John Jalsevac

‘Jesus loves pornstars’: XXXChurch making waves with offbeat anti-porn outreach

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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August 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A young man sits at home, alone, absentmindedly surfing the internet. He’s had a stressful day at work and doesn't have anything in particular to do with his evening. He’s tired, he’s bored. He decides to look for porn.

It’s a scenario that plays itself out tens of thousands of times a day. Except that on this day, the ending is different. 

He heads to Google, and types “XXX.” The search engine returns the expected and sought-for list of porn sites. But in the midst of the search results appears an unusual link title - a shocking juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane - and out of curiosity, he clicks on it. 

And instead of the porn he was hoping to find, he has found the help he needs. He has found XXXChurch - an oasis of sexual sanity in the midst of the pornographic desert that is the Internet.

XXXChurch playfully boasts that it is the “#1 Christian porn site on the internet.” (“Mostly because there isn’t a second one,” quips Craig Gross, 37, one of the co-founders of XXXChurch.)

The unusual Internet-based “church” was founded in January 2002 by Gross and his fellow Californian youth pastor Mike Foster. “I saw just such a need amongst young people when it came to the issue of pornography,” Gross told LifeSiteNews.com in a recent interview. The goal, he says, was simply “to create a safe place online where people could get help, they could feel like they’re not alone.” 

The website offers everything from free internet accountability technology (X3Watch), to thousands of testimonies and confessions from current and former porn users, to courses designed to help men and women quit porn or strengthen their marriages. 

And it has proved wildly popular. So far, more than a million people have downloaded X3Watch, which enables users to send periodic reports of their Internet surfing habits to an accountability partner, while the website welcome tens of thousands of visitors a month, a large number of whom stumble on XXXChurch while searching for porn.

“When I started this 11 years ago, I had no idea it would grow to this size,” Gross says. “Originally it was just for young people, but as we got into it we realized that more and more people, men, women, young and old were dealing with this.” 

“Personally I don’t see a bigger issue facing families and marriages today than pornography.”  

'Jesus Loves Porn Stars'

Part of the success of XXXChurch can be attributed to the widespread publicity it has received thanks to its self-consciously unconventional approach to fighting porn. In fact, perhaps no word sums up XXXChurch better than “edgy.” 

From the aesthetic of its website, videos and pamphlets, to its slogans and its outreach tactics, XXXChurch has consistently pushed the envelope, blurring the line between pop culture and Christian ministry. Gross himself has for years adopted a personal style and wardrobe more akin to an “emo” rockstar - complete with black ear studs, black clothes, and jet black hair swept carelessly to one side - than a Christian pastor (although, judging by recent videos and photos, he has tempered his style with age). 

But perhaps nothing has stoked more controversy than XXXChurch’s decision to print Bibles emblazoned with the slogan “Jesus loves porn stars” and distribute them several times a year at booths at some of the largest porn conventions in the country.

This part of its outreach has earned XXXChurch an unwelcome form of hate mail: that from fellow Christians, who have accused the group of twisting Jesus’ message, or of even being in bed with the porn industry.

"XXX church you people are wicked and God will destroy you!  repent!  XXX church is evil," reads one such example. Gross laughs off these e-mails, and posts them for entertainment value on his website along with the hatemail he receives from porn aficionados and other anti-Christians. 

But the group has also attracted the more balanced critiques of reputable church leaders, who, while enthusiastic about XXXChurch’s goals, have questioned the prudence of their tactics. In fact, The American Bible Society turned down XXXChurch's contract to print the controversial Bibles, writing that the wording "was misleading and inappropriate," forcing Gross to search elsewhere for a publisher.

Another Christian leader who has criticized XXXChurch's approach is no less than Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.   

"I have no doubt that Jesus loves porn stars, and the Bible is perfectly clear in its grace-filled message that Christ came to save sinners,” Mohler wrote in a blog post on his website after news of XXXChurch's unusual ministry first hit the mainstream media. "Jesus ate with notorious sinners and engaged in conversation with them.

"Yet, the presence of a Christian ministry within the confines of the Erotica Expo is a step beyond the example of Jesus, I would argue. There is a difference between talking to a prostitute about the Gospel and entering a brothel - much less buying a booth." 

While saying that he doesn't "want to at all question the motivation of the guys behind this," he adds, "I do think that the packaging and strategy and tactical thinking behind this can be pretty problematic."

