Actor Kirk Cameron of “Left Behind” fame is cashing in on evangelical fears of LGBTQ people as he wages a war with “woke libraries” in a publicity stunt for his new children’s book.
“It’s terrifying to me,” Cameron said regarding children’s books that depict LGBTQ families as normal. “It’s actually just a slippery slope.”
“These are tactics of war,” he told CBN News. “These are tactics that are a pretense of tolerance, which is really just a transitional step toward totalitarianism.”
“These are tactics that are a pretense of tolerance, which is really just a transitional step toward totalitarianism.”
Cameron first gained national attention on the ABC sitcom “Growing Pains” in the mid-1980s. More recently, he’s devoted himself to conservative evangelical causes, including starring in a series of the “Left Behind” movies and in another evangelistic movie called “Fireproof.” He is an outspoken advocate of conservative evangelical causes, including support for Donald Trump and denial of the risk of coronavirus.
His latest conspiratorial terror is in response to Drag Queen Story Hour, which began in 2015 as a way to provide awareness of stories that include LGBTQ families alongside the many books that portray heteronormative families.
As it happens, Cameron had his own children’s book, As You Grow, coming out Dec. 1, just days before his public protests against LGBTQ-inclusive books and librarians.
What better way to drum up sales for your children’s book than by creating a national controversy during the month of your book launch?
While claiming, “I’m not trying to make headlines,” Cameron spent December creating a buzz for his new book and going on Fox News to stir up anger against librarians. His marketing campaign led to a public reading of his children’s book on Dec. 29 at the Indianapolis Public Library, with many other events planned.
A book ‘about biblical wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit’
“I’ve partnered with Brave Books to write this about biblical wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control,” Cameron explained in an interview with Julie Banderas on the Fox News program America’s Newsroom.
He told CBN News, “I think drag queens would love my book if they just took the time to read it.”
“I think drag queens would love my book if they just took the time to read it.”
But according to Cameron and Fox News, librarians responded to his message about love and kindness by starting a war.
“You would never imagine that you would be in the battle of your life because you wrote a children’s book,” Banderas said.
A war on the ‘woke ideologies’ of CRT and ‘the transgender agenda’
During their Fox News interview, Banderas mentioned that Cameron’s agency sent a letter to libraries across the country with the invitation: “We would love to schedule a story hour for Mr. Cameron’s book where we read As You Grow and speak to families about following the wisdom of the Bible, as well as discussing the harmful effects of woke ideologies, specifically CRT and the transgender agenda.”
Cameron told Banderas: “These libraries said they were not interested and that their communities were not interested. And it wasn’t until I published a public letter asking them to reconsider and then mentioning the fact that we have constitutional rights — in fact, I have my copy of the Constitution right here — that I will assert in court, that they reversed course.”
But what did he think was going to happen when this marketing team included such inflammatory rhetoric?
The librarians respond
According to the Scarsdale Public Library in New York, “There was no ‘reversal.’”
In their first of two official statements, library administrators explain they received a message via their website Dec. 2 from Cameron’s publisher requesting for them to host Cameron for a story hour. “As with any request to present a library-sponsored program, we sent a link to our online application for presenting a library program,” they said. “The publisher did not submit an application.”
“Thank you for thinking of us, but we are not interested in this program.”
When they received the email from Cameron’s Amplifi Agency about wanting to warn the kids about the supposedly harmful effects of “CRT and the transgender agenda,” the library replied, “Thank you for thinking of us, but we are not interested in this program.”
After Cameron threatened legal action, Library Director Elizabeth Bermel responded by email saying they could request a room rental, while including links to the room rental meeting policy and reservation form.
In the library’s statement, they clarify, “The event is not a library-sponsored program, but rather a meeting room rental that cannot be rejected based on political or religious content under the First Amendment.”
Eventually, after creating all the drama, Cameron’s publisher filled out the necessary information and was given a room to do Cameron’s reading. But Cameron still complained to Fox News that they weren’t mentioned on the website calendar, even though the calendar mentioned a “play dough play date.”
From this, Banderas of Fox News concluded the controversy is bringing attention to “suppression” of “Christians that really want a storybook hour” and “don’t want to go and listen to drag queens read to their 18-month-olds.”
Public libraries providing meeting spaces for hate groups
What role should a public library have in such a debate?
According to the American Library Association: “A publicly funded library is not obligated to provide meeting room space to the public, but if it chooses to do so, it cannot discriminate or deny access based upon the viewpoint of speakers or the content of their speech. This encompasses religious, political and hate speech. If a library allows charities, nonprofits and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms, then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities.”
Libraries tend to shy away from hosting people who run public campaigns about their plan to put others down.
Because libraries are led by people who want to foster community around quiet learning, they tend to shy away from hosting people who run public campaigns about their plan to put others down. Marti Minor, who writes for the Georgia Public Library service, said: “The idea of inviting those whose purpose is to demean others on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability or any other similar grounds into the meeting rooms of our public libraries is understandably repugnant to librarians who strive to make the institution a place that is open and welcoming to all.”
