• What: "Love Worth Fighting For" marriage event
• When: 7 p.m. Friday
• Where: Red Bank Baptist Church, 4000 Dayton Blvd.
• Admission: $12.50 (overflow seating only)
• Phone: 877-4514
• Website: www.loveworthfightingfor.org
Marriage is on the march and "worth fighting for," actor Kirk Cameron says.
The 1980s "Growing Pains" television star and "Fireproof" movie actor, who will lead a marriage conference at Red Bank Baptist Church on Friday, says people across the country are increasingly staying in the binding relationship they made with their spouses.
Without it, Cameron says, people "miss out on the blessing of God, the blessing of a godly marriage and the foundation of the family."
Statistics - at least the decline of divorces - bear out his claim. Divorces nationally, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, fell from 4 per 1,000 people in 2000 to 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2011. In Tennessee, the rate fell from 6.5 per 1,000 people in 1990 to 4.3 per 1,000 people in 2011, the center reports.
Cameron's "Love Worth Fighting For" tour, based on his 2008 movie "Fireproof," offers principles to help couples solidify their marriage, personal stories, music, humor and biblical insight.
"'Fireproof' has such a strong message," he says. "It resonated in people's hearts and turned into a live event."
In the film, which grossed $33 million, making it the most successful independent film of 2008, a firefighter enters the 40-day, Christian-based "Love Dare" program to try to repair his crumbling marriage and life.
The Red Bank Baptist event is sold out, but overflow tickets are available for seating in the church's fellowship hall and viewing on screens.
"For those who come to this event," says Jonathan Propes, the church's Equip pastor, "we really want there to be a focus on how the Bible defines marriage, how marriage can be centered around the gospel. Kirk Cameron does a great job on that with this event."
The event is part of Red Bank Baptist senior pastor Sam Greer's vision of 2014 as a year of spiritual awakening for the church.
"He wanted something that would awaken our marriages. Kirk and his event fit that vision," Propes says. More than 1,100 people are already registered, he says.
Cameron says what people are missing in their marriages is, "ultimately, the gospel."
"It's the glorious, triumphant good news that the power of sin has been destroyed," he says. When marriages fail, "it's ultimately selfishness, or sin, as the Bible puts it. It manifests itself in hundreds of different ways. The good news is that Jesus has destroyed the power of sin and will transform the desire of your heart - transform your marriage."
During "Love Worth Fighting For" events, he says he has seen divorces canceled, marriages turned around and even formerly married couples who came to the conference as friends fall in love all over again.
Despite a culture in America where "people are turning their back on God, who has blessed and protected us," he says, "the gospel is kicking the devil's tale" in regard to marriages.
Cameron, 42, says he has had the "blessing of a godly marriage" for 23 years - and six children - and has a legacy of parents married almost twice that long and grandparents married almost three times as long. Couples who make the choice to simply live together miss out on the "covenantal, exclusive, death-do-us-part, foundation-of-the-family, no-turning-back partnership designed by God," he says.
"When you don't have the guts to make the commitment," Cameron says, "you don't have any business to be a family."
That marriage is not a same-sex partnership, either.
"It's either sacred or its not," Cameron says. "By definition, God has something to say about it. God defines marriage in his word as one man and one woman for life. For thousands of years, it's been understood that's what marriage is."
The actor's views are not in the mainstream in Hollywood, where he states in a CBN interview that he's sure he's lost a few jobs because of his faith, but he says there couldn't be a better place for a Christian.
"The benchmark for all Christians is Jesus," says Cameron, who lives in Southern California. "He was a Jewish rabbi preaching" what is known today as Christianity in a place where he was "surrounded by people who hate you. Jesus goes right to the heart of a system of darkness and explodes it. He dropped an atomic bomb on the religious hypocrisy of the day.
"Hollywood is the epicenter of the kingdom of darkness, pornography, filth, immorality. What better place to drop the bomb of the gospel and see shockwaves go out to the end of the earth?" he says.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.