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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. No religion thank you

    I urge all rational people to check out "Attack of the Theocrats" by Sean Faircloth (foreward by Richard Dawkins – my hero). It is very enlightening.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  2. Aezel

    LOL. Kirk Cameron, the reason the Golden Crocoduck Awards exist.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Godfrey

      Yeah, why didn't this article mention the Crocoduck or Cameron's lunatic friend Ray Comfort?

      Why do a fluff piece on this guy?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  3. J Mann

    Yes, you can't forget religion's role in history, my has-been Hollywood heartthrob friend. The slaughter of innocents, the torture of heretics and non-believers, the suppression of science, the Dark Ages, burning witches at the stake, and so on – these things are notable indeed and need to be..well...noted.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Truth7

      They are noted – in Revelation.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Just on the accounts of humanisms' history trees are ladled with the religious being ever so fearful of God's impending wrath should they investigate things does in no way or shape or formula make today's closeted christians alikened to their pruned branches being thown upon the dung heaps!

      April 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  4. green lyon

    This movie is filled with complete lies about history. the truth from John Adams' letter to Thomas Jefferson of January 22, 1825- "The Europeans are all deeply tainted with prejudices both ecclesiastical and temporal which they can never get rid of. They are all infected with episcopal and presbyterian creeds and confessions of faith." The preachers of hate will try to use sorcery and lies to control you and put you under their spell.

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

    Its complex alright nonsense usually is. The people that write directions on how to put that playground set for junior together are nothing but technical writters that write for a broad scope of products and have no work experince in what they are writting about. So if it dosen't make sense you now know why.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  6. KSharp

    The first English Bible was printed by Congress? Um, no. The first hand-written English Bibles were made in the late 1300s by John Wycliffe. The first Bible (well, New Testament) printed in the English vulgate can be attributed to William Tyndale in 1525. His disciple, Coverdale, completed his work and printed the first complete English Bible in 1535. Aitken's American version is certainly important, but by no means the "first" anything.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  7. RLGESQ1

    With 1/3 the US self-identifying as "born again", and in the South among Republicans 75-80% so identifying, he should have a basic market for his work. If his appeal goes beyond evangelicals to the 78% (per Gallup 2011) of Americans who self-identify as Christian then he should do well.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  8. Bill

    First, those of you who are not Christians, have no real understanding of the Bible. Admittedly, I have very little understanding as well. It is quite complex and very difficult to truly understand. It is said, you will only understand once you are a child of God and that understanding grows over time. Christians live in different levels based on how much they know and obey the word of God. The Bible was written by God. It is God breathed, men just wrote down the words. You will never see the Bible contradict itself and when you think you come across a time that it does, you need to find out what is really meant by the passage.

    Christians are commanded to love everyone and not to judge. All to often we do though. I have no idea other than what the Bible tells me, which I truly believe is accurate, who will end up in Heaven or hell. God tells us, you that have put your FAITH in Jesus Christ and believe he died for your sins and was resurrected, shall be saved. Beyond that all else and all good you do is pointless before coming to Christ. Once you are saved, you will understand, until then you are lost in Christ.

    I am not wishing anyone go to hell. To the contrary, I want everyone to come to Christ and feel his warmth and understand his magnificence. I will repeat what many have said before me. I know that I am right believing in Christ and God, but what if you are wrong and don't come to Him? The reason God is going to judge and send people hell is not because He does not love you, but it is because He has put His word out for the world to read, yet YOU are rejecting Him. He has given us so many chances to come to Him, but over and over we fail Him. There is good news though, you still have time! I love you all and I pray right now that you stop what you are doing and come to Christ. Amen

    April 14, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • PantyRaid

      You don't understand, so you just choose to believe in it?

