Monumental Reception: A Refutation of the Critics of Kirk Cameron’s Documentary

Posted on July 4, 2012 · Posted in Articles

“We live in the country that is envied by more people, and has been for hundreds of years, as the freest, richest, most prosperous and secure, strong nation in the world. We’ve sent the gospel out to more nations and more corners of the earth than anyone else. How did we get to this place? … The pilgrims understood what it was like to be in difficult times, in a culture that was going down the toilet. They had a king 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 – and they’re attitude was not ‘Uh-oh! The Beast and the Antichrist is here! We just need to put our head down and get ready for the end of the world.’ They said, ‘We’ve got the Scriptures! We’ve got the playbook! Let’s get off of the defense, get on the offense, make a 500-year plan, and go start a new nation!”
–– Kirk Cameron, speaking at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) Filmmaker’s Academy, Feb. 2012[1]

 

Let’s say there was a film that simultaneously challenged an audience’s assumptions about the foundations of civil government and national stability, defied our stereotypical views of history, and made us reexamine our principles of world and life in light of Scripture, what would you say about it? Controversial seems too weak a word to describe it. Well, there is such a film and it has been making waves across the Internet. While audiences on Rotten Tomatoes have given the film an 84% average rating, the critics on that site have shunned it. 0 reviews.[2] But that hasn’t kept reviewers from voicing their thoughts elsewhere. As an aspiring Christian filmmaker, as well as a lover of history, I have a vested interest in Kirk Cameron’s latest documentary Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure, which premiered through a nation-wide event on March 27 of this year. In this film, Cameron – a former 80’s television star, who has since become a Christian, and starred in films such as Fireproof (2008) – attempts to retrace the journey of our Pilgrim forefathers, following the path that brought them to the New World. Through this adventure into America’s past he analyzes the Monument to the Forefathers (hence the title) and discovers the “secret” of what made America such a great nation. Its message is one that the secularist, anti-Biblical members of society are most understandably going to despise and ridicule.

First, I would like to make clear that I believe criticism, especially when it comes to films that tackle important topics, is a good thing, but I have to say that I expected a little more from the general opposition. Some have responded with historical evidences and rational argumentation, others string together a barrage of straw men fallacies and emotional reasons for dismissing the film, most without ever having seen it in the first place! A few of them have valid points, but they are not normative. Instead, what is on display is a cacophony of irrational, illogical, hateful slander. For instance, an article on Yahoo.com entitled: “12 Things I Learned from Kirk Cameron’s Bonkers New Movie” which the author fills with mockery so imbecilic that it is not even worth responding to, such as “Kirk Doesn’t Get Out Much,” “It’s Easy to Blow Kirk’s Mind” and “Kirk is doing this whole thing for you, so you will buy his books, DVDs and home-schooling kits”[3] Articles like these reveal more about the maturity and the character of the author than they do about Monumental.

This article will feature criticism raised by reviewers both Christian and non-Christian, and I want to be clear that I am not placing them in the same category, it is only that Monumental has been controversial within and without the evangelical community. At first, knowing that Kirk has the thick skin and the guts to take all their flak, I said little beyond a few comments and posts on Facebook. But this outrageous onslaught of “reviews” from vicious and uninformed critics continues to plague the search engine results when I innocuously type in “kirk cameron’s monumental movie” and so I must put into writing a formal defense of this film, primarily through examining the five main arguments raised against the film that I see in article after article.

 

#1. Cameron’s “Anti-Gay Attack”

Without fail, when one reads about this film, one of the first things that are brought up is Kirk’s statement on sodomy. Why this has become such a hot topic – in relation to the film – is difficult to understand. The film doesn’t address the subject of homosexuality, yet people have been vehemently attacking Cameron for saying the following few sentences:

 

I would tell them [his children] what I believe myself… I believe that marriage was defined by God… in the Garden [of Eden] between Adam and Eve: one man, one woman, for life. ‘Till death do you part… So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No. … I think that [homosexuality is] unnatural, it’s detrimental, and it’s ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.[4]

