Traveling through Time with Kirk Cameron: Looking at America through a Religious Right Lens

After a tour of both mainstream and right-wing media outlets that largely focused on Kirk Cameron’s denigration of gays and lesbians, last night his “documentary” Monumental premiered in select theatres with little public attention.

The premiere included a live stream of Cameron in his living room right before and after the film, where he listened to praise music, gazed over food and mingled with family members and friends, while recounting how “truly sick” America has become.

Cameron admitted that he is no history buff, telling his pastor, “I feel like a dry sponge when I learn all these things.”

Just as Cameron was a “dry sponge” when learning lessons about how the banana disproves evolution, he accepted the claims of Religious Right activists posing as historians at face value.

One of whom was Glenn Beck, who appeared via satellite feed. Cameron and Beck took turns complimenting each other, with the former Fox News host lauding Cameron, “You were in Left Behind while I was reading it.” Curiously, Cameron decided against attending Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally after Brannon Howse, among others, warned evangelicals about joining forces with Beck, a Mormon.

Beck told Cameron that God told him that their mission to “wake up” America is a path they can’t veer from. “Return to me and I will protect you,” Beck says was God’s message, adding that God wants to be America’s “sword and shield.”

But the conservative celebrity appearances didn’t end there: Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece and a Religious Right activist, was in Cameron’s living room as well. Cameron asked her what she thought her uncle would want people to do if he were here today, to which Alveda responded that King would want people to watch Monumental!

She seems to think that King would endorse a movie that whitewashes America’s past, as Cameron determines that America’s problems only began in the last few decades.

In the film, Cameron’s adventure starts in England, where we learn how Puritans were persecuted by the Church of England and ultimately, at great personal and familial sacrifice, made their way to Holland to find religious freedom and escape a society where the “government controlled the church.” It was a stark if simplistic look at religious persecution at a time when many on the Right are decrying the Obama administration’s “attacks on religious liberty.”

Visiting in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Cameron claims that the Pilgrims established a governmental “system of all men created equal under the law.” He then sets forth to find the Pilgrims’ “training manual” and the “secret sauce” that will be the key to stopping America’s plunge into moral and economic disarray.

He finds the “secret sauce” at Plymouth’s National Monument to the Forefathers, which was built in 1910 under the leadership of Freemasons, though from just watching Cameron’s documentary you would think the Pilgrims themselves helped construct it. The message from the monument is that faith leads to personal morality, spreading that faith creates a moral and therefore just society, and a just society produces mercy for the disadvantaged and education for the children. Cameron used the part about education to bemoan how parents can send their children to “government schools” where they are trained to be “slaves to the state,” generating an entitlement culture that breeds government dependence rather than reliance on faith. Ultimately, the “secret sauce” creates “Liberty Man,” who Cameron says is “not a wimpy religious man but a stud.”

Cameron, in seeking to find out how America went from a country of Liberty Men to a fallen people, glosses over how the mythical country of Liberty Men considered African Americans, Native Americans and women to be inferior and endorsed slavery, racism, and discriminatory and violent treatment of women. He also neglects to mention that in Plymouth religious liberty was nonexistent and religious dissenters were mercilessly persecuted. For instance, people were not allowed to become Quakers or even give aide Quakers and Quakers were even executed by the colony’s government.

Just as damning, Cameron conflates the Pilgrims with the Founders: the film gives the impression that the Founders had the same religious convictions and beliefs in the role of religion in government as the Pilgrims. Never mind that more than a few of the Founders were members of the Church of England, the very same church that Cameron noted persecuted the Pilgrims.

Cameron spoke to Christian Reconstructionist ‘historians’ David Barton and Herb Titus to find out how evil, atheist academics from Boston (scary music included) lied to Americans about the country’s Christian heritage. Barton said there is a “deliberate attempt” to hide the faith of the Founding Fathers by using “revisionism,” and Titus warned that “a nation that attempts to build a foundation not based on God’s law will ultimately self-destruct.”

The movie ended with warnings about secular government and democracy run amok, with one guest repeating the myth that Adolf Hitler was a democratically elected dictator, and Alveda King appearing once again to tell us that “America hasn’t been destroyed because we call upon the Lord.”

Accuracy shouldn’t have been expected from a film about American history made by someone who freely admits that he had little knowledge of history and was a “dry sponge” who didn’t think critically about the nation’s past. But since Cameron’s findings easily conformed to the Religious Right view of American history and government, Monumental will surely find a place along with David Barton books and episodes of Glenn Beck that feed faux-history to conservative audiences across the nation.

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