I’m not sure I could take the slings and arrows my brother in the Lord Kirk Cameron has had to dodge or endure. Three times I’ve interviewed the star of the sitcom Growing Pains, the Left Behind apocalyptic series, the breakthrough faith-based drama Fireproof and the insightful documentary Monumental. He’s famous, talented and devout. But you pay a price for those gifts and that resolve. For along with celebrity comes a huge target on your back. Add devotion in your Christian walk to your notoriety and you’re just asking for slings and arrows to come your way. During a recent phone chat with Kirk concerning his newest theatrical release, Unstoppable, I felt that I got to know the man, not just a filmmaker pushing a new project.
“This is the most personal project I’ve ever made regarding my faith,” he states on the film trailer for Unstoppable, a riveting documentary dealing with the age-old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” During his publicity campaign for the film, Kirk ran into a snag one couldn’t imagine happening in America.
Unstoppable made headlines the week tickets went on sale when two major sites labeled the film's web site and video link as "spam" or "unsafe." Facebook seemed antagonistic toward either the subject of where God is in our lives, or the man presenting the question. It wasn’t until fan support became somewhat of an uproar that the social media outlet backed off. But during that time, foes of Cameron’s message did their best to belittle the religious actor/producer.
Phil Boatwright (P.B.): Why such a vehement attack on your character? Is it because of your belief in the inerrancy of the Bible?
“Yeah, pretty sure much of it is due to speaking out about biblical matters,” he said quickly, as if he had asked himself the same question countless times.
P.B.: How do you deal with it?
“The slings and arrows? You have to develop a thick skin, especially if you’re in the public eye. And especially if you’re standing up for God. But it’s tough, sometimes.”
In the two-plus decades since becoming a follower of Christ, Kirk Cameron has appeared in several Christian-themed movies. He has also teamed up with evangelist Ray Comfort to produce media products designed to help people share the Gospel. And he started a faith-based charitable organization, Camp Firefly.
Cameron turned from atheism to Christianity in 1987. He was around 17 at the time and was considered a teen heartthrob. As Cameron grew in his faith, however, he became uncomfortable with story lines written for his Growing Pains character and eventually left the show, which brought forth many negative comments about the actor, even from former cast mates. You can do just about anything in the Hollywood community and still be one of the gang. But turning from fame to embrace a spiritual conviction? That’s pure heresy to an industry that only understands the pursuit of further fame.
When you examine the public and private deeds of Kirk and his wife, Chelsea, you see a family bent on honoring God. I asked him what his life priorities were, and he was thoughtful yet concise with his answer.
“To love and honor my Creator. That’s my goal. Then I want to honor my wife. And to honor my kids by trying to lead them towards things that will benefit them through their lives. And I want to advance the kingdom by being open to the Holy Spirit.”
P.B.: I know you and Chelsea are heavily involved in Camp Firefly. How did that come about?
"We started this camp after meeting a lot of sick kids on the set of Growing Pains through the Make a Wish Foundation. We bring families with terminally ill children away from hospitals for a bit, giving them an all-expense-paid vacation. They are with each other and are able to meet other families who know what they're going through."
In the film Fireproof, Kirk gave the most mature, complex performance of his career (so far). Like Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, Cameron’s Caleb Holt is a good man, but a real one, one with flaws and foibles. Cameron was willing to display negative traits that seldom take focus in movie protagonists. Supported by Erin Bethea’s three-dimensional portrait as the firefighter’s wife, Kirk and company approached an important issue: the sanctity of marriage. In a culture that promotes the quick disposal of friendships and marriages at the first hint of dissatisfaction, here was a movie that declared life-long unions are worth fighting for.
Instead of paying Cameron for his role, Sherwood Pictures made a donation to Camp Firefly.
With Unstoppable, Kirk once again focuses on humanistic questions that can truly only be answered from a spiritual perspective. In this thoughtful, heartfelt documentary, Kirk addresses the subject, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” Having been stirred by the film’s conclusion, and knowing the frustration he had just gone through with Facebook, I read the following paragraph from my review to the filmmaker.
“Unstoppable is the most riveting and inspiring documentary I’ve seen in years from a technical, artistic and spiritual perspective. For me, it was 60 minutes of passionate examination that asserts we are more than mental and physical beings, and that our Creator is with us through the good and the bad: “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)."
There was a silence at the other end of the line, as Kirk took in my assessment.
“Wow, that’s like water to a thirsty man. Believe me, this is helpful to hear.”
The death of a close friend’s son sparked the actor/producer to take a spiritual journey through scripture. Aided by dramatized Bible parables that reflect the same sufferings we face today, Mr. Cameron takes his scholarly sojourn, analyzing the following questions: Do things happen by chance or do they purposely serve to develop our nature? And through all our suffering, where is God?
P.B.: I take it from the film that you don’t believe the details of life are governed merely by happenstance.
“Oh, no,” said Cameron. “We have a God who is not surprised by one thing that happens in the universe. God is a God of purpose. That’s made clear in Romans 8:28. And for those who don’t love Him, they are still used for God’s purposes. One way or the other, you’re in God’s design. You might be the hero or the villain, but you’re going to serve a role in God’s plan.”
P.B.: What’s the main point you’re hoping audiences will take away after seeing this film?
“The question of where is God in tragedy is a universal one. I want people to come out of this movie not only knowing that God is there in the midst of our sorrow, but that he understands how we feel. He gets our doubts and our fears. And He is doing something inside us that will turn out for our good and His glory.”
I was reminded by the film of the need for Bible study in order to communicate these truths to a conflicted and confused world. Want to counter the influence of the secular culture? Want to be able to discuss spiritual matters? Want peace and spiritual strength through difficult times? The film makes it clear that as we delve into the scriptures, we find true “apps” dealing with life’s adventures, joys and sorrows.
The target just got bigger on Mr. Cameron’s back. And on any of those who wish to glorify God, strengthen the body of Christ, and witness to those searching for the answers to the film’s questions. Fortunately, the Heavenly Hosts are there to protect and deflect.
Unstoppable will be broadcast from the Vines Center at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA on Tuesday, Sept, 24 at 8:00pm ET/7:00pm CT and tape delayed at 7:00pm MT/8:00pm PT. The event will feature music from guests that include Dove-nominated artist Warren Barfield, whose song “Love is Not a Fight” was featured in the film Fireproof.