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. Billy Graham

    Is Kirk also going to tell us how God designed our current banana in this film? I'm sure next he'll tell us how God gave us our current version of corn too.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • jim86

      I hope so that was quite funny the first time!

      April 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  2. sybaris

    KC epitomizes "one man's delusion is a societies religion".

    April 14, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  3. Welled

    The guy is a 100 octane phoney. I could care less about "gay rights". Hes a poser. He could care less about religion. Cares more about himself than anything else. I never really liked him. I have seen some of his religous movies. Like My Left Behind. Which are absoulutly ridiculous. He's of course pushing PR for the debt merchants and cash printers. Who own just about every finished asset on the earth. I am getting tired of religion for dummy's. I am getting even more tired of typing words to keep up with the onslaught of deliberate skewing of anything that is accurate in the debt merchant, cash printer owned news. The more put out the angrier I get. If your sitting waiting for some kind of 360 revolution. Theres no point. Cause I ain't changing.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Jim

      Although I'm not a fan of Cameron's stances, your diatribe is just pure juvenile gum-bumping. You "know" nothing about his intentions and/or integrity but you pronounce a mindless and baseless judgement on his intentions without any knowledge or proof.

      It is sad to see such rank presupposition and vileness so early in the morning....

      April 14, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  4. Nicole

    Interesting how people who don't believe on God are so "disturbed" by Christians. It's called Christian Bigotry. Your bothered by your sordid little lives. If you don't believe in God, that's your business. No need to put others down. You're just jealous because we have something to believe in.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • sybaris

      Well Nicole when the religious wingnuts stop trying to introduce legislation based on their religion then we'll stop caring about what they do.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Danny

      Nikki, dear Nikki, I am happy that you have faith. It's your belief. I do not share your belief. What disturbs me is your belief that we should all think and feel as you do. Religion is faith. Not fact. Please remember that.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No jealousy involved Nicole. Some of us grew up and base our beliefs on things that can be verified to exist. It's not christard bigotry when the christard belief involves wishing harm upon anyone who does not believe...it is merely us telling you to check your on morals before judging us.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Well, no, Nicole. What many people – atheists and theists alike – have problems with are the ongoing, rabid attempts to subvert the law an emplace a theocracy built upon their beliefs and their beliefs only, complete with criminalization of any beliefs that run counter to theirs and the use of the power of the state to enforce and punish such diversity. Quit trying to shove your religion down other's throats, and there won't be any problem at all from the vast majority of people. Keep it up, and you make bringing back the lions look a lot more attractive.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • mark

      Not disturbed specifically by christians.. disturbed by any and all organized religion whatsoever.. christianity in all its forms, buddism, islam, judiasm, et all.. anything that assembles a group of people to control what they believe and promote intolerance of others beliefs..its all about power. and its all inherently evil, or at least WRONG, at its core.

      Faith has absolutely NOTHING to do with it at all. The sooner you and people like you start understanding that, the better off everyone will be.. ie you can be part of the *problem* or part of the *solution* to all the death and destruction caused in the name of religion. YOUR choice...

      As far as your faith (in whatever it is, its yours alone) is concerned.. I hope it keeps you happy, gets you through your day, and makes life better for you.. Faith (again, in whatever it is you have faith in) is HOPE. Its necessary and vitally import.. Religion distorts it, uses it to promote intolerance, and undermines everyones faith at their very cores.. Its BAD..Slowly we are starting to understand this as a species.. Hope we get there before it destroys us.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  5. SixDegrees

    Kirk Cameron never should have volunteered as a test subject for undiluted brain do uche.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  6. Jerry

    All religious people are crazy. Religion has nothing to do with God. All their stupid rules and sins must make God laugh out loud.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • mb2010a

      God does seem to have a strange sense of humor...

      April 14, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  7. Vic

    This guy has the right to do whatever he wants, and if he's going to put his opinion out there in a public forum I have the right not to agree with him. Particularly if he threatens my way of life either religiously or socially. I think it's suspect when someone talks about a universal god and shoehorns that idea into just "our country". The only thing I would demand of this kind of person is to make sure that if their church's starts mingling in politics that they pay taxes. I don't think any church should have a say in our politics unless their pay taxes like the rest of us. Deal is, you get to do what you want within reason, but stay out of our political system. Our country is diverse and not one religious ideology should try to speak for all of us. And that's my problem with this guy, he is so sure of what he feels in his heart that he would force that idea on all of us if he could, as well intentioned as that might be, not thanks Kirk. What you dismiss is that many of us have walked our own paths, thought a lot about what we believe in and are fortunate to live in a place where we can make our own choices. I would also say to him, remember your not god, and what makes you a better teacher of Christ than the next guy. Is that you have been on a TV show and you feel you can reach more people? It's a sad statement when sitcom stars decide they know what's good for us, or what ails us just because they can yell louder. And remember folks, this guy could be really smart or a wack job, we don't know him, remember Mel? Look how that turned out, seemed ok in the start didnt it?

    April 14, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  8. mjbrin

    hmmmm.....decided to check out something more about this monumental movie and the page i first came upon was "kirkcameron.com"
    since i was raised catholic it "surprised" me to see a Christian promoting himself more than the lord.....very sad

    April 14, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    April 14, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • augustghost

      prayer=glorified begging

      April 14, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Margaret Whitestone

      Let me know when an atheist blows up a women's clinic, kills a gay person or flies a plane into a building in the name of "no-gods".

      April 14, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • mb2010a

      Christianity is not healthy for children and other living things and prayer has never accomplished anything...

      April 14, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Prayer=Pathetic waste of time.

      How many times are you going to keep posting this foolish thought?
      Nobody believes you are anything more than a fool.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • mark

      Morons like you promoting intolerance of others' faith is not healthy for the human race.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  10. downinfront

    I got an idea. Let's hijack the teachings of Christ for our political agenda!

    April 14, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • mb2010a

      You must be a Republican...

      April 14, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • sybaris

      Actually whatever is in the gospels or allegedly attributed to someone named Jesus is just hearsay written long after the alleged crucifiction.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  11. mark

    No.. What is sick in this country, and the world, is the continued existence of organized religion. Why any intelligent, thinking, reasonable human would think otherwise is baffling. Its beyond obvious. It has nothing to do with Faith and never-ever ever has.. they are about power over others.. That is ALL religion has ever been about. ALL of them. And there is proof of this everywhere.. 9/11, crusades, isreal/pakistan, the entire middle east really, Pedophile priests.. it goes on and on and on and on.. This country is slowly moving away from religion (though not nearly fast enough).. As we evolve, we are getting there, so there is hope. FWIW.. I'm very conservative politically , (so don't go ranting about lefties).. . But as far as I'm concerned, the far right freaks are just as bad if not worse than the left...

    April 14, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  12. Thomas

    It's a free country. Kirk Cameron can do whatever he wants.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • SixDegrees

      It's a free country. He can't do whatever he wants without facing criticism.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  13. geneticopera

    So no one is beaten to death over a period of 3 hours in this new Christian movie? Whats the point of watching it if no one is beaten to death?

    April 14, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  14. tomnikoly

    “Faith in God … produces character"

    It also produces lots of "characters", and Mr. Cameron is one.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  15. William

    For years the Left has made this man the butt of many jokes. The only thing worse to a Leftest than a conservative or Christian would be if he was a Jew. I have noticed during election years CNN brings their "religious" stories front and center.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • helen1233

      I think Cameron has made himself a joke – the left has just pointed it out.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • tomnikoly

      Are you saying the left is anti-Semitic?

      April 14, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Thomas

      CNN brings some religious stories front and center all the time. Election year politics has no more to do with this story than with every religious story they run.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Margaret Whitestone

      No, he's made himself the butt of many jokes.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – it's a religion blog. They publish articles here every week, usually several, and have been doing so for some time.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  16. marjee123

    Another has-been trying to create a new name for himself. Wonder why it is these so "ferverent" types always has been actors who jump on the republican band wagon with these religious crap they start to spew.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • William

      Hes been making movies and TV shows with a Christian theme for years. Within that community his name is well known.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  17. David Webb

    Someone needs to teach Kirk the concept of minority rights, majority rule......

    April 14, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • William

      I dont remember him calling gays names or calling for them to be hung as they are in Iran or beheaded like in other countries. He can believe what he wants. That is his Right as an American.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • carol

      The wages of sin is (eternal) death BUT the gift of God is eternal life. Judgement comes at the end of the age. Better to have your sins forgiven than not. Hope you find the truth before it's too late.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  18. alfranken

    Kirk needs to read the Jefferson Bible and understand why Jefferson prevented the controversial storm that Kirk created for himself.

    Thomas Jefferson kept his Bible a secret and only included passages that had to do with the story of Jesus in the context of this quote "to the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed ; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself" - Thomas Jefferson, 1803

    April 14, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • z

      didnt he like pick and choose what he want to believe. And Thomas Jefferson is correct over all the many other founding fathers because...? And he is correct and Abraham Lincoln is wrong because...?
      Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. "Deuteronomy 4:2"
      5 “Every word of God is flawless;
      he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
      6 Do not add to his words,
      or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
      "Proverbs 30:5-6"
      Also Revelation 22:18-19, Galatians 1:6-12

      April 14, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  19. PensacolaPet

    Note to Newt Gingrich, Jesus said, " I abhor divorce". He never even mentioned gays.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • .

      He doesn't like gays either.

      So what's your problem, tinkerbell?

      April 14, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  20. Jason

    Behold the banana the atheist nightmare lol.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Ray Comfort stopped using the "banana as an example of Gods' perfectly created fruit for mankind" when it was revealed that the modern day banana was a carefully cultivated and selected variant of a tough nearly inedible plantain type fruit. Science in the form of artificial selection, not nature gave us the banana we all love and enjoy. Ray got pwned...

      April 14, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • .

      Ahh, poor little closed minded Stevie the hate-theist.... you didn't stop to consider that God made the scientist who created the fruit. He works in mysterious ways.

      So go F#$#@k yourself.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Mirosal

      to the little "dot person" - we'll consider that "god" made the scientist, IF you can prove to us that ANY "god" made anything at all. Hey, it's your claim, the onus is on YOU.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      I never consider your imaginary friend as being responsible for anything whatsoever, let alone guide the rational minds of scientists.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:25 am |
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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.