Kirk Cameron is an actor best known to the general public for his role in the ’80s TV sitcom “Growing Pains.” Today he’s a fundamentalist Christian best known for appearances in low-budget Christian-themed movies and for his outspoken ultra-conservative viewpoint.
Cameron sparked controversy in March when he went on CNN’s “Piers Morgan” to promote his new film “Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure” and wound up bashing gays and gay marriage. In response to a Morgan question, Cameron said homosexuality is “unnatural.... It’s detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”
His remarks produced a strong rebuke from the LGBT community and its allies, but largely overlooked in the discussion was the broader theocratic agenda Cameron seems to be peddling.
The film was released March 27 in a special nationwide event at over 500 theaters. Although Cameron tried to pitch the documentary as overlooked history, the production involved a cavalcade of far-right “experts” that push “Christian nation” revisionism. (It also received a boost from former Fox News ranter Glenn Beck, who appeared in a special livestream introduction beamed into theaters before the film.)
Among those appearing in “Monumental” is David Barton, the notorious fundamentalist myth-maker whose Texas-based WallBuilders outfit has made a fortune selling Christian nation books, brochures and videos.
Another featured expert is Herb Titus, a law professor so extreme that TV preacher Pat Robertson had to push him out as head of Regent University Law School. (In more recent times, Titus has distinguished himself as a luminary in “birther” circles that question whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States.)
A third participant in the film is Marshall Foster, founder of the World History Institute (as well as the now apparently defunct Mayflower Institute). Foster thinks that America should be a “Christian republic,” that public schools should be shut down and that all of life must be governed by a “biblical worldview,” just as in the days of the Pilgrims and Puritans.
Foster is “co-writer” of the “Monumental” script. According to online sources, he met Cameron in an airport and the relationship developed from there.
The theme of the movie is that the Pilgrims came to America seeking religious liberty, and they organized a model Christian community that we ought to emulate today.
Legitimate historians note, however, that the Pilgrims and Puritans came here seeking religious liberty, but set up a regime that gave freedom only to themselves. In keeping with its religious viewpoint, the Plymouth Colony prescribed the death penalty for adulterers, homosexuals and witches, whipping for those who denied the scriptures and fines for anyone harboring a Quaker.
Observes Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, “The Pilgrims played an important role in the history of America, but we don’t want to emulate their 17th-century theocracy today. That approach to government is exactly what America’s founders repudiated when they gave us our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The United States is based on principles of church-state separation, individual freedom, equality and fairness, not anyone’s religion.”
Journalists and bloggers who monitor the Religious Right are particularly troubled by Cameron’s warm relationship with the Christian Reconstructionist camp, the most overtly radical faction of the Religious Right.
Unlike most fundamentalist Christians, adherents of this harsh theology aren’t expecting the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Instead they want to take “dominion” and impose a draconian version of biblical law on modern-day America for the next thousand years or so.
Leading theorists of the movement advocate a rigid patriarchy with women in a second-class status, state-sanctioned slavery and the death penalty for a range of “crimes” running from adultery and homosexuality to witchcraft and worshipping false gods. Not every disciple of “theonomy,” as it is sometimes called, endorses every specific tenet of the agenda, but they share a commitment to imposing their version of God’s law on everyone.
Cameron has repeatedly appeared at conferences sponsored by Doug Phillips, whose Vision Forum ministry has a distinctly Christian Reconstructionist bent. Most recently Cameron served as a featured celebrity at Phillips’ “Christian Filmmaker’s Academy” in San Antonio in February.
Flogging his new movie, Cameron took the stage with Phillips, and the two enthusiastically discussed how the Pilgrims built a society based on scripture rather than sitting around waiting for some biblically prophesied end of the world.
Phillips doesn’t use the term “Christian Reconstructionism” much in his work, but the dominionist stance taken by his ministry clearly reflects that mindset. Vision Forum sells the Institutes of Biblical Law, the three-volume masterwork of the late Rousas J. Rushdoony, godfather of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. Phillips credits Rushdoony for the conversion of his father, right-wing political activist Howard Phillips, to fundamentalist Christianity.
A $2.1 million operation based in San Antonio, Vision Forum is best known as a supply center for conservative Christian homeschoolers, offering a curriculum and a range of other educational materials. It also does retreats and “faith and freedom” tours.
But in recent years, Phillips has made a large push into the film industry. He sponsors an annual Christian Filmmakers Academy and the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival. A $100,000 award is given for the best Christian film of the year.
Phillips blasts the “Christ-hating, family-denigrating elites” who supposedly dominate the modern film industry and dubs Hollywood “Babylon Central.”
Calling for “a new form of cultural guerilla warfare,” Phillips says, “We need Christians to challenge the present culture of death, infidelity, perversion, and ethical malaise by boldly proclaiming the crown rights of Jesus Christ over every sphere of life and thought – including film.”
Cameron’s “co-writer” Foster is also aligned with Christian Reconstructionist thinking. In a March radio interview, he said he has been promoting his religious-political message for 38 years. When he began, he told John Bona, host of “The Story of Liberty” program, there were only four or five other people saying the same things. He named Rushdoony, along with Verna Hall, Rosalie Slater and Peter Marshall.
Now, said Foster, scores of Religious Right groups and leaders are preaching his perspective.
Foster has also been a frequent speaker at events and tours sponsored by Phillips’ Vision Forum.
Cameron and Foster have big plans for “Monumental.”
Says the actor, “I want this to be a movement.”
DVDs of “Monumental” will be released July 4, and materials will accompany the movie so churches, homeschoolers and political organizations can build classes or other events around it. Foster is writing a book based on the project as well.
Advocates of church-state separation hope church leaders and church-goers recognize the radical agenda represented by Cameron’s “Monumental” film and reject it.
Said AU’s Lynn, “Church-state separation is a cornerstone of American life. It ensures individual rights and the freedom of houses of worship. It would be a ‘monumental’ mistake for Americans to abandon that heritage.”