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With 'Monumental' Kirk Cameron emerges as Christian activist
Kirk Cameron released a documentary in theatres on Friday titled "Monumental."
April 13th, 2012
05:02 PM ET

With 'Monumental' Kirk Cameron emerges as Christian activist

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– Kirk Cameron could have joined the ranks of former TV heartthrobs who rode off into the sunset, reappearing only for the occasional reunion show or career-reviving role in a TV drama. Think Ricky Schroder or Scott Baio.

But Cameron, known to millions of Americans as Mike Seaver on the hit ‘80s-era show “Growing Pains,” is carving out a new niche for himself, as an unlikely voice of politically conservative American evangelicals.

Cameron has a new documentary on the faith of America’s founders that arrives in theaters on Friday. He is neither a historian nor theologian, but the film, “Monumental,” shows him consumed with Christianity - and with rage over what he says has been the systematic removal of religion’s role from American history.

The film opens with Cameron sitting on an Adirondack chair in his backyard. Looking straight and silently into the camera, a voice-over of his own voice alerts viewers that the world around him is going to hell.

“There is something seriously sick in the soul of our country,” the voice-over says.

“Don’t worry about the fact the world is going to hell in a hand basket - just get out of the hand basket,” his friends tell him. But Cameron explains that he refuses to listen and instead sets out to make “Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure,” which investigates the debate over America’s soul.

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Over the last decade, Cameron has become the wholesome, boyish face of Christian cinema. He starred in “Left Behind,” the low-budget film based on the wildly popular Christian book series.

More recently, he played the lead role in “Fireproof,” a breakout film that shocked the Hollywood establishment when it debuted in the top 10 in its first week and wound up taking in an estimated $33 million. The film was made by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, for just over $500,000.

Cameron was one of the only professional actors in the film; the rest were congregants from the church.

Along with such popular movies as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” ”Fireproof” showed the potential for a new market in explicitly Christian films. In the last two years, crossover movies like “Soul Surfer” and “Courageous” have had parallel advertising campaigns targeting churches.

The movement has propelled Cameron back into the spotlight.

“Monumental” is Cameron’s baby. He is its executive producer and its star.

“When I survey the landscape and turn on the news, all signs are saying panic,” Cameron recently said.

“Instead of listening to everyone play the blame game … maybe the best place to look for solutions was to talk to the men and women who built this country 400 years ago and laid the foundations that resulted in a nation that has experienced more blessing and prosperity and strength than any other nation in the world,” he said.

“That launched me on this journey to retrace the Pilgrims and find the sacred sauce.”

In the film, Cameron retraces the Pilgrims’ steps from England to Holland to the New World. He talked to scholars and historians, digging in on the faith of the Founding Fathers.

What he found, he said, is a forgotten historical narrative not taught in schools.

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Those first principles, as Cameron sees them, are spelled out in a scene depicting a large stone monument near Massachusetts’ Plymouth Rock, the spot memorialized as the place the Pilgrims landed.

“Faith in God … produces character, character will produce courage, courage to face the challenges of the day,” Cameron says in the movie, riffing off the Pilgrims’ story.

Cameron teamed with NCM Fathom, a company that streams live events to movie theaters nationwide, like live performances of the Metropolitan Opera and boxing matches, to offer a sneak peek at the film a couple of weekends ago. That debut was emceed by Cameron, featured live performances by Christian bands and was beamed out live on more than 600 screens, grossing $1.23 million, according to NCM and Cameron's publicist.

Kirk Cameron stares at an inscription at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

The new documentary has faced criticism for its inclusion of self-taught evangelical Christian historian David Barton.

A favorite among evangelicals for his Christian-centric views of the Founding Fathers and his vast collection of historical documents, Barton is heavily featured in the film.

“The reason I went to go see David Barton is because he owns the largest collection of original source documents from the founding era that I can get my hands on and that you can go and see,” Cameron said.

“When you look at those documents it becomes incredibly clear there has been a lot of cherry picking of the evidence done to support a very particular worldview, and that’s the worldview our children are learning in school and it’s not the full and complete historical record because it doesn’t reflect the faith of our Founding Fathers,” the actor said.

In a version of the film made available for screening and in clips posted online, Barton shows Cameron the “Thompson Hot Press Bible,” which Barton said was printed in 1798 and was funded by 12 signers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

“They wanted the word of God out to every family,” Barton says in the clip. “If these guys happen to be Christians it makes a lot of sense.”

