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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. peakarach

    What does Kirk think about slavery,racism,bigotry,kkk,skinhead,etc?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Rub

      When all you care about is a fairy tale then reality is a bother.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  2. Ok whatever

    Glad he is following his dream. But sad he is so misguided and judgmental using the words of the bible as his excuse. He'll find out the truth some day and just how wrong he is. Bible – guideline written by men; not an absolute truth or the word of God.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Watnen

      Well Said...

      April 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Rub

      When the children grow up they will understand how they wasted their time and never helped their fellow man.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Oh really?

      Interesting that so many on this site are calling Cameron judgemental. Guess they neglected to read the last paragraph of the article. Anyway, if you feel judged by a Christian maybe you should consider what they say, after all, if they are right in believing the scriptures and if the scriptures are true ( and no one can prove they are not) you will stand before God on judgement day.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  3. Marc Castle

    Way to go Kirk! I support the Word of God and anyone who supports IT! Kirk Cameron has taken amazing, bold steps to counteract the lies and the spin others, not in support of the way God set up life itself, who have worked tirelessly to pervert society to fit their own sinful lifestyles. God bless you, Kirk Cameron!

    April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Rub

      If there was a god that put man...yes the same flawed, self serving, greedy ones in charge of speaking on their behalf, then this is truely a foolish god or a least one with a sense of humor.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  4. JHC

    "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." John Adams – Founding Father

    April 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  5. joe jones

    What's the difference between a God who hides behind the likes of Kirk Cameron and a God who doesn't exist?

    Nothing.

    End of discussion.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Oh really?

      What's the difference between Satan blinding a man from his true condition and a man going to hell? Nothing. Would you like to begin a discussion?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Rub

      Show me the face of Satan and I will show you a man/woman, show me the face of god and I will show youthe face of a man/woman. The only truth is was you believe.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • momoya

      You don't seem to understand how this game works, Oh Really?.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  6. abcontador

    Sorry Cameron, but Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with where this country is today in terms of prosperity - if anything it has held this country back.

    Hey Christians, keep your ridiculous religion away from me.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Watnen

      The human species will never advance forward until we rid the world of all religion. Sadly, it will be long after I am gone, but it will happen. It doesn't matter how many silly people there are, they can't stop evolution.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Rub

      Agree!

      April 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  7. Parker

    This clown has not been relavant since the 80's. He needs to quit forcing his religious beliefs on others. The soul of our great country is fine, except for racist people like Kirk Cameron that use religion to hide their hate. Seperation of church and state is what's needed to turn this country around. The reason we are in this economic mess in the first place was our so called leaders (Bush-Republicans) were looking to some mystical figure in the sky for answers. Religion is a choice and should not be shoved down our throats by some hack washed up actor.

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

      How exactly is he forcing you to go to his movies or read these blogs about him? You're just jealous.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  8. saucyman

    ive got a national treasure in my pants kirk might like to get his hands on.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  9. JHC

    "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries." James Madison – Founding Father

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

      excellent point

      April 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  10. peakarach

    How can Christianity be a white people religion when in fact it was imported from the Midlle East country?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Reality

      Answer: It isn't a "white people religion".

      April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  11. k

    You go Kirk!! The word says that the bible is foolishness to those who are perishing!!

    April 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • abcontador

      evidence?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Rub

      Ya the bible says a lot of foolish things.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @abcontador

      You asked for "evidence"
      The evidence i your own heart, darkened by sin, and conscience which you have silenced because the love of sin that's in your heart.

      "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil HATES the Light, and DOES NOT come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” – Jesus Christ
      In these words lies the key why you deny them and pretend thy are not true. Your own heart testifies that they are true, and your won conscience accuses you! So is with everyone who denies them!

      April 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  12. JHC

    "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise." James Madison – Founding Father

    April 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • George Washington

      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.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • David Hume

      A little philosophy makes a man an Atheist: a great deal converts him to religion.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Oh really?

      Quite true but faith in Christ sets the captives free.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • abcontador

      It is true that most religious people I have met are not that sharp. They also have some bizarre logic basic on their beliefs.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  13. sean

    He's not an activist, he's an apologist, and a trained liar to boot.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  14. glorydays

    Religion for sale....also selling crutches....

