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'Porn & Pancakes' fights X-rated addictions

Story Highlights

• Every second, approximately 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography
• Breakfast event helps men discuss how pornography affects their lives
• Craig Gross founded XXXChurch.com to battle against porn industry
• A Kentucky organization uses biblical counseling to break addictions
By Jason Rovou
CNN
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MORTON, Illinois (CNN) -- At 8 o'clock on a recent Saturday morning, more than 250 men gathered at New Life Christian Church in Morton, Illinois, for a breakfast of porn and pancakes.

The event, not as titillating as it sounds, is the brainchild of Craig Gross, founder of the online Christian ministry, XXXChurch.com. Gross concocted the idea of "Porn & Pancakes" as a way to get Christians and church officials to talk about pornography addiction.

It's a problem, he said, that is growing, among Christian communities.

Over the smell of maple syrup and sausage, Gross and other guest speakers -- including a former producer of pornography -- talk to the men about how pornography negatively affects their lives, including relationships with their families and with God. The men who come to hear them speak want to make sure they don't develop a problem themselves.

"A lot of people think Christians sure don't struggle with this," Gross said. "The stats don't lie: Christians are consuming pornography. And to me, it's not a surprise."

A nonscientific poll on XXXChurch.com found that 70 percent of Christians admitted to struggling with porn in their daily lives. Church officials are not immune either. According to Gross, some 76 percent of pastors he surveyed said they, too, have a problem. Gross says he's not surprised so many Christians find themselves struggling with addictions to pornography, considering just how mainstream and easily accessible it has become.

Adult entertainment is an enormous business in the United States, taking in an estimated $12 billion annually. Every second, approximately 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography, according to the Internet Filter Review. With some 4.2 million pornographic Web sites to explore, many Christians find themselves unable to turn away.

'Jesus Loves Porn Stars'

Gross started his ministry to spark discussion on a topic he found to be largely ignored within religious circles. The breakfast meetings are just part of that ministry.

His organization attends adult industry conventions, handing out bibles to pornography fans and workers that read "Jesus Loves Porn Stars." Gross travels the country having friendly debates on college campuses with iconic porn star Ron Jeremy on the effects of pornography. And XXXChurch.com also offers free accountability software, which Gross says has been downloaded by 300,000 people. It works by sending reports to a couple of trusted persons -- a friend, a wife, a pastor -- about which Web sites have been visited.

While Gross' ministry tries to prevent Christians from developing a problem, other organizations cater to those who say they have nowhere else to turn.

Jerry -- who asked that his last name not be used -- said he began looking at pornography at a young age and has, by his account, spent thousands of hours surfing the web, looking at adult magazines and utilizing chat rooms.

"I was in it, as much as possible," he said. "Just like an alcoholic or someone who has an addiction to drugs."

Jerry is one of the 55 men living at Pure Life Christian Ministries in rural Williamstown, Kentucky, who have come here to as a last resort to reclaim their lives and their Christian values.

The ministries offer a six month, live-in treatment program for men with sexual addictions. At the facility, which claims to be the only one of its kind in the country, counselors take a biblical approach to healing instead of a psychological one.

The live-in program demands intense Bible study and discipline from the residents. Each day is structured for work, prayer, and one-on-one biblical counseling, where the men study scriptural lessons on guilt, anger, depression and selfishness. The men are cut off from the outside world and any outside stimulation. There is no television, Internet or cell phones. Mail is even screened for clothing catalogues with what could be considered inappropriate images.

Over the past 15 years, more than 600 men have come here to detox from their porn addictions.

'Their soul's in danger'

"We actually understand their soul's in danger," said Jeff Colón, the head counselor here who went through the program 13 years ago to save himself from his own pornography and sexual addictions. "When the men come to us, they've gotten to the end of their rope."

"Jerry" said his compulsions were robbing his young son and wife from a normal family life.

"It was killing me, from the inside. I was riddled with guilt," he said. "And by the grace of God, he pulled me out of that pit, and brought me here, before it got to a point to where ... who knows? I mean I could have ended up anywhere."

While Jerry and other program residents are working hard to leave their addictions behind, the true test of their willpower and faith will come after they return to the real world, where Colón said they'll be bombarded with sexual images on television, in advertising and on the computer.

"We do live in a sexualized culture, and it is difficult for these men when they leave here," he said. "It doesn't help."


XXXChurch

Craig Gross founded XXXChurch.com in order to help Christians avoid pornography addiction.

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