Now, let’s be clear on a few things. First, Cameron said this during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan. He was invited to come on the show to discuss his movie – you know, Monumental – and instead Morgan himself took the interview into the arena of unrelated social issues. Cameron did not go on the show with an anti-homosexual axe to grind, rather, his interviewer asked him what his beliefs were on this subject. In a very careful, conscientious, and measured tone Kirk gave the only answer that one could expect from a Bible-believing Christian. Anyone who would come to a different conclusion than Cameron is not reading the Bible, which is unambiguous on this matter (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; etc…). WORLD Magazine is in concurrence with this, saying, “what may be most instructive about the entire episode is how quickly Cameron found himself in the national spotlight for expressing views that were, until recently, commonly assumed to be standard Christian belief.”[5]

Meanwhile, former T.V. co-stars and friends, celebrities, reporters, members of the GLBT community, and more have (via Twitter and other social media) resorted to calling Cameron’s honest answer, based on his own personal beliefs informed by a Biblical worldview, anything from “hilarious” to saying that, “Cameron is an accomplice to murder with his hate speech.”[6] (Isn’t this supposed to be the “tolerant” crowd?) NY Daily News referred to his remarks as a “diatribe,”[7] Gawker.com blasted Cameron as a “Bigot in Pilgrim’s Clothing”[8] and more examples could be cited.

The main issue is that, for the most part, it is completely irrelevant to a review of the specific film, as the subject is not specifically raised in the film – ever. The movie simple provides a vehicle for the blogosphere to vent at what they see as “bigotry.”

Before we move on to the other points, it would be good to let Mr. Cameron speak for himself. Shortly after the GLAAD uproar, Kirk posted this on his Facebook page:

 

… In some people’s eyes, my responses were not sufficiently “loving” toward those in the gay community. I can only say that it is my life’s mission to love all people, and that I expressed the same views that are expressed clearly and emphatically throughout the Judeo-Christian scriptures. As a Bible believing Christian, I could not have answered any other way.

I’ve been encouraged by the support of many friends (including gay friends, incidentally) in the wake of condemnation by some political advocacy groups. In the case of one of my gay friends, we regularly talk and have healthy and respectful debate. We learn from each other, and serve others alongside one another. I thank God for all of my friends…even when they hold very different views on issues of faith and morality. I do not, however, believe that the right way to advance our views is to resort to name-calling and personal attacks, as some have done to me.

I also believe that freedom of speech and freedom of religion go hand-in-hand in America. I should be able to express moral views on social issues–especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years–without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach “tolerance” that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I’m in the public square.[9]

That was pretty straightforward. Moving on.

 

#2. Discrediting Monumental’s Cast of Experts

Another typical angle is to try and discredit the many historians that lead Cameron through the film, including: Dr. Marshall Foster, of the World History Institute and the Mayflower Foundation; Prof. Herb Titus, who is a cum laude graduate from Harvard University, constitutional scholar and author; Dr. Paul Jehle, the executive director and former president of the Plymouth Rock Foundation; and most frequently, historian David Barton.

It is difficult to get any dirt on Foster, Titus, and the others, who all hold various degrees and have dedicated many years to studying and teaching American history and/or law and politics, so they are generally left alone; and I have not seen a single review that could contest the historical insight provided by the wonderful lady from Scrooby, England, who – along with Foster – does the majority of the historical heavy-lifting, and seems more like an eye-witness to the events than someone commenting on the past. Therefore, we will leave them for the moment and turn our attention to Barton.

Barton has the largest private collection of writings, books, and documents from the Founding era and through his organization WallBuilders has published several books attacking the modern conception of “separation of church and state” (which, in today’s usage, seeks to remove Christianity from the public square, rather than simply to keep the state and the church separate institutions with different jurisdictions as the Founders intended) as well as defending the faith of many of our Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson. This has ruffled more than a few feathers in academia, who argue that Barton is an “amateur” spreading “lies” and “Christian propaganda.” These statements are often made without ever addressing any of Barton’s arguments or bringing up sources to the contrary. The intellectual snobbery is palpable. Having not read Barton’s books, I cannot speak to his accuracy there, though I know through my own research that the idea of our Founders all being deists and/or secularists is a myth often built upon fallacies and reading (that is, misreading) history through modern eyes.

