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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. Tracy Lee

    To magic..... I would do anything GOD told me to do..... but he would never tell me to kill my five children...I know your going to tell me about abraham and how GOD asked him to sacrifice his only son but if you finished the story you would have noticed isaac was saved...I am not andrea yates.......once again I would do anything GOD asks....

    April 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • wow

      "once again I would do anything GOD asks"

      Based on your posts I think you're listening to Satan.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Primewonk

      What about Jephthah? Your sick twisted psychotic putz of a god had this guy torch his own freaking daughter as a sacrifice for letting him win a fight.

      So if your god told you to torch your kid, you'd refuse? Your god also commands you folks go out and kill gay folks, yet I bet you have refused to follow this command as well.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  2. sam stone

    Tracy: You are a coward who has wrapped yourself in a bible. Congrats.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  3. Tracy Lee

    to Huebert .......I agree with the BIBLE not my self....

    April 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Your bible commands that young unengaged virgins who are ra.per have to marry their attackers and never divorce. Are you working to get this enacted in our laws?

      April 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  4. Tracy Lee

    to sam stone ....you were definitely bullied and made fun of as a child and maybe even now because all you can do is make fun of me but you can't bully me buddy...I have answered all of your questions that make sense... you are so eloquent with your writing but it is filled with so much spite I can't answer your pagan dogma filled with hate..... I can only let the TRUTH be read...

    April 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • sam stone

      you have not answered all my questions. you say you have answered all "that make sense", which gives you a big excuse to avoid questions that you cannot answer.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      Tracy: You are a coward.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  5. Tracy Lee

    to Magic....if GOD tells you to do something you just do it.....

    April 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Huebert

      If you and god always agree god isn't talking to you; you're talking to your self.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Magic

      Tracy Lee,

      If "God" told you to drown your 5 children, would you do it?

      April 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  6. Tracy Lee

    to lucifer's evil twin.....don't need pills...just need CHRIST!

    April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  7. Tracy Lee

    to Primewonk....????

    April 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Primewonk

      You are the one who claimed the bible contains only truth.

      I simply posted several things your bible states as truth, that are, in fact, not true.

      I fail to see how hard that was to follow.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  8. Tracy Lee

    to lucifer's evil twin.... your right I am CRAZY FOR CHRIST.....

    April 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      they have pills to help with that

      April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  9. Tracy Lee

    TO ..... you are right I am a sinner...

    April 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  10. Tracy Lee

    to Magic...... your ticks won't work here sorry no mythes in the BIBLE....ONLY THE TRUTH......

    April 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Only truth in the bible? So plants on land can exist without sunlight? The earth was created before any stars? The moon does emit light? Grasshoppers do have 4 legs? Rabbits do chew their cud? pi really is 3.0?

      April 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Magic

      Get a load of this, Tracy Lee.

      In Leviticus 14 "God" spoke to Moses and told him the correct treatment and cure for leprosy. It is the dangedest, silliest thing you'd ever want to read. This was the LORD speaking, Tracy Lee, THE LORD – how dare anyone search for a better treatment!

      Briefly:
      Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one. Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly away. Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patient's right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear, thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally find another pair of birds. Kill one and dip the live bird in the dead bird's blood. Wipe some blood on the patient's right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle the house with blood 7 times. That's all there is to it!

      April 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  11. Tracy Lee

    Lucifer's Evil Twin.... I do like men as brother's in CHRIST.....

    April 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      oh how I envy you... simpleminded and delusional ... it must be nice wearing your rose-colored christian glasses, oblivious to reality, not having to think beyond your silly book.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  12. Tracy Lee

    to sam stone ...are you stoned??? I never called you a name or even spoke negatively about you. Not being alive just means you are spiritually dead... did you get picked on as a child because you sound like a once bullied child... you sound so insecure.. .I played defensive tackle and I weigh about 275 ... i am not insecure...I can come out and play but I dont think you would once you have seen me...:)

    April 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • ....

      Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot. That log in your eye is HUGE!

