The problem no one talks about: A ministry has evolved to address the issues of pornography addiction

Saturday, April 28, 2007

America's dirty little secret is coming to church.

Craig Gross, a minister ordained in 1996 through the Church of God in Grand Rapids, Mich., is also head of XXXChurch, a ministry that focuses on reaching people addicted to pornography. He will speak about the ministry next week at La Croix Methodist Church.

Gross said his ministry's efforts open discussion on a subject many churches feel uncomfortable talking about.

"Churches never have touched on that issue," he said. "It's a huge problem. We have to start addressing it, get people help."

XXXChurch began its ministry in January 2002 at a porn show in Las Vegas. Gross said the idea for the ministry was born from a conversation he had with an associate over lunch about the need and the apparent reluctance among churches to tackle it.

"I decided that day to do it," he said.

This year, XXXChurch will exhibit at four shows throughout the world. In five years, Gross's ministry has grown to include a Web site and a staff of several speakers who help him spread the word around the world that "Jesus loves porn stars."

Gross said he has found more resistance from church people than from people who make and buy pornography. That has not surprised him, he said.

"Jesus' life and ministry were not traditional," he said. "People in his day said 'You can't do that on the Sabbath; you can't do that here.' No one else had a problem with him healing people. Jesus commanded us to go. He did not say to discriminate people or place, he said go."

While pornography is a problem no one wants to talk about, it has become a $13 billion industry in the United States; $57 billion worldwide, according to XXXChurch's Web site. Child pornography generates $3 billion a year. The industry encompasses videos, magazines, escort services, sex clubs, phone sex, novelties, pay-per-view TV, and Web sites. Twelve percent of all of the Web sites on the Internet are pornographic.

Men and women visit porn sites on the Internet or view porn in other forms. Children become exposed to porn at the average age of 11, according to the church's Web site.

"We realize we're not going to shut down a $13 billion-a-year industry," Gross said. "But we have been able to have decent relationships with these people. They know us. We do really care about these people. They have not heard that before from the church."

Gross and his staff have talked with, prayed with and for, given Bibles to and reached people who have become addicted to pornography and who have worked in the industry. XXXChurch's Web site offers to those who want help a link to a service that monitors their Internet use and alerts a chosen sponsor when they slip up.

There may not be a solution to wiping out pornography but what the XXXChurch is doing, "is a good start," Gross said.

The Rev. Ron Watts, pastor of La Croix church, said his congregation is willing to bring Gross in to talk to the community "because it is a problem. We can't ignore it anymore. There are people who are dealing with abuse, who have to deal with adultery and other matters, families are breaking up because of it. It's a cultural problem."

All Gross wants to do is open the discussion and educate people without pointing any accusing fingers.

"We don't go in with the attitude that we're the good guys and you are the bad guys," he said. "We have helped porn stars and producers get out of the industry. We don't tick them off. We show them the same respect they give back to us."

He says his presentation next week is appropriate for young people to hear as well as adults.

"It's not graphic," he said. "It's a pretty tame presentation."

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