Billboards target Christian porn addicts
Chocolates are always nice, and a diamond necklace would be delightful. But a Dallas-based ministry thinks it has a better idea for Valentine's Day reports the Associated Press.
"Her gift for Valentines? Stop looking at porn," proclaim billboards put up by NetAccountability, a nonprofit software company that aims to help Christians confront the "secret sin" of pornography.
If national surveys are any indication, it is a personal battle waged by millions of Christians.
Almost 18 percent of people who called themselves "born-again Christians" admitted visiting Internet porn sites, according to a 2000 survey of 1,031 adults by the evangelical group Focus on the Family.
In a 2002 Pastors.com survey, more than 50 percent of responding pastors reported viewing pornography in the previous year.
"It's definitely the church's dirty little secret," said Mike Foster, co-founder of the anti-porn site xxxchurch.com , which hosts online support groups for Christians trying to kick the habit.
NetAccountability co-founders Brandon Cotter and Scott Covington, both in their early 30s, left jobs in the technology field to start the ministry 2 1/2 years ago.
Since then, NetAccountability has sold more than 5,000 copies of software the pair developed that lets a partner monitor the Web sites visited by the recovering porn user. The software sells for a year.
The billboards have been going up in Dallas over the past few days.
"I've seen pornography impact guys all around me," Cotter said. "I've seen it tear up marriages, guys losing their jobs, all over the board. In a lot of cases, they were Christian guys going to church, with otherwise `normal lives.'"
Bernie Anderson, a pastor at Seventh-Day Adventist churches in the Dallas area, said an addiction to sexually explicit images threatened his marriage and his ministry.
"It was like a double life," said Anderson, 33.
For 20 years, he found himself drawn to pornographic Web sites, movies and magazines, he said. He would get up at night, telling his wife he needed to study, and would surf the Internet for porn. Later, he would spend hours accessing porn sites from the computer in his church office.
"You go take a shower, clean up and say you'll never do it again. Yet the next day, you fall right back into it," he said.
Last summer, the guilt and shame finally became too much for him to bear, he said. The father of three confessed his compulsion to a pastor friend and enrolled in an exhaustive five-day workshop offered by a Christian counselor.
Anderson learned how his habit kept him from true intimacy in his relationship with his wife, he said. Recently, he celebrated "100 days sober" from porn, he said.
He said: "The most powerful thing about it is that it's a secret. Nobody knows but you, so you're just kind of fighting yourself."