Broken by pornography
In 1998 Clay Crosse had clearly made it on the Christian music scene. Only four years removed from being a FedEx delivery driver, he already had eight chart-topping singles (including ÒI Surrender AllÓ and ÒI Will Follow ChristÓ), snagged Dove and Grammy awards, and toured nationally singing in 200 concerts annually. He and his wife of eight years, Renee, bought a huge house, fancy cars and designer clothes.
Then their lives changed dramatically. Clay could no longer control his voice. He couldnÕt hit the notes or hold them. Adoring crowds began to grumble. Finally Clay realized that God had intervened with a message: Confess your pornography addiction to your wife and repent. He obeyed.
Admitting they had a shallow spiritual life, the Crosses rededicated their lives to Christ. Their book, I Surrender All: Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography, is being published this month.
Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy recently spoke with the couple.
PE: Why are you being so transparent about this?
CLAY: I feel compelled by the Lord to talk about this. God has dealt with me and I feel His restoration, and I want to challenge others as well. Others are talking about the subject, but not enough. ItÕs a serious problem in our world.
PE: God really saved your career — and marriage — when He took away your singing voice.
CLAY: He did. ThatÕs what it took to really get my attention. IÕm thankful that in His perfect wisdom thatÕs how He did it. It was the beginning of my life being turned around.
PE: How is trust rebuilt in a situation such as this?
RENEE: Clay came to me broken and confessing. I saw a man crying out to God for forgiveness, both for allowing this to be in our home and for failing to be the spiritual leader of our home. I then started seeing a husband turning to the Word of God, developing a personal prayer life, praying with me. Although we both had been saved at an early age and grew up in church, we had never gone beyond baby steps in our Christian walk. After this happened we began to grow in the Lord together and to experience a level of intimacy that we never had experienced before.
PE: Some Christians believe they are immune from being tempted by pornography. What are some other misconceptions?
CLAY: That itÕs not harmful, that itÕs just entertainment and that it can be controlled. But it does hurt you, and it only gets worse.
PE: Unlike previous generations, elements of porn seem to be everywhere, and almost taken for granted.
CLAY: Whether we classify it as porn or not, it is everywhere. Obviously thereÕs hardcore porn on the Internet. But there are also triggers to capture menÕs attention in our sexually charged society: billboards on the road, commercials on TV, magazines at the checkout stand. Men have to get to the point where they make up their minds to not gaze at those things. And in our entertainment choices we ask the question Do these choices line up with what I claim to believe?
RENEE: With drugs and alcohol the user must seek out ways to satisfy the addiction. Porn is easily accessible in the privacy of your own home.
PE: Renee, initially ClayÕs revelations took you aback.
RENEE: The level of it, yes. But there had been inappropriate things we both were entertaining in our home and in the movies we would go see. IÕm partly to blame for being open to go see every R-rated movie that provided triggers for him.
In our restoration God began to show me that the soap operas I watched every day, the movies we had on our pay cable subscription and the magazines I subscribed to were just as harmful as pornography because of the messages they sent. I had soaked in all this foolishness that has no place in a believerÕs life. Why should I read a magazine that pushes money, success and fame — advice that is the complete opposite of what God says in His Word? God says, ÒBe humble; serve Me.Ó
PE: Describe the progressive nature of porn.
CLAY: It really begins in a subtle way, with material not considered porn by most people. It may be a television show like The Making of Sports IllustratedÕs Swimsuit Issue. When a man begins to let his guard down and allow those things into his life, itÕs an easy slide into pornography. Once into porn, men have to look at it more often and the graphic nature becomes more demanding. It takes certain things to even turn them on that werenÕt required before.
Eventually men are going to act in a destructive way on what theyÕre looking at. It could be an adulterous affair or contact with a minor. Even homosexuality begins to appeal to people the more they look at porn.
PE: Do you expect the revelations in the book to harm your career?
CLAY: No. IÕve been telling this testimony from the stage since 1998. It took this long to get the book right. Invitations keep flowing in for me to speak specifically on this topic. But if my career is harmed, thatÕs fine. My career isnÕt what IÕm serving. Some people will choose not to have me in for a concert. But I donÕt want to just provide fluffy Christian entertainment.
PE: How do you keep pure now?
CLAY: By having solid people around me whom IÕm accountable to. IÕm doing Christ-centered things like being in the Word daily and serving in a local church, which I wasnÕt doing when I was just a Christian entertainer putting on a show. And now IÕm not on the road all the time. IÕve developed deep relationships with people I see at church week after week.
PE: Renee, some women recommended that you leave Clay.
RENEE: I was completely devastated by ClayÕs revelation, but divorce was never in my vocabulary. My husband didnÕt cross the line from an affair of the mind into an affair with his body. I saw that when Clay turned from sin and ran to God, God could turn it around for good, even though the enemy meant to destroy us.
PE: Women often regard porn as adultery.
RENEE: GodÕs Word says if you look upon someone with lust in your heart itÕs the same as committing an affair. God created sex as a beautiful thing for a man and a woman to enjoy in their marriage. If we go outside the marriage bond and seek other things to entice us or excite us, that breaks the bond. When we carry pornographic images in our head itÕs cheapening what God gave us as precious.
Women need to be engaged in the battle. When we were coming out of the confession period I read Scriptures over my husband as he slept, that he would be prudent and run from evil. Wives must pray that their husbands will be strong. Instead of nagging Clay and saying, ÒSo, what have you been looking at?Ó I pray that his eyes wonÕt wander, that he wonÕt lust. All the nagging in the world isnÕt going to accomplish what one prayer can.
PE: What does the future hold for you?
CLAY: Five years ago I would never have thought that I would be a worship leader. We hope to keep writing books and sharing at marriage-enrichment seminars.
Clay and Renee Crosse live in Memphis with their two daughters, Shelby and Savannah. Clay is worship leader at The Love of Christ Community Church, which is pastored by Dana Key, formerly of the group DeGarmo and Key.
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