      Nice critical thinking on your part. I'm happy you're not my doctor.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • dorothy

      I read the Bible and I am 100% sure that gays and gay marriage is not condemned in the Bible. Yet, you see people like Kirk trying to convince people to the contrary. It is very sad.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Bill

      I said little understanding. But I am quite sure it is a bit more than you think. And yes, I love Him truly.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • B52 (Heavy)

      EXCELLENT! 🙂

      April 14, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Carol

      That's quite the leap of faith, Bill, that you've taken, and there's really no justification for it. How do you account for all the errors and self-contradictions in your holy book, and all the suffering that innocents have to endure, as a result of your god's purported actions? Or do you just brush that "minor" stuff aside as due to your insufficient "understanding" too?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Stephen

      So basically, you're just hedging your bets then? Better safe than sorry, so I'm going to convince myself of a bunch of nonsense so that when I die I can see Sparky my old dog and all my zealot friends in Paradise. Well done. I have to admit, you've got the rhetoric down pat. But to my way of thinking, your God sounds extremely petty. "Well, I told them if they wanted to believe they could join me in Heaven, but screw them that don't blindly follow me – I will smite them." That doesn't sound like the same person who allegedly died for us, now does it? Regardless, sure if you and Kirk Cameron are the ones getting into Heaven, having to listen to the likes of you for Eternity would be my Hell.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • SciGuy

      Dorothy: God con.demns many things in the Bible. Idolatry, adultery, murder, theft to name a few. Ho.mo.se.xual acts to name another. If you've read the Bible, and come away "100% sure" that ho.mo.se.xual acts are not cond.emned, you have a serious reading comprehension problem.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Godfrey

      You'll have a tough job convincing most atheists that you know more about the Bible than they do. As an atheist, I have studied the Bible very closely, and so have most atheists I know. In fact, many people became atheists as a RESULT of studying the Bible; it's very apparent when you read it closely that it is little more than a disparate collection of primitive nonsense written by primitive minds. There's some good stuff in it as well, but it's certainly not "holy".

      I challenge you–and all believers–to suspend your belief while reading it. In other words, try to read it as merely a "book". Try not to read it with phoney "reverence". Pretend it's someone else's god you're reading about.

      I dare you.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Bill

      Carol,

      There are no errors in the Bible. It comes down to being a Christian or not. Obviously you have not come to Him yet. I hope you do some day though. Actually the suffering in the world is not God's fault. WE are sinners who have created the sin, God wants us to stop it all.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Bill

      Stephen,

      You see my point? You do not understand. I don't believe out of convenience, I believe of my own free will, because I trust in the Lord. Jesus died for our sins, it is time to repay Him and believe! Belief is by FAITH.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Bill

      Godfrey,

      I haven't always been saved. I have read the Bible on both sides. I can truly say that you do not understand the Bible or outright reject Christ. It is a sad realization that your conclusion is what it is. I hope you change your mind some day as many unbelievers have done before you. The good news is that you are always welcome to change your thought process and come to God. You will then be filled with the Holy Spirit and you will believe. Until then, I wish you the best and hope God softens your heart to let him in. God bless you.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  9. Andrew

    A new rash of state GOP hate laws against women, education, gays and minorities and you claim we need MORE "christianity" in government. Nuts.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  10. Welled

    I have no respect for people that print the cash. To me they are low grade hustlers and swindlers. To you its lifestyles of the rich and famous and motivation to aim for something in your life which they just adore. Nothing spins the wheel faster than a hampster looking for food. Me I'm not fooled by the paper you can't eat it, drink it, live in it or drive it to work. Me I'm after the assets. The finished goods. So I'm after their assets. That could include your house. Because if they can throw you out for any reason you don't own it. They do.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  11. Andrew

    Yeah, what we need is good mix of politics and religion like back in the KLAN times. Thanks for playing, Kirk.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  12. Andrew

    AGAIN????

