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Busy Super Bowl Sunday, Pickett tapes video for anti-porn service
Church plans National Porn Sunday to fight addictions
e-mail print By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Jan. 28, 2011 |(21) Comments

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Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett supports National Porn Sunday but has a Super Bowl conflict. .
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next Packers defensive end Ryan Pickett had hoped to attend National Porn Sunday, a Feb. 6 religious service whose anti-pornography message will be broadcast to 300 churches across the country on Super Bowl Sunday.

But, it turns out, he has a conflict.

Pickett will be suiting up with hopes of taking down the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium, about 30 miles from the service in nearby Addison, Texas.

"I would love to have been with you guys today. But fortunately, I'm a little busy," Pickett tells viewers in a video that will be played in the churches as part of the national outreach. Then he adds, grinning: "Go Packers."

Pickett and his wife, Jennifer, who also appears on the video, sit on the board of directors of xxxchurch.com, a Las Vegas-based Internet site that bills itself as the largest online resource for people struggling with pornography addiction and workers in the sex trade.

"We just hope the day is a blessing to you as much as the ministry has been a blessing to us," he says.

Pickett said in an interview Friday in Green Bay that he personally hasn't struggled with pornography but is troubled by its prevalence.

"It's just everywhere. I just felt like it was a good thing to jump on board with," he said of the ministry.

Players tout ministry
The video includes personal stories of other current and former NFL players, including quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks and Jon Kitna of the Dallas Cowboys. They're seen touting the ministry and its software, which tracks a user's Internet movements, sending a weekly list of sites visited to the user's "accountability partners" - say, friends or a spouse.

Hasselbeck says it's strengthened his marriage and gives his wife "a lot of security."

Josh McCown, who spent seven years in the NFL before signing on with the United Football League, tells viewers he began to deal with his porn problem because he feared it was "taking me someplace I didn't want to go."

"It's a whole lot easier to tell your wife you're struggling with it than to have her walk in on you," he says in the video.

Craig Gross, the founder of Triple X Church, as they call it, won't say whether any of the featured players struggled personally with pornography, though the video suggests some have.

"Not everybody's addicted," said Gross, who presided over the Packers' chapel service on the eve of this month's rout of the Falcons. "And the guys who are really struggling are probably not the guys we could get to be in the video."

Gross will say, though, that NFL players may be more at risk than the average Joe.

"NFL athletes are some of the most disciplined in the world . . . but this stuff is being thrown at them more than most people, so they have to work that much harder.

"The bigger issue," Gross says, "is that these guys have money and time, and they're away from their families."

Players offer strategies to block sites
Also on the video, players talk about their strategies for staying on the straight and narrow. Hasselbeck, for example, says he still bunks with a roommate. Kitna explains how, each time he enters a hotel room, he videotapes himself turning off the TV porn channels and sends the clip to his accountability partners.

"We try to do stuff when we travel so if players do have the temptation to watch certain things, we call," Pickett said Friday. "We have a thing where we're trying to set up a block of hotel rooms so you can't order certain movies and see certain shows. It's just kind of like we're building a network."

Statistics suggest as many as 40 million Americans - that's about one in eight people - regularly view pornography online, and that the average age of first exposure is 11.

Among the myriad arguments over the effects of pornography, Gross said that it distorts viewers' perceptions of sex and discourages them from true intimacy.

"It's not enhancing their sex life, it's keeping them from the person they love. And there's the progressive nature of it," he says.

"What you're looking at online can take you offline - to strip clubs, extramarital affairs."

'The elephant in the pew'
Faith communities almost universally condemn pornography. But it's rarely a subject for the pulpit, Gross says.

Just this week, he said, he had 40 cancellations for Porn Sunday, including apparently two of the four Wisconsin churches that had signed up.

The issue, says Gross, is just too controversial for some congregations to speak about publicly - though pastors themselves also struggle: A 2001 survey by Christianity Today found that 33% of pastors had visited porn sites; 18% of them did so regularly.

"It remains the elephant in the pew. The stats are overwhelming, nobody is immune to this," Gross says. "But there's still a huge obstacle to talking about porn. And a lot of pastors just aren't willing to do it."