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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. landlover

    The Christian people I know are happy, honest, non derogatory people. They live by the Ten Commandments. If the rest of the population did, this would be a much more peaceful, happy and prosperous world. ,

    April 14, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • None-ya

      Keep telling yourself that. Ignorant!

      April 14, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      And why is that?

      April 14, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • FreedomFromReligion

      Why is that? That is because atheism provides absolutely no coherent, overarching moral base; it is pure anarchy.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      And the atheists *I* know are happy, honest, non-derogatory people. They live by reason. If the rest of the population did, this would be a much more peaceful, happy and prosperous world.
       
      So much for anecdotal evidence. Proves nothing other than what we personally have experienced, and who's to say we're typical?
       
      In fact, MOST people are pretty decent folk. It's only the real whack jobs, the ones who are convinced they know it all and need to bring The Truth to everyone else (at the point of a bayonet, if necessary), that we need to watch out for. Sadly, many of these are either motivated by religion or use it as a cover. Not so much the case with atheists.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • George

      That was a very derogatory statement.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  2. alex

    Organized religion – greatest scam ever perpetrated on mankind!

    April 14, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  3. Voice of Reason

    There was no god, there is no god and there will never be a god.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • FreedomFromReligion

      Apparently you are a relatively new atheist. This time you provided the positive assertion, so prove it.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  4. Ron

    Child Celebrities Opposing Kirk Cameroon...Funny or Die

    April 14, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  5. None-ya

    I got two words for Kirk - Wack job! Another crazy trying to shape American culture and society, but pushing his ideologic views on people who don't care. Hmmm. Reminds me of the Republicans and terrorist groups in the Middle East.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Nexus974

      It reminds me of politically correct leftist statists.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • SoManyHaters

      So, because Kirk holds Christian values and makes Christian movies that lots of people like, he is somehow "wacko". Gotta love that wacky leftist hatred!

      April 14, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  6. JJ

    Kirk recently headed to the UCLA campus to hand out copies of a "revised" edition of "On The Origin of the Species" - in which the author attempts to connect Darwin to Hitler.

    During the "event," several students asked Kirk about his thoughts on Darwin. Kirk responded, "I believe that Darwin was absolutely ... that the end game was to make God ... was to remove God from the world view of .. I think that that was the end game."

    Wow, what a brilliant speaker.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  7. tampabay

    Kirk Cameron is supposed to be an actor. But if he is a Christian activist, doing it thru a movie is the wrong way. Plus he is boring and whining.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Whatever

      To each his or her own opinion. I think he's great, and I've enjoyed his movies. Why should we have to suffer through Hollywood's false moral lessons when we can have feel-good, Christian movies with real and valuable ethics?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • withoeve

      We suffer through Hollywood's false images for the same reason we suffer through religious false images: it's easier than going to the effort of actually thinking or finding the truth for ourselves. Cameron relies on the same thing most "truth mongers" rely upon, the public's desire to have something they can call true without actually working for it. It's a handout with strings, and most people are so desperate for something to believe that they willingly tie those strings to themselves and become puppets.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Whatever

      Withoeve, you make a lot of bad assumptions. I, for instance, am a scientist and quite the rational and educated thinker, yet I am still a Christian.

      “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 11:16 am |
  8. TownC

    Why are atheists so afraid of Christianity? Christianity has helped shape our nation into the powerful open society that it is. The influence of Christianity for good in our society is undeniable if you honestly look at it. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cambodia, and others all abandoned religion and established purely secular states. They are mostly responsible for the most violent century in the history of the earth. If you don't like Christian ideas, counter them with your own ideas. Shouting them down or trying to silence them shows fear and demonstrates a drift towards a totalitarianism that caused so much suffering over our planets recent past.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      There is no fear it is pure and simple repulsion.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • You got dat right!

