Although his new film “Saving Christmas” is being marketed as a battle against the supposed War on Christmas in the U.S., actor and evangelical Christian Kirk Cameron actually has something to say to his fellow churchgoers instead of merely proselytizing to non-believers like he’s done in past films. Delivering a different type of sermon in “Saving Christmas,” Cameron, best known for his roles in the 80s TV show “Growing Pains” and in the “Left Behind” film franchise, explains why Christians should embrace many of the Christmas icons, including Santa Claus and Christmas trees and gifts, that some people feel diminish the true meaning of the season. Cameron says many of these holiday symbols can be traced back to religious foundations.

During a short interview with Cameron via phone last week, I talked to him about whether or not he really feels there is a War on Christmas in this country and if he thinks God can speak to people through TV shows like “Duck Dynasty.” Unfortunately, with only eight minutes for the interview, there wasn’t much time to challenge many of his beliefs with follow-up questions.

I think some people might be surprised when they find out the intentions of this film. “Saving Christmas” sounds like you’re arguing against the commercialization of the holiday, but you’re actually defending things like Santa Claus and Christmas trees. Why did you decide to take this approach?

Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s my favorite time of year. It’s that time of year where people are a little bit more kind, generous and compassionate. Donations go up all over the world for different charities. It’s great. There is something in the air. It’s almost magical. I think it’s because we know something really important happened. Something happened 2,014 years ago that split time in two. That was the birth of one person (Jesus Christ). That’s what we celebrate at Christmas time. I don’t want anything to dampen or muffle that. I want people to sing and laugh and be filled with joy. That’s why I made “Saving Christmas.”

Are there still elements of the way Christmas is celebrated today by the mainstream that you hope would go away? I mean, were there any other issues you researched that didn’t have the roots you were looking for?

Of course, there are things that people do every single day of the year that are not good ideas. At Christmas time, that really is no different. Christmas, of course, is about the birth of a baby in a manger and who he is and what that means to us. Christmas can be overshadowed by your gingerbread cookies and all the presents and a sense of religious superstition that if I have a Christmas tree somehow I’m doing a bad thing. It can be overshadowed by Santa Claus or we can talk to our kids about how Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, was an amazing man who knew exactly what Christmas was all about. In fact, he defended it by putting his life on the line. “Saving Christmas” really helps people understand how all of these celebrations and traditions are not only good, but they point us to the very reason for the season if you look at them with the right set of glasses.

Where does Catholicism come into play in this story for you? St. Nicholas is someone you defend in the film and the legendary status he has gained over the years, but you don’t mention his Catholic roots. Why?

You have to remember that back in the days of 325 A.D…we had a universal church. Whether you are Catholic or Protestant or whatever it is, the true issue is genuine faith. Anybody can go to church and put a sticker on themselves and say I’m this or that, but genuine faith in the Lord Jesus is what we’re talking about. Clearly, this man Nicholas was a man of genuine faith. He defended some of the key things we now have. That’s what I want people to think about this Christmas. It should bring joy to you and your family.

Do you really think there is a War on Christmas? Do you take issue with someone saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” or fighting to remove nativity scenes in public places?

Here’s an interesting story: A couple of days after the website for “Saving Christmas” went online, it got hijacked by an anti-Christmas group out of Turkey of all places. They put up all kinds of things to try to just obliterate Christmas and its meaning. Of course there is a lot of antagonism towards Christmas. Christmas is the foundation for our country. It’s the foundation in the way, historically, we see family and faith. Christmas is so important. We should never let it be damaged or restrained or hijacked. We need to amplify it and sing Christmas carols from our rooftops.

You’ve never back down from a challenge to debate somebody whose beliefs are on the opposite end of the spectrum as yours, including agnostics and atheists. I’m assuming 10 times out of 10 no one’s mind is changed, so why bother? What do you get out of it?

I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think that 10 times out of 10 minds aren’t changed. People want to hear good sound arguments. Many people want to understand truth and will change their mind if they hear it.

Here in Texas, newly-elected Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has said that God can speak to the masses through pop culture in TV shows like “Duck Dynasty,” a show whose cast I’m sure you know supports your new film. Do you believe that God can speak to people through TV shows like “Duck Dynasty?”

It’s so confusing for so many people in terms of hearing God’s voice because people claim to be speaking for him these days and these voices seem to contradict one another. What I can tell you is I went to go visit the “Duck Dynasty” family. They are some of the most genuine, authentic people I ever met. Sometimes I wonder if they even realize they are on a TV show because what you see is what you get. That’s just who they are. They’re living out their lives. A lot of people really relate to them. I’ve been a big fan because of their authenticity.

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