I am not from Wakanda
First a Disclaimer: I love superhero movies. I like both Batman and Black Panther. And I celebrate the fact that Wonder Woman and Black Panther are blockbusters. Now, to my main point.
I’ve seen again and again my Christian friends celebrating black panther and telling everyone to go watch it because “our kids need to see it.” Look, I do understand that it is important for our culture to have black heroes, woman heroes, all sort of heroes. And trust me, I am Brazilian, we have no heroes. No one talks about Brazil. Americans talk about Latin America, but they are only talking about those who speak Spanish (by the way, we don’t speak Spanish in Brazil). Even the “Latinos,” they don’t remember Brazil is part of South America. Trust me; I know how is it to be a teenager and have no hero to look up to. So I get the point that for a black kid it is crucial to see a hero that is not white the same way it is essential for a girl to see Wonder Woman kicking some Nazi asses.
My focus here is not that; it is this idea that to win, we must kill someone. I heard so many Christians saying Black Panther was a game-changer; white folks saying they would be “proud to be black” after watching the movie… it created a big expectation for me. I thought I would see something different. It is not. It is Captain America… but black. It is Batman but in Africa. Think with me; there is no difference between Wakanda and USA. They have a civil war the same way. They see different nations as enemies, the same way. They talk about immigrants the same way. With the big difference that the Americans yearly give a chance to thousands of immigrants to have a better life (as they did with me) and did something during WWII. While people from Wakanda just received no immigrants whatsoever and watched WWII from their comfortable hidden paradise.
There is no “game-changing” action on Black Panther. The “hero” comes back at the end and does what every other hero would do: He KILLS the bad guy. His victory is through violence. The last ten minutes of the movie is just a big civil war in Wakanda where you see no signs of repentance. It is just the law of the fittest; Its dog eats dog all over again. The same way we’ve always seen in Europe, Asia and in the Americas.
Let me tell you, the more I read the Bible, the more I fill unfit in our culture. If the story of the bible is true, then we are not from this kingdom. We belong to another kingdom, to another culture. The way we behave (or should behave) is different. We are aliens. We are exiled people in a place that is not ours. I am not saying I don’t like hamburgers, good movie and Monday Night Football. What I am saying is that we ought to be different and to tell our kids a different story. Our hero dies at the end of the story. There is no uprising movement; There is no rebellion; There is no blood. There is no killing our enemies.
Let me suggest that if Jesus had fought in the garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested, his disciples would have stayed with him, fought with him, and even died with him. They were clearly willing to do this.
What they were unwilling to do was to renounce violence and trust in God. Even though Jesus had taught them the peaceable way of the kingdom of God, they were so deeply ingrained in the violent ways of the devil that they simply could not imagine a way that did not resort to the sword. So they all fled from Jesus.
We are the same. Pay attention to that next time you go to the movies. We all wait for the comeback, for the time the hero will say “enough!” and he will get his gun and kill the bad guys. We are all for vengeance and blood. We are all for the weak gaining some power and defeating the strong through violence and death.
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, while in prison, when asked how he would act to those who were taking advantage of him, his enemies, said: “Everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.”
The world has seen too many times humans using violence to bring peace. We’ve been trying, again and again, to put everything in place by killing the bad guys. We think that violence will end violence - that punches in the face will end bullies punching in our face - that guns will end gun violence. It is time to say: ENOUGH!
This is the Kingdom we are from, the Kingdom of God. That is why I don’t think we should teach our kids to declare “Wakanda Forever.” We need to start telling ourselves and our kids another story. Let us not flee from Jesus - let us take our stand with the Prince of Peace.
You may disagree with me, but how can I think anything different when this is what our King told us: “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”