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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. Jim R

    Laura –
    Why don't you ask yourself why the ten commandments don't include slavery and child abuse?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  2. Rob

    honestly, if you are not a believer, you should not post comments on a belief blog. Just leave it be. There are plenty of other blogs to infect with hate and ignorance on the internet.

    Kirk is just a Christian who happens to be an actor who has been out of the limelight for awhile. And yes- I am christian also so I do back up his views. I've watched several of his later programs/movies and he hasn't said anything that was out of context- at least from a Christian prospective.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Jason

      So if our views don't correspond to yours, we must remain silent? That makes sense. Glad to know, you have a firm understanding of ignorance. I wonder if you know what sarcasim is too?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Writerscramp

      Rob, do you also back up Kirk's view that the Earth is 6000 years old and that there is a God who know where your penis every minute of the day ?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Joseph C.

      Did it ever occur to you that your beliefs are harmful to society?....or that we must speak out...to educate and inform? Did it ever occur to you that we want to protect our children from being exposed to this mythological, primitive belief system?......by the way not every person who knows Christianity is a man created mythology is an atheist.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      hate and ignorance, rob? seems to me that those claiming to know that mind of god are the ones who are full of hate and ignorance

      April 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  3. Ssrb

    He was a dork even by 80's standards and he is still that way.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • RonnieT

      such a mature, constructive response

      April 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  4. brian

    i would rather prefer to read a story about a huge steaming turd...

    April 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • lee

      I thought that WAS what we just read.

      April 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  5. chedar888

    The cultivation for truth rest in our mind. We don't have to flaunt it like christain and muslim (maybe the jews as well since they are all Abrahamic religions). Teach Wisdom only when someone ask. And better be an enligthened one.before you spread the gospel. .

    April 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  6. John

    This man is simply preaching his beliefs, like everyone else here. All he promotes is peace, compassion and love. Yet you all slander him and make him out to be some kind of freak. Deep down you all must have some kind of anger that drives you to sit here and bash a good man like Kirk.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, bushwa. He preaches discrimination and ignorance.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • JT

      He IS a delusional freak who is on a mission to limit other's liberties and to stop human progress by working tirelessly to stop science when it threatens his faith/delusion. He's scum.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • JohnRJohnson

      I've heard this guy talk. He uses his religious beliefs to judge others. Disgusting. Cameron is a perfect example of a person who has found a way to justify all of his fears and prejudices and cloak them in a veil of beatific self-righteouness. People like him are one of the primary reasons this country is sliding backwards instead of moving forward.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Laura

      I agree. I also wonder why anyone would have such a problem with a religion which has Ten Commandments which only promote humanity.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      Nonsense, John. Anyone "preaching" is purporting to speak for god. I find that incredibly arrogant. That is what I dislike about it

      April 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Brad

      Well said John. Do any of the bashers even know Kirk personally? He talks about what he believes is right when ASKED during an interview that was set up to create controversy and get ratings. He displays courage among CNN wolves.....

      Seems it's the liberals that are the cruel and hateful and judgmental ones.....why don't you guys go do something nice for someone else today????

      April 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nice? You mean like acknowledging that gays deserve the right to marry? That women deserve choice when it comes to their medical decisions?

      April 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. Uthor

    Well, he has to put food on the table somehow... Why not be a seller of snake oil for god?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Writerscramp

      After his sitcom career died, it was either infomercials or Christian media, gotta pay the psychologist bills somehow

      April 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • sam stone

      writer: seems that way to me, too

      April 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  8. fauxshizle

    CNN quote..."He is neither a historian nor theologian" ............some of his other quotes say things like "you must get around a persons reason or intellect in order to bring them to God". This gimp is a true snake-oil salesman who should be ran out of town.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  9. Pipe-Dreamer

    And so the masses do ever so turn their dribbling words of contemptuousness and unrighteousness bindings ever to be tightened in their rude and crewel lamentations of souless deliveries against and not for! Righteous are those who ever do fear God's wrath! Loving are God's fearfilled who do good works!