This was expected from the secular/humanist crowd, but even Christianity Today’s blog “Her•meneutics” joined in the nay-saying, calling Monumental a “sincere quest to unpack how our forefathers, the Pilgrims, might help us get back on track” but which suffers from “reductionism that tries to explain massive tides of human history in terms of a single movement or cause.” While there is a good point here, the film never says that America was founded solely by our Pilgrim forefathers, but rather, it shows that the values which made America great came from the Biblical faith of this group, and that the way to return to our former greatness is to return to those values. The writer continues, “Cameron could have shored up the integrity of the film by consulting experts with more training in history. The ‘experts’ called on in this film may be perfectly legitimate voices in their respective areas of focus, but their expertise in history is dubious and weakens the film’s credibility, even if the movie’s overall message is provocative and convincing at points.”[10] Actually, (as we have shown) the film’s experts are more than qualified on this subject, whether the author knows that or not does not make their “expertise in history… dubious.” The only “glaring omission” that is specifically brought up is, again, David Barton’s segment on the Founding Fathers, so let’s see whether the history presented is indeed credible or just a fabrication invented for a Christian audience. Is Cameron merely telling the Religious Right what they want to hear, or is there something to this?

In Monumental, Barton plays a very minor role, yet to hear reviewers talk you’d think he gives the film’s main historical testimony. The focus of Cameron’s movie is on the monument to the (pilgrim) forefathers, and he only briefly looks forward in time to 1776 and asks Barton one question, in one scene only: “Did the Founders lose the vision of their fathers?” Barton answers this question by showing how the Founding Fathers (i.e. then-president John Adams, V.P. Jefferson, Dickinson, Hamilton, as well as other signers of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence) helped fund the publication of family Bibles in 1798. Barton also has the first English Bible printed in America (dating from 1782, it is one of the rarest books in the world) and tells us that Congress printed them with a special purpose; the book was “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of our schools.” Barton also tells us that the Bible was used in the public schools in America from 1647 all the way until it was removed in 1963. Put in perspective, as Barton says, “Why would any atheist, agnostic or deist promote the Word of God, fund it, and want it distributed to every family and everyone in America? … Doesn’t make sense if they’re atheists, agnostics, deists – now, on the other hand, if these guys happen to be Christians, this makes a lot of sense.”

There have been several responses to these pieces of history from several sources. After watching a short clip on WingClips.com[11] Chris Rodda (contributor to the extremely liberal Huffington Post, religious freedom activist, author of the book “Liars for Jesus,” and one of Barton’s worst critics) released a YouTube video called “Monumental Lies”[12] in which she supposedly “debunks” Barton’s “lies” by showing us where Barton is wrong (without any sources whatsoever; her word alone is supposedly evidence enough). She talks about how the Founders didn’t actually fund the 1798 Bible, they merely all bought copies of it (as if that really defeats Barton’s point). She says that it was the “equivalent to pre-ordering something…” But no one pre-orders anything unless it’s something that he is invested in, something that he sees as important, and wants to come to the market quicker (and ensure that he gets a copy himself); so the case could be made that by “subscribing,” as she put it, to that Bible, these men were investing in something that they saw as worthy. It was indeed a form of funding. Then, Rodda moves on to discuss how the 1782 Bible was privately printed by a man named Aitken who came to Congress asking that the “chaplains of Congress examine his work for accuracy” (in Rodda’s words) and to publish a resolution saying so in the front of it, but nothing more (again according to Rodda). They did not fund it or even buy them when he proposed that.

This was also brought up in an article entitled, “Shouldn’t a Documentary About History Be Historically Accurate?”[13] (Another review based on clips taken out of their context in the film, before the film came out.) I agree it should. And Monumental is accurate, despite the twisting “histories” of Rodda and others. The above article ends by saying, “As far as I can tell, those responsible for the content of the movie are not historians, Christian or otherwise.” This is a generalization of the whole film based off of a single clip. The film had competent historians throughout. What Rodda conveniently leaves out of her “debunking,” and which the article’s author fails to understand, is the very words of the resolution published inside the Aitken Bible, and their significance. It was Aitken, says Rodda, who used the words “for the use of the schools” when he presented his work to Congress. That was his intention for the Bibles, but it does not logically follow that Congress was against such a usage; in fact, they recommended the Bibles remember. Congress, though not specifically including this intention in their resolution, did say the following:

 

Resolved: That the United States in Congress assembled, highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion as well as an instance of the progress of the arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report, of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work they 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.[14]

Barton has the actual book in his hands, and he says, “Congress printed the first English language Bible.” Though we can quibble over semantics as to what “printing” means, and though Aitken was the one behind these Bibles’ creation, it is clear from this resolution that Congress approved of the Bible; saw the printing of it as both of religious and cultural importance to this country; had their chaplains examine it upon Aitken’s request (wait a minute, chaplains of Congress? what about Rodda’s precious separation of church and state?) gave their official recommendation as “the United States in Congress assembled” (not just private individuals) to “the inhabitants of the United States.” Regardless of whether they actually operated the press, or paid the printers, or not, Congress was involved in the printing of the Aitken Bible, and no amount of technicalities can wipe that fact away. In her video Rodda makes it sound as if Congress begrudgingly and reluctantly cooperated with an obnoxious Bible peddler, but that is not the impression you get reading their resolution. If Rodda was correct, and Congress was not interested in the Bible at all, and our founders were not Christians, but were rather champions of a rigid separation of the Christian faith from politics, preferring a secular state, why on earth would they have purchased (which is a form of funding) the 1798 Bible and formally recommend and review the Aitken Bible? Are we to assume that they were simply a generation of hypocrites and liars, doing and saying things that they did not believe? I think not. The film points out that the Founding Fathers were not perfect, and some of them were not even as orthodox as they could have been, but many of them were devout Christians, and all of them had inherited a Christian worldview from their fathers (the focus of the film.) Barton did not lie to Kirk and his audiences; he made a very valid point.

One of the final things Barton brings up (which the short promotional clip did not include) was the fact that so many in the universities and within academia have bought into the arguments of other professors, such as the book “The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness.” According to Barton this text is often used in the universities of America. Barton shows how in the back of that book, under the heading, “A Note On Sources” the authors say, “Because we have intended the book to reach a general audience, and because the material we have cited is for most part familiar to historians and political scientists, we have dispensed with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes. We do however want to acknowledge our most important sources, both to say thanks to our colleagues from whom we have learned and to suggest some books and documents that our readers might with profit peruse.”[15] In other words, like Chris Rodda’s historical offerings, we have to take them at their word. No original sources are cited; instead, they direct you to a list of writings by their colleagues, none of the works dating back further than the last half of the twentieth century. That’s not to say that there are no well-crafted, intelligent cases made from the “secular America” camp, and I’m sure there are. But let the Founders, the original sources, and not the PhD’s and the intellectuals do the talking. I’ll let you be the judge of who did the better job as historians: Cameron and Barton or Rodda and Co.

Before moving forward, I would like to say that though I have spent a lot of time on this particular point, it is a rather small part of the film. I have gone into detail on this because most people will split hairs over Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Henry and others, but few can argue against men like John Robinson or William Bradford, of whom the movie gives a lengthier and more persuasive treatment. There are perhaps more convincing arguments than the one brought up by Barton, but his argument still stands. This is an important issue, and one on which there are many more knowledgeable than me. If you are still skeptical I encourage you to do some digging. The best thing you can do is to jump in and research this history for yourself. Don’t let the academic elite dictate what you learn of history, and how to interpret it. Be self-taught and think for yourself, as America’s founding generation did.

 

#3. The Pilgrim’s Example

Monumental makes the case that the key to getting America back on track is to return to the principles that our forefathers saw as vital to preserving liberty. What are those principles? They were embodied in the lives of those who blazed the trail to liberty, and are craved in stone for us to remember always what the were, in the National Monument to the Forefathers, built in the late 19th Century in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Those principles are namely: Faith, Morality, Law, and Education (this should not be taken to mean statist schooling) which together make up the “recipe” if you will, for Liberty, who (I say “who” because it is personified in the monument) has, for the first time in history, defeated the lion of tyranny. That is what you will see, fleshed out and explained in greater detail, in the film as Cameron and Dr. Foster lead us around the massive granite landmark. These principles are unequivocally Biblical in nature, and have widespread implications for the nation at large.

