Move over Nicholas Cage. Kirk Cameron’s new film Monumental uncovers a real national treasure hidden behind much of America’s monuments and historic grounds. The documentary film packed-out and sold-out theaters Tuesday for its one-night premiere on Fathom Events, but the film will continue to be shown in select theaters this weekend and fans who missed out on Tuesday can request a showing in their area. In the past ten days over 155,000 individual demands have been submitted to local theaters, urging the film to be shown. Managers of the Merchant Walk theater in Georgia said they had no idea the film would be that popular.
Beyond the hype and the controversies surrounding the documentary, though, what’s really so monumental about Kirk’s new film?
Several things about the film surprised many film-goers who saw it on Tuesday. Perhaps no one got everything they were expecting. Some Christians attending were bothered by Cameron’s including conservative talk-show host and Mormon Glenn Beck in the live video introduction from his house (but not in the actual film). Others did not care for some of the music or other asthetic elements. Still others thought the film should have had a more explicit salvation message. The film certainly has its flaws, but what it does well, it does really well. Here are the things that I think are most monumental about Monumental:
First, Kirk Cameron did a great service by introducing a whole new segment of mainstream Christianity (many from the mega-church side of evangelicalism) to most of the leading, modern-day experts on America’s Christian heritage and its slide into humanism. When it comes to collecting historical documents on the Christianity of the founding fathers, no one surpasses David Barton—perhaps the man most responsible in the early 1990’s for re-awakening our understanding of the expressly Christian convictions of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. For decades, many in America simply accepted that all our founding fathers were deists until David Barton appeared on the scene with his VHS lectures that went gang-busters especially in evangelical circles. In the documentary, Barton makes several significant points, and has some of the best humorous lines of the film.
But equally significant are the interviews with historians Marshall Foster, Herb Titus, and Paul Jehle. Herb Titus is a constitutional attorney, former Dean of Regent Law School, and the author of God, Man, & Law—a must read for anyone who wants to at least learn how higher education and especially the law schools of America were infected with an evolutionary worldview in the middle of the nineteenth century. In the film, Titus shows Kirk some remarkable things about Harvard University most people do not know. Paul Jehle of the Plymouth Rock Foundation and Marshall Foster have been leading tours of historic spots in America for years, and they are the expert guides on the Plymouth Monument.
That brings us to the second monumental thing about Kirk’s new film. If you see nothing else but the scene with Kirk Cameron and Marshall Foster at the Plymouth Monument, you will receive something remarkably valuable. This scene encapsulates the theme and core message of the entire film. It shows how the people who built our nation believed that liberty, education, law, and morality could only be successful if built on the foundation of inward faith in Jesus Christ and the God of the Bible—a faith not forcefully imposed but received voluntarily by the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps as endearing in watching the film is Kirk’s own unbeguiled passion to share what he’s learned about America’s founding with his friends, fellow Christians, and even unbelievers all over America. Having come out of pop-culture as a teenage heart-throb in the show Growing Pains, Kirk has been eager to learn more about real Christianity, mentoring under Christian evangelists like Ray Comfort and getting involved personally in their hard-core ministries. When in the film he stands in England recounting the story of the Pilgrims, he reflects on the story as a father and husband, helping the audience to see it in a very personal and emotional light. That moment in the film may be the most touching, and the one most likely to evoke tears. For Kirk this documentary is personal. He’s made it as a father. A father who wants a great future for his children.
After having starred in the movie versions of Left Behind (2000) and Tribulation Force (2002), many people have associated Kirk Cameron with a segment of Christianity that suggests abandoning culture is good or attempting to reverse directions in America is a lost cause because “you can’t polish brass on a sinking ship.” Some just see the evils in America as “a sign of the times” hinting at the coming of “the Anti-Christ.” To them, allowing concerns like the ever-mounting $16 trillion national debt to climb is not something to worry about so much because, according to their eschatology, “Jesus will probably come back before our children or grandchildren have to worry with the problem.” But other Christians, such as Marshall Foster, have reminded evangelicals that post-Christ history has faced many darker days that this, and we can never presume that Christ’s return is imminent. They remind Christians of the parable of Luke 19:13 and the command from God to “Occupy till I come.” Dumping our troubles on the generations of the future while hoping for a Rapture-rescue is presumptuous and uncaring.
Cameron makes it clear he wants to be building an inheritance, rather than dumping mountains of problems, for his children and grandchildren, just as the Christian forefathers of our nation did for us. His film will hopefully spark others to desire and accomplish the same by the grace of God.