It was a stupid thing to do, but I did it anyway. I turned my car into the “Porn Mobile.” I painted my website domain XXXchurch.com and the slogan “#1 Christian Porn Site” all over my black Scion XB in big, bold-faced letters. On the passenger door is the wording “A porn site for the whole family.” The car is unavoidable. I drive it on the freeway and roads where I live in Riverside County, California, garnering stares from just about everybody. The words cover the entire car, running from the driver side door all the way to the back. At the time, I was excited. The design schematic and graphics were high quality, and I was so excited that I called all my friends and drove my new ride to their houses to show it off. This is the car I had been driving to buy groceries for my family and o visit friends. Now I think back to my rash decision and smile.
Would I do it again? Probably. I first realized something was wrong when the driver of the car next to me threw his milk shake onto my windshield. A thirty-two ounce soda came the following week. People either gave me a thumbs-up or the bird. How could a simple gesture such as putting the word porn on the outside of a car generate such a big response?
I can’t drive anywhere without somebody running up to me and asking what the car is about, or telling me how they have struggled with porn. Azusa Pacific, a Christian university, almost had the car towed from their parking lot. Even my wife doesn’t want the car parked in our driveway, so I keep it covered.
Last month, I lent the car to my friend Dave because his broke down. In that month, a Christian driver waved a Bible at him from the road and visibly prayed for his soul. His best friend, an artist, hid behind his sculpture in town because Dave waved to him from the Porn Mobile. Dave’s wife wouldn’t drive it at all. He had even been threatened by the police with a misdemeanor for taking pictures of the car for our website.
Later, I realized that I had turned my car into a hot-button issue. What I have learned from driving around a car with the word porn all over it is that people don’t want to talk about this issue. The word makes people nervous, afraid, uncomfortable, and excited.
Here’s an experiment: Say the word porn at a dinner party sometime and see what happens. Depending on what kind of dinner party you’re at, you are more than likely to be confronted with blank stares, nervous twitching of hands, sweating brows, and anxious laughter. Some might spill their drinks and others will leap through flaming hoops to be first to change the subject. For the rest of the night, they’ll avoid you and probably won’t invite you back to the next gathering. Four years ago, I would have had the exact same reaction. Being a pastor doesn’t change any of this; I would have avoided that trip to the porn gutter at all costs. This was my subconscious attempt to pass over the issue as if it didn’t exist. To me, porn was a dark world inhabited by lost sinners selling their bodies and souls over to a flesh-driven abomination.
Try telling this to me now, four years into my strange and remarkable journey with the XXXchurch. In fact, the very word that makes people fidget or sweat has become part of my title. Media sources like CNN, The 700 Club, and The Daily Show have dubbed my partner, Mike Foster, and I the “porn pastors.” We are the creators of the XXXchurch, a ministry that confronts porn on two levels — that of the church and that of the porn industry. The seedy and the sacred — a hybrid of the world we represent and the world we inhabit, despite the misgivings of many Christians and the animosity of those in the porn business.
So what am I? A pastor? A pornographer? You might not believe it, but Mike and I are ordained ministers. We can do weddings and funerals and have the certificates to prove it. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me. At age twenty-nine, I still dress as if I belong at the skate park. I’m a generation gap, black earrings, cargo pants, youth culture, long hair, SoCal, skate shoes kind of guy. You could say your average grandmother wouldn’t approve, though mine does.
I am married with two kids and live in a suburban house. My son is two years old, and I have a newborn baby girl. My wife has gotten used to some of the people I surround myself with and work with, but I don’t think she’ll ever get used to the car. Strange that I find my calling is to battle porn. Why should we even battle it? If you watch or read a lot of Christian material on the subject, you’ll hear “Just don’t do it!” As if becoming a Christian suddenly erases a man’s or woman’s drive to look at porn. Then there is the Christian notion that porn is a pastime of only the sinful and wicked. Pornographers and porn consumers fit somewhere between liberals and homosexuals on the scale of Christian good and evil. What about the stripper who needs to support her children? What about the pastor who has a secret addiction to porn? What about the pornographer who wishes he could erase some of what he has seen and done because it haunts him at night? The issue is a little more complicated than good and evil, black and white. The human being is a hazardous jumble of wires, not the strong cables we like to think of ourselves as.
I didn’t always see everybody as so complex, and I’ll admit, sometimes I still don’t. Sometimes I look at someone in this business or the Christian world and think, “I’m right; you’re wrong.” Or, “I’m better than you. How can you live with yourself?” This is my natural tendency, but I’m getting better at catching myself.