Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Kirk Cameron is...Unstoppable

Warning: The following post may offend some readers due to its highly religious topic.

The other day I received an email stating that 5 more seasons of Full House had been added to Netflix. Considering I spent far too much time over the Christmas break watching the first three, I considered this to be pretty big, but worrisome news!

Fortunately/unfortunately since I live outside of the US and Canada, I have limited access to Netflix's offerings. This means that these "5 more seasons" were not available to me. But, as I searched 'tirelessly' for them I came upon a documentary by former Growing Pains star, Kirk Cameron, and I thought, what have I got to lose? After all, he is the older brother to a one DJ Tanner* in real life!

The premise of this film, as the trailer above indicates, is Cameron's journey to answer the question, 'why does God let bad things happen to good people?" While I do not identify with any religion, asking a similar question is something I have considered many times before.

To find the answer, Cameron explains his interpretation of the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and maybe a few others (to be honest, it all started to blur together...). He uses these stories to inform the audience how and why God acts the way 'he does.' To my surprise, he actually makes well thought out, cohesive arguments. Sure, at times he gets a bit preachy, but the overall feel of his presence is more of passion than outlandish religionism.

For those of you who aren't aware of Cameron's transition from teen idol to evangelist, here's a quick recap (based on reliable source - Wikipedia!):
  • Best known for this role as Mike Seaver on 'Growing Pains' between the late '80s and early '90s.
  • Considered himself to be atheist in his early teens.
  • Became a born again Christian at the age of 17.
  • As a result of this new-found lifestyle, Cameron began challenging the scripts of 'Growing Pains,' as he felt many of them did not display his Christian values.
  • Founded The Way of the Master ministry with Rick Comfort in 2002.
  • Works with various camps, charities, and other religious organizations as a means of spreading the word of God. 
  • Took to college campuses across the US to distribute altered versions of Darwin's famous book, 'The Origin of Species' in 2009,  which sparked some obvious controversy.
Now, Cameron has taken to the 'big screen.' Part of the rationale behind this documentary is most likely to be used as a recruitment tool for non-believers. However, I truly think he's doing it mostly out of a need to try to find answers himself. 

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I'm not intending on attacking or denouncing his beliefs. I may not be a religious person, but I have a keen interest in learning about them. Religion is a fascinating topic, and while yes, I know that it's one that leads to controversy, I think it is equally important to debate - particularly in this context. To me, comparing views and attempting to make a person feel bad about their religious affiliation - whether they believe or not - is not something that anyone has a right to do. I respect anyone who can blindly believe in a God or other higher-power. If truth be told, I wish I had that ability, but I don't. That being said, I think it's only fair to confess that before I clicked play, I was skeptical, and felt that it was just going to be like many of the nutball-esque videos found repeatedly on YouTube. Yes, I admit it, most times I find this guy to be on a fast train to crazy town, but not this time. ...well, not entirely, at least.

I've certainly not been converted, nor has this 65 minute film made me reconsider my own beliefs. But, for the most part, I enjoyed it, if not for the artistic capabilities of the film crew or the fantastic soundtrack. There were, however, three things about this documentary that left me upset and wondering what Cameron was thinking. 

To start, the film opens with Cameron rambling on about things related to the question at the basis of this movie. But then - and maybe it's because I missed something - he lodged right into a story about a 15-year-old boy he knew, who had died. The story that accompanied it was fine, as this is probably what started him on this quest. But what I took issue with, was that there was a massive focus on the funeral. I found myself trying to wrap my head around why this was thought of as appropriate. Sure, having the boy's memory kept alive is wonderful, and sharing stories about him is also great. But, I just felt like it was exploring this one family, more than it was tackling the issue at hand - why had this child been taken, when there are so many 'bad people' in the world. 

The second thing I found odd, was the weird reenactments of the bible stories Cameron used to explain his God's actions. They were obviously meant to be artistic recreations, but man (!) they were really strange. Again, I didn't really see why this was necessary to the overall aim of the film. I understand that Cameron was using these stories to describe human action as it relates to God, but I just didn't see why this was needed. It really took away from the message. It was like interpretive dance with bad costumes and aggressive tunes. Weird. 

Finally, there is a scene where Cameron attempts to pitch the idea of making the story of Noah's Ark into a film, or tv show (I'm really not sure which). It shows him pitching his idea in a serious manner, but with his usual enthusiasm for the subject matter. And, here's where I really struggled (even more than the funeral and the reenactments). The producer and creative team start making ridiculous suggestions on how to 'sell' the concept to a wider, more excepting audience. I assume this was done to really drive home the message that God flooding the earth and killing all but those on the ark, doesn't give the kindest view of 'the Creator,' but I just thought some of the remarks were appalling! I felt offended, and I'm not even a Christian! Talking animals, the dove being an eagle or falcon, and making a rainbow the focal point of the story just seemed crazy offensive. And again, it made me think, why is he placing this in this documentary? He could have had just as great an impact without it. Listening to Cameron just talking out his views and applying them to the situations he has faced in his life was enough. 

So, now that I've written this, I honestly have know idea why I did. Maybe it's to get a conversation going. Maybe it's just to practice my writing skills. Maybe I've played into Cameron's plan entirely. Cameron's conclusion is that bad things aren't necessarily happening to good people, because the end goal isn't just to live until death - it's to get to the next level after death. From my own experiences and outlooks on life, I'm happy with the notion that we just live until death. Death is somewhat comforting to me. I'm not saying I want it to find me tomorrow, but, I also don't fear the day when it does. Maybe this is why I have a hard time believing. Maybe, for me, that is enough. 

-the Orange Canadian

*DJ Tanner is the oldest of the Tanner girls. The Tanner's are the family who occupy the "Full House."

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