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

    You have to figure division into everything. The people of divide and conqueor are always a busy people. It actually works when you stop to think about it. If you can have an entire population at each others throats. They aren't going to think about what your up to especially when they are throwing raw meat in at the scrimage line. So all the other sects once again are highly promoted everywhere which basically shows me that someone of "means" is involved. People like Rockefeller donate to churchs all the time. The pastors scratch their heads and say yea ok onto glory for him. They never stop to consider the reason the swindler did such a thing in the first place. Or that the guy actually has a big stake in having goober as a worker that works his little fingers to the bone everyday and calls his boss sir and comes back into work the next day. Not to mention all the hot areas the little weasel wants to get into so he can steal some more.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  2. Yes

    So all money for this movie and publicity surrounding it is going to???? Surely he won't pocket any proceeds due to it being a sin. I truly believe (at least in my own Chrisitan beliefs) that you shouldn't have to tell people you are a Christian it should show in your actions.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • KG

      Have you seen the photos from his birthday party? They were posted on either CNN or Yahoo! news and were deriding him for living in such a simple home and were portraying him as rather pathetic. This indicates to me that he likely gives heavily to charity rather than pocketing the money. The article doesn't speak to his income so it seems a stretch for people to make so many assumptions about why he is doing this. If he was in it for the money, I suspect he would be more like that upstanding citizen Rosanne....

      April 14, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  3. Humanist

    Intolerant: Just another blind religious individual, self-righteously believing that his is the only religion and that his beliefs are divinely justified. Everyone else is blind to the truth. He’s willing to tolerate us – but not to the point of affording each of us equal rights to marry, have an abortion, or choose our own general path in life. Surely Kirk believes that if everyone is truly embraced and allowed to be an individual, the country will certainly go to “hell in a hand basket”. I don’t hate Kirk Cameron; he’s just another lost, scared, hypocrite – and I pity him.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • FreedomFromAtheism

      Funny, it sounds like you're being intolerant of his right to hold his religious beliefs. How hypocritical of you!

      April 14, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Bo for Chirst

      I guess your comment about allowing others to be individual doesn't apply to Kirk. Hey, I don't agree with him in a lot of things either, but let's find a way to build rather than blow the bridge down. There's a lot of huffing and puffing in these commentaries.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Scott Fillmer

      wow, that's some great spewing of intolerant hatred you have there, i'm impressed... 🙂 love how you have stereotyped all Christians into your own viewpoint. We all have bias' even as Christians, but that still doesn't mean Christianity is not actually the only way to salvation, even if you refuse to recognize it as such.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • M.F. Luder

      Interesting post, FreedomFromAtheism. You are just as intolerance, obviously.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  4. Rebles83

    Evangelical is just another word for nutcase in my book. Kirk Cameron couldn't continue to make it in the real movie industry so he figured he'd make a living in the religious venue. I'll flat out say it. Anyone who believes in burning, talking bushes is lacking in grey matter. I don't give a crud whether people from the 1600's and 1700's were religious or not. That was still practically the dark ages in some aspects (slavery was practiced by christians). Just because they didn't know science yet doesn't mean I have to follow along with the dummies. Keep your stupid ideas from your 75 IQ away from me and m y family. We don't need the supernatural to get through our day. We get along just fine dealing with it ourselves. Thanks.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Bo for Chirst

      All of us start from the same premise, lack of proof. The Atheist will claim no god because there is no proof, and then the Christian will give their testimony based on the same lack of proof, although there is a perscription in the New Testament to know if these things are true or not, it is not by showing someone else proof, only to be found by individual knocking. So the Atheist will claim believers to be fools for finding a different conclusion than theirs, based on the same lack of proof. When will it end?

      April 14, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • doughnuts

      It will end when the self-deluded realize that their deity is no more real that the thousands of other gods, goddesses, and demi-gods listed in mythology books.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  5. Michael Williams

    Kill yourself kirk cameron no one cares

    April 14, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Wow

      Comments like that should get you banned. Kirk loves you, by the way.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Why wish death upon anyone?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  6. dorothy

    Interesting that many beliefs of the Evangelicals were considered (and in some cases still considered) heretical by older, more traditional Christian Churches. Muslims, of course, consider all Christians to be infidels. America was build on a theme of religious tolerance......something most of the evangelicals know little about. While I believe in God, I also believe that it is pure arrogance for anyone to believe that they know the mind of God. Hence, tolerance of other beliefs that cause no harm to others – including gay marriage – is the true soul of Americanism.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  7. Welled

    Catholic church inventors of Christianty were way, way, more than Constantine and for many reasons. Including distribution of pacification by religion in many places.. If you even believe the date of 300 ad which I don't. I peg it more at 700 ad. See the mistake is that religion used for purposes like pacification just popped into somebodies head. Its age old and it works. Tested and tried used by buffoons and swindlers in many places. Especially in the middle east.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  8. nemo0037

    Cameron keeps making the same mistake over a course of decades. He thinks that "freedom of religion" means "you are free to choose what version of Christianity you WILL follow." I expect he glosses over the cruelties of early American Christians as they praccticed their "religious freedom," punishing people for nodding off in church, outlawing Quakers, and so forth. And he most likely will ignore the fact that most of Amrica's elected leaders completely approved of the principle of church-state separation... Because THEY were well aware of the dangers of sectarian strife, as demonstrated by centuries of religious wars in Europe. Some people just never learn. Apparently, Cameron is one if them.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • doughnuts