"What about a special edition of the new Testament, or in this case a paraphrase of the New Testament that would have on the cover, 'Jesus loves concentration camp guards' or 'Jesus loves pedophiles,' or 'Jesus loves gossips, or liars or tax cheats?'  The question is how can we accomplish that task of loving the sinners without associating with the sin?"

But Gross says he ultimately has little patience for those who question XXXChurch’s outreach without having seen it in action, or witnessing its fruits. 

“Most of the critics have never gone, have never known anyone in the industry,” he says. “For me to tell somebody you can’t do something, and you don’t know anything about that, I would just…I’m not going to listen to it. I’m going to listen to people who saw what we’re doing.” 

And for Gross, whether you agree or not, what they’re doing is quite simple: following Jesus’ example of reaching out to the outcasts, the marginalized, and sinners, and telling them the truth – that Jesus loves them. 

To give love, not to rescue

But here again, it becomes apparent why some Christian leaders are uncomfortable with XXXChurch’s message. For a man who has dedicated his life to fighting porn, Gross seem strangely reticent to affirm that the reason his group goes to porn conventions is to rescue men and women from the porn industry.

“I don’t think we’re there to get them out. I don’t honestly want to say that we have an agenda,” he says. “It’s like, ‘I’m here as your friend to save you.’” This, he suggests, is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. 

“I would say our goal is – whether it’s people who make the films, or people that are in the films – let them know that Jesus loves you. I feel like those other things work themselves out after a response to that message is given." 

If this seems like a naive, or excessively soft, approach, there are plenty of critics of XXXChurch who agree. But it’s also hard to argue with the results.

Take, for instance, the case of Brittni, who was listed as one of the 12 “hottest” porn stars in the world by Maxim magazine in 2010. Last November, thanks to the influence of XXXChurch, she shot her last porn film, and has since joined forces with the anti-porn organization, reaching out to her former colleagues.

Yet, while Brittni only left the industry seven months ago, she traces her conversion to Christianity to long before that, during a brief hiatus from shooting porn. In the intervening years, she continued to shoot porn, while preaching Christianity to fellow porn stars on film sets, or during appearances on the raunchy Howard Stern show. 

It was an odd marriage that was doomed to fail in the long run: either Christ or porn had to go. But Gross is adamantly opposed to the idea that simply because Brittni continued to shoot porn, that she hadn’t actually encountered Christ. 

“For me to say you can’t have a relationship with Jesus if you’re still in porn, I’m not gonna go there,” he says. “As soon as someone makes a decision at church, you think their lifestyle is cleaned up as soon as they step in the car? They’ve got a lot of baggage still, stuff that they’ve got to now figure out. I’ve seen Jesus change people’s lives, sometimes overnight, other times it’s a long process." 

“To me it’s a difference of opinion," he adds. "I’m not going to start with, ‘Get out of the porn industry.’ You start with love. I mean Jesus spent time with people, he loved people, he invested in people. He went to where they where.” 

In the end, Gross argues, it comes down to a failure on the part of Christians to believe that the message of Christ’s love is enough, a lack of faith that is often accompanied a prideful belief that it is within our power to change other people. “I feel like it’s a trust issue with the Lord,” he says. “Like we don’t trust that God is who He says He is enough to change people’s lives. We think that we’re supposed to be the ones that have to control all that?"

Porn superstar Ron Jeremy and Craig Gross – BFF

In no case is the complexity involved in an outreach to the porn industry more evident than in Gross’ long-time personal friendship with porn superstar Ron Jeremy – arguably the most enduringly popular porn actor in the world. 

Gross met Jeremy some six years ago, when the two men were asked to debate each other at Boston College. “I remember saying to my wife when I left that day, I hope [me and Ron] get to have dinner later,” he recalls. “I didn’t realize how easy that would be." 

“I asked Ron afterwards, ‘Do you want to go to dinner?’ He said, ‘Are you buying?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’” 

Since then, Jeremy and Gross have traveled all across the United States and the world, debating porn at countless venues before tens of thousands of listeners. And in the process they’ve struck up a personal friendship that extends far beyond their porn-debating schtick – earning the pair the nickname of “the odd couple.” So close have they become that earlier this year, when doctors discovered a life-threatening aneurysm near Jeremy’s heart, Gross was the first person at the porn star’s hospital room, at Jeremy’s personal request.

Jeremy recalled that conversation during a recent interview with ABC. “This is the exact conversation," he remembered. "‘Craig are you free for a couple hours?’ He goes, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Are you still close to God?’ He goes, ‘Last time I checked.’ ‘Well, I’d like you and Him to come down to Cedars-Sinai Hospital.’” 

