Humbug On Kirk Cameron’s Exceptionalism

RNS has a feature on Kirk Cameron, describing the direction his life has taken since being born again. I know he’s been making Christian movies since his child actor days. It’s got to be a better life choice than substance abuse or reality tv. My wife and I saw Fireproof. It was a good story and a likable concept with a polished look. Particulars of the screenwriting and acting were weak, but not substantially worse than made-for-cable films. As for Mr Cameron, I’d say the man’s less freaky than misinformed on exceptionalism:

The moral fabric of our nation is unraveling so quickly. If we care about our kids and the world that they’re living in, we need to change course before the whole thing goes down the toilet in the next 20 or 30 years.

So many people seem to have a bias about the exceptional situation of the present. “We’re so less moral than society used to be,” seems a common refrain. But count me a skeptic on that. Weren’t people concerned it was all going somewhere in a hand basket in 1968? Didn’t those protesters and anarchists grow up to become Reagan Democrats? (That might be another brand of millennialism.) Didn’t the 50′s lily-white America have a disturbing undercurrent of prejudice? Didn’t we impound our own citizens in camps in the 40′s? What about Prohibition? The epidemic alcoholism that inspired it. Slavery. The placement of native Americans in camps that later inspired Hitler? (Some of you cringe at the Andrew Jackson-Nazi connectoin, don’t you?) Or if it’s the sex that’s worrying people, what about one-fourth of American colonists being born out of wedlock in the generation prior to the Declaration and the Constitution? That’s some bedrock of virtue, eh?

From the interview:

“Monumental,” which Cameron narrates, was released in 500 theaters on March 27. It promotes the gospel of American exceptionalism, rooted in the religious zeal of the Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic to build a more divinely inspired society than the one they left in England.

My optimism informs me that every situation, every day, is an opportunity to live exceptionally. I’m disinclined to think that either me, my parish, or my country are any more exceptional than, say, a Hindu living in a Finland commune. On particulars we might today be more moral (race relations) than we were in previous ages and less moral (talk media) in others. There might even be advancements in both sin and virtue at the same time. (I think of the designated driver movement, which, to its credit, does get some drunk drivers off the road, even as it encourages everybody else in the car to get wasted because they have a chauffeur.)

As for the notion of exceptionalism, Lloyd Stone said it well:

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover-leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

I suspect that our flowers, trees, and skies have been with us since the emergence of human intelligence. Every soul is and has been inspired to exceptionalism. Every age, every nation, and every neighborhood has had people who embrace the challenge, and others who wallow in it. People in every age have soared high as others nearby have circled the drain.

I don’t begrudge Mr Cameron his post-Hollywood career. I think his outspokenness is less a neo-assertive Christianity and more a naive and uninformed perspective. I wish him well with his endeavors. I hope he finds better actors and screenwriters for his projects. But he’s singularly unconvincing in his alarmism.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Humbug On Kirk Cameron’s Exceptionalism

  1. Liam says:

    It’s a form of Christian narcissism is what it is. (It’s not Christian, but narcissism with Christian flavor notes.)

    All this ego, all this drama, all the melodrama. Modern Americans have movies running in our heads (ever notice that when a *real* tragedy happens, how thoughtlessly so many witnesses in our culture are wont’ to say, to intensify its reality, “it was just like a movie”? – when, in fact, what that does is compare it to something artificial rather than real), and we are typically the producer, director and leading star in the drama.

    *Real* Christianity is devoid of that crap – and we need to be exhorted to deprogram and deconstruct this baleful dynamic in our psyche.

    Trust better the Little Way – the way of emptiness, the desert way of dryness, the way of little drama and no melodrama, the way of the still, small voice. It is in that way that our egos learn to become empty to receive and then to give.

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