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How Christians View Sexuality and Non-standard Sexual Practices

Aired April 14, 2007 - 23:00   ET


COOPER: Good evening. Welcome to another edition in our, "What is a Christian" series. Tonight, sex and salvation. The moral message of the bible, which is so tied to who we are, the way we mate and procreate.

Tonight we look at the battle among people of faith over sex and salvation. A taboo topic for some, but in other churches we're seeing pastors actually giving sex tips in their sermons.

We'll explore some of the most contentious issues faced by Christians today -- homosexuality, pornography, abortion, abstinence.

We begin with a twist on sex education for college students. The controversial lesson isn't being taught in a classroom, it's being preached in a party zone.

CNN's Joe Johns reports.



"Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" 1 Corinthians 6:19


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day is for drinking in the sun and the booze. The night is for cruising the strip. College students flock to the white sands of Florida's Gulf Coast beaches to live out a rite of spring, if not a rite of passage. It's been called Satan's playground.

But this spring, the devil's got company. Young evangelical Christians, 400 strong, powered by an unusual spring break message -- abstinence. That's right, don't do it, resist the pressure and urge to have sex before marriage. They preach, it's the only way to keep your body safe and your soul pure. Not exactly an easy sell here. And the evangelicals know what they're up against.

ANGEL ELLIS, BEACH REACH ORGANIZER: We have asked students before who are down here to party, what is your purpose in life? And I had a girl say to get drunk and to get laid by the hottest guy on the beach. That was her goal for the week. JOHNS: At a free pancake breakfast put on by the evangelicals, college juniors Mike and Jake say they appreciate what the Christian kids are trying to do, but it's just that the temptation is so strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All's you got to do is take that camera and you walk down that beach where those stages are...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... you see all those girls, whose daddies would be so proud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they keep throwing it in your face, eventually you're going to take the bait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's true. You know what I mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The toughest fish in the sea, you keep dangling that -- you keep dangling that squid right in front of his face, he is going to go. He is going to get it. And that's what we do. We go get it.


JOHNS: So, what drives the evangelicals to head out night after night against almost impossible odds?

Lacey (ph), Jeremy, Tara (ph) and Erica, and the others all belong to a Christian outreach ministry called Beach Reach. They're spending their spring break offering free bus rides. It's a way for them to corral the party people and deliver their message.

Like millions of American teens, these kids have signed abstinence pledges.

ERICA MITCHELL, BEACH REACH PARTICIPANT: We did this program called True Love Waits, and I took a pledge then. And we got purity rings and everything.

JEREMY WARREN, BEACH REACH PARTICIPANT: Yes, we're going to stay pure until that day we say "I do."

JOHNS (on camera): Is it hard so far?

WARREN: Yes. Yes.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.


JOHNS (voice-over): The Bush administration has more than doubled federal funding for programs that promote abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The programs now get $204 million a year. But critics argue, abstinence-only programs are not realistic. They do not provide kids with the facts with things about like condom use, and that could leave the kids naive about protecting themselves if they do have sex.

In fact, one Yale University study shows nearly nine of 10 teenagers who sign the pledge will break it -- an alternative, teaching abstinence, but as a part of a comprehensive sex-ed program.

HEATHER BOONSTRA, GUTTMACHER INSTITUTE: The evidence is very strong. Those programs result in delay, more in sexual initiation, result in fewer sexual partners, result -- result in, you know, less frequency in sex, more contraceptive use, more condom use overall.

JOHNS: How to use a condom and other such lessons don't sit well with these kids, though. And the Beach Reachers are determined to walk the straight and narrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never want to go down the road that I have seen people going down.

JOHNS: The path to purity, she says, leads to a much brighter future, no matter what temptation paves the way.

Joe Johns, CNN, Panama City Beach, Florida.


COOPER: Another path hotly debated, of course, is homosexuality. It's a major issue in the Catholic Church and with many evangelicals, but it's also dividing mainline protestant denominations, like the Episcopal church in America who are at odds over an openly gay bishop and same-sex unions.

For years gay and lesbian Christians have struggled for acceptance within their churches. For them -- many of them, it's been a painful journey. Their faith and their sexuality are not always in sync.

Well, now some are convinced that therapy and prayer can change that. The medical community disagrees and the gay and lesbian community say the so-called cure is a fraud.

CNN's Gary Tuchman investigates.



"Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman." Leviticus 18:22


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the hundreds, they stream into this massive church in Phoenix.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enjoy. Have a great day.