      Amen, brother. Atheists are getting pretty full of themselves these days, but they seem to forget the anarchy and complete lack of morality that comes along with state-imposed atheism.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Linden Pike

      Nazi Germany was driven by the fact that GOD was on their side and they were doing God's bidding. On the Nazi belt buckle was the inscription GOTT MIT UNS (God is with us). Try again.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • momoya

      Atheists aren't afraid of christianity, they're afraid of people who believe stupid things.. This country was not founded on Christian ideals; it was founded on freedom.. Many of the founding fathers were NOT christians but deists.. And atheists don't have a problem so much with the belief itself, but rather when that belief coerces the government to make laws and policy that are more stupid and invasive than smart and liberating.. Believe what you want, christians, but keep your stupidity at home; it has no place in the political arena..

      April 14, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Matt in Virginia

      People are afraid of Christianity because some of its followers, such as Cameron, use it to demonize other people, justify hate, and try to get laws passed based on personal beliefs. Christians (certainly not all), but the most influential ones, publicly judge others, but seem to rarely focus on their own issues, thus they become hypocrits. And there is absolutely no debating these people, as they often refuse to read anything that might challenge their beliefs, and merely say "that's what the Bible says." In fact, most evangelical Christians I know know LESS about the Bible than do atheists.

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

      It seems to me, as an active Christian who regularly interacts with other Christians, that it's actually the Christians who are scared of the Atheists. They act as if – and you can include Kirk Cameron here – any ideas in opposition to theirs are a threat which must be stopped. See, *I* happen to think that the Christian Gospel is the Truth, and I'm not worried what other ideas are out there, because ultimately, you can't change the Truth. Carrying on about how other people with other ideas are hell-bound Christian-haters, though, will certainly keep people who might otherwise be interested in learning about Christ as far away from the crazies as possible...

      April 14, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Rob

      Nazi Germany was thoroughly Christian. They just wanted to mold it to their agenda just like evangelicals. Good example, except that. Nazis did not reject science.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Who's shouting whom down here? CNN publishes an article about an evangelical Christian. Are atheists out picketing CNN HQ over it? No. You, however, have no qualms suggesting that atheists should just shut up and go away. Take your own advice, hypocrite.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Reality

      Hitler had Nazism declared the state religion and the Bible supplanted by Mein Kampf. While it's true, as someone noted that SS wore "God is with us", it is very interesting that they were forbidden to believe in God.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  9. schizopictures

    Can someone explain to me why CNN devotes an entire section to "Religiosity"? If their credibility hasn't suffered enough over the years, now they're fact based news out the window all together.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Reality

      You think they're doing any favors for religion? Think again. These articles all appear to have a bent toward corrupting religion.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      It's not ent¡tled "Religiosity", it's ent¡tled "Belief Blog", and they have it because people are interested in it. And there's always something new to write about. Swing thru a grocery-store checkout line sometime and see what OTHER sorts of things they COULD be writing about.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  10. pastafaria

    Cameron is just a false prophet sent here to distract us from the teachings of Tina Yothers from "Family Ties", our true messiah.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Kevin

      Ok that is pretty funny.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  11. Brett

    God bless you Kirk for standing up to Godly principals. Only God can change the hearts of people and draw them until Himself.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Delusional and Dangerous.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  12. Pipe-Dreamer

    Just on the accounts of humanisms' history trees are ladled with the religious being ever so fearful of God's impending wrath should they investigate things does in no way or shape or formula make today's closeted christians alikened to their pruned branches being thown upon the dung heaps!
    April 14, 2012 at 10:30 am
    God has a long held tradition for all us humanists who do and whomever doesn't believe in Godly reconciliations! One part heads North while the other part heads South! We all do service the users and even the abusers of Godliness endeavorments. Love therefore, one's own rationales and keep safely tucked away one's simplest of Truths for fear of the dawdlers of bickering and condemnation! Their days are as but second-hand clothes to be handed down come their End of Life!
    April 14, 2012 at 9:46 am
    God the conceptualization was long before man became flesh and bones! For the concepts of Creation itself needed to be nourished! Easy are the deniers' ways but weighty are their yolks. Would any of us humanists truly give up your Life in order for all of mankind to be spared death's beds of sorrows and forlornments? The Love from God is not without His Wrath but the Love of Christ Jesus for all of Humanism is our redemptions' branches! Clamoring to throw pea-like pebbles and spit toward the very traditions of the Gospel Truth in salvations' benefisciaries is harmful to one's simplest ideologies and humane strengths!
    April 14, 2012 at 9:26 am

