'Missionary Positions'


Mike Foster (left) and Craig Gross, whose ministry to porn addicts is profiled in "Missionary Positions." (Smiling Zebra Productions)
Mike Foster, a young California pastor, was taking a shower one day when he got a word from the Lord. That word was … porn.

When Foster shared that with his friend Craig Gross—another young California pastor—Gross wanted to know, "What did God say to you after that?"

 

Foster wasn't sure, but he believed the word meant he was supposed to help people struggling with pornography. Foster convinced Gross of the calling, and the two set off on an amazing journey chronicled in the new documentary, "Missionary Positions."

 

Bill Day's 83-minute documentary gets in on the ground floor of Foster and Gross' endeavor—a ministry devoted to those struggling with addictions to pornography. The ministry's calling card was its Internet site, xxxchurch.com, which they started in 2002 and dubbed "the #1 Christian porn site."

 

The documentary details the duo's creativity: their early "porn sucks" logo, their "porn patrol" to videotape people's experiences with pornography, and their attempts—hilariously beleaguered by one setback after another—to advertise their ministry.

 

Day follows the pair to porn trade shows, where Foster and Gross set up their xxxchurch.com booth, hoping it can help those who need it. Their booth gets jammed between "Girls Gone Crazy" and two porn stars signing autographs.

 

Day also captures Foster and Gross' different reactions to their ministry's ups and downs. Foster, who originally had (or was given) the idea, takes the setbacks harder than Gross. Foster, who comes across as the clean-marine-type, eventually starts wondering what he's doing. He wanted to help people, but says he spends 90 percent of his time doing everything but that.

 

Gross, on the other hand, seems always upbeat, always looking for the next opportunity, enjoying every minute of the ride.

 

The documentary, which remains a work in progress because of the still-evolving ministry, contains both humorous and serious moments. One can't help but be amused by the contrast between Foster and Gross, who nevertheless partner remarkably well.

 

Yet, Day captures interviews with several people whose lives have been ruined by pornography addictions. Foster and Gross meet a woman who tells a heart-wrenching story of a marriage destroyed by her husband's pornography problem. They also talk with a resident at Pure Life Ministries in Kentucky—a retreat for porn addicts—who is remarkably honest about his problem and how he believes it will eventually ruin his entire life if he doesn't get it straightened out.

 

All this leads Foster to observe that the problem really isn't about pornography, per se, but "about hurt and pain and destruction—and the loss of innocence too."

 

Care and concern drive this duo—not an unrealistic belief that they will somehow shut down the porn industry. They just want to get people the help they need. They set up an online support group, develop an "accountability" software and cross the country speaking to anyone who'll listen.

 

But then, amid the setbacks, they get help from an unlikely source: a pornographer.

 

Jimmy D, who produces several of the 10,000 porn movies shot in the United States each year, tells Foster and Gross he'll produce their next commercial for free.

 

Jimmy D, though, is a study in and of himself.

 

"I wish I could delete files in my head," he says, adding that some of the things he's seen and shot were so disturbing he wishes he could part with the memory. We get some idea of this when director Day visits one of Jimmy's depraved porn shoots.

 

Amid all of the drama, Foster eventually loses his zeal. The disappointments become too much.

 

"Sometimes I envy Craig who just seems to have blind faith that everything is going to be OK," says Foster. "But I have doubts and concerns."

 

Gross won't give up on his friend and fellow minister, but as the documentary nears its end, we wonder if the ministry can survive.

 

The current version of the documentary feels a few minutes too long, especially in the latter half, but Foster and Gross' passage through porn is remarkably entertaining, eye-opening and even inspiring.

 

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

 

MPAA Rating: Unrated. Reviewer's Note: The documentary shows a fair bit of skin onscreen, including a number of backsides. The director's visit to the porn shoot feels as dirty and seedy as it no doubt is. There's also discussion of porn techniques that will turn your stomach, as well as a bit of harsh, sexual language. Various churches and church groups have screened the documentary in an effort to talk about pornography; a tamer "church version" is available.

 

Director: Bill Day

 

Cast: Mike Foster and Craig Gross.

 

The movie's official Web site is here (WARNING: SOME CONTENT MAY OFFEND VIEWERS)

 

Click here to read our Web site review of xxxchurch.com when it launched in early 2002.

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Tags: Cliff Vaughn, Missionary Positions, Movie Reviews


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