Religious Groups Tackle An X-Rated Secret More than 300 churches are expected to mark Feb. 6 as National Porn Sunday, showing worshippers a video sermon that features current and former NFL players talking about their struggle with pornography. According to the leader of a Christian ministry, pornography is the elephant in the pews.
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Religious Groups Tackle An X-Rated Secret

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Religious Groups Tackle An X-Rated Secret

Religious Groups Tackle An X-Rated Secret

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

As NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports, it's the latest move by religious groups to tackle an X-rated subject.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: With the big game happening only a few miles away, a lot of members of Presence Church in Addison, Texas, will be thinking football on Sunday morning. So the video sermon featuring NFL players will feel appropriate. What might surprise them is the subject: pornography.

ERIC BOLES: No one knew that my problem was this bad.

JOSH MCCOWN: I would go home, and I would sit there. And the laptop and I would have a conversation, and I would battle with not even wanting to open it up, not even wanting to check emails because I knew where it might lead me.

JON KITNA: I mean, you go to MSN or CNN or MSNBC and see, you know, this, and it leads you to a link to this, and pretty soon, I'm into this world that I never really knew existed.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Presence Church Pastor Steven Kirlin hopes the video will help break a taboo.

STEVEN KIRLIN: And I think that opens up others to say, well, I'm not only going to give this a listen, but I might actually begin to feel a little more free to talk about this because these guys are willing to talk about it.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Pornography, says Craig Gross, is the elephant in the pew.

CRAIG GROSS: The statistics say that 48 percent of Christian families are dealing with the issue of pornography in their home. I would say the other 52 percent are just unaware of it being an issue in their house.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Gross, who produced the video, is founder of XXXchurch.com, a Christian ministry that tries to help people resist pornography. He says his website has as many as 300,000 visitors a week. But churches are squeamish.

GROSS: The reality is most churches are too scared to talk about this, I believe, because pastors themselves are struggling with this.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Fifty-four percent of pastors have looked at pornography in the past year, according to a survey by Rick Warren's website, pastors.com. Gross says evangelicals have plenty to say about sexual morality, but when it comes to pornography, they need to do more than lob arguments.

GROSS: And instead of the church boycotting or picketing or legislating against pornography, if the church would just stop consuming pornography, we'd put a big dent in the porn industry.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: The evangelical church is not alone, says Michael Gardner. He oversees the pornography addiction program for the Church of Latter-day Saints. He says about a decade ago, the Mormon church leadership started hearing stories about the effect of pornography on families. Gardner estimates about one out of three Mormon couples who seek marriage counseling have a pornography problem.

MICHAEL GARDNER: They may come in because they're just, you know, they claim they're just having marital problems. But as we dig a little bit deeper, we find that, you know, there may have been some pornography use and the spouse found out and then that created a betrayal of trust, which then compounded other problems that they were having.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Even some very Orthodox Jews now struggle with pornography. They used to shun the Internet, but now 80 percent have Internet access, and that has opened up whole new opportunities, says Yaakov Gold.

YAAKOV GOLD: Never in history have we had such a situation where everyone basically has a whorehouse in their home, in the privacy of their office when no one's around, you know?

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Gold founded the website GuardUrEyes three years ago. The site has anonymous forums, tips from therapists and offers 12-step meetings on the phone three times a day. He says rabbis, teachers, ordinary observant Jews write in, desperate about their obsession.

GOLD: These people dress outwardly religious. They keep all of God's commandments, but inside they feel they're living this double life. They can't stop these behaviors.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

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