Anti-Porn Star

An anonymous midget and two Christians are fighting to save you from sins of the flesh

Illustration by Aaron KratenPoor Eddie. The midget with the spiky blond hair, soul patch and multiple hoop earrings tries with all his might to jump up and reach the skateboard hanging on the wall, but a taller shopkeep has to pull it down for him. Then Eddie tries to accept a ride in a jacked-up pickup, but he can't clear the bottom of the door.

Poor, poor Eddie.

Those are the images in a television commercial that just ended its world-premiere run in 275,000 Cox Communications cable households in Orange and San Diego counties. Here's what the deep-voiced narrator says over those shots of the diminutive hipster:

"Poor Eddie. He thought he could look at all the porn he wanted to without any apparent consequences to his life. If only someone would have told him, if only someone had warned Eddie that porn would STUNT HIS GROWTH!"

A higher-pitched, faster-talking voiceover—the kind you hear speed-reading through the side effects of pharmaceuticals hawked on radio and TV—then says, "A friendly message brought to you by XXXchurch.com, the No. 1 Christian porn site."

If you missed the spot—billed as "the first-ever anti-porn commercial"—that's because you're not a Cox subscriber or, if you are, you don't regularly watch Jackass on MTV, The Howard Stern Show on E! or The Man Show on Comedy Central. Cox says it charges between $50 and $180 for similar 30-second slots; the year-old XXXchurch ministry says it deliberately chose developmentally regressive shows aimed at young men who get their jollies watching Jackass' skateboarding Wee-Man, Stern's now-deceased Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf and The Man Show's midget scuba-diving in a keg of beer.

XXXchurch's ads are proving to be equal-opportunity offenders. Some viewers are put off that the anti-pornsters are fighting midgets with midgets. A national organization for little people apparently has no problem with the content of the ad or the use of a small person; they're miffed because XXXchurch uses the word "midget" to identify Eddie on its website—something the two pastors who run the ministry have yet to change. The little-people group considers midget its N word.

Then there are the Christians who denounce the whole idea of a "Christian porn site."

"I think labeling yourself as the No. 1 Christian porn site is giving the appearance of evil," a poster named "Adam" states on XXXchurch.com, which proudly supplies a link to its hate mail.

"I think your associating pornography with the church is an abomination," writes "Gail."

"The fact that you have this EVIL domain out there, and call it a 'church' makes me sooo sick I almost want to puke!!!! May GOD have mercy on you EVILDOERS!!!!!!!!!!" adds George W. Bush, writing under the nom de plume "Anonymous."

Pro-porn forces have also had their way with XXXchurch. "Why is it so wrong to look at porn and flog the dolphin?" wrote another nameless poster.

"I remember another group that acted like you, um, I think they were called Nazis," says "Melissa."

"S**t, from the way you all present yourselves, I'd think that you were gay," wrote "Jabob." "Have you ever considered that? Look deep into each other's eyes, then deny that you feel closer to each other than anyone else. You all belong together. Do some ecstacy, that'll take the pressure off."

But XXXchurch has support in the religious community.

"'Truth will lead to freedom.' This quote from a page within the XXXchurch website sums it up," says Isaac Bodenhamer, who ministers to teens at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa. "Whenever we exchange the truth for a lie we find ourselves slaves to sin. Jesus Christ offers truth and by his grace alone are we set free. I support XXXchurch for promoting the message of truth."

Rather than lambaste the thought of a "Christian porn site," Jason Coker, youth pastor at Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Park City, Utah, appreciates that XXXchurch reaches out to people who may not even be looking for help.


"You may indentify the
photo as Eddie, represented by
shortdwarf.com@1-866.U.Midget.
For contractual reasons, the talent chooses
to be indentified only in that fashion.
That you for understanding.":shortdwarf.com,
"Where size meets reality"

"The makers of this site are clearly trying to get on the porn radar by using 'XXX' in the domain name, along with repetitively and strategically placed content-sensitive words throughout the site itself," says Coker (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is my nephew). "In other words, they are hoping that someone stumbles across their site while looking for pornography. From my perspective, their tactics, though obviously limited, may actually work. . . . As a parent and a pastor, I am grateful for efforts like these and will likely consider this site to be a valuable ongoing resource."

XXXchurch's Craig Gross and Mike Foster welcome strong reactions pro and con. Now pastors in their late 20s, they grew up in Orange County and sharpened their Jesus chops in the local neighborhood church circuit before deciding to establish their Corona-based nonprofit ministry dedicated solely to wiping out porn.

"With religious people, the normal response to porn has been people screaming on corners, or holding rallies at their churches and circulating petitions to stop things," Gross said. "We're doing just the opposite. We get out there. Some people want to challenge us and find out what our real motives are. If someone does not want to talk to us, fine. But plenty of people do."

Yet, with all the other problems in the world today, why porn?

"A lot of religious people and nonreligious people didn't have anywhere they could go for help, even though this is something 40 percent of pastors personally struggle with," said Gross. "This is not talked about Sunday mornings or Tuesday nights. It is not talked about in church. . . . I really think this is something the church is behind on. People are searching for it like people are searching for help in other aspects of life."

