A Conversation With Kirk Cameron on Media Discernment (Part I)

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Have you ever experienced a “chance” meeting with someone that, looking back, you’re certain was a divine appointment? I had one earlier this year. I had received an email about a Fathoms Event film called Connect, which will be getting two encore presentations on March 20 and March 24—a movie all about the influence of entertainment and the importance of discernment, a subject that’s near and dear to all of us here with Plugged In. As I read through the email, I thought, “Well, this movie sounds very Plugged In-esque. I wonder how we could work together?”

And then it occurred to me that I had the personal contact information for the person behind the film—none other than Fireproof star Kirk Cameron. So I fire off a few texts and emails, trying to track him down.

A couple hours later, Kirk emails me.

“Hey, Bob,” he said, “I’m at Focus on the Family today. Let’s get together.”

So we did, and that meeting led to this interview with Kirk on media, porn, technology and his upcoming film, Connect. Kirk has thought long and hard about this subject and speaks from the heart when it comes to discernment and media issues. I think you’ll enjoy the discussion, part one of which you’ll read today.


Bob Waliszewski: Of all the topics that could possibly be covered in a documentary–discipleship, how to read your Bible more effectively, how to share your faith, why you should go on foreign missions–you chose media discernment and technology. What drove you to that decision?

Kirk Cameron: As a parent of six children, my wife and I share the intense concern that millions of parents have that is unique to our generation, and that is the effect that social media and technology’s having on our kids. It shapes everything, from their view about themselves, their friends, their family and even God. Kids are spending an average of ten hours a day on their phone or device. So, the impact of that cannot be overemphasized. We don’t want to be damage control parents. We want to get on the offense and help our kids be champions, not victims.

Waliszewski: What are you hoping will happen in the life of those who see Connect when it releases later this month and early March?

Cameron: I’m hoping that people will watch Connect and realize that their concerns and the burden they feel is shared and carried by every parent today. And I think that they will leave feeling hopeful, educated and empowered to stay connected with their kids as they learn to navigate these social media and technology waters.

Waliszewski: What type of content concerns you the most these days in popular entertainment? Is it language? Violence? Sexuality? Spirituality?

Cameron: That’s a great question and you know I so appreciate Plugged In and all of the great work that you do. Every time my kids go see a movie and they say, “Hey, Dad. Can we go see this?” I tell them “hold on” and I pull up my Plugged In app and I go type it in and see what you had to say.

By the way, if we can just talk about Plugged In for a while … I so appreciate just the way that your reviews are written. Your team does such a good job. There are other review sites that I find less helpful and I find sometimes people are straining at gnats and swallowing camels. I like the way that you appreciate the power of stories to shape worldview and the way that you put the responsibility on the parents to use wisdom and discernment with regard to whether their kids should see something even if it’s not communicating the right worldview. That’s a tricky thing because ultimately we want our kids to know how to handle and process those things—not just shelter them from them forever.

With regard to content, when I look at content on your reviews or any review, I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t even thought through whether this is a good thing or not. I think the first section I go to is things that are dealing with sexual content. If my kids are going to hear the f-bomb and they’re going to hear some language or they’re going to see some violence, sure I’m interested in knowing what that is and I’m concerned about the levels of those things. But, when it comes to sexual content, to me that just steps up to the next level. That’s where now we’re getting into the areas that are going to affect their relationships with how they view their spouse, how they view the intimacy of the marriage relationship and the exclusivity of that kind of intimacy.

There’s so many factors that play into that whole category that I think are extremely important. Those are images that should not be in our kids’ minds, or in anyone’s minds for that matter. Those are things that [are] reserved for the exclusivity of marriage. That’s a big red flag issue for me.

Like I said, all of [these content issues] are important. Worldview is important. Language and the use of words are extremely important. You can shape an entire culture by controlling the words. We see that in our generation right now. What is love? What is equality? What is freedom? What is justice? What is tolerance? If you can control words you can control ideas and the way people think. So, all of it’s important, but I think that’s my go-to with my kids in terms of the category and then I make my way through the list of the others.

Waliszewski: I actually have been seeing something lately that I’ve been calling “the abandonment timeline.” Maybe a Christian is exposed to something in media that is sexual—risqué dialogue, explicit scenes, nudity, something like that. Then they make some kind of sexual compromise in their life. The next step in the timeline is that person gets into pornography, or they start sleeping with someone, or they start having an affair. And then they’ll come face-to-face with a decision. They realize they’re being a hypocrite. They have to repent—which Jesus will easily offer forgiveness—but it’s easier not to repent. It’s easier just to say, “Forget this. I’m being a hypocrite. I’m not living this out right. I think I’ll just abandon it. It’s probably not working for me.” and then they abandon their faith.

We think that people often walk away from faith because that core faith structure was challenged in some way: Maybe they took a challenging philosophy class as a college freshman or something. But if you get down the root of the whole matter and ask, “Who are you sleeping with?,” it’s like, “Uh, how do you know?” Well, we know because you’re struggling with your spiritual faith.” Personally, I often think it has little to do with that young person’s philosophy class. It has a great deal to do with, “Who are you sleeping with?” But it goes back further than that. It began way back when as a 14 year old when they were looking at something they shouldn’t have looked at on the phone.

Cameron: You know, Bob. You’re right. That’s very insightful. Very, very insightful and I want to remember that. I’ve found that on the streets you go talk to people and they’re bitter toward God and they’re angry toward God and [then you] find out that they had a Christian upbringing. You’re saying, wow, you got parents who are praying for you. They just want to get off the topic and you ask them why. Ultimately if they’re honest, they usually come back to some kind of an issue [like you mentioned], or they were hurt and they didn’t deal with it. They just sort of went AWOL because God didn’t treat them the way that they think they should have, or it’s some kind of sin involved in their life that they just don’t want to give up. … They’ve decided to latch onto that and they know it’s incompatible with their faith, so they chuck their faith.

Be sure to check out part 2 of our conversation with Kirk Cameron. Also, thanks to strong demand, Fathom Events is adding two encore presentations of Connect: Tuesday, March 20 and Saturday, March 24, both at 7 p.m. (local time). Tickets will go on sale March 14 and can be purchased at participating theaters or by visiting www.ConnectMovie.com.