Because it has largely faded from the general public’s knowledge, most critics of Monumental do not mention any of this. But the Pilgrims themselves have remained the subject of historical discourse, and nowadays often not looked upon favorably. Part of the reason for this is blatant revision of history, but the real culprit has been a paradigm shift in both church and state. As the film illustrates how the Pilgrim’s lived-out, albeit imperfectly, these principles, it follows that their way of life would come under attack. If they had merely been a passive religious group who saw no connection between their faith and action (James 2:14-18), especially when it comes to matters of civil government, then most likely there would be no great animosity towards them. But, these men understood that in colonizing America, in instigating a new nation, they were building a “City on a Hill” (Matthew 5:14-16). Or, as William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony, said, putting into words the long-term, multi-generational vision of the Pilgrim people, “They cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some ways toward it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.”[16] Consider the words that open the Mayflower Compact:

 

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God… Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.[17]

This “civil body politic” was instituted as a colony of Great Britain, for “the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith.” Thus, when they spoke of “just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices,” they were thinking in Biblical terms. People are outraged that the Pilgrims followed Biblical Law, prescribing the death penalty for things such as adultery, sodomy, bestiality and witchcraft. While there is always room for legal reform, these laws are completely compatible with liberty and limited government, and if the monument is to be believed, they are indispensable, but we will return to this in a moment.

The main reason for dismissing this kind of legislation is, for the most part, because we as a nation have become humanistic in our thinking. The truth of the matter is that every community has a system of law, and a faith that holds that community together. Today, as the faith of our nation becomes humanistic and is steadily placed in the State, we have seen the rise of indefinite detention and even assassination of anyone whom the state declares an enemy or a threat.[18] In general, there is no great outcry from this same group on that account, because they belong to the world of statist faith; that is their paradigm. If, however, you are seeking to build a nation on the Bible, then the crimes that are Biblically prescribed to be punished by the civil government will be punished; otherwise there would be no justice and no truly free society. Laws are to punish the lawless and protect the rights of the law-abiding. Our system of government is a republic, which is, according John Adams, “A government of laws, and not of men.” It may surprise people to hear that crimes like adultery and sodomy were on the books as capitol offenses in most, if not all, of the states long after the nation’s founding in 1776. Why is that, considering that the Founding Fathers were to a large degree libertarian, lovers of individual liberty who wanted to be free from tyrannical oppression and overreach? Well, because the men and women who gave us liberty as an inheritance understood liberty as being under law, as a gift from God. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence:

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…[19]

They believed firmly in a limited government, but it was never so limited that it could not uphold justice, that would be anarchy. The men and women who founded our country were of a staunch Biblical faith, and they thus saw justice and law in Biblical terms. Still, we moderns are uncomfortable with the idea of the death penalty, and many historians paint a gruesome picture of the Pilgrims, making them out as religious authoritarians who slaughtered heretics and the pagan Indians around them. In their defense, Marshall Foster points out that the Pilgrims sentenced two of their own members to death for crimes based on the testimony of two Wampanoag Indians, a Biblical concept. This is a far cry from an unjust, prejudicial regime. In fact the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims lived peaceably together for many years.[20] On the life and beliefs of the Pilgrims, this movie speaks for itself. Beyond their views on jurisprudence, there is not much to argue with, because they laid the foundation for the world we live in. There would not be a United States of America had not the Separatists (Pilgrims) risked all to make the voyage to Plymouth. They established (obviously not by themselves alone, lest the charge of reductionism be brought up again) a lifestyle, a culture, and a nation, which for centuries saw itself as being distinctly Christian, based on those principles immortalized in the monument. The fact that America was foundationally molded out of the Christian legacy of Western Civilization and the Reformation, through our forefathers, is what this film attempts to show, but it has also been shown in the scholarly works of many highly respected authors, and recognized by many others, from the time of our country’s founding onward. A notable work would be, “The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States” by Benjamin F. Morris (1864).[21] As even Thomas Jefferson knew, despite how problematic his own beliefs may have been, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” As the tagline for the film states: “The land of the free begins in the home of the brave” just as John Adams said, “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families…” President Ronald Reagan was correct, “Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.” (Quotes cited from The American Vision.)[22]

 

