Kirk Cameron, Christian Reconstructionism, and The Homeschool Revolution

Kirk Cameron, best known as a child actor who played the part of Mike Seaver on the sitcom Growing Pains, has, in adulthood, become a key figure in the American Evangelical Christian movement. He is one of the leaders of the evangelical ministry "The Way of the Master," which runs a television show, a radio show, a podcast, a publishing arm that produces books and tracts, and several courses including an online course in evangelism and a small-group training course. The online presence and store of The Way of the Master is called Living Waters, and features blog posts, merchandise, and more. Currently, the site features a video entitled, "China Sky Turns Blood Red: End Times Sign?" According to the website, Living Waters "seeks to train the members of Christ's Body in the principles of biblical evangelism and to provide them with practical tools to proclaim the gospel." It's difficult to find out how much money these various ministries make, but I was able to find a site called, "Meet the Wealthiest Religious Leaders in the World," which states Kirk Cameron is worth $20 million US Dollars. 

Cameron once was the poster child for the mainstream Christian Evangelical theology of premillennialism—the theology that was very clearly depicted in Cameron's Left Behind post-rapture film series. More recently, with his 2014 film release Monumental, which "seeks to discover America's true 'national treasure': the people, places, and principles that made America the freest, most prosperous and generous nation the world has ever known," Cameron has made a theological shift away from rapture theology and toward postmillennialist dominion theology. According to Dr. Julie Ingersoll, Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Florida, with Monumental, "there is a new, more extreme Cameron who is increasingly connected to Christian Reconstruction and dominion theology." She explains that he has moved "from the belief that the reign of Christ would be ushered in by the end-times" to a belief that "the end-times would precede his reign." No longer are Cameron and his ilk waiting around for the rapture. He is increasingly critiquing rapture theology and urging Christians to become more active in ushering in a "Christian nation." He looks to the Puritans for a model of Christians who 'got it right', saying they weren't just passively saying "Uh-oh, the beast and the Antichrist is here…let's just keep our heads down and wait for the end of the world." Instead, they said, "Let's make a 500-year plan and go start a nation." He blames premillennialist Christians for facilitating the decline of America as they sit around waiting for the rapture, and he seems determined, through his films and ministry work, to lead the charge of building a "Christian nation." He seems to be fully aligned with the far-right agenda and has been embraced by far-right leadership. He supports Donald Trump and is against COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as lockdowns and masking. He's spoken at CPAC and has publicly condemned homosexuality and same-sex marriage. 

In her 2012 article, Dr. Ingersoll stated that it was too soon to tell whether Cameron would fully embrace the rest of the "biblical worldview" promoted by Christian Reconstruction, which includes biblical patriarchy and eliminating public education and public assistance for the poor. Well, turns out he has, at least with regard to eliminating public education. 

Cameron has recently been promoting his new documentary, entitled The Homeschool Awakening, which is set to debut in theaters across the country on June 13 and 14, 2022. You can currently only see the movie in theaters on that weekend and can buy tickets online here. This ticketing website provides the following overview of the film: 

"Families across the nation are experiencing the homeschool awakening, taking advantage of the freedom and opportunities for self-discovery—with the world as their classroom. Join award-winning actor, Kirk Cameron, as he dives into the adventures of dynamic American families on a mission to put fun and faith back into learning. The Homeschool Awakening explores the ins, outs, and honest answers to homeschooling's most frequently asked questions."

Cameron has stated in interviews that one of his motivations—in line with Christian Reconstructionism—for making this movie was to "bring heaven to earth". He explains that "we need more young people who have a firm foundation in the faith to go out and make a difference in the world." He also has stated that this film is important because "true biblical transformation of culture has to begin in the home."

In the trailer and promotional materials, we see examples of different families debunking homeschooling myths, sharing their experiences homeschooling their children, celebrating their excitement, and exclaiming that simply having a desire to teach and being a parent qualify them to homeschool their children. In the trailer, one parent of a child with Down syndrome states, "We didn't have to be a special needs teacher, we only had to be a teacher of our daughter." Another parent says, "The Kingdom of Heaven is qualifying you to speak into your children's life."

At the end of the promotional video, we hear Cameron himself explaining why he made this movie. He says:

I made this movie because I care deeply about my children and I care about your children and about their future. And the future of our country. Since the pandemic we've been made grossly aware of the inaccurate and the immoral things that the public school system has been teaching our children and our grandchildren. And it's up to us as parents to cultivate the hearts and minds and souls of our children toward what is good, toward what is right, beautiful, and true. And the public school system, unfortunately, has not been working with us, but actively working against us. In my opinion, the public school system has become public enemy number one. I think you need to see the movie because you may be wondering 'What can I do about it? How can I be part of the solution?' The Homeschool Awakening will give you answers and I think America needs a film like this, right now. We need to take back the education of our children because whoever controls the textbooks controls the future. Whoever's shaping the hearts and minds and souls of our children will determine whether or not we live in a free country, and we have freedom of speech, and economic freedom, and educational freedom, and political freedom, and religious freedom. If these things are important to you, and I believe they are, join me. It's time for a homeschool awakening.

Read that again – Cameron is clearly stating that he believes that "THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM HAS BECOME PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE." This is dangerous rhetoric, akin to the far-right proclaiming similar ideas about the news media and pandemic health officials—this is rhetoric that has incited violence. Promoting homeschooling might seem at first glance innocent enough—and homeschooling itself doesn't inherently belong to only one political or religious ideology. In fact, there have been plenty of progressive and left-leaning versions of homeschooling or unschooling (see A. S. Neill and his Summerhill school movements, for example) that have been enacted for at least a century. But given the context of Kirk Cameron's evangelical background and recent move even further toward the far-right and toward Christian Reconstructionism, his vision of homeschooling, which is tied to Christian nationalism, takes on a far more serious and frightening tone.