TUCHMAN: Parents, grandparents, teenagers, and young adults, all denominations, many filled with hope, others with dread -- from the pulpit, words of compassion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to show the gay and lesbian community that we love them.


TUCHMAN: Actually, it's more complicated than that. This is anything but a call for tolerance of homosexuality.

DR. JOSEPH NICOLOSI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE RESEARCH AND THERAPY OF HOMOSEXUALITY: We, as citizens, need to articulate God's intent for human sexuality. And that's what we need to do. We're not just opposing homosexuality. We're articulating the wisdom of heterosexuality.

TUCHMAN: This gathering is called the Love Won Out conference, organized by the Christian ministry Focus on the Family. Organizers claim homosexuality is a treatable psychological disorder, that with enough therapy and enough prayer, can be cured.

Californians Mark and Penny (ph) Vatcher are looking to cure their 16-year-old son, Brett.

BRETT VATCHER, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: My dad found this online. So, he wanted us to drive out here from San Diego.

TUCHMAN (on camera): I mean, do you want to be here?



VATCHER: Not really. I don't know. He's wicked religious. And he doesn't like that I'm gay.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We will come back to Brett in a moment.

You should know the theory that homosexuality is a treatable disorder is flat-out rejected by the mainstream psychiatric community. And yet, for more than a decade, Mike Haley (ph) lived as an openly- gay man, but then...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realized that I had fallen in love with this girl...

TUCHMAN: He says that life-changing moment, that switch to heterosexuality, came after a long and painful struggle. Today, he's married with three children.

Melissa Fryrear had a similar conversion.

MELISSA FRYREAR, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: And I don't know what it is about red-headed men, but whew.


FRYREAR: Buh-boom-buh-boom-buh-boom, my heart -- my heart goes a little pitter-patter when I see those red-headed men.

TUCHMAN: She's straight now, but says she was a lesbian for 10 years.

FRYREAR: I had had dozens of relationships. I wasn't happy. I was abusing alcohol, abusing drugs. My life was just mismanaged.

TUCHMAN: At Love Won Out, self-proclaimed ex-gays like Haley (ph) and Fryrear enthusiastically regale the crowd with their personal stories.

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi is at the center of this. He's an unorthodox Catholic psychologist. He runs the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

NICOLOSI: Homosexuality, as we said, is a gender-identity problem.

TUCHMAN: Nicolosi concludes boys can become gay if they don't get enough attention from their fathers or if they were abused as children.

NICOLOSI: The guy with a homosexual problem does not trust men. When he begins to trust men, his homosexuality disappears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appropriate parental reaction requires good judgment.

TUCHMAN: As for 16-year-old Brett and his parents, the morning session convinced the father that Brett was not born gay.

MARK VATCHER, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: ... circumstances in his life that caused him to get to this point.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Like what?

M. VATCHER: Maybe -- maybe I wasn't a good dad, or maybe, you know, somebody abused him along the way. Who knows what happened?

TUCHMAN: Did anybody abuse you?


TUCHMAN: Was he a good dad?


M. VATCHER: Oh, yes.


B. VATCHER: I just want to say yes.


M. VATCHER: Uh-huh.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Brett, for his part, does not agree with Nicolosi's lecture.

NICOLOSI: And, indeed, it appears that these children are normal. They're particularly intelligent. They're very astute. They're very sociable. They're charming. They're very verbal and sensitive.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Does this have a chance of succeeding with you?

B. VATCHER: No. Don't tell my parents.



TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joseph Nicolosi often accuses the media of distorting his research. He was reluctant to speak with us.

(on camera): We're hoping we can talk to you when it's over.

NICOLOSI: Yes. OK. Well, I don't think so.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Eventually, he did agree to go on camera, but...

(on camera): You're categorically saying that, if a father and son have a normal relationship, that child will not be gay?


TUCHMAN: That's a pretty strong statement, right?

NICOLOSI: You want to debate? Do you want an answer or you want to debate?

TUCHMAN: Well...

NICOLOSI: I gave you an answer.


So, there are some stereotypes you talk about, how, you know, if a child's effeminate, if he's creative, he's artistic, those are things to look out for. Is that fair to say?

NICOLOSI: Goodbye. You're confusing effeminacy with artistic. I didn't say artistic.

Here. TUCHMAN: Hey, Doctor?

(voice-over): For the record, the word "artistic" is right here in the Love Won Out literature.

As for Mike Haley (ph), the recent convert to heterosexuality...

(on camera): Any homosexual who wants to, do you think they can become heterosexual?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, every single person that wants to leave homosexuality can do it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But how? Is there really a treatment for homosexuality? Or is the so-called cure just another path to pain?


COOPER: Up next, some answers to those questions. And we will see how this controversial Christian therapy has impacted the lives of some who have tried it.

Also tonight, porn addiction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stats don't lie, that Christians are consuming pornography. I've met women, men, children, pastors. I mean, a huge amount of pastors admitted to struggling with pornography.

COOPER: And he's trying to heal them, he says, with God's grace. Tonight, meet the man who started the number one Christian porn site, but it's not what you think.

Plus, sermons on sex.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God created sex. Why not at least tell people what he has to say about it.

COOPER: A church goes where few others have gone, between the sheets when, "What is a Christian: Sex and Salvation," continues.



CARDINAL EDWARD EGAN, NEW YORK: He taught us and all who would listen that our God is our father. He taught us that we are to love that God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and he added, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.


COOPER: Welcome back to, "What is a Christian: Sex and Salvation." We're looking at how some Christians are trying to turn gay people straight through years of intensive pray and therapy.

It's a controversial tactic, the medical community says it doesn't work. But some claim they have been cured. And others say they've gone through pure hell.

Once again, here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.



"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone." John 8:7


TUCHMAN: Men, women looking for a way to exorcise homosexuality here at a gathering in Phoenix called Love Won Out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be people there that are just, you know, searching for more information.

TUCHMAN: Christian ministries offer referrals to various treatment programs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a good day now.




TUCHMAN: With more than 120 local branches in North America, Exodus International calls itself the world's largest ex-gay referral service.

ALAN CHAMBERS, PRESIDENT, EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: You have got to have healthy expectations.

TUCHMAN: Exodus President Alan Chambers says his own journey from homosexuality to heterosexuality followed a long and difficult path.

(on camera): How did you do it?

CHAMBERS: Well, it's not like a light switch. I didn't -- I didn't flip it on and flip it off. It was years of work.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Not everyone has had the same result.

(on camera): Shawn, when did you realize you were gay?

SHAWN O'DONNELL, UNDERWENT EX-GAY THERAPY: At the age of 6, I realized I was different from other boys. And it wasn't until later on that I actually associated the word gay with that. I was 10. TUCHMAN (voice-over): Growing up gay in Elgin, Illinois, wasn't easy for Shawn O'Donnell. His Catholic parents were loving. But the kids at school were merciless.

O'DONNELL: I had very low self-esteem, hated myself.

TUCHMAN: It got worse when, at age 10, Shawn was born again and joined an evangelical church.

(on camera): How important was religion in your life at that time?

O'DONNELL: Extremely important. It was the top of my list. I mean, I went to church four or five times a week. I mean, I was always at church. I was so involved in it, missions trips, Bible studies, prayer groups.

TUCHMAN: And, if you're gay, you believe you're going to hell?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): It was too much for the boy. He started cutting himself. He attempted suicide. And, finally, at 18, he came out to his pastor.

(on camera): Did you feel like he was angry at you?

O'DONNELL: No. No. He was very compassionate, with the understanding that I needed help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Shawn's pastor referred him to therapy at a local ex-gay organization.

O'DONNELL: I had to deal with my father issues. And I had to deal with my mother issues. And I had to deal with -- you know, I was never molested. So, that wasn't an issue. But that also was an issue that they brought up. If I was, that could have pushed me to be gay.

TUCHMAN: At times Shawn says he felt like he was making the transition from homosexuality to heterosexuality.

O'DONNELL: Well, I thought I'd go a couple of days without being attracted to other men, but then I'd have a sexual slip-up. So then I thought, I'm failing again.

TUCHMAN: Five years into therapy, Shawn hit another low point and again tried to kill himself. Desperate, he moved to California and joined a live-in program for gay men trying to become straight.

O'DONNELL: Very controlling environment. We went to work. We -- after we got home, we had dinner together. We didn't go places alone other than to work and back. We were always in groups of two or three. Sundays we went to church together. And we had curfews.

TUCHMAN: Shawn says he was totally committed to the program. O'DONNELL: God, if anybody tried to do this, I tried. I did pray so many hours and sweat so many tears, you know? The picture I get is, Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane when he sweat blood, you know? If I could have sweat blood, I would have.

My first year into it, I felt great. I felt -- I graduated through the first year, because they had like a graduation ceremony and I thought, oh, you know, I'm going to make it. You know, this is what I've need, you know? And then I had a slip with one of the guys in the house.

