"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." (Isaiah 9:2)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light
The CW's television show, Black Lightning, reveals influences of Isaiah. Black Lightning is a microcosm of how we can learn about our faith if we are willing to pay attention and observe. Black Lighting does a wonderful job of this. Each episode has a religious-sounding title. For instance, episode one was called "Resurrection."
Freeland is a fictional majority African-American city. It's an impoverished area in an unnamed state in the USA. There is a lot of gang violence, poverty, drugs, police profiling and every type of ill that's befallen African-Americans in U.S. cities that's reported on the news and social media every day.
Freeland has its own superhero in the form of mild mannered Jefferson Pierce. He's a loving husband and father and he's also the high school principal in Freeland. Jefferson Pierce encourages his students and his children to follow a path of light and not get sidelined by the darkness. He teaches them to have respect for their elders and for themselves in a world where "the odds are stacked against them." The parents of his high school students and former students refer to him as Black Jesus. He's a savior to his community because he cares about his community. Ironically, in the first episode, he is honored at a banquet and on his way to the dinner, he is stopped by the police and profiled. He's an "alleged" suspect in a robbery. Turns out the thief was short. Mr. Pierce is over six feet tall.
Mr. Pierce's alter ego is as Black Lightning—the other superhero. As a child he developed meta human powers. He has the ability to shoot out lightning bolts from his hands. He became Freeland's protector after he witnessed the violence happening in his city. But he retired after a while because of the emotional toll that his alternate persona was taking on his marriage. He resumes his identity when his two daughters are kidnapped by members of the city's gang: The 100. Black Lightning sees how bad his city has gotten. He knew there were problems but he hadn't realized the extent of those problems.
As the television series progresses, Black Lightning becomes a suspect in a high profile murder case. He is accused of killing Lady Eve, one of Freeland's "benefactors." As the main drug supplier to The 100, she is the other faction (The Shadowboard) in Freeland fighting for control of the city. Lady Eve's death also turns public opinion against him. This murder charge forces Black Lightning into hiding. This parallels Jesus Christ in a small way. It is reminiscent of Christ's entry into Jerusalem and His subsequent betrayal and Crucifixion. One day Black Lightning is Black Jesus saving his city and the next day he's a pariah and a suspect in a murder case.
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined
So Freeland is wallowing in the darkness and the drugs and gangs make this evident. However, further into the series, it turns out that twenty years ago a covert government agency (American Security Agency) had been experimenting on Freeland citizens. It seems that the citizens of Freeland were given a "flu" vaccine when in fact the vaccine's true purpose was to keep the citizens of Freeland docile. A side effect of the vaccine caused meta human abilities in some of the populace. Those who did exhibit superpowers were kidnapped and experimented on.
In the present day, a drug called green light replaces the "flu" vaccine of twenty years ago. The drug has similar properties that the vaccine had but it seems that it's more effective when taken orally. The purpose now is to bring out meta human abilities in young people (teens and millennials). Green light is a highly addictive drug with a none to zero chance of "coming clean" of this addiction. The head of The 100, Tobias Whale, sees green light as means to an end: take control of the city and make lots of money. He has no idea yet what green light is capable of.
Jefferson Pierce observes the devastation that this drug is having on his students and their families. He can only get the students into rehab so they can try to become sober. As Black Lighting, however, he can destroy one of the drug labs that produces green light. He uses his lighting bolts. He lights up the evil in the darkness and is able to destroy that evil. His superpowers also "light" up the darkness for Freeland. He is showing them that the light always overtakes the darkness. He's lighting a path for them out of this terrible predicament. He wants them to fight with him against "the dying of the light." Through their love of community and love of neighbor, they can conquer the darkness because "...they have seen a great light..."
What do we learn from Black Lightning? One thing is that this is a really good show that emphasizes the social ills in our world with a minor emphasis on the superhero tactics. Jefferson Pierce is not seen in costume as Black Lighting all that often during the course of the program. The second thing we learn is that as one person we can make a difference. But as a community, we are stronger and can conquer the darkness that pervades in our lives. Even though Jefferson Pierce has an alter ego, he is not overtaken by this persona. He remains his true self. He "...lets [his] light so shine before men that they me see [his] good works and give glory to [the] Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16).