While Jeremy has spoken of being a "changed man" since his near-death experience, he appears to still be involved in the porn industry. Gross says he gets asked all the time when Jeremy will leave porn. But he says, that’s not up to him. His job, he says, is simply to make sure that Jeremy knows who Jesus is. “Ron is a guy that has a lot of questions. I don’t think it’s by accident that we’ve become great friends,” he says. 

In the meantime, Gross’ friendship with Jeremy has enabled him to reach far more people with his message than might otherwise have been possible. “I can’t go to New York University and draw 2000 kids,” he says. “If somebody brought me in to speak they’d get maybe a couple hundred kids. You bring Ron, you get a couple thousand.” 

How to quit porn

But there is a downside to all the publicity surrounding XXXChurch’s porn convention outreach, and Gross’ famous friendship with Jeremy. If you didn’t know better, you might think that all XXXChurch staffers ever do is hang out at porn conventions or with porn superstars. And if that's an approach you disagree with, you might write off their work completely.

But in reality, XXXChurch spends a handful of weekends per year at porn shows. The rest of the time is spent attending to the core of XXXChurch’s work: helping everyday men and women navigate the treacherous waters of a porn-on-demand culture. 

In the 11 years since Gross founded XXXChurch, much has changed. Porn has become more ubiquitous than ever before, while Gross himself has become a father. Now, he says, “I’m not worried about your kids, I’m worried about my kids.” 

Much of Gross’ time is spent traveling around to churches, raising the alarm about pornography as the elephant in the living room, and giving congregations the tools they need to respond to it. The problem with porn, he tells his hearers, is that it’s a “cheap substitute” for something that was “designed to be so great,” to bring two people together. “I think it’s a far cry from sex as it’s created to be.” 

For those who have learned this lesson the hard way, and want to quit, the first thing Gross tells them is, “I don’t think that you’re going to do it on your own.” 

“It’s a very private thing, most of the time,” he explains. “But if it remains something that you’re trying to battle just by yourself, I don’t think you’re going to have success. The first thing is that you’ve got to be open, honest with somebody. Maybe not the whole world. With somebody that you can say, ‘Hey I need your help.’"

“There’s shame. I get it. I get all the reasons not to" open up, he said. "But man, I’ve never man anybody who’s gotten over this issue by himself. I don’t think you’re going to have success.” 

That’s where XXXChurch’s accountability software comes into play. Download the software. Install it on your computer. And have regular internet surfing reports sent to a trusted accountability partner. 

But the second thing necessary, says Gross, is hard work and sacrifice. And this is the thing that a lot of people are unprepared for. “This could be the fight of your life,” Gross says. “It probably will be.” 

While Gross advocates "patience" in the fight to overcome porn, to those who protest that they have tried to quit and failed, he doesn't mince words. “I’m not calling you lazy. But, ‘Oh, I’ve tried this, it didn’t help.’ Well, did you really? I think I could tell in five minutes. Have you really put in the work? Do you really want to change your ways? Do you really want this? "

“I think a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, I prayed, and it didn’t work.’" he said. "Have you made any sacrifices? Have you changed your patterns? Have you gotten rid of the iPhone and downgraded? Have you made any sort of sacrifices or changes in your behavior so that you don’t go back to this? Who’s on your list that has access to your e-mails?" 

“There’s a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, I tried.’ I just question, have they really put in the work?”

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State Rep who compared Planned Parenthood with ISIS moves to bar dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson
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State Representative Isaac Latterell, R-Sioux Falls

PIERRE, SD, February 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The state representative who said that Planned Parenthood beheads human beings just like ISIS is calling for the state Senate to ban all forms of dismemberment abortion.

“Planned Parenthood is worse than ISIS,” said State Representative Isaac Latterell, R-Sioux Falls said when introducing H.B. 1230, the Preborn Infant Beheading Ban of 2015. The bill would make it a felony for an abortionist to behead an unborn child as part of an abortion procedure within the state limits.

“There are certain revolting methods of execution, such as beheading, that no state would ever permit, even against murderers who use this method on their victims,” Rep. Latterell said.

The House Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill last week by a 11-2 vote.

But not everyone was happy with the bill and the publicity it drew. (The same committee had killed a dismemberment and decapitation abortion ban last year.)

State Rep. Burt Tulson, R-Lake Norden, amended the beheading law to simply read, “The State of South Dakota recognizes the sanctity of human life.”

The full House passed the amended form of his bill by 65-3 on Thursday, February 19.

