What motivated the Pilgrims to come to America? What formula for success did they discover? More importantly, how can we apply these same foundational truths today? The key is in the National Monument to the Forefathers. But most people have never heard of it!
Monumental (2012) is a 90-minute documentary that follows Christian actor and film producer Kirk Cameron across Europe and the U.S. as he seeks to discover America’s true “national treasure” – the people, places, and principles that made America the freest, most prosperous and generous nation on earth.
Cameron’s film was obviously a labor of love. Kirk said, “As a father of six, I’m very concerned where our nation will be in 10 or 20 years. But I haven’t heard a clear voice telling us how we can get back to greatness. Then, about two years ago, it occurred to me: Maybe it’s as simple as we’ve forgotten what made this nation so successful in the first place. Maybe if we could go back and talk to the men and women who built this country they could tell us what we’re doing wrong and how to fix it.”
Monumental chronicles the Christian roots of the United States of America, going back to the Puritans in England and retracing the Pilgrims’ footsteps. The undeniable intention of these Pilgrims coming to the New World is documented as being for the advancement of Christianity – information not widely taught today, and something that most students won’t learn in their elementary, middle or high school classes.
But Kirk did his homework, globetrotting from his home in California to England, Holland, Plymouth and Boston, as well as Texas and Washington D.C. He visited several national monuments affirming the specific mission of these early American settlers’ devotion to Christ and the church. For those who would beg to disagree, most of what the movie presents is literally “etched in stone” in monuments and plaques.
The first stop on Cameron’s journey was England. He spoke with historical experts and learned about the Puritans and the persecution they endured under the reign of King James I. The character of these early Americans was brought to life, as their urgency of purpose led to their relentless fight to get away from the government-run church in England to live their lives as God ordained.
The Pilgrims’ attempts to flee the country met with failures before success. Nonetheless, the documentary brought forth a real sense that God was guiding them in a providential path to the New World. It would take some twists and turns and a twelve-year stint in Holland, but the Pilgrims would eventually make it to America. The tiny band of religious outcasts established a “land of opportunity” that has become the best example of civil, economic and religious liberty the world has ever known.
One of the most fascinating pieces of information presented in the movie – well worth the DVD price alone! – is a detailed description of the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Cameron began his journey by stating a belief that the founders of this country would have left behind “some kind of map to guide us back to the foundation of our success.” Upon close inspection, this monument can serve as that guide. (See photos here – click on any of the pictures to make them larger.)
The 81-foot-tall granite monument is situated on an approximately 11-acre hilltop site on Allerton Street. Originally looking down on Plymouth Harbor, this little-known statue erected by the Pilgrim Society is now surrounded by a residential neighborhood. The figures on the statue are intended to be read from top to bottom, beginning with the personification of Faith on the main pedestal, who symbolizes the virtue which inspired the Pilgrim’s journey to the New World. Faith’s right hand is pointing to Heaven, and she is holding an open Bible in her left hand.
The statue also has four buttresses with figures symbolizing the principles upon which the Pilgrims based their new society. These principles were Liberty, Morality, Law, and Education – all inextricably linked to the word of God. Smaller figures on each side of these four figures are meant to further amplify the message of the primary figures. For example, under “Liberty” are “Tyranny Overthrown” and “Peace;” under “Morality” are “Prophet” and “Evangelist;” under “Law” are “Justice” and “Mercy;” and under “Education” are “Youth” and “Wisdom.”
The front panel is inscribed as follows: “National Monument to the Forefathers. Erected by a grateful people in remembrance of their labors, sacrifices and sufferings for the cause of civil and religious liberty.” The right and left panels contain the names of those Pilgrims who came over on The Mayflower. The rear panel contains a quote from Governor William Bradford’s famous history Of Plymouth Plantation:
“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all praise.”
Noticeably amazed by this monument, Cameron wonders why the National Monument to the Forefathers isn’t more well-known, given its historical significance and the fact that it has stood in its present location since 1889, just a short distance from Plymouth Rock and Pilgrim Hall. Good question. I was born in Plymouth and remember visiting the Forefathers Monument on school field trips; and yet even I didn’t know the meaning behind it, not to mention the foundational biblical values it stands for, until watching Monumental.
At one point during the movie, Kirk interviews David Barton of WallBuilders Press in Texas. Barton is the owner of the largest private collection of early American documents, textbooks, and Bibles – all of which record first-hand the religious roots of the United States. The notion that the majority of our founding fathers were atheists, agnostics, and deists was refuted with the statistics that half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence went to Christian seminaries. Barton claims that revisionist history is an intentional misrepresentation of American history that’s taught in many university lecture halls, which results in public school teachers ignorantly repeating to our children what they have been taught. Sad!
Just like the National Monument to the Forefathers is relatively unknown, I don’t know why more people haven’t seen Monumental, which was released on July 4, 2012. As far as documentaries go, it’s much better than most. Not the usual dry documentary, this one is eye-opening, interesting, and expertly produced. (Think Drive Thru History!) Every kid, parent, teacher, citizen in America should see it! Watch it on Thanksgiving with your family! As Kirk said, “The land of the free begins in the homes of the brave.”
NOTE: There are 2 versions of this movie. One is a single DVD, Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure.
The other is a 5 DVD set, Monumental: Restoring America As The Land of Liberty. This is a 12-lesson educational course on 4 DVDs plus the movie (Disk 5) and a book.
You can also buy the paperback study guide separately.
Learn more about the Pilgrims and the National Monument to the Forefathers in this Faith and Freedom book by Dave Pelland: