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. Welled

    Yea well Obama is the only elected leader in a majority white nation. No black nation has elected a white. Not really any senators or govenors. Some people are really, really plialble and gullible. Pacification is nessesary for the past invasions and future plans for invasions. Not to mention a NBA owner running for president of Russia. Sup'

    April 14, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  2. moses

    What a whack job.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  3. Mike

    I am a Libertarian who believes in a higher power in our world, but I doubt there is a "God" in the christian model. I think Jesus was a holy man....not the son of God. I support gay marriage and have several "dometstic partner" couples friends. So I am far from being an evangelical aligned with Cameron's views. But I am sickened by the vitriol spewed at this guy by supposed "progressives". Rosanne Barr calling him an accomplice to murder with his "hate speech"?!?!?!

    “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.”

    What a hate monger!!!!! Hey "Progressives"......ya wonder why some call liberals facists......read this article with an actual open mind and you might see who really is hateful and intollerant!

    April 14, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • greg

      Jesus is Lord.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Wholly Mary

      greg-jesus is lard, greasing the palms of the greedy.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  4. Momov8

    Twenty plus years ago, my young daughter was fighting cancer and was given a "wish" through a Wish Foundation. Her wish was to meet Kirk Cameron. He was compassionate, sensitive, giving of his time beyond the "call of duty."His convictions and faith was reflected in the love that he showed to my daughter and my family. If Christianity is the basis of his love and kindness to others then "god bless him." Our country could use a lot more love (as demonstrated in these post each and every day) for each other regardless of the underlying beliefs.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • greg

      God gives cancer to children for a reason. Some deserve it, but it's all part of His plan. Kirk is a wonderful man of the Lord.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Carol

      I'd rather have harsh truth than insincere "loving" based on bizarre, invalid beliefs such as those of Christianity.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Carol

      Uh, Greg, so you are saying god wants kids to suffer for no reason at all, unnecessarily? That makes your god quite the ass-hole, ya know.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Momov8

      Children don't get cancer because god gives it to them. No god could do that.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @greg: What a horribly immoral thing to say!!! No child deserves cancer. You're a monster, just like your god!!! Then again you support a bigot, so we can't expect much intelligent info to come from someone of your type!

      April 14, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  5. palintwit

    Bristol Palin is going to be spitting out bi-racial babies left and right. You watch. Then she'll write a book about it. Then all the idiot teabaggers and evangelicals will buy the book. And then the dancing cow will be dancing all the way to the bank.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  6. Welled

    Like I have seen Syrians not playing the "choosen" role but playing the Christian roles. Syrians live for that kind of thing those of you that know them. Take a town like Homs filled with refugees. Those aren't Syrians. Take Assads wife you might be closer to the truth. Then again you never get anything but a distance shot on Damascus or the south side of town. I'd say Assad but he has that hokey mustache. If you only knew how they like doing things like that.....

    April 14, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  7. Geoff

    Whatever makes the little guy happy. He loves his Jesus stories.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • moses


      April 14, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  8. Welled

    See people don't "realize" there are about 9 solid different semetic peoples. Thats because they think the only ones that are left are the Hebrews for the most part. Leave it to the debt merchant CNN and Fox not to make mention of that and only fill us up with daily drivil and division. Go to Wikipedia and look up semitic. Much of it is accurate. You will may not find Camerons group there. Like I say its not entirely accurate. But you may get a bigger picture. Not all of them like the Hebrews. Most Hebrews I know. Really nice people (not all). They generally ignore most of this. The ones that "play it up" well they are usually playas' more than not.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:00 am |

      Who cares?

      April 14, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  9. NoMoreLabels

    Hey...maybe he'll tell the banana joke...er...story again...lol

    April 14, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  10. Christian Girl

    Thank God there is someone out there in hollywood who stands for the right things! I wonder what the unbelievers will think when Jesus comes back and they realize all the things this man has said is completly true! God bless you Kirk Cameron for stepping up and doing what us Christians need to be doing. Preaching the Word of God to the whole world!

