Some pornography opponents picket outside adult businesses. Craig Gross ventures inside porn venues, says “hello” and passes out “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” souvenirs.
The co-founder of xxxchurch.com, a site which bills itself as the nation’s No. 1 Christian porn site, acts as a missionary to the adult picture industry and as a roving evangelist — encouraging churches to talk about what he views as the perils of pornography.
Gross, 30, spoke at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore earlier this fall. He’ll be speaking again at Southland Christian Church in Lexington on Jan. 20 and 21.
At adult industry trade shows, Gross’ organization passed out thousands of Bibles with “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” printed on the covers.
But he denounces the films, magazines and computer images they produce.
“Pornography is destructive,” Gross said. “It’s tearing apart homes. It’s tearing apart marriages.”
And it’s easy to find.
“We didn’t have the Internet when I was growing up. I had to go searching for pornography. Now it’s sent right to you. Now your inboxes are bombarded with it whether you like it or not,” Gross said. “It’s everywhere now.”
The images are difficult to resist — even for preachers.
“About 37 percent of ministers are struggling with pornography,” he said, citing an article in Christianity Today. “I’ve met dozens of pastors that have lost their jobs because of this. … It’s out of control how many pastors are sinking.”
The name, xxxchurch.com, gets people’s attention.
“We just combined the seedy and the sacred, and we thought, ‘You know what? If we put three x’s in front of the word church, people would find us,'” Gross said.
So far, more than 75 million people have visited the site, he said, adding, “We’re probably the loudest voice on this issue online.”
While churches have denounced pornography for generations, porn viewing is now rampant among people of faith, some religious leaders say.
“It’s just as prevalent if not even more prevalent in the church,” said Mark Hendrix, who leads a group at Southland Christian Church for men who are struggling with sex addiction.
Christians are ashamed to talk about porn use, and churches are often uncomfortable addressing the issue.
“We embrace the guy that’s converted from homosexuality, the drug addict, the alcoholic, and we applaud their testimony, but we’re not comfortable talking to the porn addict,” Hendrix said.
In a sex-saturated culture, the church is not immune, religious leaders say.
Pure Life Ministries, based in rural Pendleton County, even has a live-in-treatment program for Christian porn addicts. Men from across the country move to Kentucky for six to nine months so they can receive counseling.
The 55-bed facility is always full, and there’s always a waiting list, president Steve Gallagher says. The group’s operating budget will top $1.5 million this year, Gallagher estimates.
Twenty years after the program was launched, “the need is greater than ever before,” Gallagher said. “Christians by the tens of thousands are addicted to porn and sexual sin, and that’s the reason why Pure Life Ministries is there to help those people.”
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