    April 14, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  13. OldMo

    I'm happy for Kirk because, from what I've seen/heard from him, he has a much more sound doctrine than the mega-church and emergent/emerging "church" wolves who are devouring the flock in massive numbers. Please people protect yourselves by reading the Bible and then you'll spot these wolves at the pulpit from a mile away.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • tolajn

      It is easy to interpret the bible literally when you have a majority status in a society. White, male and Christian in the U.S. is a ticket to sail through biblical stories without reading the story, the players, the politics and social norms of the day. If Jesus was so concerned about the bible being taken literally why then did he not insist on scribes taking down his every move and word. It was sevety years after Jesus graced this earth in the flesh that the Book of Mark was written. The bible is a love story between God and his creation and he most certainly makes it clear that those on the margins of society are to be given extra care, not to have dogma crammed down their throats that the world is about to end. Jesus warned not to fixate on when the world would end, yet to live each day as a gift, not something to hoard with the mindset being it must be viewed as "my way or the highway."

      April 14, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  14. T

    All of you atheists out there – are you reading and listening to yourselves? All of the hate-filled, nasty comments? You profess to be educated and enlightened, but you sound like idiots.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      The same can be said of the christians commenting. Some more hateful than others.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • dorothy

      That would be true of most zealots – whether it is the Christian ones or the Athiest ones. If we learned nothing else from 911, we should have learned that Zealots of any belief system are dangerous – be they christians, muslims, jews, or atheists. American was based on tolerance and equality.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • tolajn

      And to talk smack like that as a Christian is even worse! You don't win folks over like with a Sarah Palin mentality of creating division by demeaning others.

      Did you come to Christ by someone telling you that you were an idiot for not knowing Jesus? Really?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  15. Rob

    Christians are like gays, the just can't help rubbing it in your face.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Stephen

      Hilarious!

      April 14, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  16. UberZeitgeist

    It is unfortunate that so many people feel the need to turn their life over to God, to some external source of control. Rather than living for themselves, guided by their own inherent wisdom and insight. What an actor thinks about marriage or equal marriage rights is of little import. We know what is correct and true. And that comes from within–not from a book, like the bible, or from a pulpit.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • AGuest9

      They claim to possess free will, however, the rest of us know better.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  17. Craig

    Stop talking to invisible people.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Stop being so visible and put on the cloak of invisibility and become one's own ghost! 🙂

      April 14, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  18. DarthWoo

    I occasionally wonder if he realizes that he is among the laughingstocks of evangelicals, or if he's somehow deluded himself enough to think people respect him?

    April 14, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  19. AGuest9

    Kirk Cameron and Mel Gibson. At least CNN is putting names and faces on these people that the rest of us should avoid.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  20. Frustratedtexan

    I always laugh when I read articles about how christianity is under attack. I recently moved to Lubbock Texas and almost literally there are churches everywhere. Christianity is not under attack at all, in fact it is more pervasive than ever. To the contrary christianity is still being shoved down our throats and christians get upset when anyone says anything derogatory about their faith. I was watching a movie the other day on basic cable and they had actually dubbed over when an actor said "jesus christ" because I guess they were afraid it would offend christians.

    The world is hopefully becoming more secular again as it should be. Our prominent founding fathers i.e. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, were not not religious men at all and were deists at best. They believed in separation of church and state not to protect religion from the state but to protect the state from religious intrusion and obviously no that is exactly what we have in America today. All of the things christians point to such as "under god" in the pledge and "in god we trust" on money are very recent events, as recent as the 50's. We are in fact, contrary to what the religious nut jobs say, becoming more religious all the time and that scares many many Americans.

    I heard a speech by the idiot Santorum talking about how our children are being "indoctrinated" by secularism in American colleges. What a bunch of crap! The indoctrination is taking place in the homes of these children and they are being told a bunch of lies and just like Santa Clause they believe it for a while until they get to college and learn new things and meet people with different points of view and actually begin to use their brains a little.

    Attack on christianity in America, give me a break.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Keeping one eye on and keeping an eye out is keeping one's eyes crossed by God! 🙂

      April 14, 2012 at 10:21 am |
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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.