Black Panther’s Message About Global Racial Engagement Can Teach Organized Religion How To Focus
What can a superhero movie teach us about religion? Superheroes are about what we as humans aspire to be: strong, courageous, altruistic, and loyal. They are supposed to represent everything that is good in our society. In the same way when we say that we are deeply religious we are stating that we are committed to these same ideals. So, Black Panther, which has a unique message even for superhero movies, deserves our attention on how to practice our faith, both at an individual and organizational level.
Black Panther continues to break box office records. Winning high praise from both critics and moviegoers, it enters the category of a rare type of movie. Having an African male lead in a superhero movie with a predominately black cast has been hailed as a game changer.
The movie presents three different ideologies that represent different characters in the film. Without giving away the plot of the movie they espouse isolation, revenge, and mindful engagement. Each of the three philosophies is used at various times by Wakanda the high tech, mythological African nation that the movie’s titular hero lives and defends.
This is how we organize our faith and organized religion. We can either retreat into ourselves, as monasteries have done in the past or we have with private solace. We can use it as a form of revenge as people have done in holy wars or through religious persecution. Or, finally, we can engage our faith with the world through supporting others and serving as an example how to behave. This is the work of religious charities, supportive words of religious leaders, and other measures where we lead by example.
One wonders how the personal faith of the actors, many of them devout Christians, played into the script and the characters they play. One actor called the set “like a church” with the sharing of inspirational scripture and testimonials. This movie could also be used as a way for churches to start thinking about engagement with their communities. Through building networks of communities and helping those that need it could the lessons of the movie become a guiding light for organized religions.