Barton then picks up a small rare Bible known as the “Aitken Bible.” “The Bible of the Revolution was printed by the Congress of the United States. So Congress printed the first English Language version of the Bible,” Barton said. He goes on to say the Congress said, “This was a neat edition of the Bible for use in our schools.”

Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, a private Christian school in Pennsylvania, has criticized Barton’s version of history and Cameron’s films.

About much of the history featured in the film, Throckmorton said, “That’s just not what happened.”

After seeing clips of the documentary, Throckmorton fact-checked some parts.

He said he found that the “Thompson Hot Press Bible” was not funded in total by 12 Founders. Instead, he said, the Bible was funded by a subscription base of 1,200 customers that included 12 Founding Fathers. “The printers funded that Bible, the Founders didn’t fund it. It was a business venture for them.”

As for the quote Barton attributed to Congress about putting the Bible in schools, it actually came from Robert Aitken’s petition to Congress. Aitken was a colonial printer. The Journals of Congress from 1782 shows Aitken completed the Bible on his own and sought the blessing of Congress.

The record shows a report from two congressional chaplains who examined the work, which they praised.

Congress passed a resolution to recommend “this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper.” That resolution did not mention it being put in schools.

“David Barton gets the facts wrong when it comes to these two Bibles,” Throckmorton said. “The facts of the case are stretched and embellished to create a narrative that is misleading.”

Cameron defended Barton’s work. “No one is more guilty of cherry picking evidence than those who bow to the god of political correctness, especially historians,” Cameron said. “Everyone is going to select the information that is important to their thesis. If you’re bent on being politically correct, it’s very easy to fall into that trap.”

Throckmorton noted that he and other critics of Barton’s work hail from Christian colleges and universities.

Early controversy surrounding Cameron's comments on social issues have given the film more media coverage than Cameron could have imagined for a small-budget documentary.

Appearing on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight last month, Cameron fielded questions about abortion, gay marriage and what he would do if one of his six children came out to him as gay.

None of the topics appear in the film, but Cameron expressed views on same-sex marriage, abortion and homosexuality that are common among conservative evangelical Christians.

Cameron called homosexuality “unnatural,” adding, “I think that it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."

His comments sparked outrage from gay rights groups like GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The group led a campaign to counter Cameron’s comments with other 1980s TV stars and evangelicals on the other side of the theological spectrum.

GLAAD spotlighted a bevy of celebrities who chided Cameron for his positions on homosexuality, including a tweet from Rosanne Barr, who suggested Cameron was “an accomplice to murder with his hate speech.”

Cameron said his support for traditional marriage is rooted in faith and thinks it should inform policy decisions: “You either believe marriage and human sexuality are sacred or you do not.”

Cameron jokingly described his faith as “high octane” but said he considers himself part of the evangelical Christian tradition. He said he goes to a small nondenominational community church near his home in California, though his publicist later clarified that he is not a member of the church, whose name he would not disclose because of privacy and security concerns.

Cameron said he was caught off guard by the controversy around his comments.

“It is my goal to love everyone. I hate no one,” he said. “Regardless of their race, religion, their proclivities, the desire of their heart and how they want to live their life and the decisions that they make. I can even respect people’s decisions and lifestyle choices just as I hope they have the courtesy to respect my decisions and my choices.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Religious liberty

soundoff (2,339 Responses)
  1. Welled

    So my final question would be. Who are you all mostly in debt to? The answer might be there. The bible tells you not to be in debt. Its ok to lend to a gentile. Well if thats the case. Then why in Israel. Where of course the choosen were taken back after learning their lesson in the camps. Brought threw the fire. The bomb. The U.N. The nations of the bomb now a perminate fixture as being part of the end. You think the nation of Israel now is clean after 1700 years out of the land. Its holy now. Except for this. They can sell land in Israel now which its supposed to belong to them therefore dosen't need to be bought you plop down where every you want. 17 banks in Israel countem with rates worse then yours. They have Home loans, car loans, student loans, commerical loans, boat loans, Condo loans, Vacation home loans, credit cards the list goes on. Ask yourself what have I bought into. What are they trying to sell me everyday. Hey I'm not lying go look it up. I have my Tivo set to the miraculous 2 day war to possibly take place bettween "Gods" people and the Iranians. He will certainly take the side of His people that have been through so much that you are so shook up about. Just like he did in the "miraculous" 6 day war and 7 day war. I figure I can catch "God" on a negative image on my Tivo. If he isn't to busy making sure all the Home loans are being processed correctly. Paying 30 years on a home that took only 3 months to build could be usury. Then again its something you'll never learn about from your "government", "school" or the debt merchants that own most of the "information" they let you have.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  2. Nexus974

    Why is CNN consulting a professor of Psychology to fact check history?