***

Gross and Foster claim they didn't have much porn-viewing experience when they first hooked up. But because young pastors spend most of their time with youths, the pervasiveness of porn was something they immediately recognized.

"It's like any other addiction," Gross said. "It's the one thing that gets everyone from 11-year-old kids to married couples to guys in their 50s who are senior pastors. But there are no 12-step programs. No one wants to deal with it, because it's supposed to be just dirty, sick old men who look at it, but it's really not. It's normal people."

Gross says porn produces secrecy and shame inside relationships—and then kills them. "Guys can't admit to their wives what's up," he said, and when the wife discovers her husband cruising the Internet for beaver shots late one night, the marriage goes into the tank.

"I don't want to say porn's the end of the world," Gross said, "but the main problem we find is secretiveness."

The answer to that problem would seem to be to acknowledge the universality of porn and its inevitable pull on most men. But no, says Gross, defaulting to the 1970s feminist argument ("porn objectifies women") and then comparing porn to drugs: a guy ("it's usually a guy") starts off with soft-core porn, migrates to harder stuff involving animals and excrement, and soon he's blowing the kids' college fund to snort coke off a whore's butt in a Vegas motel.

The pastors went the virtual route because, they say, that's where the porn is. Foster cites statistics that suggest 60 percent of website visits are sexual in nature and 30 million people log onto porn sites every day. They decided to set up pages on their site that would minister to people, allow users to post messages and provide free, downloadable anti-porn software called X3watch.

***

XXXchurch.com was launched on Jan. 9, 2002—at an adult expo in Las Vegas. The pastors and their wives (who take turns wearing a giant, $800 rabbit costume; take that, Playboy!) now regularly attend skin conventions, erecting a booth alongside others hawking dildos, blowup dolls and, of course, reels and reels of pure pornography. They attended the Erotica LA convention June 20-22. They lugged 1,000 "cool-looking" Bibles to one Vegas show, and say they went through all 1,000 in two days.

"We were up against everyone in every other booth giving away free porn, but a Bible was so different than everything else that people wanted it," Gross said. "Plus, they know deep down that the porn in the bottom of their bags is going to leave them just as empty as when they came in."

While some in the religious community frown on such fraternizing, XXXchurch's first porn-show appearance generated media coverage on ABC News, NBC News and in the Los Angeles Times, Playboy, New Man Magazine, Outreach Magazine, Sex TV, Decision Today, Family News in Focus, Outdoor Magazineand Charisma. Gross and Foster have gone on to be interviewed on countless radio and tele- vision programs.

"Most church people don't take advantage of the media," Gross said. "That's because there are a lot of crappy stories about religious people. But we've come to realize that the media are just looking for good stories, and you can get so much attention."

How much attention? Due in large part to all that media coverage, Gross says, XXXchurch.com received about 25 million hits in its first year. That's what convinced the pastoral pair to keep their ministry "in front of people" through church speaking engagements, aerial advertising and roadside billboards. An anti-porn billboard they paid for along the 10 freeway in San Bernardino County next to other billboards advertising strip joints sparked an uproar—from the strip joints, which successfully lobbied to get the XXXchurch sign removed while theirs remained intact.

Besides hate mail, XXXchurch also receives support, such as one poster who wrote, "I . . . wanted to thank you guys for everything you do. I was into masturbation for a year before God freed me."

***

XXXchurch is run totally on donations, and Gross concedes the Poor Eddie commercial "took a decent amount of money." He wouldn't say exactly how much but did mention that the actor playing Eddie, who did not want his real name given, was paid $900 for four hours of work. He's not a churchgoer; the pastors found the actor on ShortDwarf.com.

Gross considers the commercial a success because they were able to "get to the people we wanted to get to."

"Anyone with any sense knows porn is not the cause of making you short," he said. "We just like to get people thinking. Obviously, we're not going after the people who go to church. We're pushing the envelope with people who watch Stern, The Man Show, that kind of humor. Some people are going to think it's funny and go to our website."

The commercial did generate some negative publicity, mostly from shock jocks who couldn't believe Christian ministers were behind the project. But it also piqued the interest of the producers of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, which sent a runner to pick up a tape of the Poor Eddie commercial and had plans to put Gross and Foster on the air to talk about it. But the producers apparently had second thoughts after concluding the commercial was too tame.

"They told us they were hoping it was going to be a little meaner," Gross said. "One guy said, 'I wished you'd kicked the midget or something.'"

Another commercial, still in the can, shows a kid getting all his teeth sucked out by a dentist, a fish sucking the bottom of a tank, a guy sucking coffee and a final message: porn sucks. Another has people marking the first things they've done in life, such as riding a bike, before a final image displays the first time your child finds your porn stash.

The pastors are resurrecting a complete commercial never intended for TV. That one shows a bunch of kittens frolicking as the narrator informs viewers that every time someone masturbates, God kills a kitty.

"A lot of people don't like that one," Gross said. "It'll get the PETA people all ticked off at us."

Get your fill of midgets, kittens and Christ: xxxchurch.com

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