TUCHMAN: The next day, Shawn drove into San Francisco and had a one-night stand with a man.

O'DONNELL: You know what? That was it. You know, I was done. I had given it the good old college try and I decided that I was going to come out, again.

TUCHMAN: This is what the established psychological community says about homosexuality.

CLINTON ANDERSON, AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION: There is no conclusive research that explains why people become gay or why they become straight, for that matter.

TUCHMAN: Dr. Clinton Anderson handles gay and lesbian issues for the American Psychological Association. The APA categorically rejects theories about the causes and cures for homosexuality.

ANDERSON: Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not in any sense need to be treated or need to be cured.

TUCHMAN: But many of the people struggling with their sexuality here in Phoenix don't see it that way.

(on camera): This is kind of blunt, but I mean, I'm curious, do you like girls now?

ALAN CHAMBERS, PRESIDENT, EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: I love my wife. I am attracted to my wife. We have been married nine years.

TUCHMAN: Are any feelings toward men still within you? Do you feel it could come out again in some way?

CHAMBERS: Well, again, I don't think that I will ever be as though I never was. You know, certainly I'm human, I could be tempted by a homosexual thought. I could find myself...

TUCHMAN: That doesn't go away?

CHAMBERS: It hasn't gone way 100 percent with me.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Still, Chambers and other self-described ex-gays like Mike Haley (ph) say they'd never go back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The thought of forfeiting my wife and my children, I wouldn't have the blessings that I have in my life now.

TUCHMAN: But Shawn O'Donnell doesn't buy any of it.

(on camera): We talk to people who tell us they are heterosexual, they love their wife, they find their wife sexually attractive and they've been cured.


TUCHMAN: You don't believe that?

O'DONNELL: No, not one bit. Not one bit.

TUCHMAN: Do you think programs like Exodus can work for some people?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Shawn is back in Elgin, Illinois now, working as a high school science teacher. He has been living as an openly gay man for six years.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Elgin, Illinois.


COOPER: This debate is clearly one which divides families, causes many people pain. Joining us to talk about it more is Ken Hutcherson in Seattle. He is the founder and senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church and one of the most vocal leaders in the fight against same-sex marriage.

And in Dallas, the Reverend Jo Hudson, the senior pastor at Cathedral of Hope, which has a predominantly gay and lesbian congregation.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Reverend Hudson, can a church cure a person's homosexuality in your opinion?

REV. JO HUDSON, CATHEDRAL OF HOPE: Well, I wouldn't believe that homosexuality needed to be cured. So I wouldn't necessarily think that it's the responsibility of a church to cure homosexuality.

COOPER: When you hear that idea of a cure, what do you think?

HUDSON: Well, I go back to my understanding of faith that says that human sexuality is a gift of God. And that that human sexuality is something that can be used for good or for bad, but that it is essentially a gift of God and should be honored and treated with great respect. And so I include the full spectrum of human sexuality in that.

COOPER: Pastor Hutcherson, even those people in Gary's report who say that they are cured of homosexuality admit that they still have feelings of attraction to people of the same sex, they're essentially just living their lives suppressing those feelings. Is that is what God wants?

PASTOR KEN HUTCHERSON, ANTIOCH BIBLE CHURCH: Well, I think anything that the Bible calls sin, Anderson, when a person is cured of alcoholism, does that mean that they are completely set free from ever wanting a drink? No. They are not. Or someone that has a problem with tremendous amounts of lust, if they are cured of that, that doesn't mean that those feelings aren't there. Just because the feelings are there don't make it right or wrong. What makes it right or wrong is what the Bible has to say.

COOPER: And you believe it is possible to be cured of homosexuality?

HUTCHERSON: Absolutely. I think it's possible to be cured of any sin, Anderson, that the Bible calls because that's what the Holy Spirit does, that's what repentance does, and that's why we think that homosexuality is a choice and that it is a sin and that they need to repent of that sin. And God gives them the strength to walk in a life that pleases him.

COOPER: Reverend Hudson, do you believe the Bible says homosexuality is a sin?

HUDSON: I believe there are passages in scripture that point to that. But I understand scripture and the Bible in a very different way I think than Reverend Hutcherson does. I look at scripture as a sacred text, the Bible as a sacred and sacramental text, but I also look at it as a text that points to a history and a culture and a very different kind of people that lived then as do we now.

COOPER: What do you think, Reverend Hutcherson? Do you -- I mean, there are those who say, look, Jesus never talked about homosexuality. If you read the Bible, there's nothing he ever said about it. If it was so important, why wouldn't he have championed it or talked about it?