    April 14, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  3. RichardSRussell

    "The new docµmentary has faced criticism for its inclusion of self-taught evangelical Christian historian David Barton."
     
    Whenever referring to this person, you should be diligent and give him his full t¡tle: "THE LIAR David Barton". The guy MADE UP quotations purporting to be from the Founders and touted them for years as authentic, until finally real historians started saying "Really!? When and where did Jefferson say that? What work of Adams are you quoting? Nobody else ever heard of Washington taking that position; where did YOU get it from?". And then it all came out: Barton (that would the THE LIAR David Barton) was just making them up, inventing words that he THOT the Founders SHOULD have said. He eventually admitted as much but just dialed back the volume. And, of course, all his old lies are still out there, being circulated among evangelicals who have no idea where they came from, as if they're part of America's secret history, instead of fabrications from the dishonest mind of THE LIAR David Barton.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  4. Kangaroo123

    Sounds like he is cashing in on Christianity.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  5. TownC

    Mr. Cameron is a bold defender of what he thinks is right. These truth seeking liberals have systematically minimized Christianity's role in in history. The overwhelming influence of Christianity in the founding of our nation can't be denied by any honest seeker of historical truth. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."

    April 14, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Truth7

      They are following exactly what is written:

      "Woe to them who call good evil and evil good"

      They have to discredit everything with God attached to it, and that includes the founding of this great country. They have chosen the darkness over the Light. We are in THAT DAY.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  6. Jon O

    He's a fuitcake who believes the existence of a single convenient fruit is proof of god... while ignoring things like the pineapple.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  7. Mark in Omaha

    Religion has no place in politics. Faith is a personal thing, stop force feeding people and keep it to yourself. Although, I'm sure it's a nice payday for you Mr Actor.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  8. matt

    Just like Anita Bryant in the 1980's, Kirk was gang rejected by the gay community and has been fighting back ever since

    April 14, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  9. BBPatriot

    Just what we need, a Christian Jon Voight.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  10. HUGHEZART

    My only question is: Why is it that this belief segment always finds its way into one of the top spots on the front page?...are people still this delusional where this stuff actually makes any difference? (OK, my bad, two questions).

    April 14, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Your error is in the word "always". It's not there all the time, it's there periodically, usually on Saturday and Sunday, the days of the week when people actually pay some attention to religion. For half the year, I myself do as well. Regrettably, tho, it'll be months before the Packers are back.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  11. Don'tBelieveTheLiesOfReligion

    Cameron needs to go live out his paranoid religious fantasy somewhere remote, in fine evangelical tradition...perhaps the jungles of Guyana are available.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • AGuest9

      Waco

      April 14, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  12. FloridaRes

    THe truth is absolute – it cannot be cherry-picked as Cameron has insisted. I am appalled at the lies that spew from the right and Cameron. Either Barton is correct or he has cherry-picked what he wanted and used this cherry-picking to push his extreme point of view. I say to Barton and Cameron they should keep to themselves because they don't want the truth and they can't handle the truth – typical of those who rely on religion or others to do their thinking for them.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  13. doughnuts

    C'mon Kirk, tell us about the banana again. That one was really funny.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Nexus974

      That was Ray Comfort. Kirk was in that video but Ray gave the banana speech.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  14. Joke

    Cameron has a great future - as a propagandist.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  15. Red

    As I read some of the posts here I can't help but be a witness to the demonic as it spews hate and fear of the truth. I can read things that I don't agree with and go on with my day, but what makes a person boil inside so much so that they need to say such hateful nasty things, well it's obviously the demon inside you that is upset not you. I forgive you for you do not know what you do, just ask God to show you truth before it's too late. The truth is in the fruit of ones life, look at your own fruit, are you spreading love or are you poisoning yourself and others. Bless you today that your heart may be turned from stone into flesh. Thank you Kirk for having the courage to listen to God and follow through, we need more men like you.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • JJ

      Is that what that is? A little demon? Cool!!

