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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 • United States

soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. Ben

    Great comments... there's a great Internet Accountability company called Covenant Eyes. It's way more robust than X3 watch. You can customize your reports and filter settings. And unlike X3 watch you can check the status of your reports any time. Great work Craig!

    February 8, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  2. Rod

    A truth that religious people, in particular, should know: forbidden fruit appears sweetest and becomes inordinately fascinating. Or as Chaucer put it in The Canterbury Tales:

    When something's difficult, or can't be had,
    We crave and cry for it all day like mad.

    February 6, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  3. Rod

    I think this world would be a better place to live if everybody had at least one 0rgasm a day. And it doesn't matter whether your having those 0rgasms with your imaginary friends with benefits or your real life partner. Just make sure you have one!

    February 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  4. Rod

    Several studies from several country's have shown that the increased availability and use of p0rn has dramatically decreased the amount of $exual crimes.
    When men have have an outlet for their $ex urges they are less likely to commit crimes.
    I tried multiple times to post segments of the studies but this site is heavily censored and none of my comments about this were posted even though I tried to use expletives to hide the words that the censors seemingly find offensive.

    February 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  5. Rod

    Why is the word p0rn here always disguised so we can't actually read the word? Isn't that what the story is about? Is the word really so offensive that we have to use an expletive-deletive?.
    It is interesting that in Oklahoma, one of the most evangelical states in the country, you can not buy p0rn, but Oklahomans have one of the highest internet p0rn usage in the country.
    P0rn, like anything else that gives us pleasure can of course become addictive. It is no different than alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and yes even food.
    I will go out on an opinion based limb here and say that obesity is also responsible for marital stress and failure. Why are churches not preaching against over eating?
    I work in health care and obesity is a much worse health problem to our society than p0rn.
    Finally, lets start being accountable for ourselves to maintain a healthy balance in our lives. I don't need my wife or my mother or my church family to monitor me. That's not being a mature adult.
    I don't need to have self control if I constantly have surveillance over me nor is my relationship based on trust when there is constant surveillance. Go ahead and preach about p0rn when it's an addiction, but keep it in balance with teaching about other things that we allow to get out of balance in our lives.

    February 5, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  6. Joel

    When I have my beef in my hand, I feel like a God. Therefore, God exists.

    February 4, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  7. Joel

    You know what is eternal?

    P-or-n

    P-0r-no will be here long after every commentator here is long dea-d and buried and every generation thereafter. In fact, every creature that has similar biology as ours and the sort of economic capitalistic rules governing their markets has, you guessed it, P-0r-n-o!

    NASA has shown s-ex in space is more than likely. Jesus is doing it right now with the heavenly hosts. Anyone can tell you that the long light at the end of the tunnel we see when we die is the first light we saw when we were removed from the womb. The feeling of se-xual release is a blessing from God, and therefore P-0rno is a sacred.

    February 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  8. Stupid

    Sorry I was unclear. *hint the stupid* What I meant was that when we die is when we ultimately know if there is a God. So when we die, and there is no God we won't know because we will just be dirt. If there is a God after death I'll tell you, "I told you so." Which has more hope?

    February 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Rod

      Again, Pascal's Wager? Can people live their lives with honesty even to themselves? Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) French mathematician and philosopher,argued that if reason cannot be trusted, it is a better "wager" to believe in God than not to do so.
      "Even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose." Wikipedia
      There are two main problems with this.
      1 Pascal was Christian, but did not take into consideration the possibility of other gods when making the wager. So one had better choose wisely when choosing a god in which to believe.
      2 Your fait is a sham when you're only believing in God so as to hedge your bet in the afterlife. If God does exist and if he is omniscient then wouldn't he be able to see through your sham? It's not a real faith!

      As for me, I think, if one has doubts about the existence of God, one should sincerely and critically examine his belief. If after doing so he maintains his faith, then continue to believe it. If, however his faith cannot stand critical scrutiny, then reject it. To do otherwise is to live a disingenuous life.

      February 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      your belief is then rooted in fear, not love. discuss.

      February 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  9. Stupid

    NL –

    Don't you kind of have to have faith that there is evolution too? because of just like you have said about proving God, you can't prove evolution.

    February 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  10. Joel

    God wants women to be in P-orn!

    HOS 9:14 Give them a miscarrying womb and dry BREASTS. God can put a curse on women who use their BR-EASTS in an ungodly and selfish way.

    Don't be selfish with those ta-tas ladies, be willing an open with them, as God has commanded.

    February 4, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • atomD21

      Hey, how dare you pick and choose Bible verse to fit your particular agenda!!!! What do you think you are, a church leader?

      February 19, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  11. Joel

    Why P-orn is a good thing.

    It indicates that the person your with is not satisfying enough.
    It helps elevate hormones.
    It is the safest form of se-xual practice in the world.

    It promotes good goals (like going 20 minutes straight).
    It provides jobs, both labor and hand, and stimulates the economy (Billions are spent on p-orn).

    P-orn addiction is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, therefore is not a disorder.

    Stim-ulating oneself is a natural right, as I own the hand that is pleasing my parts, along with the parts being pleased.

