Television’s Kirk Cameron was on The Today Show this morning promoting his new film called Monumental. It’s a documentary type project built upon this premise:
“I spent the last year and a half on a personal journey traveling through Europe and the United States in search of what I’m calling the real national treasure of America. I’ve got six kids and as a dad I’m wanting my kids to have a great future. And I look at what’s going on around, turn on the news and economically we’re struggling greatly as a nation, we’re 15, 16 trillion dollars in debt. Families falling apart, divorce, teenage pregnancy, suicide, crime, drugs, alcohol, so many things, I’m thinking, how can you turn things around culturally? And with so many people playing the blame game… maybe there’s a simple solution. If only we could get in a time machine and go back and talk to the men and women who built this country, these courageous moms and dads who went against all odds and started a brand-new idea maybe they could tell us what we’re doing right and wrong and what to do to get on the right track.”
Ah…. the time machine solution. Interesting… I have two issues:
First, you can’t go back. You can only go through. The answer to all of our problems is not back there somewhere waiting to be unearthed. First of all there is no such thing as a time machine. And even if you could go back in time, you would find roughly the same thing you find today: suicide, crime, drugs, alcohol, families falling apart (also much more disease, violence, poverty, and fewer rights for women & minorities). Most of all, however, you would find people arguing about what was happening and why.
Any attempt to distill the “truth” and then import it into our present time would fail because the story of US history can be told in many different ways. The way you tell the story, for instance, as a rich, white, male, ex-television star will be quite different than they way you would tell the story if you were an African slave, a Native American, a woman, an illegal immigrant, and so on.
Don’t get me wrong – I love to study history. We should work hard to understand what has happened in the past. However, it means that we cannot base the path we take through – on into the future – on any single telling of our history. It takes many voices, it takes many points of view. I would caution anyone who plans to watch the movie, to remember that Television’s Kirk Cameron is not a theologian or an historian.
Second, since when did the Christian “we” become the American “we”? The conflation of the Christian “we” with the American “we” makes what Cameron is trying to do ill-advised. The way through is not some big mystery which must be solved. The way through is always to be the church for our day. The people of God simply live into the kingdom of God in their time, in their place, pursuing faithfully the chance to bear witness to the lordship of Jesus not only with our words, but with our lives, believing that we can only do this together in the diverse, manifold witness of the church of the past, present, and future.
Here’s the trailer: