Hit Sitcom Growing Pains Star Kirk Cameron
BOLD in His Faith, Kirk Cameron Speaks Out
Written by Samantha Baer
Growing Pains meant a lot to Kirk Cameron. Not only was it one of the most popular sitcoms from 1985-1992, but it marked a couple key milestones in Cameron’s life, including meeting his wife, and trading atheism for Christianity. Some twenty years later, a family with six kids, making movies, running a camp, and speaking across the country, the former Mike Seaver has shifted the focus from teen idol, to faithfully following the Lord. Risen talks with Cameron about everything from his television days, to marriage advice, adoption and to accepting God’s love.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in Naperville, Illinois
Risen Magazine: You identified at one point in your teens as an atheist, but then converted to Christianity, what made you decide to follow the Lord?
Kirk Cameron: Well, I guess the simplest answer would be I grew up in a family where we didn’t go to church. We didn’t ever talk about God, and I just loved all my math teachers, my science teachers, and all my history teachers. I wanted to be a doctor, or an astronaut. So my whole world was math, science, physics, evidence, and proof – all that stuff. I just thought there wasn’t proof or evidence for God. Since I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, that was my default position until I was about 17 or 18 years old. Then I started asking basic, but very important questions, like “How did all this get started? How did we get here in the first place? How did this universe come into existence? What happens when you die?” Those are questions that science can’t answer and there is no authority to answer those questions. You kind of need to ask God those questions. So I started doing that. I asked God, “If you are there, I want to know the truth.”
Someone took me to church and I heard a great message from a pastor who was preaching from the Bible. I didn’t believe in the Bible, but I really liked what this pastor had to say. That gave me one hundred more questions! I started talking with friends and reading some books and checking things out. I then started becoming captivated by the words of Jesus Christ and his teachings. Not just his moral teachings like, “Do unto others” and the Golden rule, but things like, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” Things that had to do with eternity, things that had to do with why Jesus died on a cross, and rose from the grave… those things got me thinking more and more.
I started going to church on my own then with some other friends and eventually I became convinced and persuaded that God wrote a book, and that book is the Bible, and that Jesus Christ is who he said he is, and that I needed to then submit myself to his Lordship and his authority. When I did submit, it really started changing me on the inside; who I was, what I was doing, how I was living my life, what I believed, and what I thought. This all happened when I was around 18 years old. So I was kind of young for questions like that, but I was living in a very adult world working on a television show called Growing Pains. I was making an adult salary and agents and lawyers even lived in my own house, so I was thinking about bigger questions in life. It wasn’t like I was in a youth group because all my friends were going to youth group, or my grandma was a Christian so I was; that’s just how it went for me.
Risen Magazine: So would you say around 18 years old is when you decided to accept Christ as your Savior?
Kirk Cameron: Yes…well… I say the same thing that you say, “accepted Christ as my Savior.” The truth is, Christ doesn’t need my acceptance, I need his. And I’m saying that because it is an important thing for all of us to remember. God isn’t waiting around on a cloud somewhere saying, “Who is going to accept me? Who is going to say that I’m here? Who is going to get on my team?” God doesn’t need that. We need him to say, “I’m going to have mercy on you, and I’m going to turn you around and take you off this path that is leading you bad places and put you somewhere where things are going to go well and you will be a blessing for other people.”
So I would say God rescued and found me because I was lost. He wasn’t lost, I was. He found me and put me on a road that was different from a lot of my friends. It was hard, but at the same time such a blessing because a lot of my friends in the acting world are now having a really hard time. They had been in and out of rehab, dealt with drugs, alcohol, and suicide – my best friend on Growing Pains, Boner (Andrew Koenig), committed suicide – even the other guys that I would audition with for the same parts like Corey Haim and River Phoenix, are both no longer here anymore. So I look back and say, “Wow, you [Jesus] rescued me from an awful lot. Not just Hell when I die, but tragedy now.” And I’m so thankful for that. So it’s not like I figured it out and I found God, it’s like God said, “Get a clue because I’m going to rescue you.” And he opened my eyes to things that I was ignoring.
Risen Magazine: Speaking of Growing Pains, Mike Seaver was so well loved during your time on the hit 80’s show. When you think about the series what stands out to you most?
