone’s life. If you have been following my posts, I thank you; if you have just gazed upon this post and thought it worth the while to read it, I thank you too: These posts are made for your benefit and interest. I gain nothing from these posts by the way, just a smile or two…:-)and sometimes that’s all we hope our words do to others. We are people after all, broken and flawed but still possessing so much more beneath the surface that can be tapped into if we only transition.

What’s odd about the concept of transition is that it truly is a longing deeply rooted in the human soul and psyche. Buddhism describes the best transition as being likened to that of the butterfly that has emerged from a caterpillar; the Greeks described transition as sacrificial, likening the process to a snake shedding off its skin and today, people are finding meaning behind a full gender change. What these three entirely different worldviews show us is that although we have the need, we do not–as of now understand why we do have this urge. Something I would like to point out at this time though is that we have dealt with this issue from a moralistic point of view as Christians and done a lot of damage in the process because we do not fully understand what our faith is about, and that is, transition.

The idea is, what Jesus has done for man is so beautiful that the best way that the Apostle Paul could frame it in the New Testament is, “Now we only see (this thing) dimly as in a mirror…but we await the reality”. It is too hard to give it a natural equivalent. In short, the message that Jesus gives us from both his life and teachings are phenomenally radical. He offers a full transition to the Kingdom of the Light and to a new nature, life, worldview and Kingdom. But here’s the twist, it isn’t a new idea. Way back in Genesis, when God was creating and ordering his work, he structured the days as night transitioning into the morning.

It was thought that this move echoed the life of the free Hebrew when he/she had been brought out of Egypt. What’s even more peculiar is that although some make it seem like it was so glum for all Israel, it really wasn’t in the eyes of the modern reader: they argued with Moses that they ate well, that they had enough for themselves (and no one comes up to deny these claims, you can actually check it out), finally Moses is described (although he was a prince, as living a life filled with the pleasures of sin). It doesn’t look so bad now until we look back and see that darkness isn’t just torture or some deep magic or evil cult worship or stuff like that, but serving our appetites and doing what pleases us. This is the one thing makes us stuck in a loop and makes transition a fading thought.

Then it hits us, perhaps there is more going on in our lives than we realize! Please don’t mistake this post as being hateful and moralistic but as a theological expression of what’s truly going on with the human condition. After all, is it not written that God gives us the ability to will for good according to his will? Why then do we do things as we want, not as he directs us? I too fall in this category, I am by all means no exception. But there is hope. Hope that refreshes us. The movement of the days from darkness (night) into the day (morning) is a reflection of what God does with us when we follow him…whether sprinting or with baby steps, we transition.

That’s where the Bible makes it more interesting when it points out that the act of following God is not some cut and dry religious experience. It actually breeds life, “Though weeping may endure for the night, joy comes in the morning”…our pain is relieved; “His mercies are new every morning, great is your faithfulness”, he gives us what we need most and never forsakes us even when we slip, slide or fall. That’s the transition that Jesus offers each and every one of us. It is a reflection of what we as human beings are desperately crying for, change, identity, purpose, belonging, meaning and peace. It is an echo of what is to come when Jesus comes back tomorrow…

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!