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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. THoll909

    "All religions are alike-based upon fables and mythology." -Thomas Jefferson

    April 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  2. Josef Bleaux

    Yet another pathetic dimwit that's been sucked into a delusional fantasy world. Why is this news?

    April 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  3. Sagian

    Well, now Kirk can count himself in the ranks of the last person around whom the fanatics rallied: Miss Carrie Prejean.

    I think that says all that needs to be said.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  4. Alice

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

    April 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • rbsrs

      Best description ever of Hitchen's life's work: "He was a virtuoso hater"

      April 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  5. keith

    Is that picture at the top supposed to be "thoughtful" Kirk Cameron? We all know that Kirk doesn't have a thought running through his head that wasn't implanted through christian ideology.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Alice

      I suppose that he's enough of an actor to act like he's thoughtful?

      April 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  6. racman63

    Another Fascist selling snake oil. Sometimes I think I'm living in 1930's Germany and not the United States of America. Ignorance is infectious, in this misguided evangelicalism, we suffer a plague. It's about social justice, not about "christianizing" America through right wing propaganda.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. Pipe-Dreamer

    Russ

    @Scott: wrote on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm stating, "he Gospel: Jesus gave up his life so his murderers might have life. Abortion: My life as I want it is more important than this helpless child's life."

    Women have misscarriages all the time and even have still-births. Societies need to allow people their due causes and reasonings for wanton abortions as the cases may be in the benefits of parental consternations relative to their life needs and wants.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Russ

      @ PD: this is a very weak argument. Less than 1% of abor.tions are for the cases of inc.est, r.a.pe or mother's life at risk. in other words, over 99% of all abo.rtions since Roe v. Wade (roughly 40 million) are not about anything other than mother's preferred mode of living at the total expense of the child's life.

      and moreover, the biblical point is this: only God – as the Author of life – has the authority to di.ctate who lives & dies.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, he doesn't.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Russ

      @ TomTom: again, the *biblical* point is exactly that. You may not like the Bible's content, but we can't even have honest dialogue if you can't both engage others' (as well as admit your own) epistemology.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  8. JoeyC

    You cannot be a CONSERVATIVE Christian if you are a follower of Christ. Period end of discussion. Christ was the biggest LIBERAL and hence he was crucified. I think if you remove the word "Conservative" and replace with "Intolerant" – now you have the type of Christian you are. That is what Cameron is: an Intolerant Christian! You can't move me off of this point. Take note thatl the people who call themselves 'conservative' are some of the most intolerant individuals alive. Please remember that the Republican Party harbors these individuals for votes. If you review the history of the republican party you will find that almost almost every social issue that they were intolerant of in the past is now mainstream & accepted: Segregation, Prohibition, Women's right to vote, Civil Rights...the list goes on and on. Do a little more historical investigation and you will see that a majority of senators and congressional leaders from the south were republicans in the past and also belonged to the KKK! Need I say any more?!?! Intelligent people will understand my point of view and that it is truthful. Keep Politics and Faith separate. Before I sign off – I am a Christian, a devout Episcopalian and am liberal. I love every minute of it too! So be it! (a/k/a Amen!)

    April 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • LeAnn

      Well said! So many flaws with Cameron's arguments. First, America is NOT "going to hell", rather we are making progress in leaps and bounds as we slowly shed thinking based on mythology, opening the way for fact and evidence-based science. Secondly, the Pilgrims and founding fathers didn't make America great; the diverse makeup of the country including Jews, Muslims, Shintos, spirit and nature worshipers, Athiests, etc. from all ethnicities and their contributions to science, philosophy, literature, art, etc, etc has benifited our country tremendously. America's success occurred IN SPITE of close-minded, knowledge-suppressing Christianity. Mr. Cameron is in serious need of a history lesson. Oh, and saying America is the greatest country on earth (as Cameron is quoted as saying) is disgustingly egotistical and disrespectful.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  9. M