      April 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      "to sam stone ...are you stoned???"

      even if i were, i would still make short work of you

      "I played defensive tackle and I weigh about 275 ... i am not insecure...I can come out and play but I dont think you would once you have seen me...:)"

      i am speaking of your ability to put together a rational argument. you do not appear to be able to do so. you still have not answered my question about your claim that i made a baseless statement. are ya a coward?

      perhaps i was bullied as a child. perhaps i was not. one thing i am not going to do is acquiesce to people who wrap themselves in a bible and deny others their civil rights. consider this....if we had taken your statement earlier about gays and marriage "they can still live together, but we feel that marriage is between a man and a woman" and replace "a man and a woman" with "white people", would you consider that bigotry?

      April 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  13. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    LOOK! It's Kirk Cameron super christian dou.chebag! All this ever since he found out he REALLY likes men.. tsk tsk...

    April 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  14. Tracy Lee

    to Doc Vestibule read the new testament and you will see it is not like how you say....no iron here just GOLD...

    April 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      still not answering the questions, are ya tracy?

      go ahead and bloviate some more. you are a perfect caricature of a True Believer (TM), bloviate on and do not have the courage to answer a question directly.

      delusional ga$h

      April 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Tracy Lee
      Why do you assume I haven't read the NT?
      Do you think the book of Revelation is "gold"?
      7 headed dragons that spew torrents of water and eat pregnant women?
      Swarms of armour clad locusts with the face of a man, the hair of a woman, the mouth of a lion and the tail of a scorpion?

      April 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  15. Tracy Lee

    to sam stone... the BIBLE transcends all time and space... If you ever read the BIBLE you would know this. Yes it was written thousands of years ago but the fundamentals still apply today. Please read the BIBLE before you make baseless statements. How can you say the BIBLE is not applicable when I quote " LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOUR YOUSELF " you see these are the dirrect words of JESUS CHRIST the TRUTH the WAY the LIGHT. If you new the TRUTH you would see the light....sam stone dont be the stone tossed to the bottom of the abyss.. go to the light and read the BIBLE....you will finally live....

    April 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      Tracy Lee: What statement did I make that was baseless?

      "you see these are the dirrect words of JESUS CHRIST the TRUTH the WAY the LIGHT"

      only to those who accept it.

      "you will finally live...."

      more pompous statements from you. what makes you think I do not live? because I do not accept the bible as the word of god? gosh, tracy, get your head out of your a$$

      April 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      still waiting for you feel was my "baseless statement", tracy.....put up or.....well, you know the rest.

      if you spelled better, you wouldn't be written off as such an imbecile...

      April 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      tracy: one does not need any particular religious text to be loving and compassionate. in fact, to do so without any hope of reward is more moral than those who do it because it was written down in a book.

      April 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      Come on, Tracy, come out and play.

      April 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If the bible transcends time and space and it's "truths" are solid forever more – why are so many of the rules, references and proscriptions specific to iron age middle eastern culture?

      April 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Magic

      Tracy Lee,

      The Bible is a book which includes *some* history of primitive Hebrew culture, and *some* good advice for practical, beneficial human behavior (as do the 'scriptures' of many religions), but most of it is a compilation of ancient Middle Eastern historical fiction, myth, legend, superst.ition and fantasy.

      There is not a whit of verified evidence for any of the supernatural beings or supernatural events in that book.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  16. Tracy Lee

    to mandarax.... CHRISTAINS are here to stay so we must all learn to live with each other. Free thought and freedom of speech applies to both sides and so does freedom to vote. If CHRISTAINS together as one vote for something and give there views in a public forum, the other side must respect the view. CHRISTAINS do not rob people of ther civil rights. Gay's are still allowed to have relationships and live with each other but we feel mariage is between a man and a woman. If gays want to get married they can but they can not reep the tax benefits married couples have preview to. Tax benefits are not civil rights they federal incentives. 911 was a tragedy and a wake up call for all . do you think al qaeda would embrace gays and give them any rights??? I hate to say this but you truly live in a bubble and you are driving with your head light off....CHRISTIANITY is not unethica it called freedom of religion..

    April 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      do you feel that putting some words in caps makes your point better? it doesn't

      April 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • sam stone

      "If CHRISTAINS together as one vote for something and give there views in a public forum, the other side must respect the view"

      No we don't. We just have to obey, we do not have to respect

      "CHRISTAINS do not rob people of ther civil rights. Gay's are still allowed to have relationships and live with each other but we feel mariage is between a man and a woman."

