Kirk Cameron, who recently asserted that Christians should throw the ‘biggest party on the block’ for Halloween and that Santa Claus is actually a “defender of the faith,” is receiving mixed reviews for his new film “Saving Christmas,” including from critics who state that the actor is seeking to stamp out any opposition to his personal love for the holiday and its traditions.
Cameron, best known for his role as Mike Seaver on the 80’s TV sitcom “Growing Pains” and films such as “Fireproof” and “Left Behind,” released the film in theaters nationwide on Friday, in an hour and a half-long effort to convince viewers that some Christmas traditions aren’t so pagan after all and have a biblical basis for their observance.
As previously reported, in a video clip released last week entitled “Do You Love Santa Claus,” Cameron stated that “maybe someone like Santa Claus is actually on our team.” He then released a second video providing the history of the figure of Santa Claus, whom he characterized as a “devout Christian.”
“[T]hey even ‘sainted’ him—that’s why we call him St. Nicholas,” he said, although not mentioning that the “they” is the leadership of the Roman Catholic religion. “He became legendary in his time and beyond his time. He became larger than life and reached mythic proportions.”
Cameron told hundreds of students at Liberty University recently that the use of Santa Claus, who had developed from the person of St. Nicholas, was therefore not so bad after all.
“So the guy that many of us think is distracting from the birth of the Christ child, is really the defender of the faith you and I want to be,” he asserted. “So now that you know who the real Santa Claus is, you want to take a picture with him at the mall this Christmas? I do.”
The clip is included in Cameron’s “Saving Christmas” as well, during which actor Darren Doane plays Cameron’s brother-in-law Christian, who believes that Christmas traditions are pagan and often materialistic and should therefore be avoided. During the film, Cameron seeks to convert Christian over to his side, and eventually succeeds in doing so. Christian then slides into a pile of presents and hops up on Santa’s lap, since Cameron has now convinced him that such traditions were permissible for Bible-believing Christians.
Reviewers who have watched the film have given it a mixed bag of reviews, with some stating that the best part of the movie is Cameron’s heart for the gospel.
“He knows how to transition average conversations into spiritual conversations that present the gospel,” wrote Carl Kerby of Apolomedia. “While the viewer may not agree with everything he has to say, he is certainly passionate about sharing his faith, and that is commendable.”
Jeff Totey of BeliefNet said that he found the film to be amusing.
“Kirk’s and Christian’s conversation is pretty entertaining to watch as Doane is actually very funny in his awkwardness,” he wrote. “Christian rants about one subject, Kirk addresses it and then they move on to the next.”
But others expressed concern about some of the assertions Cameron made in the movie, and the manner in which he sought to present his arguments.
“Cameron’s lectures reek of condescension,” wrote Chris Williams, movie reviewer for the Advisor and Source in Michigan. “Cameron poo-poos any of Christian’s concerns and utters a series of ‘here’s why you’re wrong’ declarations.”
“It ends not with a commitment to wisely consider the season, but with Christian belly-sliding into a pile of presents,” he continued. “Rather than agree that more Christmas money could go to the poor, Cameron literally says that materialism is perfectly fine, so long as you don’t max out the credit cards.”
Michael O’ Sullivan of the Washington Post made similar remarks.
“The one sales pitch that’s hardest to buy is Cameron’s insistence that there’s nothing wrong with the materialistic focus of Christmas,” he wrote in a review on Friday. “His characterization of Jesus as a ‘material’ gift to us from God—evidence, he claims, that God wants us to shop—should offend anyone who balks at placing the Christ Child on the same scale as a $25 gift card.”
Kerby, who found both good and concerning aspects in the film, said that he thought Cameron’s tone could have been better.
“As it is in the film, it comes across as condescending to the audience as if to say ‘Hey, there’re trees all over the Bible so everyone should love Christmas trees!'” he said. “It stretches a little further than Scripture itself reaches on this topic.”
“What are they going to do next?” Cameron asks in the film. “Tell us hot chocolate is bad? That the Druids invented it?”
Williams said that in the end, “Kirk Cameron hasn’t made a movie for Christians. He’s made a movie for Kirk Cameron.”
“He’s made a movie to say, ‘Stop complaining about something I like,'” he wrote in his review on Friday. “‘Saving Christmas’ is a self-indulgent mess that ignores legitimate concerns in favor of saying, ‘Don’t spoil my party.’ Instead of pausing for soul-searching or real discussion, it gives us a smarmy lecturer justifying his position and ignoring any complaints.”
“Cameron wants us to leave the theater ready to indulge in the biggest Christmas celebration ever,” Williams said. “I left thinking maybe the Grinch had a point.”
Christmas, being translated as “Christ’s mass,” was largely opposed by Christians in early America because of its Roman Catholic and pagan roots. In 1647, the English parliament not only passed a law banning Christmas, but also Easter, Whitsun and all of the special “saints” days instituted by the Catholic church. When the Puritans came to America, they did the same.
“When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a Divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then,” also declared well-known preacher of old, Charles Spurgeon, in 1871. “It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men as to observe the ordinances of the Lord.”
“Tragically, we are living in a time when evangelicals are following popular personalities instead of Christ and His word,” Mike Gendron with Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries told Christian News Network in regard to “Saving Christmas.” “Since the word of God is not being proclaimed faithfully from many pulpits, there is a lack of discernment in the pews. Since people are not hearing the truth, they cannot discern what is false.”