    April 14, 2012 at 8:59 am |

      You're a mongrel idiot.

      The bible proves itself wrong.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Carol

      CG, how come your "god" can't do its marketing for itself? Pretty weak god you've created for yourself there.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      When Jesus comes back? When was the last time someone came back from the dead?

      April 14, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • moses

      Christian Girl, you sound kind of hot. I bet you're a nasty little thang...

      April 14, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Wholly Mary

      And then she woke up! This BARELY "has been" is has nothing to do with "Hollywood" whatsoever.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  11. Mike

    Congratulations Kirk for sharing the good news. Many will persecute you for your faith, though God is always with you. God bless you!

    April 14, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • l. andretti

      Go Kirk, I am behind you a 100%. This country is in moral rot at this point.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Bigotry runs deep!

      April 14, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  12. Charles

    Way to go Kirk Cameron. Never mind all the haters. They are just jealous.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Carol

      No, Charles, we're just a lot smarter than you are, and haven't fallen for Cameron's nonsense, nor for your idiotic religious fairy tales.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • greg

      Well said, Charles.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No Charles, realists don't tend to be jealous of imaginary things. It would be you who is jealous of us...jealous of the fact that we don't live in fear; jealous that without a belief in an unknown, unverifiable god we are able to fully live our lives.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  13. Welled

    If you play lead Zepplin backwards. Cameron actually made a tape on this. You can hear the devil. If you listen carefully you can hear potential job seekers and people who want to keep their jobs. (way to many are way to hip to hire someone that would fall for the bible its part of their business loan agreement). Wailing foolishness into the night. The Christians stare in wide eyed wonder with that feets don't fail me now look on their face.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  14. E

    CCOKC google it.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:53 am |

      Did you misspell a word?

      April 14, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  15. Welled

    Camerons nothing but a Semite who like playing the "Gods Chosen people" game. Many Semites love playing that game its kind of the thing to do. I'm a Semite not a Hebrew its fun and laughter bringing God into a situation and watching people stand back and stare in awe. I can even get a sandwich made for me if I pull it off. He's nothing but and Israel pumper. Which serves to entrench the cash printers and debt merchants more into the middle east and nearer to Africa where their are many goodies awaiting.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Saved

      What are you babbling about?!

      April 14, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  16. AGuest9

    Yet another out-of-work actor wanting press.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  17. DaveInPA

    Kirk is as extreme and out of touch as Santorum. SEPARATION of Church and State boys !!!

    April 14, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  18. Mother

    Kirk Cameron is an idiot. Saw a video of him claiming that the "scientific evidence" of god's existence was the fact that bananas fit in the hands of humans. It would be pitiful if this yahoo wasn't making millions off this crap.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:46 am |

      Ray comfort made that claim. Kirk was just along for the ride in the video. They're both a couple of mind cripples.

      April 14, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Natalie Neilsen

      Now, that's funny stuff..

      April 14, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  19. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    when ever an "artist" fails in his genre, be it music or acting he can switch to being a christian musician or writer or whatever and immediately get a captive audience.
    most of these christian performers are not very good at their craft.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • l. andretti

      and if you are a donut salesperson, i can just imagine how stale and boring your donuts are

      April 14, 2012 at 9:11 am |

    Ooooooh, so kirk took some time off from blowing ray comfort to speak about this stupidity again?

    Fantastic news.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • mel gibson

      im surprised the cocksucker had enough time to come up for air before getting blasted in the face with a hot steamy money shot what a fuckin idiot

      April 14, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • greg

      All of your hatred for this guy is so evident, read through these responses, I mean there's ways to express you disapproval of a man without all of this demonic hatred.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:02 am |

      Demons don't exist, numbnuts.

      Just because you don't approve of the method of disapproval doesn't mean everyone else has to change. Therefore, I invite you to shut your stinking pie hole. Thanks in advance.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:04 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.