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Faith column: Pastor seeks to save people from porn

July 9, 2011

Latest faith column. Pastors and porn.

Pastor who seeks to liberate porn addicts to speak at Austin churches

The late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote that hard-core pornography was difficult to define, but “I know it when I see it.”

That was almost half a century ago.

Defining pornography is even trickier today with Web technology that allows us to push boundaries, creating online personas and transmitting sexually explicit pictures instantly on our smartphones.

But, like Stewart, Craig Gross knows it when he sees it. And, to his dismay, porn is everywhere, he says. It’s a pervasive, addictive, damaging force from which he’s tried to liberate people for years.

The Las Vegas-based pastor founded the XXX Church ministry in 2002 and preaches to California porn stars, Vegas strippers and suburban sex addicts — offering all the promise that the love of Jesus can heal them.

Next weekend, Gross, along with former NFL quarterback and recovering porn addict Josh McCown, will be speaking in Austin churches: a Saturday evening men’s program at Austin Ridge Bible Church, 9300 Bee Cave Road, and the 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service at Promiseland West, which meets in the performing arts center of Westlake High School, 4100 Westbank Drive.

The talks come in the wake of former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s social media scandal involving sexually inappropriate photos and graphic messages. And that’s just the scandal du jour. Gross is navigating a world that includes teens sexting, or sending explicit photos by text message, and children as young as 11 surfing the Web for sex sites. Pornography consumption, he says, can undermine marital trust and destroy relationships, even careers.

Gross argues that the porn industry played a role in the behavior of Weiner and golfer Tiger Woods, whose secret sex life became news in 2009, as well as hundreds of teenagers who circulate pictures on their cell phones.

“I say it is all porn,” Gross told me in an email interview. “Porn has influence in our world far greater than we think. … You can’t read those texts (between Woods and his lovers) and say porn had no part in this.”

The pattern of secrecy and denial in Weiner’s story — so familiar to Gross — ended in admission and a promise to seek professional help. What role religion will play — if any — is unclear.

In his post-scandal public apology, Woods pledged to recommit to Buddhism, which teaches discipline over cravings. If Weiner, who is Jewish, sought answers from his own tradition, he would be reminded that God is present in all interactions and is a “generous agent of holiness in our intimacies,” said Rabbi Neil Blumofe of Congregation Agudas Achim.

Turning to religion — often the source of sexual shame — may be particularly difficult for some. But Gross has pushed the boundaries on how church leaders can talk about sex in contemporary language while promoting biblical concepts of sexual integrity and purity. He frequently points to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which he exhorts them to “run away from sexual sins.”

But Gross doesn’t just preach against sexual sin; he reaches out to people in the porn industry. He hands out Bibles at porn conventions and debates porn stars, including Ron Jeremy, who has said he admires Gross’ ministry. This year, he organized hundreds of pastors to address sex addiction on Super Bowl Sunday — which Gross dubbed “Porn Sunday.”

Promiseland West pastor Randy Phillips says it’s crucial that churches talk honestly about what is often considered a topic too taboo for the pulpit. Phillips said he is mentoring a fellow pastor who describes pornography as a “shameful, addictive monster that has overtaken him.”

As someone in the business of proclaiming the good news, the West Austin pastor said he’s determined to minimize the shame and instead help addicts focus on hope through faith in Jesus. That’s why he invited Gross to his church.

“The toughest part in being transformed is admission and confession,” Phillips said. “You cannot be healed from what you will not admit.”

Jesus, he added, “lives in the light.”

As Gross sees it, pornography may be one of the most difficult addictions to overcome, so pastors can’t be squeamish.

“We must talk about it,” he said. “It’s not going to go away on its own.”

For more information about Gross’ men’s program next Saturday, email christine@austinridge.org or call 512-263-7701.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2011 7:20 pm

    Eileen, I cannot see how Craig Gross “has pushed the boundaries”.
    It sounds like the temperance movement of the early 20th century;
    just substitute “porn” for “booze”.
    Please clarify what is the new element of this Bible-thumping crusade.

  2. July 10, 2011 9:31 am

    Agreed, Loel – I suspect his is a war on adult entertainment more than it is a war on addiction.

    For that matter, what about addictive moralists? Who’s helping them?

  3. July 30, 2011 10:44 am

    It seems as if the church has a “don’t ask…don’t tell” understanding when it comes to porn. Hardly anyone will discuss it and therefore the more it remains in the dark…the more insidious and deep it takes roots in our lives…culture and churches.

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