HUTCHERSON: You know, well, Jesus never talked about a lot of things that came directly from his mouth, but I think that Reverend Hudson would also agree that we believe the whole New Testament and Old Testament was inspired by God and it was inspired by the Holy Spirit who led men along to write those books -- those 66 books in the Bible. The 27 in the New Testament, it's the ones that lays out the whole truth of God, not just what Jesus says.

And she would have to agree that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, you know, it says that men left the natural desire of a woman and went after a man; and a woman left a natural desire of a man and went after a woman. If the Bible said they left the natural, that means the Bible says that homosexuality is unnatural and that's where I stand.

COOPER: Reverend Hudson, the gays and lesbians in your congregation, I imagine some of them have been in other congregations and felt that they were no long welcome and they found a place at your house of worship.

What are -- what have they been though? I mean, for many this is an academic discussion. It is an academic debate. For people in your congregation, this is very real and this has real pain and real cost. What are the stories that your congregation tells you?

HUDSON: Well, we hear from people every day and every week, from people not only in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, but people all over the world who have been rejected by their churches, who have been -- who have left the church of Jesus Christ, who want to be in relationship with God, who want to have a healthy, strong, relationship with a God who loves them, and yet have been turned away from church after church and have come to our congregation and been affirmed, have come close to God, have through the reading and the study of scripture come close to God, have transformed their lives into loves of service and servanthood, making a difference in the lives of others and living very Christian, discipled lives.

COOPER: Reverend Hutcherson, do you believe someone who is gay and happy about it and living a life and has a partner, do you believe that they are going to hell?

HUTCHERSON: I think that if they have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior, that's the key to getting into heaven, not whether or not you are a homosexual or not a homosexual, whether you're white or whether you're black. The Bible says if you haven't accepted Jesus Christ, you are condemned. He is the only way. That's where I stand. And I don't even think twice about it.

COOPER: Pastor Hutcherson, appreciate it.

HUTCHERSON: Thank you.

COOPER: And Pastor Hudson as well. Thank you very much.

HUDSON: Thank you for having me.


COOPER: Up next, Christians battling a temptation that is seemingly everywhere these days -- online, on the newsstands, even on your iPod. We're talking about pornography. Some say they are addicted. But one ministry says there's a way out, You're either disgusted or intrigued, but it's not what you think.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of you may be going through things, you need to pray and ask the Lord for strength. Others of you may have been struggling with sin this week and you need to go to God and just confess and repent.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: For millions of Americans one of the greatest temptations in their daily lives is porn. It's a big business raking in $12 billion a year in the United States with more than $2.5 billion of that linked to Internet pornography. It was once a taboo topic in churches but no more.

Christian leaders say they can no longer deny the toll that porn addiction is taking on church members, even on pastors. But grace is available even online. CNN's David Mattingly reports.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it might be hard to miss but somewhere among all the adult products and xxx pictures ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real pastors, real church and real bibles.

MATTINGLY: There's an all out battle for souls, and Christians fear they're losing.

CRAIG GROSS, XXXCHURCH.COM: Pornography is fantasy, it's not real. It doesn't bring you closer with your loved one. It tears you apart.

MATTINGLY: Craig Cross founded to help Christians struggling with the temptations of pornography. He believes the numbers are growing for both church-goers and ministries.

We watched Ted Haggard. That's not the start of Porn Boulevard. That's the end of Porn Boulevard..

MATTINGLY: Gross organizes church groups called "Porn and Pancakes" to get the issue out in the open. When prayer and Bible study aren't enough, he also offers free tattletale software.

GROSS: You know you're caught. You know you're stuck.

MATTINGLY: Gross says there has been 300,000 downloads so far. Anytime the user visits a porn site, the program automatically alerts a friend, a spouse, or a pastor.

GROSS: If it slows you down just a bit and you start to think about, you know, the consequences and you might change your ways.

MATTINGLY: But when porn becomes an addiction, the only hope for some is to get away. At the Pure Life Ministries in rural central Kentucky, porn addicts spend six months on a desperate path to salvation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're given over to lust, fantasies, masturbation and pornography, you are on dangerous ground.

MATTINGLY (on camera): All of the men in this room have left behind jobs, homes and in some cases a wife and children. Some come here thinking, this is their last chance to break their porn addiction because after six months, that's it. They're not allowed to come back.