Kirk Cameron: I would say three things. Least important, but still a top three, would be that the Seavers became like a second family to me and they were a good family. There was the mom, the dad, the brother, and the sister, and for a Hollywood set that was a healthy place to be so I’m really thankful for that. I mean you look at Britney Spears or others and you say, “Where are the people protecting these kids?” And I had a lot of protection; the environment was great. Secondly, I would say I met my wife there, [Chelsea Noble] she played my girlfriend [Kate MacDonald on the show.] So that stands out as a huge thing! I was 19 years old then and I still think now, “Man, if it wasn’t for Growing Pains I wouldn’t have met my wife. That means I wouldn’t have had my kids, and I wouldn’t be doing all the things that I’m doing today.” I mean we wouldn’t even have this interview if it weren’t for Growing Pains. Third, and most importantly, this is where I lost my faith in atheism. This is where I could no longer hold on to the belief that there was no God.
Risen Magazine: How did you know Chelsea was the one you wanted to marry?
Kirk Cameron: Well, I didn’t know that she was “the one.” I just knew that she was beautiful. I knew that she was way out of my league, but she surprisingly had a cross on a necklace around her neck and I had just become a Christian. My mind was thinking okay, there are all these things that I’m going to have to give up since I’m a Christian, and then I thought, “Well, here is a girl that is sweet and beautiful, and they come as Christians too?! Wow! What a great idea! This is bonus!” So we got talking, and our first date was actually a Michael W. Smith concert. Anyways, she was my girlfriend on the show and so we saw each other a lot at work and we got to be good friends, and about a year later I asked her to marry me. I was nervous, I really wasn’t sure if she was going to say yes, but she said yes and we were married about six months after that.
He found me and put me on a road that was different from a lot of my friends. It was hard, but at the same time such a blessing
Risen Magazine: Together you have six children, four of which are adopted. What encouragement can you give other families with adopted children and what has been the biggest blessing with becoming a father?
Kirk Cameron: We’ve been married for about 22 years now and we have six kids, three boys, three girls – my eldest is 16, and my youngest is 10. I can’t remember which ones are adopted now! I guess my advice would be for people who are looking to start a family that adoption is such a great thing on so many levels and adoption is the answer to so many things. My wife and I knew we wanted to be parents, and my wife herself is an adopted child. So that was very close to her heart and I was like, “Well I want to be a dad and I don’t need to donate the DNA if there are kids that need moms and dads out there.” So we started adopting kids and we adopted our first four children before we had two natural children of our own.
And you know, I think that adoption is the answer to abortion. I just love changing the two letters on abortion – the “b” and the “r” and you get the word adoption. My four little mixed babies, who so easily might not be here today – my Bella, Ahna, Luke, and Jack – there are just so many parents out there that want desperately to have kids and I think one of the most beautiful and unselfish things for a mom that is not able to raise a baby can do, is to give that baby to a family like us who want children and want to raise them.
Adoption pictures the heart of God in that he adopts us by faith when we come to him and he makes us his sons and daughters by changing us and saying, “And now I love you, and I forgive you of your sin, I bring you into my family, I have an inheritance for you, and I’ll never leave you and won’t ever forsake you.” God adopts us. So adoption is just awesome. I recommend it.
Now the biggest blessing to be a father, well it reminds me of a verse in Scripture that says, “I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in truth.” As a father, there are current blessings today like hearing my kids laugh, just being with my kids, listening to what is important in their life; but I think by far the thing that will mean most to me is to see my own kids walking in the truth. I think the hardest thing as a parent would be to see your children not walking in truth. I think that would be the hardest thing, maybe next to losing a child. Just to see them walk away from God would be so hard. So the greatest blessing to me, is to see them walking in truth.
Risen Magazine: You travel the country speaking to couples at Love Worth Fighting For marriage events. What have been a few main points that keep your marriage strong?
Kirk Cameron: Hmm… buying my wife lots of chocolate and flowers! Let’s see, well my wife has driven a 15-passenger van for the last 13 years so I was about to win the “bad husband of the year” award if I didn’t upgrade that vehicle. [Laughter] So I did just upgrade her to a sporty eight-passenger Suburban. And we’re closing in on the two-seater Porsche, we are getting closer! Okay back to the question, I would say understanding that having a great marriage is not about changing your spouse – that is not the strategy that ever works. It’s about God giving my spouse a new me and that I need to be the man or the woman that God creates me to be. Then I can trust God to do what needs to be done in my spouse. That is the main thing.
Always remembering the cross, the cross is the most important picture to have set before us because there it pictures the whole story, the whole ball of wax. The cross is a cruel torture execution machine that demonstrates God’s furious wrath towards sin. Sin is so wicked that it put the Son of God on the cross. It’s terrifying because God hates sin. It also pictures the deep, wide, eternal love of God in that he spares us from the consequences of our sin by sending that which is most precious to him as a substitute. And there is the love of God demonstrated for me at the cross.
