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September 7th, 2010
09:13 AM ET

My take: Jesus loves porn stars


Editor's note: Craig Gross is the founder of XXXchurch.com and the author of 7 books. His latest two books Eyes of Integrity and Pure Eyes release this week. His previous book Jesus Loves You This I Know explains more about his relationship with Ron Jeremy and other outcasts. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife and two kids.

By Craig Gross, Special to CNN

I met Ron Jeremy at a porn show. A few years later we were sleeping on top of each other in a bunk bed on a tour bus. My family was with me, at times there were swingers on the bus and on occasion had some other pastors as well. We were on "The Porn Debate" tour of 7 cities in 7 nights.

Ron is arguably the biggest porn star in the world with 2,000 XXX rated videos. He claims to have had sex with over 5,000 women.

I started XXXchurch.com 8 years ago, created a software called X3watch that is keeping almost 1 million people accountable online and I am most often known as the Porn Pastor. I have only had sex with one woman who happens to be my wife.

Ron says we are just alike. He has been with 5,000 women and I have been with my wife of 12 years almost 5,000 times.

Just alike… Well not really.

Ron is for porn and I am against porn. We are opponents on stage. In fact we have debated each other over 60 times in the last 4 years. We have debated at Yale, Ohio State, University of Southern California, Texas Tech, and in a few weeks we start the school year off with another debate at the University of Tennessee.

We are opponents on stage but off stage we are great friends. That's really what this is about. Jesus dined with tax collectors and befriended prostitutes. I don't want to be known as the guy who debates Ron, I'd rather be known as the guy who loves Ron.

Love wins. My old pastor in Grand Rapids said that a lot. I have come to realize not only does love win, but love works and love waits.

Last year, Ron was in Vegas for Easter weekend. Before he hit the topless pool at Mandalay Bay, he said he was free so I picked him up in my minivan with my two toddlers in the back, and wife as well, and we all headed to church.

Ron loves worship music. If you don't believe watch this YouTube video.

He loved the song "Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So."

Ron and I travel quite a bit on for the porn debates.  When we see each other at porn shows across the country we go out and when he is in Las Vegas or I am in Los Angeles , we connect up for a meal or just to hang out.

Ron and I talk about sex, the Bible, marriage, family, kids, heaven, hell, turtles, and so much more. He is never short on words. He has told me he is afraid to die. What if he is wrong and Jesus is really who he said he was?

For the last four years we have hit up college campuses and a few nightclubs with the porn debate. We have never been to a Christian university or a church.

Why not?

I am always the underdog and I kind of like it that way. Although, I think it would be great to bring Ron into my world just a bit, no one invites us.

The great thing about the debate is it is fair. I speak for 20 minutes, then Ron for 20 minutes then we do an hour of questions and answers.

Why is the church so afraid to hear the other side? I think it would be a great outreach to bring the debate to a church but every time I pitch it to a church or Christian college they say, "We could never let him on stage at church."

I don't get it. But then again, these are often the same people who say I should not even be friends with him, let alone on a tour bus with him. I know Zacchaeus was a short dude in the Bible but how can we overlook that story and see the example Jesus set for us to go after people?

Two friends of mine, Miles McPherson and Ryan Meeks have agreed to do the unthinkable. On October 9, Ron and I will do the unthinkable and head over to The Rock, a church in San Diego. A few months later on March 5 we will bring the debate to Eastlake Church in Seattle, Washington.

My friend Ryan is a bit out there. That's why we are friends. He traveled with Ron and me last year for a couple of debates. He said he would host the debate but only if Ron came back on Sunday and shared with the congregation about faith, God and his life.

Ron does not claim to be a Christian.  Why share a church stage with someone that does not claim to be a Christian yet? What can we possibly learn from that?

A whole lot I believe. I believe if Christians and others would listen to more people who are not just like us, and give them opportunities in our environments, we both might experience change.

What do you think?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Craig Gross.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Celebrity • Christianity • Culture & Science • Movies • Opinion

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soundoff (498 Responses)
  1. Wrex From Canada

    I think this is a great living example of what Christianity should really be about – love. Whether or not there was really a Jesus, whether or not there is a God. This is a living example of how we SHOULD be tolerant and accepting of other people's views and opinions, regardless of race, creed or colour. I would be proud to have EITHER of these men as my friend, as they seem to understand what it is to be tolerant of someone else's beliefs that are different from their own. Well done, gentlemen.

    September 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  2. IceT

    I have debates like this all the time with my family, me being Ron Jeremy .. of course!

    September 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  3. jg

    They actually have a lot in common: Both are just doing this to make money.

    September 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • ib42

      I was afraid no one would mention the money generating aspect of this friendship. What better way for an obscure church to gain a huge following by befriending a mega star, even a famous. porn actor?
      I fervently hope that's not the case, but judging by the commercialism that prevails in America ( and the world), the possibility of financial rewards being the motivation in every merger, it's probably true.
      Still, nice, warm and fuzzy story.

