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Football and Super Porn Sunday

Craig Gross, the founder of XXXChurch, has never been one to shy away from the tongue-in-cheek media attention that comes from running the the Internet's "#1 Christian porn site." Unfortunately, too few media outlets have been willing to treat XXXChurch -- an advocacy and outreach org that passes out Bibles at porn conventions, debates porn stars big and small and helps Christian brothers and sisters struggling with porn addiction -- as more than just a kooky Christian group.

If I can be so immodest, I think I remain one of a handful of reporters who has honestly and sincerely explored and reported on XXXChurch, having spent three days with Gross and Co at the Adult Entertainment Expo in 2007 for a feature that carried one of the Daily News' five or six days of in-depth series on the porn industry.

Before I get to the recent story that prompted this post, here's a snippet from "Make Love, Not War, on Porn."

XXXChurch, which runs a Web site where people confess their struggles and offers free anti-porn software, has made the biggest splash, using gimmicks at adult conventions -- like Wally the Wiener, a 25-foot inflatable penis -- to lure eyes, and hopefully minds, away from depictions of depravity.

The message is simple: porn separates husbands and wives, defiles teenagers' minds and breeds lies. A tool of the devil, it can only be cured by God.

My stories are never as good when I read them again, and you can see that sometimes you just can't avoid the gimmicks. But any story about XXXChurch should begin with the fact that this is a real Christian ministry not just some hipster excuse to hang out with porn stars. As people have come to accept this, the organization's success has moved beyond just get media attention for being unusual.

All that brings me to a story about XXXChurch's National Porn Sunday, an annual event that has been growing steadily and this year will be telecast live from Dallas on Super Bowl Sunday and will include former and current NFL players like Matt Hasselbeck and, coincidentally, Carrie Prejean's pastor Miles McPherson.

This Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story caught my eye. It begins with a character dear to Cheeseheads' hearts: Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett, who along with his wife happens to be on the XXXChurch board of directors and appears in a video promoting Porn Sunday.

The Journal Sentinel mentions that Pickett would like to be part of the "religious service" but has a scheduling conflict -- i.e. playing in the Super Bowl -- and also talks about the other NFL players involved with the event, speculating about whether they "struggled personally with pornography." The paper also refers to Gross as "the founder of Triple X Church, as they call it," though I think they are confusing XXXChurch with Triple H the professional wrestler.

Most of this story focuses on the problem of porn in America, the involvement of athletes in this event and practical steps for dealing with addiction. It's not until the final four paragraphs that the Journal Sentinel gets to the religion in all of this:

Faith communities almost universally condemn pornography. But it's rarely a subject for the pulpit, Gross says.

Just this week, he said, he had 40 cancellations for Porn Sunday, including apparently two of the four Wisconsin churches that had signed up.

The issue, says Gross, is just too controversial for some congregations to speak about publicly - though pastors themselves also struggle: A 2001 survey by Christianity Today found that 33% of pastors had visited porn sites; 18% of them did so regularly.

"It remains the elephant in the pew. The stats are overwhelming, nobody is immune to this," Gross says. "But there's still a huge obstacle to talking about porn. And a lot of pastors just aren't willing to do it."

So many questions, so little time. Here's a few: Why, as Christians, is XXXChurch fighting porn? What does Christianity have to say about it? Why aren't pastors willing to talk about it? Is that statement even true?

I can guess, with reasonable certainty, as to the answers. But, as I've written before, readers shouldn't have to.

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