Monumental is a grass roots style film that seeks to change America for the better, to stir Americans from apathy to action. Actor Kirk Cameron encourages Christians who have all but given up on our national future. Since his enthusiasm is not tempered by a scripted character he must portray, Cameron has the freedom to speak directly from his heart, and his optimism is inspirational to say the least.
I was afraid that Monumental would be an election year propaganda piece, and I'm glad to say it wasn't. I don't care for propaganda films from either the right or left, because on a base level, each side is preaching to its own choir. Most people who love politics enough to watch a political film already have their minds made up and won't be watching the opposition's arguments. So, when Monumental avoided that kind of agenda, I was genuinely relieved.
Instead, actor Kirk Cameron and writer Kevin Miller use Christians whose religious freedoms are threatened as a platform for a larger conversation about our nation's future. They connect the audience to a similar group of patriots who wanted to see change in their day: the pilgrims. The film begins with the story of the separatists (the pilgrims' back story that most of us are not familiar with). It gives viewers a clear context for why and how they came here in the first place. Their primary desire was to change Europe, particularly England. But after twelve years of being chased by the government,hiding out in Holland, and sharing their beliefs through print, about half their group came to America.The rest remained there to promote local change. The film shows how their vision for change and the eventual move to America revolutionized the entire world as we know it today. They were men of faith,women with purpose, and children growing up in an environment where the right to worship God was paramount. With this common goal of religious freedom, Cameron and Miller call a modern audience to action, uniting Christians in faith rather than dividing them along partisan lines.
The film goes on to show how far we have drifted from that passionate desire to defend our religious heritage. Whether it is accepting rewritten history or changing the motto of educational institutions like Harvard, there has been a slow and steady decline in the importance of honoring our Christian God in America. The separation of church and state has also impacted this dramatically, but the filmmakers don't stop with the problems we have as a nation. They bring the conversation full circle to discuss a national solution. The conversation is built around a unique and obscure national monument which essentially outlines the recipe for a successful democracy. By returning to those foundations, argue Miller and Cameron, America can experience a spiritual and moral change on a national level.
As I mentioned, it's not an election year film, but a legacy film. The opening scenes show children of varying ages playing in a back yard while Cameron sits in a chair, thinking. Throughout the film, he challenges the audience to consider the long term effects of inaction and encourages us to invest in the future of several generations ahead. In the closing scenes, Cameron stands up from his chair, ready for action. With the children still playing nearby, the message is clear: rather than making sure our favorite candidate wins this election year, we are to preserve our freedom every election year, to get involved in government, and to pray fervently for revival for our children's sake.
I admit that while I'm a generally optimistic person, I am usually pessimistic about my children's future. I teach them to memorize scripture because I don't know how long they will have access to Bibles, and I explain to them how to live under persecution because that's what seems to be coming our way as Christians in America. And yet, a film like this almost makes me think it can be different. I’m a believe that history repeats itself. And if I were to be honest, a season of spiritual revival such as The Great Awakening and The Protestant Reformation could as likely be in our future as the fall of the Roman Empire. Maybe it's time to start teaching my children to be world-changers rather than survivors in an ill-fated empire. Maybe it's time to start praying for national revival rather than for strength and courage under fire. Or perhaps, it's truly time to pray for both. Like the pilgrims in 1620, I suspect that it will take all the strength, courage, and perseverance that God will grant us (and our children) to change the world. But isn't that the very heart of God? Won't he make that happen in answer to our desires, and for his own glory?
Talking Points with Kids:
Ages 0-5: (Some of the content may not be suitable for this age group, and being a documentary, it may also not keep them very interested! But if they do watch, try these…) Why did the separatists leave England? Did they do anything special while they were in Holland? When they came to America, what made them different from the other people who were coming at the same time, and why might the Indians have helped them?
Ages 6-12: With so many of their group dying the first year, do you think it was worth it for the pilgrims to come to America? Were there any long term effects of their choices that made it worthwhile? What do you think the world would be like now if they hadn't moved to America? It took long term dedication and perseverance for the separatists to change the world (even generations later), is there anything that you feel that strongly about that you would dedicate your life to changing?
Ages 12+: What do you think about rewritten history – who would do this and why? Where else can you find the truth about historical events besides your school textbooks? Many charities, businesses,organizations and schools have changed their mottos to appeal to a larger market and bring in business. Do you think this is necessary to survive? Can you name a few businesses, charities, organizations or schools that are successful today without having compromised the foundations on which they were built? Which statue on the monument resonated with something you are passionate about? How can you make a change today in that arena? (No idea is too small…small successes encourage bigger ventures.)