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The church of porn and football
February 1st, 2011
08:00 AM ET

The church of porn and football

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Nevada pastor Craig Gross counts professional quarterbacks among his friends. The same goes for porn stars and child porn convicts.

And he’s relying on friends from both camps in preparing for Sunday, when Gross will use the Super Bowl as a way to get churches around the country talking about pornography, a subject he calls “the elephant in the pew.”

He is dubbing the effort National Porn Sunday. Gross is the founder of XXXChurch, a Christian group that he says helps people battling pornography addictions.

The Quarterback

Gross recruited NFL players to join the effort, taping a video that he says will be shown at over 300 plus participating churches.

Matt Hasselbeck, who led the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2006, is one of the video’s stars.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck

Although he said he has never had a pornography addiction, Hasselbeck signed up for the free XXXchurch tracking software called X3watch.

“If I go to a site that’s questionable, a teammate gets an email and my wife gets an email,” Hasselbeck told CNN. “I thought about adding my mom too but decided against that,”

“It just keeps you accountable,” he said. “You know there’s a short term consequence to anything you do.”

He says the software added a layer of trust to his relationship with his wife.

“My email password is known to my wife, my voice mail password is known to her,” he said. “I’m still a guy married to a girl. In this country what you read, what you watch, and how you interact with other women can cause insecurity with your spouse.”

Gross says his campaign is about personal responsibility.

Craig Gross the founder of XXXChurch.com

“If the church stopped consuming [porn], we would put a huge dent in it,” he said, referring to individual churchgoers.

The 35-year-old Gross, an ordained pastor, founded XXXchurch in the early 2000s after hearing stories from teens in his youth group getting involved with pornography. Today he runs the site full time from Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I never had this crazy run in with porn,” says Gross, who came of age in a time of 56k modems, when the internet was just catching on.

“I could count the amount times I encountered it,” he said. “You used to have to work hard to find it. Now you have to work hard to avoid it.”

For Gross, the Bible is clear on the issue of pornography. He says it falls into the category of a sexual sin, pointing to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he tells the church to “run away from sexual sins.”

With XXXChurch, Gross has probably done more to reach out to the porn community than any other pastor in the country. Several years ago he began attending porn conventions and it was there he met legendary porn star Ron Jeremy.

The Porn Star

“It’s exactly what Jesus would do if you think about it,” Jeremy told CNN. “He went right to where they were drinking and gambling and said, ‘folks this is no good.’”

Porn Star Ron Jeremy

“[Gross] didn’t go just to a church and preach against porn, he goes right to the porn conventions,” Jeremy said. “He gets booths and hands out Bibles to all the porn stars that say, ‘Jesus loves porn stars.’ No one else does that.”

Jeremy and Gross became fast friends and started touring the country, debating porn on college campuses in front of big crowds.

Jeremy, who has starred in more than 200 adult films, said there is no problem with pornography when it is consumed recreationally and responsibly. He says couples tell him all the time they use pornography to spice up their relationships.

“If you’re a really religious Christian and you follow the letter of the law with the bible, you should not watch porn - I agree with Craig on that one,” he said. “I like what Craig does. He tries to keep people out who don’t belong in porn and don’t belong watching porn. It’s not healthy for them - maybe they’re getting addicted to it.”

Jeremy says porn is a lot like alcohol - what works for some doesn’t work for all. “I don’t want people to get addicted, either,” Jeremy said.

The child porn convict

When FBI agents showed up with guns on his lawn one day, Bill Hartman Jr. knew exactly why they were there. “My addiction took me to a place of no return,” Hartman said.

Pornography began for Hartman as an escape and ended with a 63-month sentence in a federal prison for child pornography.

“You think you’re going down a road and never think you’re going to make that last turn and yet you do because you have no control over it,” Hartman said. “You lose your sense of everything.”