(voice-over): The program demands intense Bible study and discipline. Many here used to spend hours a day viewing porn and looking for ways to satisfy their fantasies, often resorting to prostitutes. This resident named Jerry believes getting closer to God will help him get way from the porn and the chat rooms that almost ruined his marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cheated on my wife.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Was that driven by the pornography?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, one thing leads to another. I mean, in time, it's just not enough.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Privacy here is nonexistent. New arrivals sleep 16 to a room. There's limited free time, but plenty of time for prayer.

(on camera): I don't see a television. I don't see any computers. Is that by design?

JEFF COLON, HEAD COUNSELOR, PURE LIFE MINISTRIES: Yes, it is. We try to avoid any outside temptation these men might have to deal with through TV or magazines.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): there are no books here either, except for the Bible and study materials, with scriptural lessons on guilt, anger, depression and selfishness. Head counselor Jeff Colon says the real test is leaving the structured environment and going home.

COLON: We do live in a sexualized culture, and it is difficult for these men when they leave here. It doesn't help.

MATTINGLY: The Kentucky ministry believes most of their residents will eventually gain control of their addictions. But when temptation is so readily available, every day can become a new test of faith.


COOPER: So, David, why do these men choose to go to a program like this instead of more traditional counseling?

MATTINGLY: A lot of these men do go to traditional counseling first and they say this ministry in Kentucky has a lot of the same concepts that they encountered before. But because they're Christian they feel that the faith-based approach will work better for them. They say they need that six months away from their regular lives to get in touch with themselves and with God.

COOPER: Interesting stuff. David, thanks. David Mattingly.

Up nest, one of the greatest moral battles of our time.

She had an abortion and spiraled into feelings of guilt and shame.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't make the mistake I did. I live with it every day. Don't put yourself through that pain.


COOPER: Tonight see how churches offer help for what they call Post-Abortion Syndrome. But is it real or the latest salvo in the effort to ban abortion? Later a shocker for many. Pillow talk from the preacher.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God created sex. God is for sex.


COOPER: A bold departure from the norm, sex tips in church. When "What is a Christian: Sex and Salvation" continues.



PASTOR RUSSELL JOHNSON, FAIRFIELD CHRISTIAN CHURCH: First God talks, you immediately face some hurdles. Some are self-made, some are (inaudible) but some are erected by the Lord for a test of our desire to our obedience.


COOPER: Guilt and grief, just some of the emotions women say they face after having an abortion. Now some Christians offer a new diagnosis. They call it post-abortion syndrome.

Critics say, however, it's just more propaganda in the war on choice. CNN's Randi Kaye reports.


LEE ANNE MEYER, REGRETS HER ABORTION: Daddy will put it together.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her family is picture perfect, but this wife and mother of two lives with terrible shame.

MEYER: As any person would grieve the loss of a child, I still feel like there's one missing, and that's hard.

KAYE: In 1995 Lee Ann Meyer, unmarried, found herself pregnant and afraid. She says her minister suggested an abortion.

MEYER: I started panicking, and I said is this a sin? And he said, well, if it's a sin you'll be forgiven.

KAYE: But five years later Lee Anne could not forgive herself haunted by the child that might have been, she nearly took her life.

MEYER: I just thought that maybe I'd be better off if I wasn't here.

KAYE: Meaning?

MEYER: I wanted to die.

KAYE: Some experts call it post-abortion syndrome. But critics argue suggesting abortion leads to depression or suicidal thoughts is just a way to scare women into keeping their baby. The American Psychological Association says abortion does not pose a psychological hazard.

One researcher found depression rates are the same for women whether they aborted or not. Dennis Kaufman counsels women he says suffers from it.

Do you have doubt that this post abortion syndrome, as it's being termed, exists?

DENNIS KAUFMAN, COUNSELOR: I think there certainly could be temptations within groups to overemphasize it or to exaggerate it but it's very real.

KAYE: Lee Anne heals herself by volunteering at a woman's choice resource center in Louisville where she says rescues babies and their mothers from pain sure to follow an abortion. She works with Dr. Roy Watson who performed abortions for years until he was spiritually awakened.

DR. ROY WATSON, A WOMAN'S CHOICE RESOURCE CENTER: You don't want to slap somebody across the face with a Bible. I don't think that's our way of doing it.

KAYE: They believe their way of doing it is kinder, gentler, a pro-life message focused on the woman's mental well-being.

(on camera): What would you say to critics who say this kinder, gentler method here at the center is just a way of advancing Christian beliefs or promoting Christian beliefs and ideology and not really about the women's health?

