By Joseph L. Conn
Kirk Cameron’s new movie “Monumental” was released Tuesday night in select theaters around the country, and I don’t think it’s going to be a hit with people like you and me.
Cameron is an actor best known for his role in the ‘80s TV sitcom “Growing Pains.” Today he’s a fundamentalist Christian best known for…well, not much of anything. He made news recently, however, when he went on CNN’s “Piers Morgan” to promote his new film andwound up bashing gays and gay marriage. (Homosexuality, he said, is “unnatural.... It's detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”)
His remarks produced a well-deserved rebuke from the LGBT community and its allies, but largely overlooked in the discussion was the broader theocratic agenda Cameron seems to be peddling.
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The full film hasn’t been released yet, but the trailers from it and the list of far-right “experts” involved in the production suggest we’re in for more “Christian nation” propaganda.
Among the cast of characters appearing in the movie is David Barton, the notorious fundamentalist myth-maker whose WallBuilders outfit has made a fortune selling Christian-nation claptrap – some of it so bogus even he has come to repudiate it.
Another featured “expert” is Herb Titus, a law professor so extreme that TV preacher Pat Robertson had to can him as head of Regent University Law School. In more recent times, Titus has distinguished himself as a B-list birther luminary.
And, for good measure, we have Marshall Foster, founder of the World History Institute (as well as the now apparently defunct Mayflower Institute). Foster rails against "post-modern tolerance," thinks public schools should be shut down and wants everything to be governed by a “biblical worldview,” just as in the days of the Pilgrims and Puritans.
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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 seems to be that the Pilgrims came to America seeking religious liberty, and they set up a model Christian community that we ought to emulate today.
Well, here’s some news, Kirk and Company, the Pilgrims and Puritans did come here seeking religious liberty, but they set up a regime that gave freedom only to themselves, denying it to others. In keeping with its religious viewpoint, Plymouth Colony prescribed the death penalty for adulterers, homosexuals and witches, whipping for denying the scriptures and a fine for harboring a Quaker.
Sure, 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.
I can harbor a Quaker if I want to.
I think the thing that troubles me most about Cameron is his growing flirtation with Christian Reconstructionism, the most extreme wing of the Religious Right.
Unlike most fundamentalists, 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 the death penalty imposed for a range of "crimes" running from adultery and homosexuality to witchcraft and worshipping false gods.
Earlier this year, Cameron hung out with Doug Phillips, whose Vision Forum ministry has a distinctly Christian Reconstructionist air. Cameron served as a minor celebrity at Phillips’ “Christian Filmmaker's Academy” in San Antonio in February. He 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.
Cameron also noted that the Pilgrims, before they left Europe, lived in “difficult times with a culture that was going down the toilet.”
“They had a king,” he said, “who had bankrupted the nation, tripled the debt, enslaving the people, declared himself in essence to be God on Earth as he sat in the church and crammed religion down the throats of the people, claiming to be a Christian.”
Is Cameron still talking about the 17th century or taking a right-wing potshot at a certain prominent political figure in today’s America?
Anyway, all this is to say this: “Monumental” seems destined to be just the latest propaganda exercise by the Religious Right’s lunatic fringe. And Cameron and company want to show it not only in theaters, but also churches, schools and anywhere else they can. (In one trailer, he says, “I want this to be a movement.”)
Don’t be misled by Kirk Cameron’s charming smile. It masks a chilling agenda.