Change of heart

An actor on the set invited the teen star to his church in Fullerton, California, where well-known preacher and author Chuck Swindoll was then pastor. Although he was hesitant, Cameron agreed to go. It was there that he heard a message about God's holiness, about judgment against sin, and the concepts of grace, mercy and the Cross.

"I left the church with my head filled with questions," says the actor. "I felt guilty when he talked about sin."

One day, after dropping off his friend at acting class, Cameron pulled his sports car to the side of Van Nuys Boulevard in Studio City. The thought occurred to him that if he were to die in a car crash that day, he wouldn't go to heaven. This is too important. I don't want to be wrong about all this, he thought. "I prayed the clumsiest prayer that's probably ever been prayed. I closed my eyes, because I thought that's what you were supposed to do when you pray. I said, 'God, if you are there, please show me. If you are real, I need to know.' "

He started studying the Scriptures. "I couldn't get enough of the Bible," he recalls. "I read about this amazing God who sees my thought life, who considers lust to be adultery, who considers hatred to be murder, who sees all the sins that I've committed that no one else knows about—the secret arrogant attitudes. And instead of giving me what I deserved, he's provided a way for me to be forgiven and changed."

Baby-Christian steps

Cameron's newfound Christian faith began to change the teen heartthrob. Unfortunately, not all of the changes seemed that positive to his colleagues on the set of Growing Pains.

"When he came back from [the summer hiatus in 1990], Kirk was very different," producer Steve Marshall told the cable series E! True Hollywood Story. "No practical jokes, very serious. If he wasn't in a scene, he'd go away."

Cameron's TV mom Joanna Kerns agrees. "Kirk kind of pulled away from all of us in a way that made it very odd suddenly," she told E!. "We were all very close, and then we weren't."

"He seemed kind of sad, and we thought that was odd for somebody who had found religion," adds Marshall. "Usually religion brings joy into a person's life, and he didn't seem very joyful."

As he got deeper into his faith, Cameron found himself wanting to be an even stronger role model in the public eye. He now objected to sexual innuendoes, such as a scene that actually depicted a bad dream his mother was having. Mike Seaver was to be in bed, without his shirt on, lying next to a beautiful girl. The writers wanted him to say the line: "Hey, babe. Good morning. By the way, what's your name again?" Immediately his mother, Maggie Seaver, would bolt up, wake from her nightmare, and be thankful it was just a dream.

"You didn't know it was a dream at first," says Cameron. "It was for shock value. At the time, I felt really uncomfortable with that." He told the producers, "Surely we can think of something else that would make Maggie break out into a sweat." But the writers felt like the teen star was exerting too much power.

"That was huge," writer Lelani Downer recalls. "That was the night the writers said we're quitting and going home. We were not going to budge on it. It was like a hostage situation."

Gung-ho about his newfound principles, Cameron began to further ostracize himself from the other cast members. He fell in love with his costar Chelsea Noble—an actress who also was a Christian—and they began spending their free time together. By the time they married in 1991, none of the Growing Pains cast members were invited to the ceremony.

While "cleaning up" the show might have been a gallant effort (even though the show was rather innocuous as far as sitcoms go), the actor admits he made some mistakes common to new believers—such as distancing themselves so far from the world that they do no good for anyone. The show ended in 1992, and Cameron gladly went his separate way.