    After I am finished with my s-exual deed, I ask for repentance from Jesus and I am good to go. Just as if I had used tissues to wipe the mess afterward.

    I am expressing love for myself by giving into its desires, which nature provided and that God has blessed. They are blessed because they are required for childbirth.

    I can't love other if I don't love myself, by j-acking it I express love for others indirectly.

    Cultural taboos shouldn't apply in a democracy that states every citizen has the right to "Seek Happiness." Depriving me of that right makes one a terrorist against the United States.

    February 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  12. Joel

    P-orn is good.

    February 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  13. Joel

    I enjoy watching P-orn.

    February 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  14. Tom C

    NL-

    If humans have been around for 'millions of years', why did we just start reproducing only thousands of years ago?

    Here is a link to a world population growth chart:

    One would think if the universe were billions of years old, and our race has been around for tens of millions the earth would be a lot more populated at this point.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • atomD21

      Even science says that humans haven't been around for millions of years, but that the evolutionary chain of people started back then.

      February 19, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  15. hmm?

    How about not doing it because it really hurts your wife?

    February 4, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. Tom C

    NL –

    See above... it posted in the wrong section

    February 4, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  17. Tom C

    NL-

    Faith, not proof. Yes, there is evidence, but not proof, and I'm not going to convince you that the evidence favors creation. And likewise, you won't convince me it favors evolution. I encourage you to continue your research so you can be sure in your beliefs.

    "In short, I don't think I 'need' God, so it's your job to 'sell' him to me."

    No, it's not MY job to sell you. If I can convince you that God is real, someone else can convince you He's not. The Holy Spirit must convict you, and whether you accept or reject is up to you.

    This has been a nice conversation, but I'm afraid it's hit a stalemate. I'll leave you with this, and ask you to consider this passage:

    2 Corinthians 4:3-4

    3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

    *note- The 'god of this age' is not my God, but the god of unbelievers (ie pride, lust, money, etc...)

    February 4, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      let me know how that works out. jesus didn't invent computers or electricity. science did.

      February 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  18. CatholicMom

    NL,

    I don’t know of one Christian who is… ‘Longing for a savior to drop down from the sky to take away the responsibility of having to make our own decisions.’ Who would prefer to be a robot?

    True,… ‘the universe cannot be really understood without taking the God factor into consideration.’

    Evolution, modern physics and other branches of science that present different views [yes, views…as in modes of thought] of the ‘creation’ [excellent word choice] of the universe and the origins and diversity of life on this planet in no way have excluded God.

    February 3, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • saganhill

      "Views"? I think not. You obviosly have such a misunderstanding of what science really is. Science is based on "Observation" and and other "test" methods. Their is no faith in Science because faith is not fact. Just because we dont understand something does not mean that a god is resposible for its creation. Thats a copout and a lazy, religious way of explaining things you cant explain.

      As humans learn more, theories change, minds grow, and we begin to understand. Evolution is fact today because we can prove its existance and see the way it works. The big Bang Theory we know is fact because we can "see" the back ground radiation that it produced. I could go on and on.

      Saying god made it is lazy, non-factual nonsense for those who dont want to learn or who dont want to give up an invisible old man who lives in the sky looking down on them.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • atomD21

      @saganhill... I have to disagree about there being no faith in science. As no one alive was around to witness the big bang, the billions of years of star and planet formation, the advent and evolution of life, and countless other events, the supposition that we can ever fully know how it all went down is a leap of faith. So much of what has been accepted as fact is still rooted in theories that as you pointed out are constantly changing as we learn and discover more. That and saying God made it is only lazy if you leave it there. Just because I believe God made all this doesn't mean I don't want to know how it all works. I know I'm in the minority here but I have no trouble believing that God made it all through setting it all in motion, from the Big Bang up to life evolving to where it is today and rejecting the simplistic notion that the Bible tells us all the details and can tell us how old the earth is.

      February 19, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Tom

      @atomD21 ... and who set "God' in motion ?... and then who set the God's creator in motion ?.. and so on.... Humans due to the life/death cycle, have great difficulty dealing with infinity...

      While science is unable to explain everything around us, it's getting continuously better at it. Also, some scientific theories are just that. They are subject to scientific scrutiny and may, in the future, change. But currently, they're the best explanation we have, based on our ability to sense and measure the universe around us.

      On the other hand God is a wild-card people use to deal with everything that science either does not explain well, or the explanation does not satisfy pre-conceived views (ex: humans evolved from a common ancestor with monkeys).

      February 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  19. Talkalittle louder

    At the end of times they'll call evil good and good evil. Chew on that.

    February 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • saganhill

      "The end of times"? Whatever... LMAO

      February 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • ATL

      Wow... that made no sense.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Tim

      Another crazy fundie.
      Please crawl back into whatever incest-filled cave you slithered out of and spew your crazy-talk NOT HERE.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  20. Jorge

    I can just imagine all the sports-weekend couch potatoes out there, with no life and no lovers, glazed expressions on their faces and old dip stains on their T shirts, sitting in front of the TV watching this guy as their brains dribble out of their ears and their I.Q.s plummet. Halleluiah.

    February 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.