Thanks Hanks

Today, Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson arrived home to the United States after recovering from the corona virus in Australia. Thanks be to God!

Tom Hanks may well be the quarantine hero we all need right now. His portrayal of characters worth emulating has filled us with joy and hope for 41 years and counting. His consistent portrayal of characters who rise above their painfully obvious human flaws, to make hard decisions, and take heroic actions, has helped us grapple with some of life’s biggest challenges.

As Andrew Beckett, in Philadelphia (1993), he challenged us to rethink our response to the AIDS pandemic, almost a decade before we had an effective treatment plan to contain it. As Captain Miller, in Saving Private Ryan (1989), he challenged us with the eternal question: What redeeming value comes from war? And in The Green Mile (1999), he had us grappling with the morality of capital punishment, the integrity of how it is applied, as well as the larger question of how we account for those we have participated in killing.

On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and he asks me, why did I kill one of his miracles, what am I going to say?

Tom Hanks, as Captain Miller, The Green Mile

Ever since I watched him receive the Cecil B. DeMille’s achievement award in 2019, I’ve been watching his movies, with a goal of watching every single one.  This is no small goal; he has been in at least 88 movies, and has at least two more in the works: Greyhound is scheduled to be released in June 2020; Elvis in 2021.

One of the ways I know the impact Tom Hanks has had on my life is that I don’t just remember his movies: I remember where I was when I saw them or what I did immediately after because I saw them.

I watched Castaway alone in a theater in Roscommon, Michigan near my 40th birthday. I watched The Post right after the inauguration of our current president as he was only just beginning to attack journalists for publishing truth that he did not want the American people to know.

I watched Philadelphia alone. Afterward, I drove to the small Lutheran church I had just joined in Hartland, Michigan, and sat in the parking lot thinking about what it would take for gay people to be fully welcomed and included in worship, and wondering how I might help make that happen. At that time, I had no thoughts of going to seminary; in fact, I had only recently found my way back to church.

Since that day, I have graduated from seminary, and served four congregations, each with a different response to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA folks. King of Kings Lutheran in Ann Arbor, a Reconciling In Christ Church where I now serve, is intentional about welcoming and including all people. Our pride flag displayed by the big sign outside our church has now been vandalized twice; the third one is on the way. This is the kind of church I imagined in that empty parking lot after watching Tom Hanks shine light on the irony of people who respond to love, with hate, in the movie, Philadelphia.

While we are all quarantined for the next several weeks, we will need all the art we can consume; the art we consume now has the potential to fashion our futures in ways we might only be able to trace looking back. With that in mind, I invite you to join me in my Tom Hanks movie festival. I’ve included a list below of some of his more popular movies, as a way of helping you take stock of which ones you still want to see.

To inspire you, I strongly recommend you watch this montage that was shown at the 2019 Golden Globes Ceremony. Or, if it’s laughter you’re after, you might watch him create his own live montage with James Cordon here.

This ongoing quarantine is hard, to be sure. But as Jimmy Dugan, brought to life by Hanks in A League of Their Own reminds us: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Stay inside. Tell your people you love them. Watch a Tom Hanks movie. That part at least isn’t hard.

  1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  2. A League of Their Own
  3. Angels & Demons
  4. Apollo 13
  5. Bachelor Party
  6. Big
  7. Bosom Buddies
  8. Bridge of Spies
  9. Captain Phillips
  10. Cast Away
  11. Catch Me If You Can
  12. Forest Gump
  13. Joe & The Volcano
  14. Larry Crowne
  15. Philadelphia
  16. Road to Perdition
  17. Saving Mr. Banks
  18. Saving Private Ryan
  19. Sleepless in Seattle
  20. Splash
  21. Sully
  22. That Thing You Do
  23. The Burbs
  24. The Da Vinci Code
  25. The Green Mile
  26. The Ladykillers
  27. The Love Boat
  28. The Money Pit
  29. The Polar Express
  30. The Post
  31. The Terminal
  32. Toy Story
  33. Turner & Hooch
  34. Volunteers

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