#4. Artistic Choices Within the Film

As any good review of a film should, many of the critics have examined (some favorably and others negatively) various artistic elements within the film. For instance, Megan Basham, of WORLD Magazine, gives the film’s message a positive review calling it “a passionate, old-fashioned, and occasionally surprising lesson on the Christian separatists who fled religious persecution in England for hardship and freedom in an unknown land.” Yet, she complains of redundant narration which “along with lingering shots of Cameron staring earnestly into the camera acts as visual filler, wasting a lot of time…”[23] Some do or don’t like the music, the editing, the story’s development, or how much of the film is taken up by Cameron himself (a rather trivial thing to bring up in my mind). Not everyone has been critical of its artistic merits however. Crown Rights Media gave the film a glowing review (and even joined Cameron’s efforts, producing a music video by rap artist IV His Son, and creating a Tee-shirt sporting an image of the Monument and the words “What Mean These Stones?” in reference to Joshua 4:21). According to them, Monumental “immerses you in the story and consists of amazing cinematography. The sound design is probably some of the best I have seen in any documentary… It’s emotional, purposeful, and intense… how many times do you get to say that a Christian film is better than most of the world’s? Not many… It’s a precious and rare jewel in Christian film making. Monumental gives one hope not only in the future of our Nation and the power of the Gospel to change the world…but it also gives one hope in Christian arts.”[24] The field of opinion is as wide as there are people. On the one hand, the cinematography can be a bit jerky and blurry, disorienting for some, and the music too filled with electric guitar; while on the other hand, the film differs radically from some of the Pilgrim documentaries of the past, which seem more sanctimonious, fuddy-duddy and somewhere between a children’s book and a museum piece. The film makes the Pilgrims real people with a robust faith. One thing is for certain, this was a huge project to pull off, and Cameron delivered an excellent first film.

 

#5. Christian Reconstruction and Theocracy

The response to this film has been mixed, as The Christian Post pointed out, and while some find the message inspiring and exciting, others are disturbed. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State posted on Twitter that, “Kirk Cameron’s new ‘documentary,’ in select theaters tonight, presents a scary and extreme fundamentalist viewpoint.”[25] An article titled “Kirk Cameron’s Movie ‘Monumental’ has ‘Chilling Agenda’” is horrified to report that the film contains themes that smack of “Christian Reconstructionism, the most extreme wing of the Religious Right.”[26] Apparently, those who hold to “this harsh theology” are revolutionaries, (or in his words, “the Religious Right’s lunatic fringe”) who “want to take ‘dominion’ and impose a draconian version of ‘biblical law’ on modern-day America for the next thousand years or so.” He is appalled to see Cameron attending the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF), because its founder is 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.” To Christians, this is a worthy goal, but to this author, it is alarming. Why is that? He says earlier in the article, “Sure, the Pilgrims played an important role in the history of America, but we don’t want to emulate their 17th-century theocracy today.”[27]

Theocracy. This has become a dirty word nowadays, even among Christians. However, while unbelievers will always dislike this concept, Christians should be in favor of this, though many don’t understand what it is.

Of course, if Christian Reconstruction/Theocracy were really an authoritarian or “draconian” regime than it would indeed be a bad thing. However, perhaps we should define our terms. R.J. Rushdoony was one of the pioneers of the theonomic movement (“theonomy” merely means “the law of God”) whose Chalcedon Foundation is an “educational organization devoted to research, publishing, and promoting Christian reconstruction in all areas of life.”[28] He explained the confusion thus, “Few things are more commonly misunderstood than the nature and meaning of theocracy. It is commonly assumed to be a dictatorial rule by self-appointed men who claim to rule for God. In reality, theocracy in Biblical law is the closest thing to a radical libertarianism that can be had [with only 613 laws at most, civil government in the Bible is severely restricted in jurisdiction] … Dictionaries to the contrary, theocracy is not a government by the state but a government over every institution by God and His Law, and through the activities of the free man in Christ to bring every area of life and thought under Christ’s Kingship.”[29] His son Mark Rushdoony has continued his work, describing Christian Reconstruction as, “a worldview not an agenda… [which] seeks to rebuild failing ideas by basing them on the revealed will of God in Scripture… [And which] begins with ourselves and works progressively outward to life and culture.”[30]