    April 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What size needle do you use for your crewel? I like a number 12, myself.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      No, pipe, arrogant are those who purport to speak for god

      April 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • urouttolunch

      @Tom, you made me laugh out loud. Thanks

      April 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're likely the only one who got it. Glad to give you a chuckle.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  10. Steve

    Kirk Cameron isnt making a comeback for Jesus. He has been doing this for years and years and years. Why is it now suddenly being called a comeback?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  11. amy

    He's making a niche for himself as an ignorant bigot. Lucky for him, there's quite a market for that.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Writerscramp

      Amy ... so true, that market will never go away

      April 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • sarah weyant

      http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/68158775.html

      April 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  12. Me

    Hey CNN... when are you going to start covering those of us who believe in all of Grimm's fairy tales too. Same waste of space, codifying the delusional.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • sam stone

      Me: When a large percentage of those who believe in Grimm's fairy tales make inroads on codifying them into secular law, then it will time to bring the light of day to them

      April 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  13. Sean

    Comeback..? Says who ? CNN ? This guy is about as relevant as last weeks garbage. I'm annoyed when I hear this tools name.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  14. Writerscramp

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXcGF2qv2CY&w=640&h=360]

    April 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Fairy

      Like button.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  15. Omooba

    Whenever a Christian say something that is contrary to what non Christian want to hear, media are ready to crucify the Christian but when non Christian say anything contrary to Christian believe, it is freedom of speech.
    Kirk, just stay strong and know your God is on your side, the angels of God is fighting on our behalf.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Hypatia

      Judge not, lest ye be judged.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Me

      Oh brother.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @omooba
      A M E N!
      That' exactly the way it is!

      April 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Dangle66

      Christianity is “unnatural,” “detrimental,” and “ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”

      April 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • sybaris

      Omooba!!

      Where have you been?!

      I've been looking for a persecuted christian and there you are!!

      Despite:
      God on our money
      Televangelists on TV and radio 24/7
      Silence (prayer) before public events
      Government recognition of christian holidays
      Bibles in every motel room
      Christian billboards along the highways
      Churches every 6 blocks in every city of more than 100,000 people
      Christian bookstores in every town of more than 12,000 people
      Insurance discounts for being christian
      Religious organizations being tax exempt
      Living in a country where more than 75% of the population claims christianity as their faith

      Despite all of that you play the persecuted christian card

      Bravo!!

      April 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @hypatia
      LOL! It's ok for your kind to not just judge Kirk, but when he stands up, speaking the truth and others support him, they are "judging and being hateful". I have not seen one remark Kirk made that's filled with malice, sarcasm and derogatory names toward ANYONE. On the contrary, the remarks of those who oppose him are all those things, to which twisted-ness and lies are added! Now, it is evident whose motives are agendas are genuine, upfront, and without ill intent!

      April 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Got dat right

      Man, you couldn't be more correct Omooba! That's what this belief blog seems to be about to me is attempting in any way possible to corrupt all religion. Like you said, if it's mainstream, it's denigrated. If it's a liberal fringe notion, it's praised and held up as an example. Immoral is proclaimed moral and so on. Disgusting.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      P.S. correction:
      It is evident whose motives ar their agendas, and whose are genuine, upfront, and without ill intent!

      April 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Thereals

      A Christian warns people about God's judgement using God's own words so they can make an informed decision to abide by God's standards. But the world loves judging by their own standards, and they have no problem judging someone who is quoting the Bible if it doesn't fit their worldview.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Avdin

      Dangle 66, please note that statistically speaking most people on the planet believe in some form of creating being behind the world's existence, a future life after death, and a desire to dedicate their lives to the glorification of specific ideologies. Science uses statistics to define nature. Therefore it is natural for religion to exist.
      As far as being detrimental to civilization I would like to give you a small challenge. For a moment do not think about how religions have on occasion resulted in terrible events (Hitler and Stalin were atheists after all, so the argument could rapidly be turned right back in your face) and consider the following. Can you find a 100 square mile area on the face of this planet where women are treated as equals, slavery has been abolished, children are considered valuable for more than just labor, and where there is relative peace and joy among its people and yet the gospel was not preached their first?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      First of all, Omooba, no one is taking away this man's freedom of speech

      Secondly, purporting to speak for god shows unbridled arrogance

      April 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Thereals

      sam stone – so no prophet great or small, past or present or future can be worthy of speaking God's word to you. And who is guilty of unbridled arrogance? pot, meet kettle.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • sam stone

      thereals: it is not me purporting to know the mind of god. i don't see how that translates to arrogance on my part

      April 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  16. Hypatia

    He's not a Christian. He's a bleached bone.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Hmm

      Racist much?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  17. apostate

    What else is a washed up has-been child actor to do?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  18. Ben

    How long until his Rentboy scandal?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  19. Nybrit

    Kirk is nothing but a snake oil salesman, a liar for Jesus. There is no limit to which he will go to misrepresent and lie about proven science to promote his bigoted view of Christianity. And it certainly helps that he makes a healthy living selling his invisible opium.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Avdin

      As a scientist I must disagree that science can prove. It cannot. the only field where the term proof can be correctly used is mathematics. Sciences can demonstrate, show, hypothesize, correlate and DISprove, but it cannot prove.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  20. Frank Troia

    It's a great marketing move for his career.... nothing more. Squeezing out a few more minutes in front of a camera...

    April 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
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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.