Kirk Cameron on Billy Graham, Marriage and Movies

By Interview by Janet Chismar   •   November 7, 2008   •   Topics: ,

Although it was not nominated for an Academy Award, “Fireproof” is the top-grossing independent film of 2008.

It opened in 839 theaters at number 4 in the nation, and is one of the top highest-grossing Christian films—along with “Narnia” and “Amazing Grace”—since “The Passion of Christ.”

DVD sales also are breaking records. The Love Dare book, which was a plot device in the film, is a New York Times number one bestseller, with 2.2 million copies in print.

According to Kirk Cameron, who plays Capt. Caleb Holt in “Fireproof,” the movie shows people what it looks like when a guy who does not believe in God begins to see the importance of the cross—and how it transforms him.

We caught up with Cameron by phone a few weeks ago and chatted about marriage, movies and a certain man named Billy Graham.

BGEA: Tell us about the time you met Billy Graham and about the impact he has had on your life.

Cameron: Billy Graham had a very profound impact on me in terms of inspiring me to want to passionately pursue preaching the Gospel. I actually met Billy Graham when I was probably 17-years old, when he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I was there with him, standing behind him. I had no idea if he had ever heard of the TV show “Growing Pains” — I was there and a guy named Johnny Grant had presented him with his star.

I remember Billy Graham saying, “Some people may ask me why I would agree to have my name put down on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—isn’t that kind of egotistical?”

Mr. Graham responded, “It may be for some, but the reason I agreed to do this is that I thought one day some little child will walk along this street and look down and say, ‘Mommy, who is Billy Graham?’ And she would be able to tell her child, ‘Son, Billy Graham was a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me explain to you what that Gospel is.'”

Cameron: Also, my wife had gotten me some books of Billy’s and some memoirs of his life. I was so impressed by his faithfulness to the gospel, his perseverance over all these years, and the many exciting things he’s been able to do.

In his era, he was able to take his message of the gospel and get it out to the masses of people through secular media, when that is really so much more difficult to do today.

He’s definitely has a big impact on me.

BGEA: That is so true. When I interviewed Stephen Kendrick, he mentioned World Wide Pictures. Billy Graham was one of the forefathers in using media to get the gospel out. It’s fun to be able to talk about a film that is doing the same thing in our day. So, transitioning to “Fireproof,” can you tell readers how you protect your own marriage?

Cameron: The movie really nails so many important principles for husbands and wives. One of them is to learn that you must never follow your heart, instead lead your heart. So many movies and love stories talk about just following your heart, following your dreams. That sounds very romantic, but the problem is, we know from God’s word that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all else.

Jeremiah 17:9 says that. And the problem is your heart can and will deceive you. If you follow your heart, you’ll wind up in a ditch. Following your heart usually winds up in reality meaning, “Oh I am just caught up in the passion of the moment. I am going to go with what feels right.” That can lead to everything from pornography addictions and alcohol and drug problems to affairs and everything else.

Instead we need to lead our heart and that is what I practice doing in my own marriage. It means saying, “I am going to set my heart on my wife. I am going to make her the number one priority in my life, regardless of how I might feel at the moment.”

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The idea is that your heart is going to follow your treasure. The things that we have that are most valuable to us in this life are the time God has given us and our money. If we invest time and money as our treasure into our marriage, our heart will follow. All of the emotion will come along with that and support our commitments and we’ll have a healthy marriage. So I try to implement that principle.

BGEA: Has working on the movie had any impact on you personally? What has been the best part of working on “Fireproof”?

Cameron: I think the best part has been knowing this is a ministry first, more than a movie. It’s great that “Fireproof” has been tremendously successful at the box office, but the real exciting stuff is that we had 1,200 volunteers who did this for free. God opened up the doors for the movie to have great quality, a great story – and it has been impacting people in the world.

Fifty percent of people in America – their marriages are failing and families are falling apart. Over 1000 people on our website said they felt like they were watching their own personal marriage up on a big screen. This has given them the hope they need to resurrect their marriages and start loving their spouses and get things right with God. That’s the exciting stuff. The people who take the movie to heart – it’s transforming them.

BGEA: How has following Christ impacted your marriage? How does it play out for you in a practical way?

Cameron: Number one, faith in Jesus Christ, having a loyalty and commitment to God above our own marriage, to honor the Lord, is the superglue that holds you together during the difficult times. When you don’t feel like loving one another, that doesn’t change anything. If God was basing His actions on His feelings, we would have gone up in a puff of smoke a long time ago.

As Christians, we are called to love and to forgive and to lay down our preferences and our pride, and to serve our spouses, just as God in Christ laid down His life to serve us and love us unconditionally. That really is the model for marriage. It’s not based on feelings; it’s based on a decision to love.

That has been a huge foundation for me and Chelsea. We have been together 17 years. In Hollywood, that is something like 70 years!

There is this beautiful passage in Colossians, where it talks about Christ and His bride. She was alienated from Him, and she was hostile in her mind, engaged in wicked works. That describes a lot of marriages, guys with their brides—she is like an alien and a stranger. They are moving in opposite directions; they feel like they don’t know each another anymore. They are engaged in wicked works that push each other’s buttons and tear apart their trust and their commitment.

Then it goes on to say, what did Christ do? He didn’t say “Forget this, throw in the towel. Let’s find another planet over there.” He reconciled her to Himself by laying down His own life. He sacrificed Himself to restore her to Himself, so that He might set her apart as his own precious possession. He restored her to a pristine condition so that He could enjoy her as His own special treasure forever.

Now we love Him because He first loved us.

So I tell myself, “There’s the model, Kirk. That’s what you need to be doing for your wife. She’s going to love you because you first loved her. Your job is not to whine and complain, but realize that your job as a husband is to love and restore your wife to a beautiful condition. The way you do that is by first giving your wife a new you and loving her unconditionally.”

Then you have hope for the future. And that applies to wives too. All these principles of love and mutual submission apply to wives too. Of course, there are different roles in a marriage that work best, but the concept of love and selflessness is paramount for everyone.