Marvel’s cinematic universe has been smashing the box-office since its inception. Almost eleven years later, their films are still going strong. Black Panther, nominated for seven academy awards and winner of three, has been one of their most successful entries so far, bringing in over $700,000,000 domestically for a total gross of over $1,346,000,000 worldwide. This makes it the ninth highest grossing movie of all time.
“You were all wrong!”
[Spoiler Alert] The story centers around T’Challa, rightful king of Wakanda. Tucked away in the heart of Africa, Wakanda, along with its incredibly advanced technology, has remained a secret for hundreds of years. Hidden from the rest of the world, where thousands wallow in poverty, Wakanda and its people have chosen to protect themselves, rather than opening their resources to the rest of the world. Whether or not Wakanda should continue this policy of isolation is the central conflict that drives the plot.
T’Challa must face this question head-on when he is confronted by Erik Killmonger, the film’s primary antagonist, who is concerned about the injustice and dire circumstances that face many of their people around the world. After defeating T’Challa in a duel, Killmonger decides that he will right the wrongs that have been done against his race by using Wakanda’s weaponry to take revenge on those who have oppressed them. Meanwhile, T’Challa, who is near death, visits the afterlife and has a conversation with his father about doing the right thing.
Standing in the company of former kings of Wakanda, T’Challa confronts his father for abandoning a young Killmonger. T’Challa argues, “We let the fear of our discovery stop us from doing what is right!” As a result, instead of bringing justice, Killmonger will attempt to right injustice through injustice.
When T’Challa revives, he returns to Wakanda and defeats Killmonger. However, he does not forget the rest of the world. He decides to open Wakanda’s technology to the world by helping the disadvantaged, using Wakandan technology to work for justice and healing, not for taking revenge.
Toward Justice and Reconciliation
As racial tensions continue to run high in the United States, the film offers us an opportunity to step back and reflect. In many ways, Martin Luther King’s dream has yet to be fully realized. There has been much injustice toward African Americans throughout history and it is right that we should be upset about it. But what do we do about this racial prejudice and injustice? As usual, your worldview determines a lot about how you will deal with this problem.
The postmodern worldview has largely swept away all truth claims, and along with them, the concepts of good and evil. We are left only to our preferences to determine what is right for us. Many see this as liberating, but in sweeping away good and evil, postmodernists have removed the foundation for justice. After all, if we cannot say that something is evil or wrong, then we can’t say that racial prejudice is wrong. And yet, we know it is wrong, and most people (including postmodernists) agree that it is wrong. However, postmodernism has no basis on which to help us with this problem.
In a world without good or evil, those who have been mistreated are encouraged to take power and, like Killmonger, use it for revenge. I am reminded of Voldemort’s famous statement to Harry Potter: “There is no good or evil, only power.” Indeed, that is where postmodernism leaves us. Unfortunately, many on both sides of the debate seem to take this view. Others have reacted by attempting to minimize the problem. Both of these responses are foolish. Injustice and racial prejudice are wrong, and fortunately, Christianity offers us a far better response.
For starters, the Christian worldview places all of us, no matter the color of our skin, on the same level. We are all made in God’s image with equal dignity, value, and worth (Genesis 1:27). As descendants of Adam and Eve, we are all truly brothers and sisters in the same human family. We are all part of the human race. This gives us a true basis on which to counteract racial prejudice and injustice.
Furthermore, God loves justice and Christians are called to work for justice alongside our fellow humans, no matter the shade of their skin. That means that instead of taking revenge, we look for ways to work together towards recovering the dignity of all human beings. Like T’Challa, who decides to use Wakandan technology to care for the disadvantaged, we must be willing to use our resources to love those who are disadvantaged and in need of our help on both sides of the fence. We must work together to heal the divides and prejudices that separate us. How much we do this will depend a great deal on which worldview we live into.
Unfortunately, all of us have been affected by postmodernism, which has left us to divide into our separate groups and look out for ourselves. As truth is minimized, we become mere reactionaries, flaring up at the extreme positions of others and end by falling into our own extremes. Living into the Christian worldview, by contrast, will take hard work and careful thought. It will take loving those who are different and seeing them as fellow human beings instead of treating them as enemies.
In the end, while the invisible walls stood around Wakanda, the world suffered; but when the walls of Wakanda came down, the world was blessed. We also build walls around our hearts, our homes, and our communities to keep others out . . . and it’s time for these walls to come down, too.
This Article Corresponds To:
- Understanding the Times, chapter 14.6 “Postmodernism”
- Understanding the Times curriculum, unit 14, pp. 358-360
Possible Discussion Starters:
- Does postmodernism give us a foundation for justice? Why or why not?
- How does the Image of God change the way we treat people who are different from us?
- How can you help to bring reconciliation between those who are different in your own community?
- “How Can Blacks and Whites Stand Together on Racial Injustice?” – Garrett Kell, John Onwuchekwa, and Darryl Williamson Discuss
- “What ‘Black Panther’ Means for Christians” – Esau McCaulley
- “Racial Reconciliation: What We (Mostly, Almost) All Agree On, and What We (Likely) Still Don’t Agree On” – Kevin DeYoung
- “Race and the Image of God” – Don Morgan
- Grace & Race – Redeemer Churches & Ministries
- Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson
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