      September 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  4. andrew

    As a Christian, I like what Craig is doing. Personal investment is the proper way to share the Gospel, and not broadcasting messages to the masses and waiting for a good turnout. However, I don't think bringing the debate to churches is the wisest choice. If Ron Jeremy did have a conversion experience, SURE, but what does he have to offer except the emptiness of pleasing himself.
    Also... IMPORTANT NOTE:... good works and tolerance isn't the same as salvation. There needs to be a repositioning of your own authority in your life.

    September 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  5. JoefromVT

    Based on my understanding of the Bible he is not completely out of line with what Christ wanted. If one soul finds Christ, then it is worth the cost.

    Mark 16:14 Afterward he (Jesus) appeared unto the eleven (disciples, Judas's was gone at this point) as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

    Mark 16:15 And he (Jesus) said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

    September 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  6. William Bergmann

    What a waste of time. Porn is like a toilet, convenient, necessary, not much to look at, and anyone can do it. Try watching a porn movie on TV and carefully judge the talent involved. The acting doesn't even come up to high school levels. If you want to be instantly known a no talent, do a porn flick. The pastor is a desperate as Jeremy for publicity- any publicity.

    September 7, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
    • Jon

      perceptive, indeed.

      October 11, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  7. Billy X

    A hundred years ago most of you Christians thought that sex was inherently evil, and that even enjoying sex too much even within marriage was not a good idea. If you were so wrong then, why can't you understand that you're probably wrong now?

    September 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Billy Y

      Your logic is based on the following if/then statement:

      If someone (or a group of people) has been wrong in the past, then this person (or group) should assume that they are probably wrong in any future cases.

      The problem with this logic is that it can apply to anyone.

      Here is an example:

      Hundreds of years ago most of you Scientists thought that the world was round. If you were so wrong then, why can't you understand that you're probably wrong now?

      I am not defending the Church or it's actions. I am simply pointing out that you don't really understand why you disagree with the church.

      September 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  8. Liza Null

    Billy Graham was friends with Richard Nixon, and it didn't take down Billy Graham, right? So you're friends with Ron Jeremy. Well, that's fine. Show him some love. The REAL kind. It's what we are here to do, for ALL the Ron Jeremy's of the world, and everybody else, too. Of course, it's difficult to show love for the Joran Van Der Sloot's of the world, but we can certainly try, can't we?

    September 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • NL

      That's right, wasn't that Billy Graham who could be heard sharing some choice opinions about Jews with Nixon on one of those recently declassified tapes? Nothing can take Billy Graham down, his followers either love him too much, or just agree with everything he says, it seems.

      September 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • LAM

      "Billy Graham was friends with Richard Nixon, and it didn't take down Billy Graham, right?"

      No, but it took down Richard Nixon. 😉

      September 7, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  9. Tom

    It is always great when someone has a grammatical error in the midst of calling others stupid – priceless!

    September 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  10. Ben

    I think this is an EXTREMELY healthy view for Christians to have. Much better than the current trend of "Hey lets burn brown-skinded people cause they may be terrorists". As for wondering why many churches won't let you guys debate? How can they keep their congregation brainwashed if they let someone with a different view in?

    September 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  11. Joe

    Met Ron before, he seems like an ok guy. I pity the new girl who's initiated into the industry by performing with him though...

    September 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  12. pete

    I'm not sure about Ron's choice of career, but really, conversation is the only we can bring people together and stop the hating.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  13. Rebecca Savastio

    What do I think? I think it is extremely disturbing that every time I go to CNN to read the news, there are so many stories about religion. I think that religion is starting to take over society and that is extremely horrifying. Religion is the root of most wars, bloodshed, and violence. I wish I could live in a world with no religion, a world where rational thought and science rulle the day. It would be a peaceable and just society, unlike the world we are living in now.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
    • Jeff

      How'd you end up at the article? It is posted under the "Belief Blogs", a section devoted entirely to religion! 🙂 I for one am delighted to see it as a category of news at CNN!

      September 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Robert DiStefano

      Rebecca, maybe there is a reason that you are here! Nothing in this world happens by accident. Could it be that you are lost? Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Hopefully you will find people here that love God and love people and aren't how you described. God's wonderful love be with you!

      September 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • bostonjim

      Rebecca- a couple of things. First, the reason there is a blog dedicated to religion on cnn is because, for better or worse, religious issues have a massive impact on our society. Also, plenty of people seem pretty darned interested, at least if the number of comments this blog gets every day is any indication. My main issue, though, is this- I'm an agnostic; but I've gotten pretty tired of the old trope that religion is the cause of so much death and suffering. Humanity is the cause of all the horrors you have in mind. Religion is just the excuse that some people use to justify their darker actions. Take religion away, they'll just find another excuse. You want to fix the problem, deal with its root, religion ain't it.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
    • NL

      Robert DiStefano-

      Perhaps it's not an accident that YOU are here, listening to the voices of reason and logic; the voices of discontent within the church? Perhaps it is you who are lost? Your mind troubled by doubt and the nagging feeling that your religious leaders are coercing you into taking stands that you know are harmful to people. That you are being pressured to teach your children to deny scientific discoveries that you know, deep down, are truthful. Why are you here, Robert?

