In the trailer for his new documentary Monumental, TV actor Kirk Cameron has an 'a-ha! 'moment. While visiting Christian historical revisionist David Barton, Cameron exclaims: "So hold on. The United States Congress was commissioning and printing Bibles to be given to all the people because they knew that that's what would produce the character necessary to make America blossom and flourish and thrive."
It doesn't take much for the Christian Right to embrace the martyrdom narrative. And if you're in showbiz and you've been criticized for anti-gay remarks, the boys in the band - the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, American Values' Gary Bauer, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer among others- will automatically leap to your defense.
Lights, camera, action! - it's close-up time for Kirk Cameron.
In March, while out promoting his new documentary, Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasures, on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," Cameron, who as a young actor starred in the popular television program "Growing Pains," set off a mini-firestorm with comments about gays. Since then, Cameron has both garnered a great deal of publicity for his film (shown in select movie theaters last week), and it has allowed him to play the I-am-being-oppressed-by-the-intolerant-left card, thereby mobilizing the Christian Right.
When asked about his views on homosexuality, Cameron stated that he thought homosexuality is "unnatural," adding "I think that it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."
Responding to a question about same-sex marriage, Cameron said: "Marriage was defined by God a long time ago. Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve -- one man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don't think anyone else should either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don't."
Cameron, who had gone on Morgan's program specifically to publicize Monumental, then made the rounds of the morning shows "denounce[ing] ... Morgan for using sound bites to make him look like a bigot," the joemygod blog reported.
Later, appearing on Washington Watch Weekly with the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins Cameron stated:
"The bottom line is we have so enjoyed sitting in the shade of the trees planted by our forefathers that we have gotten lazy, we're sitting under the tree, enjoying the shade, and we're not planting their seed with our children. That's beginning to change, thank God, I love seeing the homeschool movement, I love seeing these conservative movements and the gospel being proclaimed boldly and fearlessly, not just in America but around the world. And then there's an agenda to want to cut us off from our past, there are those who want to hide the past and our Christian heritage and if you can do so people lose their identity and they are looking for a new identity. If the anti-Christian agenda will say, 'here's your identity, you're an evolved amoeba who ought to just go do whatever you want and don't let anybody tell you different.' Then they can get you to throw your faith, your character, your courage, and your liberty right out the window."
A go-to guy for the Christian Right
When you think Hollywood star power, Kirk Cameron doesn't immediately spring to mind. But, while there are no Oscars or Emmy awards sitting on his shelves, Cameron has won several awards including a Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for his role alongside Dudley Moore in Like Father Like Son. He has been nominated twice for a Golden Globe and won Kids' Choice, Young Artist, and People's Choice awards for his role in the popular television series Growing Pains.
The very fact that Cameron has carved out a career in movies and on television is in itself a significant accomplishment.
Since his Growing Pains days, Cameron has become a kind of go-to guy for Christian television and movie producers. The 41-year-old actor has appeared in all three of the Left Behind films - movies stemming from the best-selling "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic novels by longtime conservative Christian activist Tim LaHaye and his writing partner Jerry Jenkins -- a film called Fireproof - one of the top grossing Christian films of all time -- and a number of TV movies, including Your Lucky Dog, The Growing Pains Movie, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Children of the Crossfire.
Cameron has also achieved notoriety for his anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-creationist brand of conservative Christianity. That brand also includes a healthy dose of David Barton-like Christian historical revisionism.
In 2009, during a well-funded campaign to discredit/debunk Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" on its 150th anniversary, Cameron played the Hitler card, telling People magazine that "You can see where [Hitler] clearly takes Darwin's ideas to some of their logical conclusions and compares certain races of people to lower evolutionary life forms. If you take Darwin's theory and extend it to its logical end, it can be used to justify all number of very horrendous things."
He recently summed his religious/political/philosophic views during an interview with The Christian Post:
"Today, most people are looking to the government to take care of them. Help me with my education. Help me buy a house, and get a job, give me my healthcare, give me my benefits and my government handouts, and take care of me and my family," Cameron said.
"What people are actually doing is looking to the government to be their savior [...] and when you do that, you give all of the power to the savior that you are depending on," he added.
Monumental Christian nationalist historical revisionism
Publicizing Monumental at the recent CPAC conference, Cameron told the audience "We must occupy this land with truth, and that the land of the free starts in the homes of the brave." As Esquire's Charles P. Pierce reported, Cameron "made a movie in which he traces the route of the Pilgrims from England, to Holland, and thence to Plymouth, where they established their colony ..." The National Monument to the Forefathers, Pierce observed, is "an impressive monument, and a tribute to the effectiveness of big-government programs. (It was built with $150,000 contributed by the governments of Connecticut and Massachusetts, and by the federal government.)"
Pierce argued that "The problem," with the Pilgrims "is that, once they established their colony, the Pilgrims became a dreadfully intolerant lot, particularly toward Indians and Quakers and Catholics, particularly after Plymouth Colony was subsumed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony." Others maintain that the Pilgrims were an "intolerant lot" before they arrived on these shores.
Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an expert on historical revisionism, and the author of "Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History."
In a post at the Talk2Action Web site, Rodda noted that she viewed the clips of Cameron's film that were available on line, and found that the "movie promises to be packed with the same Christian nationalist historical revisionism that David Barton is so well known for."
"One of the clips available online," said Rodda, "shows Cameron visiting Barton's personal museum in Texas, and hearing a few of Barton's lies about the early Congress and Thomas Jefferson printing Bibles to spread the word of God to all American families."
Rodda prepared a short video, titled "Monumental" Lies, which focused on the elevated status that Cameron confers upon Barton in the film. According to Rodda, Barton's followers think "that because he owns all these books and documents, he can't be lying about them, he can't be misquoting them, he owns them."
All his ownership proves, says Rodda, is that Barton has ample enough resources to gather up a stack of rare books and documents. (As a former un-credentialed librarian, I was surprised at how un-librarian-like Barton is with the collection. At one point, while showing Cameron a very old Bible, he leafs through it without any protective gloves on his hands.)
Rodda then proceeds to debunk a number of Barton's claims that Cameron has swallowed hook, line and sinker. Cameron even has an "aha!" moment:
"So hold on," Cameron says. "The United States Congress was commissioning and printing Bibles to be given to all the people because they knew that that's what would produce the character necessary to make America blossom and flourish and thrive."
In a recent interview with the Baptist Press, Cameron said that after the film's opening night, it "will have a traditional theater release. So we'll be in maybe 50 theaters around the country that weekend, and then the movie will continue to tour around the country in select markets."
At monumentalmovie.com, Cameron fans can watch the trailer, pre-order the DVD, and sign up to purchase a "Monumental Education Curriculum, " a "40 Day Monumental Family Devotional With Kirk And Chelsea Cameron," and the "Monumental Gift Book."
Columnist and radio talk show host Ed Brayton characterized Monumental as "basically a David Barton screed put on film."