To be honest, I can’t remember going to a movie quite like Black Panther. The buzz among many of my friends has been feverish. Some are Marvel movie lovers, but for most of them, Black Panther was about something much more.
Normally, if I were writing a review I’d hit on the movie’s theological themes or what kind of workout those fellas did to get so rocked-up, but instead I’m going to take a risk and share about how the movie affected me personally.
Black Panther is a movie about a superhero, but not just any superhero—a black superhero. And that’s what has me a bit perplexed. The movie was excellent, but it moved me emotionally in a way I wasn’t expecting. The plot line was inspiring, the acting was captivating, and the special effects were dope. But that’s not what got me.
I should probably tell you this upfront—I’m a recovering racist.
I never had a disdain for black people, or knowingly treated any black person with contempt. But sadly I’ve come to see that I had racist attitudes that assumed things about people who didn’t look like me. I passively assisted in the perpetuation of stereotypes that were demeaning to people whose culture and skin color were different than my own.
My parents didn’t raise me that way, but it was in the air I breathed. It was in the shows I watched, the attitude of my almost exclusively white hometown, churches I attended, and in the hearts of extended family members.
But over the past eight years, God has changed me in ways I never saw coming. You can read more about that here. Black Panther was no epiphany for me, but it captured themes I’ve been learning about in a way that was deeply moving.
We live in a world that has wrongly dishonored black people in horrific ways. Slavery, discrimination, injustice, and racism have beaten down the image of black people in the minds of many generations. Black men have long been portrayed as uneducated hoodlums who cause trouble while black women are seen as dramatic temptresses with little moral character.
Yet, in this movie black men and women were set forth with dignified beauty. They were not dominated by another narrative, but they had their own. Sure, it was a Marvel fantasy movie, but there was something powerful happening when the nearly all black cast filled the screen. Their dignity was represented boldly, and beautifully.
As a Christian, I know that God has created each of us uniquely to reflect His image. Our diversity of culture and skin color is part of His glorious design. Though this movie had nothing directly to do with God or the work of Christ, the dignity of black men and women shined through in a way that was empowering.
A movie has no power to ultimately change people’s hearts. Only Jesus can do that. But I believe it can serve to help the progress we must make toward racial unity. It can encourage the black community and educate other communities. I know it did that for me.
I won’t give any spoilers here, but Erik Killmonger’s role was brilliant. His character’s bitter rage was provoked by the abandonment and betrayal of those who were supposed to love him. His disdain for the system that hurt him and desire to enact change at all costs only compounded his pain, but left me sympathizing with his character.
I know it was just a movie, but his hurt echoed the stories of so many of the black friends I love. Too many have known what it is like to be abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Too many have grown up in a world that has wounded them because of the color of their skin. Too many harbor the hurt his character embodied.
As I watched Killmonger become consumed by his quest for liberation, I was freshly reminded of the pain so many friends have shared with me. Watching him fight to make his brokenness whole freshly reminded me of my responsibility in the quest for progress. His pain reflected the pain many of my people have inflicted in days past and present. It gave me a fresh desire to serve in whatever way I can to undo what so many before me have done.
Vengeful anger will not bring progress, but I do believe God can use the pain of a people long oppressed to shine brightly as an example of how to make progress. I believe the grace of God can bring healing to wounds both in the culture and in the church. I pray the church will learn to better model this in a way God surely desires.
There is something beautiful about the unity of spirit that black brothers and sisters share. Seeing people decked out in traditional African garb and King Jaffe costumes gave expression to something I’ve never experienced. I’ve been part of tight knit teams and churches with thick unity, but black culture, in all its unique forms, has a unique unity that I find captivating.
There’s an energy and freedom (and volume) that I’ve grown to love. The common bond that centuries of struggle, suffering, and oppression tried to sever has only solidified them. As a people they have weathered much together, despite their abiding challenges.
I’m far from an expert on black culture, and don’t assume all black people experience black culture the same, but in this film and in the lobby outside I shared in something I often don’t. I was a minority on this night. My skin color was mildly represented in the film and I felt “other” in a way that was unusual.
Yet in the midst of that, I felt welcomed. The movie’s story and my friends’ laughter ushered me into a world that was foreign to me. It’s not the only time I’ve been in this situation, but it was a fresh joy for which I’m thankful and hopeful for more.
As a Christian, I’ve learned to see every situation, every movie, and every interaction through the lens of Jesus’ love for me. Tonight I freshly saw His love and felt an unexpected appreciation for our church family. We are a people continually deepening in all sorts of diversity. Being part of the Black Panther party gave a fresh way to experience the love we’ve been growing in over recent years.