That is the source of my fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, and it’s the source of the love of God, which fills me with gratitude. If I can remember that, then I don’t get to say to my wife, “I deserve better than you… Don’t you talk to me that way!” No, no, no, I actually deserve worse than you, much worse, I deserve the wrath of God and he saved me from that and you’re a blessing and a work in progress just like me. I’m just going to try to get my part right and be a better husband for you. That’s the plan.
Risen Magazine: One of your highest grossing films, Fireproof, was on the topic of marriage. Its success revolutionized Christian filmmaking. How do you think Christian films should look moving forward?
Kirk Cameron: I just think they should be better. They should be more thoughtful, they should be better stories; writers should imitate stories that God has written in the Scriptures. Stories that don’t imitate the Great Author in his stories will always fall flat and come across cheesy, and uninteresting. So the best stories are never going to be about the villain on the motorcycle with the babe on the back as they ride off into the sunset after they just stole one million dollars of money from the bank – that story is never going to work. The stories that work are where the serpent’s head is crushed, and the hero is the one who lays down his life for the girl, right? Because that is the story of the Bible because God says to Eve that one will come who will crush the serpent’s head, he will bruise his heal, but he will crush the serpent’s head and he will win back his bride who is right now under a death curse. And Christ has come, he crushes the serpent’s head on the cross and he wins back his bride and beautifies her to set her apart as a special treasure for all of eternity. And after death is a resurrection, and now everything and all enemies are put under his feet.
And that’s why Fireproof worked. It wasn’t about the character muscling to the top, it was about him rescuing his wife, and rescuing his marriage, by first dying to himself and saying, “Oh God I’m an idiot, and a selfish jerk, and I’m ruining everything and I need you to resurrect me as a man.” Those are the stories that work. What we need to do is imitate God better in the story telling and not get lazy with the quality of our productions.
Risen Magazine: Because Christian’s love you and so identify with your work as an actor, how does that affect the roles you take?
Kirk Cameron: Obviously in the business of marketing and producing movies, you do want to give your customers what they are looking for. But that’s not what really has ever driven me, because if I was really just looking to make money from customers, I can go make money doing a whole lot of other movies and not do marriage conferences or not have made Fireproof for free. I try to live for an audience of one, and what that one is looking for is faithfulness. God is looking for faithfulness.
I try to live for an audience of one, and what that one is looking for is faithfulness. God is looking for faithfulness.
Risen Magazine: You and your wife started Camp Firefly. How did this idea come about and how involved with the camp are you?
Kirk Cameron: Camp Firefly is a camp that is for terminally and seriously ill children and their families. My wife and I started it back in 1989 when we were working on Growing Pains. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we met kids that were terminally ill and they were granted a wish and their wish was to meet the Seavers and to get autographs from us and take pictures. And we would meet so many of these kids and wanted to do something more than just sign autographs, so we decided to do something that would really help the whole family. We decided to give them an all expense paid, weeklong vacation in a great place where they can get away from needles, chemotherapy, doctors, hospitals, and just be together. Mom, dad, and the brothers and sisters can make some memories that will pull them together again during those difficult times and meet other families that understand what they’re going through. We have six families that come together for a week at a time and do all sorts of things like water skiing and jet skiing, mom makeovers, golf, pool parties, barbecues, square dances, nature walks… all kinds of stuff. They even can rekindle their faith and strengthen the family by making friendships that will last them into the future. If anyone wants more info on they can go to campfirefly.com and get more details.
Risen Magazine: What can we expect next from you?
Kirk Cameron: I have a new documentary film coming out called Unstoppable. It is the most personal film project I have ever made with regards to my faith. It’s based on a true story of a friend of mine who lost his son to cancer this year. It’s taking people through my own journey into the hopes and dreams and questions and doubts that I have had to struggle through with the question, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” It’s a journey back into the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and the serpent, the fall, Cain murdering his brother Abel, the flood, and why does God allow all this tragedy? I mean all this happens under his watch and he could have stopped it. I don’t ask that as a perspective from an atheist saying, “Oh yeah if there really is a God would he let kids die from cancer?” No, I’m saying, “God, I know you’re there, I love you and they love you, we pray to you and yet why did you let him die of cancer? Really, why? Why couldn’t that happen to a ‘bad’ family, or someone who really rejects you?” I come out in the end of that journey with my faith stronger than ever. It’s called unstoppable because God is good and his purposes are never failing – they are unstoppable.
Unstoppable hits theaters on September 24, 2013.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Fall 2013