      April 14, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • FloridaRes

      truth – you wouldn't know what the truth was if it was staring you in the face!

      April 14, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      I just love your use of the word "obviously". Obviously you have no idea what it means.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  16. Rick_the_Republican

    This is not a new thing. He has been a solid Christian promoting his Christian views for the last 20 years. He became a borne again Christian during his time on "Family Ties" and because of his wanting to Christianize the show was one of the reasons the show was ended.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • scirdan

      He wasn't on Family Ties he was on Growing Pains.. Michael J Fox was on Family Ties..

      April 14, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  17. FreedomFromAtheism

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

    -George Washington, Farewell Address

    April 14, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • No religion thank you

      Wrong. We don't need religion to be moral. Try again.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Chad

      George knew what he was talking about..

      April 14, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • AGuest9

      Spoken by the racist Mr. Washington, who owned slaves and ordered Maj. Gen. Sullivan to commit genocide against the "red devils"?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Carol

      Bible god would be an ass=hole if he existed. Good thing he doesn't.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • FreedomFromAtheism

      The morality you say you hold (with no underlying reason behind it) was merely cherry-picked from the various religious strains that permeate society. Atheism has no coherent, overarching moral based to which it can point; It is pure anarchy.

      “A little philosophy makes a man an Atheist: a great deal converts him to religion”
      ― David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

      April 14, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Nexus974

      Historically there has never been a great society that existed and thrived without some kind of religion. Any individual can be moral without a religion but can an entire society?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      The general awesomeness of George Washington isn't properly appreciated by the modern generation, which takes him for granted as the face on the dollar bill and the name on the nation's capital, but he was a monumental figure, both literally and figuratively, in the founding of America, and he deserves to have his every word taken seriously, especially those that he specifically intended to be his most thotful reflections on where the country should go.
       
      That said, the immediate follow-up is that he would have been appalled to discover that later generations were quoting him in support of religious intolerance. Wikipedia quotes him thus:

      "Washington, possibly knowing how being in a minority religion can be looked down upon, wrote this about the potentially destructive nature of religion in society.

      "'Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.'
      – Letter to Edward Newenham (20 October 1792)"

      April 14, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  18. adam h

    Is this what aging, washed up actors do to market their minimal talent. Seems like since noone is offering kirk and new scripts he's turned to the bible instead.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Well, the bible is as big a work of fiction as any of the scripts he is hoping to get...

      April 14, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  19. Welled

    Jesus just believe and obey. Work just believe and obey. Government just believe and obey. Obey seems to be foundational in a lot of things. Burning down the house would be the opposite of that. Both are way to much trouble. The earth is a good place. Otherwise why Abraham. Everyone bows to Jesus sound familar. The earth was supposdly cursed at Eve blessed at Abraham. God chose his people and no other. Then with Jesus he added in everyone on earth. Which is more like Abraham. Your confused by some of this. I understand. Now with Jesus your supposed to hate the earth and everything thing in it. Well if you hate the earth and everything in it. Then your leaving that everything to someone else potentially. See store up things in Heaven well who gets to keep the stuff on earth. That you labor for. For someone else. Some people are greedy. They even own publishing companies and print cash. If God is not a God of confusion. Why are you so confused?

    April 14, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Huh?

      Please learn English. And logic.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Truth7

      Because False Prophets, men, are teaching!

      April 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • sippyjuice

      all your base are belong to us

      April 14, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  20. MMeans

    Just make sure when re-educating Americans on faith and the founder of this country, that you tell the whole truth. You know, the religious persecution that sent them here, the burning of women alive because of witchery, the slaugher and pillaging in the name of God. The murder, torture and imprisonment of Catholics in Northern Ireland, the wars of the Crusades..the list goes on and on. Beware what you wish for, because if schools need to teach the wholesome goodness of Christianity in the world and in the founding of this country, they also need to teach the far reaching and inhumane destruction done in its name.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Truth7

      Destruction DONE BY MEN!!

      Read the Bible. "All men's hearts are evil"!!!

      Religion is the BEAST, run by men. Sa.tan leads the beasts! "Get OUT of Babylon". Listen to Jesus "they are to be taught by GOD".

      He did not say MAN.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Carol

      Beware the man of one book. The bible is nonsense and contradicts itself.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • AGuest9

      Great advice, Carol.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:18 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.