Tag Archives: christianity

Interrupted by Wakanda

I think it is amazing that a “superhero movie” — Marvel’s Black Panther — has so much to say to real life and real hearts in a number of ways. The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote a wonderful essay highlighting and limning together text and subtext. Moreover, the sets, costumes, acting, music, and more all combined together to provide more than a couple hours of fun; it was more intense.  Yet me and my quirky brain are wondering about stuff that wasn’t in the scope of the narrative. Now I am delving into “movie midrash”, the way I do scripture, wondering what is off the page, what is happening just out of sight, or just deeper, or next. Thus, if I understand Wakanda, they have always been hidden and safe from the outside world. So presumably this included being “safe” from the good news of Jesus Christ.

What gospel might travel now to Wakanda? Would a cacophony of missionaries — protestant, Catholic, pentecostal, evangelical, etc. — head straight on over? What might they say? What might the Wakandan’s hear? Can this be separated from colonialism or be different from exploitation?  Or, since at least Shuri seems to know about the outside world’s “stuff”, perhaps Wakandans already have heard the message of Christ and created their own church and will be sending that into the world, and redeeming our flagging faith? I can imagine so many things.

The whole idea that is rather fundamental to Christianity is that God so loved the world, he sent his son to save it, not to condemn it. To heal the whole world by opening God’s love and grace and covenant to everybody and not just a select few. Yes?  And our Savior did that by dying. On a Cross. Suffering. And then he comes back to life after being really most sincerely dead. Christianity, at some basic fundamental level, wins by losing. Saves by giving it all away. Converts by loving each other.  Most people in Jesus’s day and the days of the early church saw this whole mess as “foolishness”. Count me a fool for Christ, said Paul.

Wakanda might see it just as foolishness too. After all their government doesn’t have elections but fights.  Their king is then imbued with the spirit of their god, the Black Panther. (Did I misunderstand? I really am new to this story. But otherwise where else does the Black Panther’s powers come from?) How would a people who literally believe that their king is divine, and have clear and physical proof of that, feel about the message of a Savior who died and rose again?

Perhaps rather like the Romans. They believed (I am told) that Caesar was a God/divine — or at least paid lip service to this. We’ve been here before, eh?

By the end of the movie Wakanda has agreed to be their brother’s keeper and is taking actions to help the world. They are very afraid — and Lord knows they have every right to be afraid  — will their country be a target? Will their country lose its freedom and independence? Will being their brother’s keeper end up costing them too much? Everything?

Here’s my hope, my prayer for Wakanda — may Christ’s love strengthen your will to help mend the deeply broken places of the world, in ways no superhero can, in ways that only human hands and human hearts can do. May your science and tech and beautiful uniqueness combine with grace and mercy and love to enlighten the world.

The stories we tell have power.

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My Story, 2

But a nice Unitarian Universalist girl doesn’t just — get zapped by God and join the church — no there was a good two years or a bit more space between the two events. It was sort of like how you want to be sure your true love is a keeper, so you have to wait for the love beams to settle a bit, about two years, and then think: is this someone who is dependable? funny? kind? loving? wise? Do you love your person anyway, even when you don’t understand?

One thing I did was to reach out to our pastor, Carol. Carol married us, but I didn’t want the emotions and the “high” of the wedding cloud my decision about joining the church, cloud my becoming (or not) an official follower of Jesus.

And so finally, as a nice Unitarian Universalist girl, I had to pull the trigger on what seemed to me then the biggest stumbling block, the absolute barrier to Christianity. (Your mileage may vary.)

We were meeting  in her book-filled office, and it was late afternoon, and there was that lovely smell of books and dust and a bit of perfume. I leaned forward.

Carol came alert and open and welcoming in her posture.

“Carol,” I said. “The thing is. What about the trinity?”

“The trinity?” she echoed.

“You know, I’ve always been told and believed, at most one God. Now three?”

“Oh,” she said. “The trinity. Well.”

I was expecting her to dust off some books and hand me a stack of reading. Or to lean back and provide some memorized answer. Or perhaps even a joke. My mind was blank, truly, because my whole future rested on her answer. If the trinity thing was too stupid, then I just could not be a Christian. And maybe that would be easier? I was leaning forward and tense.

“It’s a mystery,” she said.

“A mystery?” I echoed. I felt myself smile.

“A mystery,” she said firmly.

I exhaled and breathed in a wonderful new deep breath. I can live with mystery. I can swim in mystery. I sat back.

I can love mystery.

Of course twenty-plus years later I have read books and essays and so on about the trinity, and I have come to love and embrace the dance of God’s love. And I still love mystery.

You start where you start.