      He also ignores the fact that the pilgrims were only a small percentage of the early colonists, and that the majority came for economic reasons rather than religious ones.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  9. palintwit

    Bristol Palin is going to start 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 9:53 am |
  10. msclair

    Kirk, study bible history. All the people who wrote it and changed it, never even met Jesus.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • guerito

      ms clair, study your bible history, matthew, mark, john and jude were written by people that knew Jesus personally.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  11. john

    Here's a quote from THE founding Father, you may find it has pertinence here. "Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and
    irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the
    animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the
    difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and
    distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I was in hopes that the
    enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least
    have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never
    again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the
    peace of society."- George Washington

    April 14, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Truth7

      Look at WHAT is destroying society:

      Atheists and sata.nists placing their darkness over the Light
      Po.rn (every ancient civilization worshipped s.ex ten died out)
      The concentrated effort to destroy families, housing and the middle class
      Taking God out of everything.
      Wolves in sheeps' clothing (those pretending to be believers but are NOT)

      Only one gives blessings and that is our Creator. Man's number is "6" in the Bible. Money and lies are our thorns. That new towe.r of Babel, the "global community", is almost built.

      God tells us point blank "There is nothing new under the sun". Look to the recorded
      events in the Bible and you will see that. The story of Job is to let you know how to recognize the time when sat.an is in charge. He destroyed Job's:

      1. Livelihood/job
      2. Housing
      3. Family
      4. Transportation
      5. Health

      Then Job's "friends" told Job that he must have deserved it and that he was in the wrong. Look around you. All TRUTH. There is a far greater purpose in this life than one could ever imagine.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      A M E N !

      April 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Founding fathers never dreamed that the sentiment against Christianity and God of Christianity and His principles would one day become so hostile , that this country and so many of its people would practically declare its independence from Him.
      The way you are viewing things, the way you are interpreting the foundign fathers words and the MEANING OF THEM, is influenced by your own bias and agenda, and it is NOT TRUE to the intents of those who spoke them. The word "liberal" in context of their way ot thinking is totally different from what it represents today. I think we all can agree on that!
      Founding fathers were people who honored the Bible and recognized that to live by its principles is the ONLY WAY to build a safe, productive and peaceful country and society and preserve it for their posterity. But what we're seeing done by hostile- toward- Chritianity crowd is nothing but destruction of it.

      SO what this young man says what he said, it presents the truth in its fullest REALITY! It is no wonder that he is getting such hateful outlash, and being viciously attacked by all those who hate Christianity and God of Christianity. They will resort to anything, just to discredit him, because their hatred !

      April 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  12. Lew

    Such great effort by the writer to discredit a Christian, but no vetting of the distractors, like Throckmorton, hmmm, makes you wonder....

    April 14, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  13. Martin

    evangelicals are bigot cult jerks

    April 14, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  14. Welled

    You think someone would learn how to grow a tomato. Its stupid to exchange labor for food visa vie paper cash. In Israel way back when those were called migrant workers. The usury people loved them.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  15. budshot

    He's in it for the money, first. Otherwise he'd be raising money and attention to fight poverty or something like that. Even the staged promotional picture with this article points up his need to market and use faith as a way to make money. And, if I'm correct, his god said not to do that very thing.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  16. bexon

    Every religion was born as one man's idea.
    Catholic Church – Roman Empror – Emperor Constantine
    JW – Charlse T. Russel
    SDA – Helen G. White
    Mormon – Joseph Smith
    Islam – Mohamed
    Church of the Nazarene – George Sharpe
    Baptist – John Smyth
    Black Penticostal "Church of God in Christ" – William J. Seymour
    White Penticostal "Assemblies of God" – Charles F. Parham

    April 14, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Truth7

      Read the Bible with God's help and you would understand what happened. Religion is the SEA BEAST, created by MEN(as you state).

      Jesus did NOT preach "religion". People are NOT doing as He commanded:

      "I take testimony from no MAN"
      "They are to be taught by GOD"

      They are NOT listening. Right upfront He states that "one must certify that God is truthful". If they actually did that step, they wouldn't then see those words as anything other than what they mean. The Truth. Fellowship is wanted, not taking learning from man. The blind (without knowledge) lead the blind right to the pit.

      April 14, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • doughnuts

      If you really wanted to be a follower of Christ's word, you'd be Jewish...or Buddhist.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  17. Welled

    Oh they get paid. You might want to keep that in mind. Theyre masters have them do and say pretty much what they want. Thats why they "bought" them in the first place.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  18. T

    Response to Donna – there seem to be plenty of non-believers on this blog. The subject is Belief or Religion, but it doesnt exclude people from saying they are non-belivers.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  19. Bob

    Kirk's been around (and getting debunked) for years. Like most actors who take up causes, he's not too bright.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  20. Welled

    Heather you wait till the end. Then all the people that held back your wages. Will fling their gold. (mostly stolen anyway) out of their caves and say hide us. Deal is Heather you might want to consider they want you to be good while they take everything thats yours not to mention everything else they can get their hands on and leave a hell in front of your nose. So you will be good and not interfere while they help themseleves. Be quiet and mind your own business Heather working with your hands building their little empire for them. Cause Jesus is coming to get them.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Welled,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.

      Our souls' redeemer and King of God's Sons and Daughters, the Lord Christ Jesus does every minute in every day within every year send His armies to plunder His Buildings that have fallen and can no longer function! For you see, our bodies are God's buildings. Some of our bodies are temples where the Godly do worship within and some are mansions while others are for storage uses.

      1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:02 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.