Here, the library enters a larger debate about what constitutes “hate” speech. While conservative Christians believe their views against same-sex relationships and marriage are biblical mandates, others see such discriminatory language as hateful.
Minor notes the FBI defines hate groups as those whose “primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.”
It seems reasonable to assume that because Cameron’s group explicitly stated their purpose is to discuss “the harmful effects of woke ideologies, specifically CRT and the transgender agenda” with kids, that they would be demeaning Black and transgender communities and thereby qualify as a hate group.
But unfortunately for the libraries who wish to avoid Cameron’s political propaganda, the case is not so cut and dried.
“Regardless of the language settled on by ALA in its meeting rooms interpretation, any decision to deny access to ‘hate groups’ or to prohibit ‘hate speech’ must be made with the knowledge that a court challenge is likely,” Minor wrote. “And without strong indicators that the group in question will delve into criminal activity, a public library will have difficulty in defending such a challenge.”
Cameron’s ‘miraculous’ events
“What a miraculous morning in INDY!!” Cameron celebrated on his Facebook page. “Our library reading room held only 170 people. Over 1,000 moms, dads and kids were waiting for us INSIDE the library and ANOTHER 1,000 waited OUTSIDE to stay and support even though they knew they couldn’t come in!!!”
Then Cameron complained, “Sadly, this beautiful library has a large auditorium that seats more people, but leadership never offered it to us or even told us about it!”
Brave Books, the publisher of Cameron’s book, added, “This is a message to every library in the United States: In 137 years of the Indianapolis Public Library’s history, NEVER ONCE have they had over 2,500 people show up to a single event. UNTIL TODAY.”
But the Indianapolis Public Library countered both Cameron and Brave Books, tweeting: “We are being inaccurately portrayed in news/social after a room rental yesterday. Our estimated door count during the event is around 750, not 2,500. We’ve had larger events. We turn 150 years old in 2023. And our auditorium, which our guests chose not to rent, holds 300, not 2,000.”
However many showed up, the room Cameron rented was full of children as Cameron began telling the kids about Freedom Island, the fictional land where much of the Brave Books storylines are located. Cameron read a story about Sky Tree, a tree that began as an acorn in the ground and grew to a large tree that was home to many animals. Sky Tree grew to point up to Jesus in the sky.
But then when Cameron turned one page, kids began to yell, “A war!” On this page, a pack of wolves show up to burn down Sky Tree. Then all the animals have to rebuild Sky Tree.
After reading the book, Cameron asked for questions from the parents. One man said, “Praise God for your stance and what you’re doing.”
Cameron responded, “This is hopefully going to turn into pictures and videos that are going to go out over social media and the news and everywhere else. I think you guys are going to inspire an entire movement.”
“By the way, is there anyone here, after reading this book, that thinks any of this might be offensive or controversial? Is there anything dangerous about this book?” he asked.
At a reading in Scarsdale, N.Y., Cameron took one question from a child and then immediately asked the parents if they have any questions, which led to parents singing his praises for being so brave. As kids hands were raised, Cameron ignored them and instead took a dad’s suggestion to sing “God Bless America.”
“You’re making the news,” Cameron encouraged them. “It’s in the headlines everywhere. You can just go home and share your videos on your social media platforms, let everybody know what you were here for today, what you thought of it.”
As he talked about the government stealing property from its citizens and corrupting the morals of children, Cameron quoted Samuel Adams, saying: “‘It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.’ This afternoon, we are setting brushfires of faith, family and freedom here in Scarsdale, N.Y., yesterday in Indianapolis, and it’s happening all across the country.”
The books of Rushington on Freedom Island
Even though the event primarily was about promoting Cameron’s book, he invited those in attendance to purchase additional books by Brave Books. “If you like this book, we have lots and lots of more books about the fox and about the capybara, and about the owl, and about all the characters here on Freedom Island.”
What are those books? And what are the connections within the Freedom Island universe to Cameron’s war against librarians and LGBTQ people?
In one book, titled The Island of Free Ice Cream, children are told about Ashur the Fox, whose inventions give him “the biggest booth in the market.” But the wolves, presumably the same wolves that burn down Sky Tree, say, “You poor little animals. … Your market isn’t fair. You all work so hard, but Ashur has the biggest booth. We come from Utopia Island, which is so amazing that we don’t even need a market. Everyone gets the most delicious ice cream you’ve ever tasted for free. If you put us in charge, we’ll make Rushington an even happier place to be.”
Even though Ashur warns the animals, the book says that “the animals, drooling and dreaming of free ice cream, decided to vote.” Then they launch Ashur out into the ocean.
When the animals realize that the wolves will not provide free ice cream, the wolves say, “If you want your city back, you’ll have to fight for it.” Then in an image reminiscent of the January 6 insurrection attempt, a war breaks out, “Bam! Wow! Pow! Zing! Wam! Boing!”
“At last, Rushington was free,” the book says. And then the animals punish the wolves for lying by catapulting them out into the ocean. The book concludes by saying, “Together, he and his friends set out to defend Freedom Island from lying wolves and other evil creatures.”