Bill Hartman Jr. in a photo posted on the Ohio Attorney General

Hartman was married, working as a corrections officer and regularly attending a Seventh Day Adventist church, but Hartman says he was living a double life.

He says his first exposure to child porn came via email. “A normal person would have seen it and said this is wrong,” he said.

He tried to break his addiction on his own. “I was praying to God, ‘You’ve got to help me,’” Hartman said. “I thought he wasn’t listening. The FBI showing up was the answer to prayer.”

Hartman was convicted of possession of child pornography and receipt and distribution.

While he was awaiting trail he met Gross. XXXchurch staff members were at Hartman’s sentencing and went with him when he surrendered at the federal prison in Massachusetts.

He believes a judge drastically reduced his sentence because he quickly admitted guilt and began working with XXXchurch.

Hartman is four months out of prison, divorced, and a registered sex offender. He hopes his story will help others from making the mistakes he did.

“I think the problem with pornography in general is anyone who is viewing it is using it as a block to deal with people,” he said. “I used it to block my feelings or communications with my wife. I don’t even think it’s OK for the single guy. It’s a roadblock in your life. I don’t think there’s any good that can come out of it.”

Prevention

Jeremy argues that it’s unfair to indict the entire porn industry because of someone involved in child porn.

From a medical health standpoint, a possible addiction to pornography and getting involved with child pornography is apples and oranges according to psychiatrists.

Currently there is not even a diagnostic standard for pornography addiction according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which mental health professionals turn to when treating patients.

An overuse of pornography is sometimes treated as a compulsive behavior or viewed as a symptom of a broader issue. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is currently in its 4th edition. There is some speculation among clinicians that pornography addiction could be included in the 5th edition under a sexual addiction umbrella.

Gross said he knows not everyone who consumes pornography will graduate to child porn but said that there’s often other kinds of collateral damage.

“I don’t believe this is going to be helpful in your relationship,” he said. “I’ve seen more fallout because of this. When it’s done secret, eventually you don’t cover up your tracks. You’re going to get found out and women automatically go to, ‘what’s wrong with me.’”

“Even if it’s a small percentage, it’s still millions of people who are struggling with this,” he said.

Gross hopes that churches will put the issue out in the open.

“Just talking about this once isn’t going to solve your porn problem,” he said. “A lot of churches feel like they’re not equipped to handle it.”

“When the wife confronts the husbands… then you’ve got the church dealing with the fall out,” he continued. “A big part of what (Sunday) is about is prevention. Let’s talk about this ahead of time.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith Now • United States

soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. Food for thought

    For all you atheist fools, and for all you religiously affiliated fools, answer me this. For the atheists, you believe in science no? The cause and effect law sound familiar? Well then, who or what created the first atom in order for the big bang to begin? Can't answer hmm. For the religious affiliated ones, you all believe in science as well? If not, that your creator created everything, it wasn't by chance? Then who or what created Jehovah/Allah/Yaheweh/God? If neither of you can answer, then both parties have no merit over the other. Atheist can't tell me the bible is a book of fairy tales when they themselves cannot answer a fundemental question of their own, neither can they view themselves as better then religious ones. Religious ones cannot tell me the bible is real when they cannot answer there own fundemental questions, neither can they claim atheists are foolish or ignorant as well. Someone answer this without either going on to bash the other affiliations beliefs without any soid undeniable eviden the other is wrong, insulting myself and others, or making a rebuttal that amounts to "it is because it is".

    July 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  2. trinity

    cKtu4s http://www.ErjfoeBnen03bY1mB7bz.com

    August 23, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  3. Princes2g

    Hallöchen,

    man ruft mich Sophie und ich finde deinen Blog echt klasse.

    Ich hause momentan in Heidelberg, bin aber geboren in Lüneburg.

    Privat betätige ich mich mit Gewichtheben und ich würde mich wirklich freuen wenn du Kontakt zu mir aufnehmen würdest.

    June 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
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About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.