      September 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • Linda

      Rebecca- you couldn't be more right. Religion is one of the greatest causesof suffering. Saying that there are other causes of great wars does not eradicate the fact that religion is one of man's greatest reason for killing. Faith is what causes people to kill. It is not just an excuse– it makes people believe they MUST kill– in God's honor. To HONOR their God and their religion. The world would be a better place without it. That said, this article was a breath of fresh air, it is nice to see someone who is religios who can respect a counter-point of view without wanting to demonixze it and destroy it. Unfortunately, that is rare. Look at the comments to Rebecca– she is lost, yadda yadda. Just because someone looks at the world rationally and sees it for what it is does not mean she is "lost."

      September 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • ex Catholic

      @Rebecca, I share your opinion that there is too much religion in the world. But, I have a different viewpoint on the CNN traffic. I think religion seems to be quite a hot topic now because more and more people are speaking out against it. This didn't happen 10-15-20 years ago. The payoff for CNN is more and more site visitors. I see this as an encouraging sign that people are starting to wake up and refute all of those 1st grade mentality religious fairy tales.

      September 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
    • Jacques C

      Just one comment:

      Do not confuse 'religion' and beliefs.
      – Religion is and was the causes of most wars in history. When it was not the cause it was the 'support' of the rest.
      – Beliefs do not cause wars unless one wants to impose his or her belief by creating a religion to control the 'message'.

      September 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
    • NL

      Jacques C-
      I beg to differ. Individual beliefs can be harmful aspects of an otherwise benign religion. The current movement against same-sex marriage is an individual belief shared by only some Christians. Removal of this one belief would not cause a person to suddenly not be Christian, but it would prevent a lot more harm being done in this world and could only raise the Christian image as well. It may not legitimize the entire religion, but a good renovation of the church from it's more judgmental, elitist, and apocalyptic beliefs would go a long way to making this world a better place.

      September 7, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  14. Cdn Chick

    why isn'T there a link to email this article like on every other article on CNN??

    September 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  15. jim

    Yeah, I've always wanted to get down and roll in the gutter mud with Jesus! Maybe if we can make Christianity vile enough we can win the real scum of the earth over to it!

    September 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  16. JB3RedmondWA

    This is a very refreshing viewpoint. Many people these days are all about why they are right and why someone who does not think like they do is wrong. Rather than finding common ground to build on and better things, they argue to no end. For example, visit any political site or even a political story on this site. You will see it in all of its' glory. I have had the chance to listen to Craig in person a couple of times and he is the real deal. Genuine, loving and caring about his fellow humans. I wish more people were like him and I wish I could be more like him. I am working on that. I am one of Ryans' works in progress at ELCC. Thank you, Craig.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  17. Rick

    Thanks for showing us non-Christians that you aren't all a bunch of inhibited, judgemental, self-righteous know-it-alls.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Barb

      I agree

      September 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • Phil McCracken

      I am a bit astonished as well. Craig seems to be the most open-minded religious person that I have ever heard of.

      September 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Modern Believer

      As a believer growing increasingly frustrated with the way the majority of my peers view the rest of the world, Craig Gross is like a ray of hope. He has no qualms with sharing his faith, but does so in God's love, not man's judgement. His true friendship with Ron Jeremy is a wonderful example of how to "handle" non-Christians. Simply put, he treats everyone as a human being deserving of love and respect, just as Jesus did and told us to. There are the beginnings of change growing in Christianity, we just have to outlive or change the status quo.

      September 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Jacques C

      Craig does not seem to follow a 'religion' but his beliefs.

      September 7, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Jillybean

      I'm thankful that you were able to read this, then. For as many people out there misrepresenting Christ, there are just as many living and loving like Craig. Another great sex-industry is called Treasures Out of Darkness where a former stripper helps girls get out of prostitution and dancing. Jesus IS misrepresented all the time. When I finally picked up a Bible at 19 years old, I couldn't believe how different He was than what I had heard. If you are curious, the book of John at the beginning of the New Testament is a great place to start.

      September 7, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
    • Jillybean

      I meant sex-industry MINISTRY 🙂

      September 8, 2010 at 12:26 am |
  18. sam

    Be careful Craig ... porn is a great evil and it is a danger even for a pastor who becomes too immersed, too focused or too close to it ... it's easier to pull someone down into a pit than it is to pull someone up out of one.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  19. Jason

    Ron wins.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  20. Mike

    If more Christians acted like this guy, I would have more faith (some faith?) in organized religion. Instead too many act holier than thou, but aren't.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:38 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.