Rep. Latterell is now asking the state Senate to revise the bill again – to go beyond beheading and bar all forms of dismemberment of the unborn.

“I knew beheading was an abhorrent technique reserved for the likes of ISIS terrorists, but I did not fully appreciate how much pain the fetal dismemberment that takes place during dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions causes the baby,” Latterell told LifeSiteNews. “I am confident when the Senate committee is finished with its hearing, Planned Parenthood's lies will be exposed. I look forward to banning dismemberment abortion once and for all.”

“Dismemberment abortion kills a baby by tearing her apart limb from limb,” said Daniel Woodard, a Columbus School of Law student who testified for the bill.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Introducing such a bill would put South Dakota in the mainstream of the national pro-life movement. The National Right to Life Committee has made banning dismemberment abortions a national focus. The same day that the South Dakota House passed Latterell's bill, the Kansas state Senate passed the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.

Other states, including Oklahoma and Missouri, have introduced legislation to end the most common form of second-trimester abortion, as well.

The amended H.B. 1230 had its first reading in the state Senate on Friday.

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Detaching ‘pastoral practice’ from Catholic doctrine is a ‘dangerous schizophrenic pathology’: Vatican cardinal

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By Hilary White

ROME, February 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Another highly placed Vatican Cardinal has corrected the “progressivist” proposal to offer Holy Communion to Catholics who have been divorced and remarried or who are in other “irregular” sexual unions. The highly respected Cardinal Robert Sarah, recently appointed to the office overseeing the Church’s liturgical practices, says that attempting to detach Catholic teaching from “pastoral practice” is a form of “heresy.”

“The idea that would consist in placing the Magisterium in a nice box by detaching it from pastoral practice – which could evolve according to the circumstances, fads, and passions – is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology,” Cardinal Sarah said.

“The African Church will strongly oppose any rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and the Magisterium,” he added.

The Guinean cardinal is the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments, but until recently was serving as the head of Cor Unum, the office overseeing the Church’s charitable activities. In his former job, given by Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Sarah was spearheading efforts at reforming the umbrella organization, Caritas Internationalis, as it brought its policies into line with Catholic moral teaching, particularly on contraception and abortion.

The cardinal made the remarks in a book of interviews to be published this week by the French language press, Fayard. Titled “Dieu ou rien” (God or Nothing), the book is described as “frank personal thoughts” on the cardinal’s life, including on “the ideological neo-colonialism in Africa exercised by the decadent West.”

On the various crises of the African continent, he said, “I want to strongly condemn a desire to impose false values ​​using political and financial arguments.” 

He said that in some African countries, “ministries dedicated to gender theory” have been created in order to legitimize the ideology. “These policies are all the more hideous inasmuch as the majority of the African population is defenseless, thanks to the fanatical Western ideologues,” Cardinal Sarah said. 

In the book the cardinal also addresses euthanasia, calling it “the most acute marker of a society without God,” and “subhuman.” But he adds that he has seen an “awakening of consciences,” particularly among younger people in North America who want to overcome “the culture of death.” 

“God was not asleep, he is really with those who defend life!”

Since the “suggestion” on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, made at last year’s consistory, and pushed hard at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October, by the German Walter Cardinal Kasper and his followers, the Catholic Church is increasingly being shown to be deeply divided at the highest levels and on some of the Church’s most fundamental and definitive issues. While it was frequently commented that the African bishops were on the whole strongly opposed to the Kasper Proposal, the West’s view of the “African Church” as a conservative monolith has been refuted. At least one African bishop has indicated that he outright supports Kasper’s proposal, repeating much of the rhetoric of the Kasper supporters in and out of the Vatican.

Gabriel Palmer Buckle, the archbishop of Accra in Ghana, and one of the bishops chosen to attend the next Synod in October, is quoted by long-time American Vaticanist John Allen saying that he is ready “to vote yes” on allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.

John Allen wrote that the Ghanian archbishop “supports allowing local bishops to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, and also believes that’s the result Pope Francis wants from the October summit.”

“When a person comes to me, I think I should be able to sit with him or her, or with the family, to find out what the situation is and to give solutions to individual cases without making a sweeping statement,” Palmer-Buckle said.

“It’s not a matter of issuing a new law,” he said. “As for the doctrine [on marriage], I don’t think the Church will change. It’s a question of how we help individuals.”

He added also that the “case-by-case” approach is favored by Pope Francis. “The truth of the matter is that the Holy Father is pushing towards that, when he talks about collegiality,” he said.