    April 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  15. tuffyturf

    Is he still married to that smokin hot babe too? At least she was 25 years ago... she might be haggard now, hence the bible bumper.. he is probably saying "Why me god"

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

      a marriage simply for sake of appearances

      April 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Reality

      Wow, Writer. You are hateful.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  16. Jim R

    Just one more person who belongs to the infancy of our species. And apparently he knows nothing of Thomas Jefferson. The "wall' of separation between church is indeed, very tangible

    April 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  17. peakarach

    Any idea who's hating LGBT,ASIAN,BLACK,LATINO,MUSLIM,HINDU,BUDDHIST,ATHEIST,ETC?

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

      I would that that would be the christian right - they hate anyone who isn't like them

      April 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  18. saucyman

    he seems kinda gay

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

      So do you.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  19. TexasTexasTexas

    This is scary. I was forced into being a Southern Baptist my whole childhood. We were not supposed to question anything. The devil was inside me for even considering anything not bible-related. I didn't know you were ALLOWED to not go to church until I went to college!!! I married the son of a baptist university president. We moved far away from our nutjob families. I am a teacher and I love it when kids talk about church, god, etc. (We aren't allowed to bring it up). I always say "Some people believe that, but you have civil liberties in the U.S. so you have freedom of religious choice. You can choose to believe in a god, or not to believe in a god,
    or believe in anything you want. We respect everybody because evetybody is important and makes their OWN decision about what to believe. I wish somebody, ANYBODY?? would have told me that as a child!!! I grew up thinking I was from outer-space. Bigoted,
    hypocritical "christians" raised me. But on Sundays and Wednesdays, their perfectly-coiffed judgemental butts were in those pews. ********I'm so tired of the founding fathers argument********** The US was founded on RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. And you don't have white walls your entire life just because the people who built the house have white walls. Founding fathers didn't know the internet and flying cars were coming either. STOP telling people what to think or who to love!!!'

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

      Oh, and you are in no way judgmental.

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

      @LOL,

      And you have just judged @Texas!!!

      -------------------------

      @Texas,

      Thank you for a nice post.

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

      TEXAS ... wow, a teacher with the courage to tell a public school classroom "you have civil liberties in the U.S. so you have freedom of religious choice. You can choose to believe in a god, or not to believe in a god" ... they would string you up here in Alabama for saying that in a public school.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • V01D

      Good for you, not a lot of people walk away from an upbringing like the one you described with a normal degree of cognitive functionality.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Reality

      Perhaps one of the reasons people leave the faith is because they can't comprehend the theology. The theology that comes out of the mouths of atheists is often so bad no person of religion would subscribe to it. If they can't think any better than that, it is no wonder they abandoned their faith.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jim R

      How was it to be indoctrinated? Not as nice as it was to enter the realm of "free thinking".

      April 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  20. Joe

    Good for him doing what he believes to be right; you people are foolish detractors and clearly damn proud existentialists, shame on you all. What a waste of a life.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust

      We think for ourselves Joe, while you blindly follow a 2,000 year-old fairy tale. Now which of us is really wasting our life?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Dangle66

      As long as people like you keep defending this bigotry, religion in this country will continue to erode away...

      April 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Joe

      Joe, Cameron has proved himself an idiot over and over–regardless of his spiritual leanings.. People who point out that Cameron is dumb can believe anything.. It's ignorant of you to label a group of people "existentialists" (when you have no idea if they are or aren't, and it's frighteningly arrogant of you to say that existentialists are a "waste of life.". I think that you christians sometimes follow your god's behavior more than his words..

      Just because god is allowed to send his enemies to the eternal torture chamber he built doesn't mean that he's revoked his commandment for you to love your enemies.. Just because god lies and goes back on his word doesn't mean that you get that same privilege.. You don't get to act like your master; you must behave as he commands.. You're a slave, not a dictator.. Act like it.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • V01D

      lol Oh wow, I thought I'd heard fundies attack everything at least once, but this is the first time I've seen one attack the idea of existentialism outright. Sure, they've skirted around the concepts behind existentialist thought, such as the responsibility to fill one's own life with meaning and truth, but never had the gumption to declare their enemy "existentialism". I want to thank you for officially adding that to the big list of stuff fundies hate.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • abcontador

      Religion in all of the top developed countries is on the decline - probably has something to do with better education and people simply not standing for it anymore

      April 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
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About this blog

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.