Opportunity Knocks in the Form of Tom Hanks

By Jason Menard

Batten down the hatches! Shield your children’s ears. The day of the Apocalypse is upon us! Verily, the very foundations upon which Western society has been built are set to crumble.

And the culprit? For years rumours have abounded that the Anti-Christ walks among us and now we have seen his face. The one to send humanity to its fire and brimstone end? Tom Hanks.

With the release of the DaVinci Code movie, defenders of the Christian faith are wringing their hands nervously at the allegations and potentially devastating revelations that were first popularized in Dan Brown’s novel and now have made the big screen in an easy-to-digest, two-hour format. And Tom Hanks, with his everyman appeal and Midas Touch at the box office is a perfect vessel from which evil can pour forth.

Think about it. What if the Holy Grail isn’t a chalice or the living bloodline of Christ through a marriage to Mary Magdalene, as the DaVinci Code claims? What if the elusive Grail is actually a hidden item that inexplicably allows people to reach unheard of levels of fame despite not doing too much?

I mean, the evidence is there. Hanks has made a career being Hanks. Save for his performance in Philadelphia, he’s never really done anything that’s beyond the everyman, pleasant guy. SplashBig? Even Forrest Gump was a pleasant Everyguy with some developmental challenges. Cast Away? Everyguy on a beach with a volleyball. That Thing You DoThe LadykillersRoad to Perdition? Everyguy in period dress.

Hell – no pun intended – for someone as pleasantly bland as Hanks is there must be something that he’s drawing upon to unleash the forces necessary to survive bombs like Joe Versus the Volcano and Turner and Hooch. Maybe the grail is shared amongst Hollywood glitterati – which would explain why I know Zsa Zsa Gabor’s name and why I can’t walk past a newsstand without seeing her next-gen copy Paris Hilton – allowing people to be famous just for being famous.

No, Hanks is just Nice Guy on Screen with an Impressive Rolodex (or compromising pictures of Ron Howard.) Which is why it’s so intriguing to see Christians losing their minds over something as innocuous as a movie. Yes, the issues are challenging and appear to be unflattering to the Church as an institution. But in their zeal to repress discussion of the book, its contents, and Hanks’ performance (which may not be a bad idea…) the Church has ignored the greatest opportunity of all. And that is the chance to be relevant.

The DaVinci Code was not the first source for these Grail theories. Nor are alternative versions of the life of Christ or Christianity in general restricted to the here and now. But people are talking. Religion is relevant. For a Church that’s been hemorrhaging parishioners for years, instead of boarding up the doors with dogma, the Church should be engaging these newly interested people in discussions about religion.

Having faith does not preclude having curiosity. Questioning one’s religion does not constitute a crisis of faith. It is a factor in what makes us human.

I am not religious. I am spiritual. I suppose it’s a factor of not being able to drink the whole glass of Kool-Aid for any one religion. However, I also believe that if God is going to punish me for being a good person, being respectful of others, raising my kids and loving my wife to the best of my ability, and for thirsting for knowledge, then that’s a deity that I’m just ready to get down with.

Many others are like me. They are fed up of religions that choose to dictate to their followers as opposed to engaging them in the discussion. Many religions employ a top-down model of faith, wherein a select few are in the know while the followers must swear blind allegiance.

Why can’t we question our faith? Does a belief in a deity preclude curiosity? Does it eliminate free thought? Or can religion not open itself up and engage those who are interested in thoughtful debate and discussion. Not everything has to be black and white – there’s room for metaphor and there’s room for leaps of faith – but shutting people out of the discussion process is counterproductive.

For the first time in years, religious discussion is cool. But instead of embracing the opportunity that Pop Religion books, movies, and texts are presenting, the Church is boarding up the doors and hoping to ride out the swirling winds of questions and interest. Too bad they aren’t realizing that these questions are an invitation to engage in discussion and teaching, not just a challenge to the Church’s authority.

In the end Tom Hanks, Dan Brown, or any other anthropologist, writer, or historian isn’t the Anti-Christ. In fact, if used properly to stimulate an open debate and inclusionary nature in the Church, they could in fact be part of Christianity’s salvation. And after all, we all know the position of Anti-Christ has already been filled – by Chuck Woolery.

Opportunity is knocking. But will the Church finally answer its call or keep the door barred?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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