The archbishop echoed the phrases and jargon – such as the invocation of “gradualism” and “accompaniment” – used by both the Vatican and Kasper’s supporters during and immediately following the 2014 Synod.

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“The Holy Father has made it clear that the Church’s doctrine [that marriage is always indissoluble] remains the perfection point, the point of arrival, but we are all wounded,” Palmer-Buckle said. “That’s why Christ came, for the sick, the wounded, the needy.”

“If we look at our own pastoral challenges, there must be room to listen and to see how we can pastorally accompany whoever wants to belong more and more to Christ.”

He also reiterated Kasper’s own statement that the proposal is not intended to change Church teaching: “It’s not a matter of issuing a new law…As for the doctrine [on marriage], I don’t think the Church will change. It’s a question of how we help individuals.”

Others have strongly refuted this thesis, including high-level cardinals, who have said that a change in the practice would simply make the doctrine irrelevant to most Catholics.

With the next session of the Synod still eight months in the future, the sides in the argument are rapidly forming. A few days ago, US Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, joined the growing chorus of opposition, saying, “Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral and we cannot carry out something else and call it pastoral, if it doesn’t embody the truth.”

“Certain doctrines are embodied in certain practices and even if you don’t change the doctrine in writing, in a written document, if you change the practice you have changed what the previous practice embodied.”

In January, another Vatican curial official, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, gave a lecture in Germany strongly refuting the underlying theory of the Kasper Proposal. With Cardinal Sarah, Piacenza explained that it is incoherent to suggest that the Church’s “pastoral practice” could possibly be placed in opposition to her doctrine.

Speaking to a group of priests and seminarians, Cardinal Piacenza said, “When in Christianity mercy and truth are presented as antagonistic, or at least as contradictory, it is always the result of a partial perception.”

“It is hardly conceivable that there could be such a strong emphasis on mercy to the detriment of truth. Or, its opposite, a strong emphasis on truth to the detriment of mercy.”

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Eric Metaxas

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What Uncle Sam giveth, he can taketh away: Our rights are from God, not government

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By Eric Metaxas

February 23, 2015 (BreakPoint.org) -- During a recent appearance on CNN, Roy Moore, the chief judge of Alabama’s Supreme Court, debated the issue of same-sex marriage with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the son of the late New York governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo.

During the discussion, Moore said that “Our rights, contained in the Bill of Rights, do not come from the Constitution. They come from God. That’s clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Cuomo then responded “Our rights do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.”

Cuomo added that the idea of God-given rights is “your faith [and] my faith, but that’s not our country. Our laws come from collective agreement and compromise.”

I can’t help but wonder which country Cuomo is referring to. After all, the Declaration of Independence, by way of justifying the enormous steps the Founding Fathers were about to take, states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men . . .”

These words, which previous generations of American school children were made to memorize, set forth an order that is 180 degrees from that suggested by Cuomo: first comes the Creator, who then endows his creatures with “certain unalienable rights,” and then the creatures form governments to “secure those rights.”

In essence, Cuomo is resorting to a kind of legal positivism, that is, the idea that “law is a matter of what has been posited,” something “ordered, decided, practiced, [or] tolerated,” and is not based on any deeper truth.

But that approach has serious flaws—as our own history bears out. In the run-up to the Civil War, for example, defenders of slavery appealed to the text of the Constitution, which permitted slavery without mentioning it by name. Opponents of slavery, or at least those against its spread into the territories, such as Lincoln, appealed to the Declaration of Independence and its ideas about God-given rights.

Sticking to man-given rights and appealing to “collective agreement and compromise” as Cuomo insists upon doing, would not have ended slavery.

However, if our nation’s leaders agree with Cuomo that the rights we possess are those the government has deined to give us, that would go a long way to explaining the erosion of religious liberty we are witnessing in the U. S. After all, the same government that can create a right to abortion and same-sex marriage can also take away the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of association. This may yield the results folks like Cuomo want, but it undermines the very foundation of human rights that we all claim to hold dear.

And that is really what’s at stake. Years ago on this program, Chuck Colson said that human rights are “based on our most fundamental beliefs about humans being created in the image of God.” Our “rights are not conferred by government, and so they cannot be denied by government.” It was this belief that led Chuck to draft the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious freedom.

More than half a million Americans have signed the Manhattan Declaration. So if you have not, or if you haven’t even read this vitally important defense of our rights and freedom, please come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll link you to it.

Chris Cuomo was right about one thing: God-given rights are what our faith teaches. If that’s no longer true about “our country,” Heaven help us all.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point. 

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