WATSON: Well, I would say they need to come and visit us.

KAYE (voice-over): A Woman's Choice sees about 5,000 women every year. It says it's been able to change the minds of 70% percent of the women seeking abortion. Part is of it's success is due to location, it's down the street from Louisville's only abortion clinic, close enough for employers of the center to walk over, persuade a women to get an ultrasound and go on with the pregnancy.

How can you tell when a woman has connected with what's on that screen?

WATSON: Well, the easiest way I can tell is when she tears up. I believe that they really feel something.

MEYER: Dear heavenly father, I just want to thank you so much ...

KAYE: It's a very emotional experience but critics might say it is also a bit manipulative.

WATSON: This is a baby, and if the heartbeat is invisible, why shouldn't you look at it? Why should you try to sweep it under the rug as if it's not there.

KAYE: They don't win every battle here.

BECKY EDMONDSON, A WOMAN'S CHOICE RESOURCE CENTER: We've seen babies at it 22 weeks sucking their thumbs and we watch the mom walk across the street and enter the abortion clinic. We know what's going to happen, what's going to happen to that mother.

KAYE: Years ago Lee Ann wrote a letter to her unborn baby and named him Christian.

MEYER: He was innocent, and he didn't deserve what I did.

KAYE (on camera): What did you write in the letter to him, what did you tell him?

MEYER: I told him that I loved him and that I was sorry. And that I would hold him one day. In heaven.

KAYE (voice-over): Lee Anne still struggles but doesn't want to forget so she can appreciate what she has. Randi Kaye, CNN, Louisville.


COOPER: More now on the so-called post-abortion syndrome. Joining us from Dallas is Caryn Stevens who had an abortion and says she suffered from it. She is now a member of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee.

And in St. Louis the Reverend Rebecca Turner who is the executive director of the Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Appreciate both of you being with us. Reverend Turner, do you believe post-abortion syndrome is a legitimate medical condition?

REV. REBECCA TURNER, MISSOURI RELIGIOUS COALITION FOR CHOICE: Well, it's not according to what I believe, because I'm not the one who determines what legitimate medical conditions are. Both the American and Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association refuse to call this a medical syndrome. Those are the highest authorities for determining those kinds of medical conditions, so I go by what they say. They have looked at the research and determined that abortion in no way increases a woman's chances for mental illness of any kind.

COOPER: What do you think is behind this idea?

TURNER: Well, first of all, I do want to say that women who experience a problem pregnancy and then choose to terminate that pregnancy go through a very wide range of emotions. There's - a woman will have a very unique experience, and she may experience all kinds of emotions.

All of the research shows that the primary emotion is actually relief.

COOPER: You're citing medical organizations which say it's not a legitimate syndrome. What do you think, then, is behind those who say it is a legitimate syndrome?

TURNER: Well, those who say it's a legitimate medical condition start with the assumption that all abortion is wrong, that all of it is sinful, that all of it is bad. And when they begin with that assumption, then it necessarily places on women a terrible burden to have to admit that they did something wrong.

So, you know, I have to presume that those who want to insist that it's a syndrome and that women -- you know, that huge numbers, huge percentages of women who have abortions actually face this terrible syndrome, that the idea is actually to say, abortion harms women. And that's a political message, not at all a medical one.

COOPER: Caryn, you say you have suffered from post-abortion syndrome. What do you think it hasn't been recognized as a legitimate medical condition?

CARYN STEVENS, CATHOLIC PRO-LIFE COMMITTEE: I wish I knew the answer to that question. There have been lots of people who have done research in this area, and they truly believe that it exists. Also, the hundreds of women who have come forward to tell people what they have been experiencing. And I'm not sure why the medical field doesn't recognize this as a syndrome, but I have an idea that eventually they will.

COOPER: Caryn, what Reverend Turner is arguing is that people who chose to have an abortion go through a myriad of emotions and some of them are obviously very deep and very painful in many ways. That does not necessarily make it a medical syndrome. Do you just not buy that?

STEVENS: No, I don't buy that simply because of the numbers. I know that women experience this -- go through these experiences, this deep regret, and it's not just -- it's not just from something else. They can all point back to the abortion as having been the precursor to all of these problems.

COOPER: Reverend Turner makes the point, Caryn, that many of the people who believe in this syndrome also believe that abortion is just wrong, morally wrong. Do you see a correlation? STEVENS: Well, I think what happens is women and men who reach out from their pain and despair for healing receive that healing through a post-abortion ministry, come out of that experience profoundly pro-life.