      Good for you. Keep it out of government.

      "If gays want to get married they can but they can not reep the tax benefits married couples have preview to"

      Therefore you are providing unequal protection to a group of citizens. Equal protection is a civil right, and what you propose violates that.

      Here is a solution. Take licensing of marriage out of the hands of government. Domestic Partner agreements for both straight and gay couples. THAT would be what conveys the rights and responsibilities of the couple. Marriages can be performed by churches who are free to discriminate based on whatever they feel is in line with their religious beliefs. The church thing would hold no legal status.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • GodPot

      "do you think al qaeda would embrace gays and give them any rights?"

      Why do Christians think that the agnostics or atheists or LGBT members that give them a hard time would want to replace the Christian hegemony with Islamic theocracy? That is beyond stupid and has the whiff of purposefully deceiving the ignorant, though by your spelling I can tell you are likely just regurgitating someone elses talking points and lies.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Why do Christians think that the agnostics or atheists or LGBT members that give them a hard time would want to replace the Christian hegemony with Islamic theocracy?"

      Because it is their way of saying they know their belief is extreme, so they seek to make it seem less so by pointing out one that is more extreme

      April 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • GodPot

      "they seek to make it seem less so by pointing out one that is more extreme"

      So, they are "purposefully deceiving the ignorant" and "regurgitating" FOX Snooze "talking points and lies"

      April 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      "So, they are 'purposefully deceiving the ignorant'"

      Duh.

      There is a reason that religious fanaticism and education and income level are reversely correlated.

      Tracy here, as a 275 lb former Defense Tackle, seems to fit the bill.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Wow

      "CHRISTAINS do not rob people of ther civil rights."

      Take a history course will ya. Christians were some of the most corrupt, greedy, murders in American history.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  17. Tracy Lee

    to mandarax ... Desmond Tutu, He was the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town. He was catholic..... All the wrongs you people are referring to were done by his church. The Chritain Reformed Church founded by John Calvin in 1559 broke off from the catholic church and does not take land like the catholic church through war and violence but lives among the indigenous people in there villages help build schools and churches and gives medical aid. I admit the name Christain has been tarnished from double minded people and making war in the name of god.. most of you are right when it comes to the negative facts that labels many Christains today....But there are still good Christains that do GODS work weather you like it or not......HATE is bad...allow Christains to have ther own view without ridicule...We will always pray for lost souls so one day they maybe found....

    April 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • sam stone

      When Christians stop trying to deny others' civil rights, others will cut them some slack

      April 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • mandarax

      I agree. The problem people are having with Christianity is the attempts to impose it on others against their will. From fighting same-se.x rights, to revising textbooks, to suppressing science education, to opposing women's healthcare, and on and on, Christianity has quite simply become a threat to free society. For many of us 9/11 and Muslim terrorism in general have given us a terrifying example of what happens when the political influence of religious fundamentalists goes unchecked. The combination of the lack of any objective evidence for Christian beliefs and the potential danger of religious fundamentalism in general makes not speaking out against it an unacceptable, if not unethical, choice.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  18. mandarax

    Tracy Lee: "missionaries help the poor and weak everyday in the name of GOD"

    Desmond Tutu: "When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

    April 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • mandarax

      I would also add that missionaries are at this very moment preaching against condom use in the most AIDS-ridden parts of the world.

      April 24, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  19. Tracy Lee

    to HawaiiGuest.... UNICEF was founded by the united nations general asembly back in world war2.... the united nations has killed more people than it has helped.....it is good you help people but misionaries do it everyday and they have given up their lives to spread gods word.... please put me down before you put innocent people that serve GOD down.....:(

    April 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I will put down anyone that uses conversion, and land to build churches as a requirement for aid.

      April 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • They Are Blind

      You just might as well throw your pearls to the pigs in a pigpen....... they would treat them better then the reprobates on this blog!

      April 25, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • sam stone

      tracy.....you are not serving god. you are complying with the supposed morality of a people who lived and died long ago and far away. how are the supposed values of that society applicable to modern man?

      April 26, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • sam stone

      come on, tracy lee...do you answer questions, or just preach?

      April 26, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  20. Tracy Lee

    to just sayin....you must know everything.... Im just sayin....

    April 24, 2012 at 7:44 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.