Kevin Matthews worries about Pulpit Rock Church's name appearing with Ron Jeremy's on "Great Porn Debate" literature.
But not because he cares about whether other Christians will condemn his church for associating with the self-styled Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz.
"In our town, when you hear the word "Christian' or the word "church,' people just jump to a lot of conclusions," explains Matthews, a pastor at the nondenominational church in northern Colorado Springs. "And I don't want that to deter people from going to the event [the idea] that this is just another bait and switch, that this is a church trying to do some "cool event' and get people to show up and get more people to come to our church."
All Matthews wants, he says, is to keep people churchgoers or not from suffering as he did, when a curiosity about pornography turned into an interest, then a preoccupation, then a fixation that jeopardized his marriage. That goal drives much of his work at Pulpit Rock, where he's helped start multiple groups that tangentially or explicitly address congregants' problems with sex and pornography.
So, after months of keeping tabs on the traveling debate, he asked senior pastor Mark Tuggle about bringing porn legend Jeremy and XXX Church founder Craig Gross to town.
"I thought it sounded like a great idea," Tuggle says. "Being in church, we see guys who are really struggling. We see families and couples being devastated by what pornography is doing to them and their marriages and relationships."
The other cheek
Dr. Douglas Weiss, executive director of the Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, calls porn "the Budweiser of sex addiction." In other words, enjoying the ubiquitous images in magazines and movies and on the Internet can act as a gateway to riskier behavior, like taping personal sex acts and soliciting prostitutes.
That sex addiction itself isn't recognized as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association doesn't deter Weiss, who employs spiritually based, 12-step therapy.
And while he's one of the nation's foremost voices on the issue, having appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America, he certainly isn't the only one with an audience. There are Sexaholics Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous groups all over the world. In addition, those struggling can find dozens of online ministries, including the Springs' own blazinggrace.org.
Weiss likens Ron Jeremy's formidable tales from the porn industry to the war stories of a sagging bodybuilder. ("It's like, "I used to be able to bench press 300 pounds, but today I'm really a loser," he says.) Still, Weiss is all for Pulpit Rock bringing Jeremy and talk about his business into the local mainstream.
"I think it's brave and responsible, I really do," Weiss says. "I wish more churches would do that. Nationwide, the large percentage of churches just look the other way.
"When Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek,' he wasn't talking about not looking at what's going on. And most churches don't look at what's going on, and their community and their people suffer because of that."
Weiss says this is especially true in the Springs, where so many people take cues from their churches. If a church doesn't address problems with sex and pornography, people tend to think, "I should be able to take care of this by myself."
In contrast: "Phoenix has a huge sexual addiction recovery community, but it also has a huge New Age community where it's OK to be sick, it's OK to have problems, it's OK to grow, it's part of who we are as beings, and we're all kind of evolving," he says. "In a religious community, there's sometimes this belief that we should've arrived already."
Covering the cost
Pulpit Rock has a decades-old history, about 1,000 congregants and lots of young male staffers with goatees and titles like emerging generations worship pastor, both of which describe Matthews. In short, nothing too "out there" for Colorado Springs. And for this event, Matthews and Pulpit Rock have secured sponsorships from at least two peers, Vanguard Church and the "Pierced" ministry at Woodmen Valley Chapel.
Typically, a college brings the Great Porn Debate to town and charges $10 to attend. Matthews, however, has insisted on keeping the Springs event free and accessible without taking dollars from his church's general fund, since not all churchgoers want their offerings fed into Ron Jeremy's bank account.
To help cover much of the $14,000 cost, Pulpit Rock has asked individuals inside and outside the church for donations specifically for the event.
The church is also paying former porn producer Donny Pauling to appear at a "Porn and Pancakes" breakfast on Saturday, Sept. 22, designed to educate men and their sons about the scope of the problem and the help available.
Matthews adds that when the debate literature's printed, he hopes it'll include a new hotline and e-mail address for women struggling with addiction or a partner who's addicted.
That's the information he hopes will stand out when someone picks up a program in Shove Memorial Chapel.
"Even though it's called a debate, I really view it as something that's actually going to bring people closer together," Matthews says. "Our town is so polarized, it's unbelievable. ...
"The last thing I want to do is to do an event that's going to make that worse."