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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. sargon the great

    So, a washed-up actor, who never had any real acting abilities or screen appeal, decides to make a living spreading christianity – not surprising – it was probably either this or sitting on the sidewalk begging for money.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • pod

      Kinda like how the most religious are often the people who couldn't handle their drugs well.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  2. Jim R

    Kirk – by all means, continue your life of servitude under your celestial dictator but keep your delusional beliefs to yourself.

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

    momoya, I actually clapped when I read your post

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

      Thanks! 🙂

      April 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  4. Rob

    @ Jason:

    Talk about out of context- To elaborate on what I said, For instance- If there was a blog on video games, why would I leave a comment on that particular blog seeing as that I've never played one?

    April 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Jason

      Actually it's not out of context.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  5. V01D

    MONUMENTAL 2: THE SEARCH FOR THE CROCO-DUCK

    April 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  6. David

    Kirk is a fool. I have heard him rail against Darwinism and "evolutionism" while simultaneously displaying absolutely no understanding of the details of evolutionary theory at all. He thinks the banana is a sure sign of Gods influence because it fits the human hand well. That tells me right there he is speaking from a totally uninformed position.

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

      He probably believes Humans and Dinosaurs co-existed.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Scott

      Wha-seriously?? The banana is evidence of God because it fits the human hand? I'm afraid to think what it means that I like watermellon...

      April 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Dangle66

      right... he thinks it's proof that evolution is false because no one has ever seen a 'croco-duck'

      April 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  7. Mary Davis

    Thank you Kirk, for doing all you can to spread the gospel and be the Christian example for young boys and
    men to follow. This is very refreshing to see a young man who's NOT afraid to stand firm in his belief...in God.
    Keep the Christian movies coming! If only.........................others could do the same thing in their movies!
    GOD BLESS YOU.........................for I know the HEAVENS ARE REJOICING................because of your love
    for God.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  8. David

    Kirk Cameron is one of the most hateful and delusion people out in the world claiming to be a christian missionary. It is sad that CNN would devote any time or space to a nutjob like this who thinks that for evolution to be real you need a Croco-Duck.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Hmm

      No. It seems that you might be one of the most hateful and delusional people in the world for condemning someone you don't personally know.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  9. Sophie

    I believe in God, but I believe your relationship with God is exactly that, between you and God. I think we all have the right to our beliefs, but we should not try to impose them on others. God gave me a brain and of course I am at times going to question things, I am only human. The issue with a lot of Evangelical Christians is that they are very literal and there is a lack of tolerance when you don't agree with their views. If you disagree it's blasphemy. I think there are great things about religion, but I think many people through the ages have used it to control the masses. Including the way we vote.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • peakarach

      Any idea when and where was God born and where does god came from and what does god look like and how do you communicate with God?

      April 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • janelle

      You are essentially saying the same thing Kirk Cameron is. Read what he said. He said he respects the decisions and choices other makes. He respects the rights of everyone to believe and live their lives as they see fit. He only asks the same courtesy be extended to him. He was not preaching how people should live their lives. He was asked what he believes, he honostly answered what he believes and at no time tried to impose his beliefs on anyone.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  10. J

    He just wants to sell some books. I find his comments hurtful and highly offensive.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  11. larryb

    soon to be known as "monumental flop"

    April 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  12. johnfrichardson

    The success of this nation was built on the foundation of secularism and other principles of the enlightenment, including the sort of religious TOLERANCE that Christianity has infamously REFUSED to practice.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • J

      Absolutely! I wholeheartedly agree!

      April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • George Washington's Farewell Address

      Check it out.

      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 12:50 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Check out Braddock's March (attempts at germ warfare), Sullivan's March (genocide), and the fact that Washington was a slave-owner.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  13. Terry Campbell

    The practical deification of the Founding Fathers is possibly surpassed by that of Ronald Reagan. Sorry, but the world is not the same as it was 200 + years ago. But the danger of the cult of the Founding Fathers becomes apparent as Cameron tries to re-write history to suggest that the Founding Fathers wanted Christianity taught in schools. This country is about freedom of religion and always has been. The government should have no roll in religion and should not favor one religion over another, nor should if favor religion over non-religion. Period. Keep Christianity in church and out of schools and out of government.

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

      Correct. The message here is a total distortion of reality.

      April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Like the Reagan Administration. They'll try to re-write Bush II to make him look like some sort of hero, as well.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  14. larrylinn

    Social commentator and former alter-boy George Carlin sums it up, “Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more."

    April 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Ross

      Smiles.........Carlin was truly funny and also very insightful. I saw him live in 76 – funny man!

      April 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  15. chedar888

    Go get a real job and a real life Kirk. What you are doing are easy money and you should know it. A real person won't take advantage at the expense of another human being.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  16. Mark

    Concerning Pipe-Dreamer: I have a degree in Philosophy. This guy is confounding the language not to make a point, but to make an appearance. There really is nothing in the way of fact here; rather a series of statements, each contingent upon his beliefs, all taken from an objective source – the Bible. Beliefs never equal Truth.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • AGuest9

      "an objective source – the Bible." WHA????
      The bible is FAR from objective.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  17. pod

    Some may see this as searching for the lost soul of America. Seeking Christianity.... That's fine and all, but it's also entrenching deeper into realm that many in the world do not share thus fueling the "us" vs. "them" conflict. With many religions abound where each follower believing their way is the only way, wouldn't be more helpful in this day and age to send a more uniting message which anyone could relate to? How about a message of tolerance and acceptance of different views? Extremism in any form is dangerous to humanity.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  18. JHC

    "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." Thomas Jefferson – Founding Father

    April 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  19. saucyman

    this guy is gayer than a four dollar bill

    April 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  20. palintwit

    The only thing evangelicals love more than the baby jesus is boinking their cousins and sisters on Saturday night.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:42 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.