Finally, there was something charming about Wakanda. One of my friends said, it “felt like a world where a piece of Africa escaped the destruction of colonization. It was fun to dream about.” Seeing responses like this helped me, maybe for the first time, understand why so many feel homesick for Africa.
What would their lives have been like, had my ancestors not kidnapped them and dragged them to America? Sadly, one can only wonder.
Homesickness for Africa made sense to me in a way I could strangely identify with. As a Christian, I too long for my homeland. Long ago Adam and Eve traded the paradise of God for slavery to sin. Their sin has led to much suffering and heartache. This is where the great hope of a new world rises up in the hearts of all humans, whether black or white. Wakanda was not heaven, but it helped me to long for it in a fresh way.
I’m thankful to my friends who have patiently taught me about their struggle and for this movie that moved me in a way I wasn’t expecting.
 Some of the key theological themes include the emptiness of ancestral worship, the devastating effects of sin, the temptation of the oppressed to become the oppressor, the beautiful complementarianism portrayed in the film, and the resurrection of the king to overthrow the evil strongman.
 Played by Michael B. Jordan…can you say Oscar?
Amen! I enjoyed the black culture on display in the film and theater that night. The dignity, pride, and excitement in the air was refreshing. I hope for more films like Black Panther. Thank you for articulating your impressions, I was blessed in reading.
The fact that a different race is finally in focus i s cool
are you kidding me
feminism is biblical now?
are you one of those men who would send your wife to battle while you sit at home and claim “servant leadership”
I appreciate your question regarding my comment on complemetarianism. I was not referring to the women being part of battle. I was speaking about the way T’Challa led with courage and compassion, and the way the women thrived under his leadership in a way that was not demeaning, but empowering. This subject is obviously deep and has many nuances and considerations, but I was not making a case for women being part of front line warfare. That’s another conversation for another day.
Perhaps its nuanced.
It was pretty simple to believers for 6000 years ( your calling is to help your husband, manage his home)
Now Christians now slowly saying that Homosexuality is nuanced ( it is a wicked sin0
that was also pretty simple for believers for 6000 years….
it’s this idea that women only thrive if they are in an empowered role ( military commander/lead)
and only if women lead men or are strong in masculine ways is what I would push back on.
in fact the society in the movie has no roles between men and women and is gender flexible
that is not empowering or biblical
the fact is most of the extreme feminists love it is telling
anyways most Christian in the west do not really believe men and women are different and encourage women to envy men and try and usurp them/replace male provision and protection which was the norm for believers for 6000 years.
I mean the new incredible movie has now swapped roles, the mom is now the main super hero and the father is the house husband ( Adam was created to work and commanded to work God’s creation well before Eve came along and Even though women also face hardship in work- God still diverted the focus on hardship and difficulties in provision to Adam when he dished out the curse)
is that empowering for women biblical?, is that real male leadership- abandoning responsibilities
I probably sound weird but I am concerned, Men are dropping out and my age group will drastically change the west in 15 years.
I really like your writing
I learn’t so much
I like your articles on abortion, porn, your tips for travelling and staying pure. All issues I struggle with daily.
I guess Christianity used to be- SUBMIT to God in all things
Submit to God and his Gospel truths, everything else you can play tug -o -war with him.
It makes me sad
You caught the very essence of Black Panther and translated it excellently. Thank you and may The Most High continue to open your eyes naturally and Spiritually.
I was with you until the “emptiness of ancestral worship” sidebar.
Generally, I recognize the sacrifices and hard work of close and extended kin who came before me. When I speak the name of my father, grandmother, great-great grandmother, or Brother Malcolm, Dr. Martin and other Black leaders – it is not consciously a prayer. However, I render unto them the thanksgiving and respect due for kicking down the doors for my generation’s access to their dreams for us.
The whole movie was dope, but the ancestral plane scenes struck the deepest chord for me.
Thanks for your comment. I too am grateful for the many faithful who have gone before us. We should be mindful to honor the sacrifices of those who have paved the way. But there is a significant difference between honoring / respecting our forefathers and worshipping them / asking them to help us in some way in this life. Jesus is the only intercessor who we ought look to for help, though we certainly can find inspiration from the lives / sacrifices of others like those you mentioned.
You missed the whole point of the women warriors. That’s not feminism that’s just what we do as. Lack women. The queens know how to hold it down and protect just like the Kings. We got their back and they got ours. It’s that simple. That wasn’t feminism, that was community.