    My wife and I saw the movie 3 weeks ago, when it was a "live" broadcast. It was neat being in a theater and having a live feed, but it was also a bit, uh, cheesy.
    The movie portrayed history we never learned in school. It was interesting, but it also ended, well, without a plan or point. Also, the live feed had technical difficulties, so we lost the last 5-10 minutes of "mikey's" speech.
    Is it worth seeing? Yes. Will it bring a change? Probably not. The politicians run our country, and they are running it into the ground. Financially is already there, and christian wise is getting there. Every great nation has fallen, and our time will come.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Alice

      That history wasn't taught in school because it's wrong.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Cq

      M
      Yes, every great nation has fallen, and the US will too. That's why the evangelicals so desperately wish for Jesus to return, so that the world ends before the US falls.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  10. scl

    I'm just so very, very thankful that God had the mercy and wisdom to give humankind The Buddha.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • JoeyC

      Amen

      April 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I guess not many Americans would say "I can't believe it's not Buddha"...

      April 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Groan.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  11. Alice

    Why can't child actors ever grow up normal and well-adjusted?

    April 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  12. Harty

    I knew there was a good reason I hated 'growing pains' way back when! And he's still nothing more than a wanna-be hack; just older and uglier. 🙂

    April 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  13. Joe

    CCOKC – Child Celebrities Opposing Kirk Cameron – watch more funny videos

    April 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  14. c

    Wow, cover article, and plenty of nice words devoted to washed up child-actor, turned christian bigot. God bless the USA.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  15. peakarach

    Kirk,any idea when and where is Jesus/God's coming back?

    April 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Yeah, I want to be there with my hammer and some nails.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Ricky Sheriff and Family

      Keep up the good work Kirk Cameron, as you already know we as Christians will be persecuted but one day as the word says in the bible every knee shall bow and tongue confess Jessus is Lord! Then God will have the last say in everything and sad to say thoses who don't see it and repent will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity, God doesn't want them to go there but it is a real place for those who are not born again and don't believe in the word of God Almighty.Keep persecuting and not believing you are only fulfilling the word of God.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  16. MayorofMormania

    If Kirk knew anything, he'd know that this country was actually NOT founded on Christianity. In fact, Thomas Jefferson himself denounced Christianity as a horrible religion. This country was founded to SEPARATE church and state. So then, why do we find so much of religion in our political system? People should not be voting in terms of a bible or what their pastor says on Sunday, but in terms of what is fair and right for all people without any prejudice or racism.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Rob

      Ever read the Mayflower Compact?

      April 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Jason

      @ Rob: You do know there is a gap between the Mayflower Compact and when we actually became a Nation, right?

      April 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Larry

      Rob, ever read the Treaty of Tripoli? Take a look at article 11.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • robrodriguez

      Yes, Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian as we define them today. He was a deist though, not an atheist. Jefferson believed in God and Jesus and even edited his own version of the Bible to match his belief system more. Please read the history before spouting incomplete facts.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Jason

      @ Larry: hahahahaha. That was great.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  17. Answerman28

    Check out Cameron’s "revised" version of Darwin’s greatest work he's promoted and what he has to say. Its full of embarrassingly stupid Christian nonsense that completely insults Darwin and anyone else with any intelligence. He's completely washed up and now so desperate for attention and money, he’s working for the evangelists who are conspiring to poison the minds of young Americans and condemn them to life of being hopelessly egotistical, science and history ignoring bible thumpers. All to create another generation of sheep to fuel their money machine. Its really time to evolve folks.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  18. Scott

    Christian and pro-choice; right here. The Bible does NOT teach against abortion; don't let any evangelical tell you otherwise. As if it matters in a country where freedom of religion is the law, anyway.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Russ

      @Scott:
      The Gospel: Jesus gave up his life so his murderers might have life
      Abortion: My life as I want it is more important than this helpless child's life

      April 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Rob

      Wrong – Exodus 21:22–25

      April 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • momoya

      @Russ

      The Gospel: My child must die for the greater good of my plan to carry on
      Abortion: My child must die for the greater good of my plan to carry on

      April 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya:
      Jesus said, "No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord." (Jn.10:18)

      April 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • momoya

      Heb 12:2 He did it for the glory that was set before him.. That glory that was set before him was god's continuing plan.. God demanded his son's death for his plan to appease himself by sacrificing himself to himself so that he didn't have to send people to the never-ending pit of torture that he built all because a rib-woman committed a wrong act before she knew what was a wrong act that then brought about an imaginary disease (sin) that affected an imaginary part (soul) because she listened to a talking snake.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Russ, read Scott's post. No one cares what you OR Jesus think about abortion.

