Last night I went to the opening of Monumental, a film directed by Kirk Cameron. I thought the movie was much needed and was well produced. It was refreshing to hear Kirk say much of what he said. The monologue Kirk does with the kickin' guitar riff in the background at the beginning is worth the price of admission. One of the big points of that monologue is the idea that the church has been passive on many of our moral issues. So much so, that many put forward the idea that the worse it gets, the better it is for the church because that means that Jesus is coming back sooner. While the church sits passive on those issues, it becomes a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. Pretty pointed stuff from the star of the Left Behind movies. I wanted to get up and leave the theater after that monologue and go do something.
The best parts of the movie were the explanation we got about the history of the Pilgrims\Puritans and the explanation of the monument that has been the center of some controversy due to some conspiracy theorist type objections. The Pilgrim history was excellent and could, by itself, prove conclusively that America was founded as a Christian nation. David Barton's segment was helpful in establishing the not-unanimous but majority opinion of the founding fathers' Christianity. The Bible from the 18th century that he showcases, printed by Congress for use in public schools with the subscriber's list in the back showing it was funded by signers of the Declaration and the Constitution is pretty good stuff. His claim that it is one of the rarest books in the world is ridiculous (20-some copies does not qualify that set for such a claim). This is the bookseller coming out in me, but there are a lot of editions of the Bible which would sell for more if they came to auction and rarity has as much to do with demand as supply.
Marshall Foster's explanation of the monument (The National Monument to the Forefathers) was excellent. Brannon Howse has made a stink because the Freemasons were involved in its construction. He writes, "It is my belief based on hours of research that the Monument to the Forefathers is not a Biblically acceptable rallying point or symbol for Christians or Christian families or the way we should go for several reasons. One major reason would be that historical documents report that the monument had its cornerstone laid by Freemasons who were involved in part in funding and erecting this monument." He then goes on to detail the fact that some names of Freemasons appear on the corner stone and that there was a list of subscribers which contained Freemasons. He then asks the question, "Should Christians unite around and worship God at this monument?" Since Howse never saw the movie before he wrote his critique he did not know that Kirk and Marshall never "worshipped God" around this monument. But what they DID do was go over the symbolism (which had zero to do with Freemasonry) point by point and suggest it as a guideline for our families to instill Biblical principles in our homes and eventually, in our nation. I am looking forward to some of the study materials that will be suggested by Kirk and plan on going over them with my family. In the meantime, Howse has marginalized himself in his stirring of the pot since Kirk never endorsed Freemasonry in the movie. The point of the monument is the symbolism.
The other main idea of the movie is that kings and leadership do not have autonomous authority to rule and reign as they wish, with no regard to the Law of God. Some critics of these kinds of documentaries will state that Romans 13 gives leaders carte blanche to govern as they will and we must submit. Romans 13 does not even teach this in context because it states, "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil...For he is the minister of God to thee for good" (Rom. 13:3-4). In other words, the God ordained function of leadership is to promote "good"--that which is morally excellent. Kirk does not go over this in the movie, but I am anticipating a common objection to the content, which reveals my bias, so there it is.
Now, for my criticism. In the latter part of the film the movie takes a turn towards obscurity. There was a tremendous build up in the organization of the material and then a vague conclusion. I am not totally sure what the film makers want me to do with this information other than buy some curriculum that they will be offering. This vagueness may be by design, but it is annoying. It's a lot of money to spend producing a documentary and then going light on the punch line. At the very least, a gospel presentation would have been appropriate.
This was evident by the crowd reaction in our theater at the end. Our satellite feed got knocked out in the middle of Kirk's live concluding remarks and a tea party type guy got up and urged the crowd to "do something." He had no plan, just "something" because things are really, really bad. This opened the door to a bunch of tea party types pushing various websites and it became evident that Glenn Beck's publicity for this movie filled our theater since most people pointed to Glenn Beck's websites and work. One retired pastor said that we should all go to church. I could barely stand it, and my wife was even thinking of open-air preaching to this crowd (she has never done it) when a guy I preach with on the streets finally preached the gospel. He started with Acts 17:11--a challenge to study the Bible. The reaction was predictable. People all over the theater stood up and left as soon as he mentioned Jesus. I leaned over and said to Lance (my buddy), "Hey man, you really know how to clear a room." Afterwards, one guy waited at the door to thank Lance for preaching. One. The crowd reaction illustrates the weakness of the movie.
Here's the problem. The principles are all dead on accurate with the movie. But if this movie becomes some sort of rallying cry for the tea party, which isn't fully committed to the gospel or the law of God, it will be a wasted opportunity. Kirk's decision to have Beck do an endorsement in the live feed before the movie began was a mistake. It's going to give Howse and the discernment ministries fits and it was an easily avoidable faux pas. Beck's claims to pray to God (as a Mormon) in that endorsement are problematic since we do not pray to the same God. It doesn't make Kirk a heretic. It makes him guilty of an error in discernment. It's hard for those of us who have defended Kirk and promoted the movie on our Facebook walls when the torrent of conspiracy lunacy was unleashed by Howse's blog post.
I am no movie maker, but if I was a consultant, what would have been wrong with making the point of the movie the power of the gospel to change hearts which leads to national change? What would have been wrong with making a clear statement of "this is where you start" beyond telling us to watch for resources from the movie website? Tie the issue up with Jesus and His gospel and then give us something concrete; like a challenge to read the Pentateuch (the Law of God) and then point to the coming resources? If Kirk had done that I don't think Lance would have had to.
The movie was worth watching and I will be buying the DVD when it comes out. I hope to teach my family the principles behind the Founders Monument because those principles are Biblical (and no, Mr. Howse, I won't become a Mason or a Mormon because I don't join cults). Discernment is not just fleeing from every reference to something worldly in our culture. It is being able to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Monumental is a meaty flick with low bone content. Watch it and bring a toothpick.