@garrettk powerful article! I grew up in hardcore rural settlements in Swaziland. My grandfather was the head of the family and (saved) worked as a security guard. At home he and the young men herd cattle. He led all of us spiritually… Actually that\\\’s where I learned of Christ the Savior. But he and my late grandmother taught both their sons and daughters to help each other in all work and should be based on gender specific unless of it was church related.. Even us as grandchildren we grew up working in the fields, fetching wood and water, washing clothes with my cousin brothers… My aunt is a medical doctor by profession and is in leadership. She is saved and honoring God in her role as a mother, wife and employee. Was she not supposed to study medicine? She is the most suitable help meet I have seen who understands what submission is. I am not a feminist, but I believe that a God fearing woman can be in other selective areas of leadership. Whether single or married. I worked as a supervisor of both men and women. I came home to our lovely kids and my husband still is my head. He also works hard but still ensures that both of us are continuing to strive to live a godly life. I respected the men and women at work. I did not boss them around. As much as I was at the forefront, we worked as a team. In the church, however, as these pertain to the things of God I only lead women and children and My husband leads men. In the corporate world I think anyone can work as long as Christ is the centre of whatever position He puts you in.
This was beautifully written and honest. You are right about the homesickness. I feel it deeply still. The movie was something more than a superhero movie for me. My ancestors were taken from West Africa mostly. Thanks for the article.
It’s amazing how we take a well written article, and write a page response on a small insignificant point while Ignoring all the other well explained main points. This is sad to see for me, always so invested in ourselves, we are unable to see the significance of others thoughts and opinions. Disappointed!!
Anyway, I appreciated the article, well done!!
Thank you for this article. I live in Japan, and came across this post when I was searching for information about the movie which is about to come out here in March.
How you described that the movie is about dignity, unity, and pain has fueled my interest and I’m very excited to go to the big screen. Thank you!
I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get the women warriors or some of the themes in the movie. I enjoyed the movie overall and saw it for what it is. A movie about a black superhero. Pure fiction and hey I thought it was well made but in my opinion it was too long and had several political overtones. I’m okay with that because we can make everything about religion and politics. Not my cup of tea and doubt I will recommend it to others unless they are Marvel SuperHero Comic fans like myself. I’m not a big fan of WonderWomen either but I had pretty much the same kind of critique of that movie.
the movie about a woman and black people are the ones you didn’t like. lol. Quite telling.
Christ centered, redemptive , and very honoring . Thank you
You are not a recovering racist. What you describe is called ethnocentrism which means you looked at the world through a white man’s eyes. It’seems ommon to all of us and is nothing to be ashamed of. We almost always outgrow it.
Mark, I appreciate you taking a moment to comment. I am not sure if I feel comfortable with the term “ethnocentrism.” The reason is that I don’t know exactly what that means from a Biblical worldview. I am not sure how it could be anything other than pride, neglect of compassion, lack of truth pursuing, negligence in justice doing, and weakness of love. It is dangerous to minimize the sinfulness of sin. My sinful heart posture resulted in sinful attitudes, sinful words, and a withholding of love from people. I appreciate your kind intent in trying to alleviate my guilt, but what I’ve come to see is conviction from the Holy Spirit according to the Word of God. Because of that, I desire to embrace my sin for what it is, and cast it upon Jesus who died to deliver me from it.
I saw the movie and gave it a 9…near perfect score. I\’m not even into watching super heroes of any kind…but this movie is special and I\’m glad I went. It was an uplifting movie especially for people of color, a dramatic turn from the degrading images that dominate the theater where black people are often depicted in ways that cultivate and fuel racism. Of course in real life, Africa is still being raped and plundered for it natural resources… Sometimes I wonder if the Black Man was actually given something extra in his DNA to sustain him for the journey ahead. When you consider all the inventions and creations that black folk have contributed to society while being provided with next to nothing to work with…you can only say it is nothing short of a miracle. The Black Power, I mean \”Panther\” Movie is right on time.
Saw Black Panther yesterday. Very uplifting story told with with impressive and masterful use of animation integrated with excellent acting. Stayed for the post feature credits. Very impressive caste of talent requiring mastery of project management skills. The trailer at the end was a surprise. White Wolf?
garrettk, thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Great.
garrettk, thanks a lot for the post.Really thank you! Much obliged.
Saw the film in the UK with my son, who bullied me into going and to be honest, probably ended up enjoying his ice-cream more. On the whole I’m not keen on Marvel films, but I was astonished by the Black Panther. An exposition of the black diaspora, the African response to colonialism and in Killmonger not just a great villain but a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of the consequences of oppression. Suffering distorts and isolates. The worst thing about Killmonger was that he was truly alone.
But most of all, there’s not a lot of superhero movies you walk out of, reminding yourself to take your son to William Wilberforce’s house in Hull (those of you across the pond who don’t know him..wiki’s your friend) and the museum of slavery at Liverpool sometime.