      April 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Tom Tom: Scott claims to be a Christian & to care what the Bible says. it's relevant by his own parameters.

      @ Momoya: Heb.12:2 says: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who – for the joy set before him – endured the cross."
      notice: Jesus is the agent of change (author & perfecter) – not merely the passive recipient.

      you seem to think of the Gospel as cosmic child abuse – which forgets the nature of the Trinity. God voluntarily demonstrates his love (Php.2:6-10). but there is nothing voluntary about abortion for a defenseless child. and the virtual entirety of the minor prophets (leading up to Christ's coming) talks about God's concern for the defenseless (fatherless & widows, etc.).

      April 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The Bible is irrelevant to the law of this country.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Russ

      @ TomTom: only a radical re-narration of US history would claim that the most read, most influential book in Western Civilization is utterly irrelevant. That is to be as blind from the left as Kirk is being from the right.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sorry, you're wrong. The Bible is not the source of our laws.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Get Real

      The Ten Commandments:

      1: Have no other gods – NOT A LAW
      2: Make no graven image – NOT A LAW
      3: Don’t take the name in vain – NOT A LAW
      4: Honor the Sabbath – NOT A LAW
      5: Honor thy father and mother – NOT A LAW
      6: Thou shalt not kill – NOT UNIQUE TO CHRISTIANITY (long pre-dated it)
      7: Thou shalt not commit adultery – huge number of Christians commit adultery by LEGALLY remarrying
      8: Thou shalt not steal – NOT UNIQUE TO CHRISTIANITY
      9: Thou shalt not bear false witness – NOT UNIQUE TO CHRISTIANITY
      10: Thou shalt not covet – NOT A LAW

      April 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Russ

      @ TomTom: as I said before, I'm not making Kirk's argument. I think he's re-narrated much of American history – but you're doing the same from the opposite side.

      Simply do a statistical study of the religious composition of America at the time of our country's foundation. Not to admit the very tangible & demonstrable reality of Christianity as the primary belief system (yet not exclusive) of the country at that time is simply a denial of the facts.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Doesn't matter what the majority belief is, Russy. Our founding fathers knew that allowing majority rule would result in the 'tyranny of the majority' and therefore took measures to prevent it. They knew that if a Christian majority were allowed to do so, it would abrogate the civil rights of the minority that the Consti tution guaranteed.

      You can keep on pretending that the Bible was the basis for law, but you'll still be wrong.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Tom Tom: you just made two divergent arguments. I agree with your first: the founding fathers purposefully created a religiously free environment. I celebrate that.

      however, your second inference oversteps. no serious historian denies the influence of the Bible on ALL of Western Civ, much less a country that was founded largely by Christians who fled persecution in Europe. Majority does not = rule. But majority does = influence.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Never said it didn't, Russy. It is NOT the basis of law. It is not the basis of rights.

      Are you going to man up and admit it or not?

      April 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Tom Tom: so you're admitting influence but denying the term "basis"...
      we're not having a history discussion then. that's what i'll gladly admit.

      "it's not the basis of rights." we moved from political discussion to metaphysical & epistemological.

      April 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Thanks for acknowledging that you were wrong.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Tom Tom: no, what I admitted is that you & Kirk have the same problem – when you feel your epistemological bases are threatened, you refuse to acknowledge historical facts. as is so frequently the case, the far left & the far right have the same methodological blindness.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  19. S-Hug

    Go back to the '80s, you washed-up has-been.

    April 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  20. Writerscramp

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZ3liwb9piI&w=640&h=360]

    April 14, 2012 at 12:54 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.