In another book, titled Elephants Are Not Birds, an elephant is pulling a cart but wants to sing. So a vulture named Culture comes along and tells him he should identify as a bird instead, saying “It’s only your feelings that show what is real.” So the vulture named Culture gives him a strap-on beak and wings. But when the elephant tries to eat seeds, build a nest, and fly, he finds himself falling to the ground and realizing he’s an elephant.
“You don’t have to have a political science degree to recognize the political metaphors at play here.”
You don’t have to have a political science degree to recognize the political metaphors at play here. The books are glorifying wealthy owners of corporations, while labeling anyone who talks about a fair market as wolves, categorizing poor people who rely on a social safety net and who have been taken advantage of by the wealthy as drooling animals that want free ice cream, and by promoting political revolution through violence and giving the Democrats the death sentence by drowning. They are mocking intersex and transgender people as being elephants who think they are birds.
And now they’re threatening libraries with legal action, while claiming to be persecuted, if they aren’t allowed to use the library facilities to enlist children in their war.
Christian nationalism’s war for the Bible
Cameron asks, “Story hours are for children. So why would a library committed to diversity and inclusion exclude me from reading my book?”
Perhaps it’s because librarians are smart and recognize the silly marketing schemes Cameron is playing in order to sell books by demeaning people while pretending to be talking about kindness and love.
Playing Trump’s card about promoting your book while also mentioning the Bible, Cameron says our forefathers warned us about what is important.
“Chief among those are faith in God and in his word, and morality,” Cameron claims. “George Washington said those are the two indispensable supports of the country. Our chief justices of our Supreme Court said that these are the paramount things. Noah Webster, who gave us Websters Dictionary, was also the father of American education, said the most important thing you could ever teach your children are the virtues of Christianity because it’s the only foundation upon which a free republic like ours can stand.”
This is a blatant embrace of Christian nationalism. It’s not that Cameron thinks Christians should be allowed to practice their faith freely, but that the Bible and “the virtues of Christianity” are “the only foundation” for our country.
Who is the totalitarian? Everything Cameron claims progressives are doing, he explicitly admits he wants to do. His fear mongering is projection.
The fruit of the spirit is Western civilization?
Cameron’s conspiracy is that progressives will “first ban Christians and people who say things that they don’t like.” Then when progressives realize Christians get their ideas from the Bible, he claims that they will say, “Well, now we need to get the Bible out.” So Cameron concludes, “Ultimately, that’s the kingpin of Western civilization — the Bible is the book that Western civilization was built upon.”
“The Bible is the book that Western civilization was built upon.”
Then he co-opts the gospel. “These progressive agendas are actually not taking us forward. They’re taking us backward. They’d be more appropriately titled ‘regressive’ ideas. We’re regressing back to paganism prior to the gospel coming and creating Western civilization.”
The Bible is the book Western civilization was built on? The gospel created Western civilization?
Cameron claims his message is simply about the fruit of the Spirit being kindness and love. But when you listen to his interviews, it becomes clear he believes the fruit of the Spirit is Western civilization as defined by glorifying the wealthy, demonizing the Democrats, belittling the poor as simply wanting free handouts, and promoting the very war language that led to the January 6 insurrection attempt.
Cameron wants Christians who fight by buying his books
Ironically, one of Cameron’s biggest frustrations isn’t with “woke libraries” or progressives, but with Christians. He laments, “Many Christians get told ‘No, you can’t do that, we don’t like you, we don’t like your values, and so they tuck their tail between their legs, they go home and cry in their Chick-fil-A soup and wait for the rapture.”
Instead of crying and waiting, “What we need to be doing is using the tools, the biblically based tools that we have in our Constitution, in the Bill of Rights and push back on this kind of tyranny,” Cameron advises. “We need to get back to the word of God and we need to be teaching these children at our kitchen table, not sending them to libraries where male dancers in womens’ clothing twerk for children hoping to get them to donate money in their brassieres.”
“Who is the one parading around asking for money here?”
Yet now who is the one parading around asking for money here? Cameron’s ultimate plan is to get people to buy his books.
“Grab your favorite children’s story book. It could be my book. It could be any book that you want,” he pitches. “Go get your favorite Sunday school story book, call the library that had the drag queen story hour, and say, ‘I’d like to read my book in one of your time slots.’”
In Cameron’s interview on Fox News, Banderas concluded: “I mean faith, family freedom. Gee, that’s so offensive. The whole woke ideology is just out of control. And I’m glad you’re fighting against it.”
No. What’s offensive here is not only that Cameron thinks he can use public libraries to glorify wealthy corporations while belittling the poor and LGBTQ people in the name of the fruit of the Spirit, but that he thinks he can insult our intelligence by drumming up a national controversy without us realizing it’s his strategy for a book launch.
Using the tactics of a book launch under the pretense of the fruit of the Spirit is just a transitional step toward the totalitarianism desired by Christian nationalists.
Rick Pidcock is a 2004 graduate of Bob Jones University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible. He’s a freelance writer based in South Carolina and a former Clemons Fellow with BNG. He recently completed a Master of Arts degree in worship from Northern Seminary. He is a stay-at-home father of five children and produces music under the artist name Provoke Wonder. Follow his blog at www.rickpidcock.com.
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