Porn: The Church's Dirty Secret

Cory Kincaid
DALLAS, Texas – With Valentine's Day right around the corner, a nonprofit faith-based organization is using this day of love to encourage people to give up Internet porn.

Part ministry and part software provider, NetAccountability is intent on bringing to light the church's dirty little secret: Internet porn; a problem among Christians that some believe has reached epidemic proportions as a "secret sin."

While on the one hand, the two founders of NetAccountability believe the Internet is a rich resource, they also see it as modern-day den of iniquity that has become the most profitable "mechanism" for distributing pornography, at least $10 billion dollars worth, by recent estimates.

"There are plenty of folks who think porn is great, but we're here for people who believe it is not good for them and want help," Brandon Cotter, one of NetAccountability's founders, told XBiz. "We try to help people in need."

The organization aims to serve fellow Christian men who have fallen prey to "online temptation," through spiritual outreach programs advertised by a recent billboard campaign throughout the city of Dallas.

"Her gift for Valentine's Day: Stop looking at porn," the billboards state. Later on in the month they will be switched over to a post-Valentine's tag line.

"After being in the Internet technology industry for more than ten years, I was made aware of how big porn really is," Cotter told XBiz. "I've seen it impact people close to me and it's really become a taboo topic. So if someone is having a problem it's hard to get help."

In addition to male "purity" workshops offered through a subsidiary company called PureResoration.com, NetAccountability markets it own anti-porn software product that goes beyond typical porn filtering solutions.

NetAccountability software claims to promote "Net Accountability" by allowing a friend or family member to observe what websites are being surfed and open up a discourse on tendencies toward porn addiction. Similar to the sponsor model used by Alcoholics Anonymous, NetAccountability uses fellow Christians, family members, or friends as a way to call porn addicts into account.

Cotter claims that his two-year-old organization has already sold more than 500,000 copies of the software package that uses log-on names and passwords to track Internet usage.

Fellow anti-porn website .XXXChurch.com, which claims to be the #1 Christian porn site, also follows a similar path of curing porn addicts, only among a younger generation of Christians. The Corona, Calif.-based company promotes porn-free Internet through a jazzier, more youth-oriented push for porn accountability.

"There is no porn on our site because we think porn leaves you hanging," the site's owners state. "We are here to give you truth and inspiration, not nude pics… Hey a little porn never hurt anybody, right? C'mon dude! Get a clue. A little porn is like a little heroin. It's gonna jack you up one way or the other. I know this may be a surprise to some of you, but you can't have your cake and eat it too."

According to the Associated Press and a survey done by Focus on the Family, 18 percent of people who called themselves born-again Christians admitted to visiting Internet porn sites in 2000, and in another survey, 50 percent of all respondents (out of an undisclosed number), most of whom identified themselves as church pastors, admitted to viewing online porn.

In an open letter on the NetAccountability website, Charles R. Swindoll, chairman of the Insight For Living, addressed what he calls "The #1 Secret Problem In Your Church."

"This trouble concerns a severe disease that is eating away at our congregations, perhaps even some of our own leadership, from the inside out," Swindoll states. "The problem is pornography, especially Internet pornography. Without your knowing, it could be eating your church alive…The most recent studies available suggest that one out of every two people--that's 50 percent of the people sitting in our pews, are looking at and/or could be addicted to Internet pornography."

Swindoll continued by saying: "Forget the red-light district or adult bookstore. Pornography has entered homes via the Internet more pervasively and subtly than any store or strip club ever did. The irony is that if an X-rated store was being established across the street from where you worship, you'd have a committee assembled to fight it immediately. Yet they've set up shop in the homes of millions of our friends in the church while we remain mute and passive."

NetAccountability currently only conducts spiritual outreach to Christian men, but fully recognizes that one third of all Internet porn surfers are women.

"We had to start someplace, so we started with Christian men," Cotter told XBiz. "Eventually we'll move on to serve youth, and then eventually women."

"I've seen pornography impact guys all around me," Cotter said. "I've seen it ruin marriages and families. In a lot of cases, they were Christian guys going to church, with otherwise `quote' normal lives."