Not playing at a theater near you: A love story pairing up conservative Christians and Hollywood.
Evangelicals have long cast the movie industry as a factory of filth. The disdain is mutual: On the big screen, churchgoers are often portrayed as narrow-minded.
Amid that backdrop, some conservatives are releasing Christian films outside the Hollywood system.
Enter actor Kirk Cameron and former U.S. senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
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I talked with both this week about their separate but similar quests to spread the Gospel cinematically.
Cameron, 43, came to fame as a teen actor on the ABC sitcom “Growing Pains” (1985-92). Now he appears in Christian dramas and documentaries, most notably “Fireproof,” a 2008 hit movie in which he played a firefighter trying to save his marriage.
As part of a live spinoff of that movie, Cameron will be at Charlotte’s Northside Baptist Church, 333 Jeremiah Blvd., Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. for “Love Worth Fighting For.” The evening of advice, music, humor and prayer is geared to husbands and wives who want to spend a few hours “focusing on the most important relationship they have on the planet,” he said by phone.
Santorum, meanwhile, stopped by the Charlotte Observer to plug his debut film as the new CEO of Dallas-based EchoLight Studios. “The Christmas Candle,” set in Victorian England and based on a novel by evangelical writer Max Lucado, is a handsomely produced film about an Anglican pastor who recovers his lost faith and an angel-touched candle that brings a miracle every Christmas Eve. It will hit theaters Nov. 22.
Santorum and Cameron said they want to fill a hunger in the heartland for movies that affirm Christian values and beliefs.
“My industry is responsible for so many evils in the world,” Cameron said. “It feels like a privilege to be here (in Hollywood), making movies that are actually producing good.”
He bristled at critics who dismiss “Fireproof” and other Christian movies as earnest but didactic and amateurish: “Who made (them) king of deciding what’s a good movie?”
Santorum sees his new job as a sequel to a 2012 presidential campaign that stressed social issues – and maybe a prequel to 2016.
“It’s consistent with going out there and fighting the fight,” he said. “Having an impact on the popular culture is, to me, part of the overall effort to bring America back to its senses.”