February 23, 2000

Clay Crosse turns a page in facing porn problem
___By Todd Starnes
___Baptist Press
___MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)--It happened when he was in fourth grade.
___Clay Crosse was at a friend's house hanging out after school. Crosse said he remembers the events of that afternoon like it was yesterday. "My friend's dad had these magazines, and we looked at them. It was amazing to me. It was shocking. I was just a kid, and I knew I wasn't supposed to be looking at this stuff, but I did."
___That afternoon, visions of pornography were burned into his eyes, and more than 20 years later, the popular Christian musician discovered his ministry and his relationships
were becoming clouded by a sin he kept hidden from the world. Now, Crosse said, it's time to share his struggle with pornography.
___"It's been heavy on my heart," Crosse said in an interview. "I'm not the kind of guy who can be a public figure and put on a happy face when something is so pressing on my heart. So I just want to be honest."
___Dealing with pornography is not an easy topic to address with believers, especially when it involves one's personal struggle, Crosse said. And while he wasn't addicted to porn, Crosse said, it is a problem many men deal with--and one that can be overcome "with God's strength and support in our lives."
___Crosse grew up in Memphis, Tenn., in a Christian home. He professed faith in Christ at the age of 13 in a Southern Baptist church and was active in his youth group through high school and college.
___"My parents were very strong believers," Crosse said. "So I can't say it wasn't because I didn't have strong people in my life, because I did.
___"I was talking to a friend the other day, and he was telling me that when he was 12 his dad took him to a bachelor party. There was all kinds of bad stuff going on, and he saw it all. A few years later his dad bought him his first beer and other stuff to drink," Crosse said. "I can't relate to that. That type of thing would never have happened in my parents' home."
___But outside their home, Crosse experienced his first brush with pornography. "I can't say I was heavily convicted at the time. When you're that young, you aren't really aware of sexuality. But it was the images. I enjoyed it. There's no way around admitting it," he said.
___In high school and college, Crosse said, he had occasional glimpses of "girlie" magazines. "I would allow myself to see pornographic movies, magazines, that type of thing," he said.
___Still, Crosse didn't seem to think he had a problem.
___When Crosse turned 23, he married Renna, his high school sweetheart. "I thought whenever that temptation would come up, I would say: 'It's not a part of my life. That happened when I was in high school. I have a beautiful wife, a great life,'" he said.
___For the first three or four years of their marriage, it worked. "I didn't fall to the temptation, and it wasn't an issue in my life," he said.
___But that would soon change. Eventually, his personal standards began to slip. It started through network television shows and comedians. "It's pretty obvious that we live in an incredibly free sexual society with no real parameters," he said. "These things began to influence me and I would enjoy it."
___Several years ago, in the middle of his vibrant ministry, pornography crept back into his life, he said. "Occasionally, I would watch videos or see magazines. It's available wherever you might want to get it. The bottom line is that I allowed myself to participate again. It was detrimental to me. It was the kind of thing that started to affect my thought life.
___"I began to look at women and couldn't help but think about sex," Crosse recounted. "It got to the point in 1998 when I knew I had a problem. I had to be broken. It was a slap in the face to realize that in this area of my life, I was a joke."
___That moment came on an airline flight in 1998. Crosse was returning from an engagement in Seattle, and the long flight home to Nashville, Tenn., gave him time to reflect on his life and the secret sin he held in his heart.
___"I got saved when I was 13 years old, but this area of my life tormented me. I would ignore it. I was in denial, but I tried to ignore it," he said.
___"But on that airplane, God made it so clear to me. I was way up in the sky, looking down on my life. It was like I had stepped outside of myself and was observing my own life. It was interesting to have that perspective on your life. To see you as other people see you.
___"And I hated what I saw. I needed to clean up my life. I could see how this was going to take its toll. I had never committed adultery, but I knew it was going to happen. Pornography is one thing, but it only leads to a physical reality. You can only watch it so long before you want to participate, and I had gotten to that point," he said.
___It was the longest flight of his life, he said.
___And the next step was difficult: He had to tell his wife.
___"I had to bare my soul to her," he said. "We had a long sit-down, a time of confession, a time of prayers and tears."
___Crosse received his wife's forgiveness, but the healing wasn't overnight, he said. "To this day, there is healing. It was a time of reckoning. I had to admit that I am vulnerable to this. I'm not this guy walking around that's incapable of failure. I had to make this area of my life a priority with God."
___Two years later, Crosse maintains strict accountability in his spiritual walk, he said. "It's amazing how God sent people into my life that I could talk to about this."
___In his newest musical project, "A Different Man," Crosse poured himself into the lyrics, he said, honestly relating his personal struggles through his music.
___"Sometimes, Christian music paints an unrealistic picture of the Christian walk. Sometimes the walk is very hard. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it's not easy even when you know Christ, even when you have your purpose defined as serving him," Crosse said. "I know because I've faced (problems), and I want to talk about them.
___"It really turns people off when they hear music that continually represents Christians as people who don't have problems. Hey, I want good feelings too, but realistically, we do have struggles."
___Crosse also has a message for teenage boys as well as adult men.
___"I want to tell young guys that they need to start developing habits that point them in a way of morality and start enlisting a filtering system in their life that will keep them from lust," he said.
___"It's incredible how lust grows and gains steam and takes effect on your life," Crosse said. "You may not think it's a big deal, but down the road, you can could come to regret it."

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