    April 14, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  13. Linden Pike

    Im not concerned about life after death, only life before it.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • OK

      You're gonna be in HOT water then, huh?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Linden Pike

      I'm sure the church appreciates your loyalty, and your wallet.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  14. MP

    Hmmm..

    A has-been (if that), irrelevant actor, who has embraced a wacky cult to get attention? Why not just get a facebook page and meet wacky imaginary friends that way?

    April 14, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • adam

      like you've done anything with your life

      April 14, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  15. Welled

    Looking for Jesus with a whip. How about me with a baseball bat?

    April 14, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  16. DatGuy

    I know a lot of christians today say they are non denominational, but like kirk here, their eyes light up at 10's and 20's.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Funny Man

      Ha Ha. Now go do some research on what Kirk gives to Charity and compare that with Obama and Biden.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • James Spencer

      Ok, back from doing research. Obama's gave about $300,000 to about 30 charities/causes last year whereas Kirk Cameron gave $13,000 to 3 groups, 2 of which are his own.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  17. JM

    Kirk, thanks for the wonderful movie that tells the story that liberals are fighting so hard to suppress. Erik M, when an "associate professor of psychology" becomes your chief source of opposition, one has to wonder how hard you tried to find someone to undermine this fine work of Mr. Cameron. Typical shameful reporting from CNN.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • momoya

      Perhaps a noun or so would help your readers understand what you are trying to say.. What, exactly, are the "liberals fighting so hard to suppress?"

      April 14, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • SomeNeedReadingComprehension

      What you seem not to be able to infer, m, is that he was implying what the article above was about, the faith of America's founding fathers. It's not good to act so smart when you can't comprehend what is written.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • momoya

      It's also not good to act smart when you can't convey an idea with words you select.. The writer should not expect the reader to INFER the entire subject matter of what he has only hinted at but never stated in word.,

      April 14, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  18. Henry

    The United States National Church of Secular Humanism
    http://theunitedstatesnationalchurchof.blogspot.com/2011/01/united-states-national-church-of.html

    April 14, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • What do I care?

      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 10:42 am |
  19. seyedibar

    Captain Crazy, king of the cuckoos!
    Why do we care that some washed up 80s actor believes in sorcerors and goblins and ghosts? Intelligence was never a talent he was hired for.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  20. KC

    I'm honestly happy for Kirk Cameron, or any other person that has found religion in their life and try to live their life in a moral way. Do I believe that a person needs religion to be moral? No. I myself am agnostic, my father a catholic, my mother a buddhist and my wife a Hindu, with my best friend growing up was Jewish. My only thing is that I wish for people to be respectful of others beliefs, whether they believe in a different religion, a different god, or NO God. As long as that person is happy and doesn't hurt anyone else in the process, then what do I care?

    April 14, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • seyedibar

      Becase their reigion does harm people. Telling people that imaginary things are real is dangerous when people actually believe it and start applying it to politics and real-life situations.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • What do I care?

      If you believed that others were bound for hell after death, in spite of them being happy and not hurting anyone, you still wouldn't care?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Many of you atheists seem to forget that God's Son Christ Jesus was sent to us in order to redeem all us humanists and give to us an abundancy of everlasting Life! Living eternally does not, I repeat, does not mean becoming immortal! It means one is to live and die and live and die according to God's King of His Sons and Daughters, Christ Jesus, our redeemer of living the Life in abundant measurements! Only fools do believe in immortalities and living forever on one dimensional plain of existence!

      April 14, 2012 at 11:00 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.