For someone to equate this position with forcing modern Americans into a faith they don’t believe in, and thus a Christian Nation that they don’t want, means that this person hasn’t actually listened to what Christian Reconstructionists actually say and believe. To this group, restoration begins with repentance, conversion and a re-ordering of all of life by the standard of God’s Word. You won’t see them advocating revolution or “dominion” in the oppressive sense; rather, they advocate regeneration and “dominion” in the Scriptural sense. They seek to fulfill the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:28, which God gave to mankind: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” For Christians to take dominion of the earth, they must fill it. A Christian Nation does not come without a Christian populous (which we had at our founding). Christian Reconstructionism holds to the Law Word of God, because we have been given a Great Commission by our Lord and Savior, King Jesus the Christ, who’s last words to His disciples before ascending to Heaven’s throne were: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Rather than the “chilling agenda” of a small group of radicals, the themes in Monumental reveal the noble mission and life’s purpose for every Christian to disciple entire nations (but from the bottom-up, not top-down). In the words of missionary and adventurer David Livingstone: “Evangelism, Exploration, and Emancipation” (that is, Conversion, and then Dominion, and thus true Freedom.) In short, the message of Monumental is to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

 

Conclusion

In conclusion we see that the five most common attacks on the film don’t hold water. I encourage you to see past the haze of censorious reviews, if you’ve not already. If you think that the children’s storybook version, or the revisionism of many twentieth and twenty-first century historians is all there is to American history, then you need to see Monumental for yourself! This wild ride through our nation’s past, presents a robust and impacting history that casts an inspiring and optimistic vision for the future! We should be so grateful for the legacy we’ve inherited, and determined to see it passed-on and increased in our generation! We should sing along with that patriotic anthem, America the Beautiful:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Watch the Official Trailer:

 

Links for Further Study:

Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure – Official Website

Kirk Cameron’s Website

Book: “Of Plymouth Plantation” Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement 1608-1650

Plimoth Plantation Historical Museum/Reenactment

“Monumental Momentum: What’s truly monumental about Kirk Cameron’s new film” a review by Nathaniel Darnell

“Kirk Cameron’s ‘Monumental’ Issues” an Interview with Christianity Today

“Movie Review: Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure” by Lee Duigon

 

End Notes:

[1] “Kirk Cameron on ‘Monumental’ at 2012 Christian Filmmaker’s Academy” – http://www.visionforum.com/news/blogs/doug/2012/03/9989/
[5] “Sudden Impact” from WORLD Magazine – http://www.worldmag.com/articles/19329
[8] “Kirk Cameron: A Bigot in Pilgrim’s Clothing” – http://gawker.com/5897145/kirk-cameron-a-bigot-in-pilgrims-clothing
[9] Kirk Cameron’s Facebook page, posted March 6, 2012 –http://www.facebook.com/therealkirkcameron
[13] “Shouldn’t a Documentary About History Be Historically Accurate?” – http://www.religiontoday.com/news/monumental-documentary-history-accurate.html
[14] Ibid.
[15] “The Godless Constitution” by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore. Though they may not think it necessary, I have taken the pains to cite them. You can read their note on sources on the book’s Amazon page by clicking “Look Inside” and scrolling down to “A Note On Sources” just before the index. – http://www.amazon.com/The-Godless-Constitution-Religious-Correctness/dp/039331524X#reader_039331524X
[16] “Seven Quotes to Read at the Thanksgiving Table” by Douglas Phillips – http://www.visionforum.com/news/blogs/doug/2011/11/9746/
[17] Ibid.
[19] “The Declaration of Independence” text transcript – http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
[20] “Refuting the Seven Myths of the Radical Left About Thanksgiving” by Douglas Phillips – http://www.visionforum.com/news/blogs/doug/2011/11/9747/
[22] American Vision’s Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/americanvision
[23] “Monumental” by Megan Basham – http://www.worldmag.com/articles/19313
[24] “Kirk Cameron’s Monumental a Review” – http://crownrights.org/kirk-camerons-monumental-a-review/
[25] “Kirk Cameron’s ‘Monumental’ Draws Praise, Criticism Amid Nationwide Screenings” The Christian Post – http://www.christianpost.com/news/kirk-camerons-monumental-draws-praise-criticism-amid-nationwide-screenings-72264/
[26] “Kirk Cameron’s Movie ‘Monumental’ has ‘Chilling Agenda’” – http://www.opposingviews.com/i/religion/christianity/kirk-camerons-movie-monumental-has-chilling-agenda
[27] Ibid.
[28] Chalcedon – http://chalcedon.edu/about/
[30] “What is Christian Reconstruction” – http://chalcedon.edu/blog/2012/5/29/what-is-christian-reconstruction/