Pornography

For Pete's Sake

How can a Christian tick off both porn filmmakers and religious conservatives?

How can a Christian tick off both porn filmmakers and religious conservatives? Ask youth pastors Mike Foster and Craig Gross, who created xxxchurch.com, "the #1 Christian Porn Site" on the Internet, calling children and adults to "get in the gutter" and educate themselves about the physical and spiritual dangers of pornography.

Foster and Gross grabbed the attention of ABC, CNN, FOX News, and The Daily Show with their provocative television spot "Pete the Porno Puppet." The public service announcement - produced for free by California porn director James DiGiorgio (a Catholic who believes "adult" videos should be for adults) - warns children to be wary of pornography in locked drawers, parents' closets, and the Internet. The ad also tells parents to say "no" to pornography.

"XXXchurch is here to make you think, react, and to decide where you stand on the issues of porn," Craig Gross told Sojourners. "We're not here to sling mud, but to shove the envelope and try and do some good."

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Sojourners Magazine July 2004
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Lust in Las Vegas

There has always been crossover from Saturday night to Sunday morning, but a Christian porn site? Mike Foster and Craig Gross, founders of Web site www.xxxchurch.com, definitely controlled the buzz when they set up a booth at the 2002 Adult Entertainment Expo—the X-rated film industry's annual trade show in Las Vegas. Their ministry and site are designed to help people deal with their addictions to pornography and get people out of the porn industry. Foster and Gross, staff members at Crossroads Community Church in Corona, California, said more than 1,000 people came by their booth. They hoped to get 100,000 visitors a month to their site; instead the site got more than 3 million hits in its first two weeks of operation.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2002
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It's a Playboy World After All

Get out the garlic! Hef is back. That was the gist of a series of articles last summer and fall chronicling the return to the limelight of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner. Profiles in Rolling Stone, Time, Entertainment Weekly, and The Washington Post all told the same story. After a quiet decade of marriage and family life, the newly separated Hefner was making the scene once again. The 73-year-old swinger had opened the semi-public Playboy mansion to celebrity parties again. He was trolling the predawn L.A. club scene, giving testimonials for Viagra, and maintaining a harem of four 20-something blondes (including a set of identical twins).

A few of the profiles noted not just Hefner’s immaturity (that’s hardly news), but his eerie agelessness—"especially his wrinkle-free hands," Time magazine marveled. Hefner’s always lived a nocturnal existence. Even in L.A. he religiously shuns the sun. And for 45 years his company has fed off the fresh blood of young women. It may take wooden stakes and silver bullets to stop this millennial media comeback.

Maybe that’s appropriate. Sadly enough, Hefner stands as one of the emblematic American figures of the last half-century. His "Playboy Philosophy" of selfishness and commercial hedonism seems to have won the day. Hefner’s shallow individualism, written in large block letters, is the Hammurabic code of our media-addled civilization. The Playboy lifestyle is about guilt-free, no-strings sex—sex as a commodity. But it is also about commodities as relationships. From the earliest days Hef’s magazine has shown a fetishistic devotion to cool stuff, the more expensive the better.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2000
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Market-Driven Sexuality

In the early days of the Gulf war, ABC's Nightline took a break from round-the-clock coverage of lit-up skies and talking dignitaries and shifted its attention to MTV's refusal to air the video for Madonna's song "Justify My Love." The video depicted both hetero- and homosexual interactions (she kissed another woman) and bondage (she tied herself to a bed) which, MTV claimed, would offend viewers and sponsors. Madonna argued that the video depicted her unabashedly in charge of her sexuality and was no more offensive than standard MTV fare featuring scantily clad women debasing themselves before men.

The case strikingly exposed our society's stunted capacity to discern what is good and acceptable. While smart bombs and clever generals upstaged corpses and devastation, "decency" de-manded casting Madonna as a lewd pariah instead of a shrewd, authentically Ameri-can businesswoman.

The power to determine what is seen and said in this country is enormous, and it shapes our perception of freedom and propriety. In this decade alone, debates over National Endowment for the Arts funding, hate speech on campuses, and controlling cyberspace have revealed just how difficult is the balancing act between personal freedom and corporate good.

Whirling through this maelstrom is the contentious debate over whether or not to censor pornography. Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union and author of Defending Pornography, argues that censorship violates women's rights and perpetuates the myth of our powerlessness. Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon, notable anti-pornography campaigners, argue that pornography violates the civil rights of those who participate in it and that the failure to make it illegal elevates the First Amendment rights of those who create pornography above the basic rights of those whose lives are subjugated by it.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1995
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