Spiritual Growing Pains
Ironically, Cameron hasn’t always been a passionate preacher. Although he grew up in a conservative family, he was not raised in a churchgoing home and was a devout atheist from a young age. His dad told Cameron’s mother he wanted his children to choose their own religious path in life, which laid the foundation for Cameron’s earliest religious choice as a “full-fledged atheist,” Cameron wrote in his 2008 autobiography, Still Growing.
Named after his dad’s favorite TV character—Capt. Kirk of Star Trek—Cameron was born October 12, 1970, and grew up in Canoga Park, California, in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. During his childhood, his mom became friends with the mother of Adam Rich, a star on the television sitcom Eight Is Enough. Rich’s mother encouraged them to see her agent about TV work for the young Cameron.
They did, and although Cameron dreamed of becoming an astronaut or fireman, he began instead a career in Hollywood at age 9 with appearances on commercials and TV shows.
Naturally shy, yet very funny, Cameron at age 14 landed the role of the charming troublemaker Mike Seaver on Growing Pains—putting him in girls’ hearts and on the covers of teen magazines. At one point, he was receiving 10,000 fan letters a week.
“It was exciting,” says the twice Golden Globe-nominated actor, now 39. “It warped your sense of reality and sort of makes you think that somehow the world revolves around you. I’m really thankful for my parents and ultimately to God for rescuing me from a completely self-absorbed, narcissistic way of looking at life and setting me on the right path—helping me to understand this world is God’s world and I’m not the center of it; God is.”
Although he had obtained what most boys the world over craved—fame, fortune and the adoration of girls everywhere—Cameron’s life amid chauffeurs, security guards and paparazzi only seemed to heighten his teen insecurities. He thought being rich and famous would make him “infinitely happy,” but he began to ask himself deep questions instead.
Initially interested in New Age claims that each person is god and can make up his own rules, the 17-year-old soon turned his attention to Christianity after a female friend invited him to church.
“I was right in the middle of Growing Pains, things were going great, and I was on top of the world,” Cameron says. “But a friend had invited me to go to church one Sunday. I really wasn’t interested in church or God, but I wanted to hang out with this person.
“So I went and was just really captured by the message. I was asking myself questions like: ‘How did we get here? What happens after we die?’ And these questions were answered by the Bible in a very persuasive way.”
Drawn by the Holy Spirit, Cameron became preoccupied with spiritual questions. The girl’s father gave him a copy of Josh McDowell’s classic book on Christian apologetics, More Than a Carpenter.
To his surprise, he learned many of his intellectual heroes—including Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton and Copernicus—believed in God. One day, after dropping his friend off at her acting class, Cameron sat in his sports car on Van Nuys Boulevard and prayed.
“I was just thinking that I could get in a car accident and die, and at that moment I’d find out if there is a God,” Cameron says. “And so that’s when I prayed: ‘God, if You are there, I need to know. Please show me. I don’t want to get tied up in false religion, but if You are there, I want You to reveal yourself to me.’”
His conversion shocked those who knew him. As he lived out his faith, it ignited controversy on the set of Growing Pains. Despite the growing tension, Cameron met his future wife on the show, Chelsea Noble, who played his fictional girlfriend Kate.