Craig Gross and Mike Foster, a.k.a. “the porn pastors” and founders of XXXChurch.com, are at the country’s largest porn convention this weekend, the Adult Expo in Las Vegas. They’re there to remind customers, producers, and porn stars that Jesus loves them, too. Gross and Foster, former youth pastors, started their self-proclaimed “#1 Christian porn website” in 2002 in an effort to tackle the issue of pornography from a different angle.
These men (as well as their wives) are initiating dialogue about sex and pornography within the church (in a Christianity Today survey, 33 percent of pastors said they have been to a porn site) as well as with the porn industry itself using unconventional strategies. One of those strategies has been for the porn pastors to rent exhibit booths at major porn conventions in an effort to build relationships with people in the pornography industry so as to affect change from the inside out. Their one-of-a-kind ministry (be sure to go their website and read about their “Save the kittens” campaign) has also gotten the attention of everyone from Howard Stern to “Playboy” magazine. Even harder to believe, a porn filmmaker actually helped the two men create a documentary about the ministry last year, called “Missionary Positions.”
If you are curious or skeptical about the credibility of this ministry, XXX Church has a blog on their website to journal Gross and Foster’s encounters at this year’s Expo. And on a personal note, I know many in the church community doubt their motives and question their methods, but I spent a day with them at a porn convention in Los Angeles (I was there strictly for journalistic purposes!) and was truly amazed at the impact they are having.
MSNBC.com’s Scoop breaks the news States-side that Gwyneth Paltrow is demanding “proof” that her newly-renovated London home is haunted. According to London’s Daily Mail, Ms. Paltrow feels that her current pregnancy is not going as easily as her last one and she is attributing it to “dark energies” in her home. Purchased in 2004 from Kate Winslet, Paltrow and her husband, Chris Martin of Coldplay, are reluctant to move, since they paid a reported 3.5 million pounds for the home and spent an additional 1 million pounds on renovations, reports the Daily Mail.
So, who ya gonna call? Madonna, of course. According to the Daily Mail, the Material Girl recommended to Gwyneth that she enlist a Kabbalah rabbi to exorcise energies from the estate. It seems Madge uses Kabbalah rabbis before her concerts to rid the stage of negative energies.
But a spokesman for Paltrow tells Scoop’s Jeannette Walls that “there’s not a ghost of truth to the tale.”
“This is 100 percent false. [Paltrow] does not feel her home has any bad energy, and, in fact, feels that the house has wonderful energy and enjoys all the time she and her family spend there. Also, Gwyneth is not a follower of Kabbalah and therefore has not enlisted the help of a Kabbalah rabbi particularly since there is nothing to exorcise from the home.”
Personally, I believe Paltrow’s spokesperson. She apparently moved to the house to be closer to her personal acupuncturist, Gary Trainer, who could just threaten any ghosts with a little moxibustion, a.k.a. cupping. That would scare even the hardiest among them away.
This week’s revelation that Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu makes a guest appearance on Christian band P.O.D.’s new album is not news in itself. Collaborations between Christians and Jews are increasingly common–Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and Gary Schmidt of Calvin College have even made a nice children’s book together. And artists from Willie Nelson to Sinead O’Connor have worked the reggae sound on recent releases. In their messages, P.O.D. and Matsiyahu aren’t so different, either: the lyric, “You got to give yourself up then you become whole” could be the work of either the Hasid or the Christians. (It’s Matsiyahu’s.)
But the fraternizing between P.O.D. and Matsiyahu does provide a hi-res snapshot of this moment in religious pop. Christian rockers, even metal bands like inner-city L.A.’s P.O.D. have long since lost their novelty and are reviving themselves by allying with a rising star. And Matisyahu is that. “Matisyahu is on the cusp on bonafide stardom,” wrote the New Jersey Jewish Standard last summer. That much is evident in Matisyahu’s newly released 2006 tour dates: You won’t find him performing in Borough Park, the Brooklyn neighborhood where Hasidim, if not his reggae artists, are mainstream. Instead, he’s hitting places like Indianapolis, Houston and a host of college venues such as Colby in Maine and Cambridge, Mass. He was even featured recently on MTV.
Some of this is due to the novelty of Matisyahu’s sound, and odd looks. The former Matthew Miller, a convert to one of Judaism’s most conservative Orthodox branches, performs his Near-Eastern-tinged form of rap/reggae in Adidas sneakers and a black coat, hat, and beard straight outta 19th-century Minsk. But he also is part of a larger phenomenon. Wrote the Standard, “His success has placed him as the face of a new kind of Jewish renewal based on organizations and projects that make Judaism relevant and palatable to young people.” That revelance is something P.O.D. would like to get a cut of.
With NBC’s “The Book of Daniel” debuting tomorrow night, the Episcopal Church is weighing in on the drama–which centers around an Episcopal priest and his troubled family–via a blog of its own, cleverly titled “The Blog of Daniel.” Idol Chatter owes the Church a thank-you for focusing one of the blog’s early postings on a piece by yours truly that looks at the controversy over the show.
In related news, said controversy continues: Two NBC affiliates are refusing to show “Daniel.” And they’re probably not the only ones who will say no to it.
And, for one last shameless self-promotional plug: You can check out our reviewer’s assessment of the show here, or read my feature on the show–with quotes from the stars–here.