In turn, many of these women and men want to help others avoid making the same tragic mistake. They'll march in pro-life groups and they'll hold up signs that say I regret my abortion. I don't see this as a strategy. I just see it as a way to spread the news that abortion hurts women as well as babies.

TURNER: I'd like to respond to that. In fact, many of these programs have a very specific strategy that they take women through. The first part of that strategy is to get them to confess. You know, to feel guilty and to confess their sin, and then they move them on toward a point where they want them to take action and they tell them that the only way to truly be for given is to take some action, to get to the picket lines, to sue the abortion clinics.

And I don't find any of that to be healthy and causing reconciliation.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Caryn Stevens and Reverend Rebecca Turner, appreciate your perspectives. Thanks.

STEVENS: Thank you very much.

TURNER: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, it's not all about guilt. There's a billboard that's attracting a lot of attention in one town for You won't believe who put it up when "What is a Christian: Sex and Salvation" continues.



MATT KELLER, PASTOR, NEXT LEVEL CHURCH: God created sex. He is pro-sex. He's all about it. He made the whole thing. But he made it, and it's such a powerful thing that it has to be inside the strong relationship of a marriage.


COOPER: A Florida pastor says God wants you to have great sex. Not what most people expect to hear in a church, perhaps, but something that Christians, even conservative Christians have been preaching under the radar and even online. CNN's Ted Rowlands reports.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sex gets people's attention. which this billboard in Florida certainly did. M. KELLER: We were going for a shock and awe factor and we certainly got that.

ROWLANDS: The shock was that the billboard, which some people thought was vulgar, came from a church.

KELLER: Part three of this series we're calling my great sex life.

ROWLANDS: Part of a marketing campaign promoting a series of sermons on sex.

KELLER: God created sex that God is for sex.

ROWLANDS: Thirty-one-year-old pastor Matt Keller runs the non- denominational Next Level church in Ft. Myers. Before this service, a warning to parents was posted that the material may not be suitable for children.

KELLER: So the question is not am I going to have sexual desire in my life, the question is, what am I going to do about it?

ROWLANDS: Keller's message while delivered with a hip, conversational passionate style is pretty much by the book. He preaches that sex is for single people to avoid and married men and women to enjoy.

His wife Sarah was at his side for this service about sex in marriage.

SARAH KELLER, WIFE OF MATT KELLER: And I think that culture wants us to buy into that lie that sex is a duty, especially once you get into marriage. It's just kind of like, I guess he needs it, so here I am.

M. KELLER: God created sex. Why not at least tell people what he has to say about it.

ROWLANDS: Keller says since starting the sex series, church membership has grown about 30 percent. And it's a growing trend, especially among evangelicals.

Kurt Fredrickson is the director of pastoral ministry at the Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

KURT FREDRICKSON, FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: To hit those issues head on in a church context I think is really helpful.

ROWLANDS: Church members we talked to say they like the idea of bringing an issue like sex out in the open in church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think in today's society it's not talked about enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking forward to hear some things and how to open up our communication and improve our sex life. ROWLANDS: But not everyone is thrilled. Because of complaints, Keller says the billboard campaign refused to allow the sex slogan for a second month so now it's just the church's name.

FREDRICKSON: My issue was that the billboard had this sense of luridness and deception. Trying to draw people someplace and when it got drawn to a church, I think people would feel cheated or duped.

M. KELLER: We've heard a couple of people who have used the phrase bait and switch. I don't think we're doing that. It's not about us trying to grow our church. It's not about us trying to build this big thing. It's about us building people, we're in the people- building business.

ROWLANDS: Randy Newton says the billboard campaign caught his attention and now he says he's hooked.

RANDY NEWTON, LURED TO CHURCH: It's really in your face and it's a for real topic. Everybody deals with it. And for it to actually happen in the church and from the pastor actually stepping up to say, this is what we're going to say about it as a church, is a really bold statement.

M. KELLER: God has given us the ability to have a great sex life in our marriages.

ROWLANDS: Everyone agrees that sex sells, but Matt Keller thinks he can use it to fill people's hearts while also filling his seats.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Ft. Myers, Florida.


COOPER: That does it for this special edition of 360, "What is a Christian, Sex and Salvation." Tonight we've explored issued of sin and temptation but also of love and great joy. Sex and faith intertwined in so many ways. All part of a conversation about who we are.

We hope you gained some new insight on faith in America. I'm Anderson Cooper, thanks for watching. Good night.


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