(RNN) - "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)
Those words of Jesus reflect the philosophy of one man who is attempting to wage a personal crusade against a problem he says is destroying families and the church - porn addiction.
When he launched his website, XXXchurch.com, which is a non-profit Christian-based site that aims to help those who want to quit porn, Craig Gross chose the one arena that would give him the most visibility within the porn industry.
Surrounded by pornography vendors, models and video stars, Gross regularly attends porn conventions, which he says are the perfect place to reach so-called "sinners" gripped by the industry.
"We didn't just want to help people in the church, we wanted to get the word around the world," Gross said. "We've been to over 60 shows around the world, and now we're invited to them, because we're not bad to have around, there's no one like us."
XXXchurch.com, as an organization, describes itself as "the No. 1 Christian porn site designed to bring awareness, openness and accountability to those affected by pornography."
Their targets are consumers of porn, as well as those in the porn industry. The site focuses on addressing porn addiction because unlike drugs or alcohol, there are few resources for people who are struggling with porn addiction.
He said it is a much needed service, one that no one wants to talk about.
According to Forbes.com, the porn industry is no longer a sideshow. The industry brings in $10-$14 billion per year in sales. Such a huge industry can breed huge problems.
With a couple of clicks, abusers of porn can get a fix almost anywhere and at any time of day. People access it at work, and children stumble across it at home.
Some say it has improved relationships, but experts say it can be a full-fledged addiction. Others, like Gross, say it's extremely destructive.
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Elaine Brady said unlike what many believe, casual porn use can lead to addiction. Brady said users get the same high from porn abuse as they do from other addictions, like drugs and alcohol. The human body gradually develops a tolerance for the chemicals produced in the brain, and demands more and more graphic displays to reach the same high.
"It's exactly like alcohol, it's legal, lots of people can drink socially, and watch porn recreationally, but there are people who are predisposed or vulnerable," Brady said. "It's like playing Russian roulette with powerful brain chemistry."
Jesus Loves Porn Stars
The XXXchurch makes many resources and programs available to help those suffering with porn addiction. The Jesus Loves Porn Stars involves handing out bibles during pornography conventions across the world.
The Porn Debate is held on college campuses across the U.S. And a free accountability software, called x3 watch, monitors where a user has been online and sends the pages to a person of choice, like a spouse or a parent.
Recently, a number of psychologists and sociologists have begun to join the chorus of religious groups warning about the impact of pervasive pornography.
Experts argue that porn is transforming sexuality and relationships for the worse.
Fueled by a combination of access, secrecy and affordability, frequently viewing of porn can give unrealistic expectations of appearance and behavior.
"Men start demanding more exotic forms of sex, they can become dissatisfied and more dependent on porn," Brady said. "Most women are usually a little insecure anyway, and this can really build on their insecurity. They can feel inhibited and embarrassed to make love."
Your kids are watching
According to the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, overuse of pornography, infidelity, and risky behaviors are among the most frequently treated internet-related problems by mental health professionals.
In a survey of adolescent age 10-17 years old, 42 percent had been exposed to internet pornography in the past year, which produces major concerns about the availability of porn on the web.
In December 2010, the magazine Psychologies said the average child gets his first exposure to porn by age 11. Between 60 and 90 percent of teens younger than 16 had viewed hardcore pornography online.
The single largest group of internet porn customers is reported to be children age 12 to 17.
Gross, who used to be a youth pastor, heard a lot about porn from young kids who would come to him and talk about their struggles. But now, with it being such a large industry, it has everyone talking, and their site is filled with blogs of true-life stories from a very diverse crowd of people.
Lighting the spark
While some experts say porn can affect relationships in a negative way, some are more tolerant about recreational viewing of porn, saying it can bring a spark to the bedroom.
Ashley Listermann, 24, is a stay-at-home mother from Hamilton, OH, and has been with her fiance for seven years. She said after she found out he was occasionally viewing porn, rather than get upset she asked if she could get involved.
"We don't need it; it's just something to do for fun. We follow each other's ideas, we're very open, and it's always consensual," Listermann said. "It can be anything from playing a game to watching porn together."
Anna Valenti-Anderson is a CSAT in Arizona, and said it is possible for porn to be a normal part of a relationship.
"If both partners are able to have an honest, open and informative dialogue about what each of their needs, wants, thoughts, feelings and interests are, then they can reach a mutually agreeable decision about the use of porn in their relationship that is based in trust and equanimity."
Still, even when both partners participate, problems can arise.
"The challenge with couples is that so often there is a power struggle and one partner feels less control in the relationship, so it is key to learn how to negotiate and compromise," Anderson said.
Dallas Stearns of Pensacola, FL, said his wife doesn't watch porn, but he does. At first, she thought it wasn't healthy. They talked about it, and now it causes no issues in the marriage.
"She thought it was not healthy; I saw no harm in it," Stearns said. "I wasn't having fantasies about being with other women. In fact, and this may be odd, but I looked for porn that had couples or women that resembled us/her. After I told her how fast it was for me to get the 'yay' point vs. without, I said, 'It would kind of be like you using a vibrator vs. not using one.' She then saw it from my point of view. Now, I don't flaunt it in front of her, I'm respectful. Besides if she is there, I will try to…well, you know!"
Gross said his online church's goal is not shutting down the porn industry, but to reach out to those who are struggling and need help. He said if people feel that it's helped their sex lives, they should still proceed with caution because he has seen it end in the worst ways.
"Pornography is a cheap substitute for something God designed to be such a great thing," Gross said.
Copyright 2011 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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