Christian Swingers, a new website, invites faithful couples to be unfaithful, but it is creating a veritable Battle of Jericho among even the most progressive ranks in the church.
The online dating service – which looks more like a porn site, with its maze of links to other sexually explicit sites and services -- says it gives "good Christians" the privacy they need to avoid getting a "bad reputation" at swingers clubs and meetings.
"For Christian swingers, things are not easy," reads the site's opening pitch. "Often other religious people judge you, out of ignorance or envy, telling you that your lifestyle and love practices are wrong. But the Bible teaches us 'Judge not lest ye be judged,' and there's that verse about the first stone. … This site is designed to cater to the needs of those like you: devout Christian couples who still want to have an active love life and share it with another, in good faith."
Christian Mingle.com and "finding God's match" this is not.
Still, one of the sites proponents on Facebook waxed philosophical: "According to the book of Genesis, in the garden of Eden Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. That was God's original plan. If that plan had gone forward, we would all be naked in a paradise world. Having sex with someone would be as natural as shaking hands or eating food together."
The advertised free service is not just limited to "swinging" couples. It also offers individual hook-ups, some with with gays and transsexuals, threesomes and "grannies." Ages range from 18 to 81. But on a recent check, the pickings seemed pretty slim – with no choices for couples.
Not so, says Infinite Connections Inc., the Plantation, Fla.-based company that owns the site.
A woman in the customer service department, who identified herself as "Peyton," said that the company owns "many" dating and adult websites. She said of its subscribers, "Most are Christians," as indicated by their profile descriptions.
"My initial take was that this is a spoof and isn't real," said Christian author Craig Gross, 37, who is often called the Porn Pastor. "We do a lot of crazy stuff, but I don't know anyone in my circle that does or believes or thinks [swinging] a good idea. This isn't a helpful tool in marriage -- Christian or not."
Gross, a former youth pastor, helps Christians overcome their addiction to porn as part of the ministry he founded, the California-based XXX Church.
"I see this all the time -- there is something there from a business perspective -- targeting Christians," he said. "I am a little confused if it's for real. If you are breaking all the rules of marriage, to begin with, then why does it matter if you are a Christian or not?"
Gross travels around the nation to a dozen porn shows a year to convince stars to give up their work for Jesus.
Most recently, Gross convinced one of the hottest porn celebs, Jenna Presley, to leave the business. With male star Ron Jeremy, he stages regular debates over the dangers of porn. "In the last five years I have seen much more openness in sexuality," he said. "When we started [XXX Church], it was difficult to get on Sunday morning to talk at the church. Now, we are showing up at churches that on paper would never invite us."
John Mark Comer, the lead pastor at the Solid Rock Church in Portland, Ore., also said there was nothing Christian about Christian Swingers.
He tells his parish of 6,000 that sex is more than recreational activity between two consenting adults." Half the parish is college students and unmarried 20-somethings.
"There is no such thing as a Christian swinger -- they are mutually exclusive," said Comer, whose book, "Loveology," discusses Christian relationships, dating and being single. "Christ was clear."
"I work with a ton of young people who follow Jesus," he said. "God loves marriage and sex, and with the Scriptures as a guide and Jesus as an anchor point. If you believe that God created the world and certain things like the sex and the human body, then it is inherently good."
But Comer said that God has a vision for fidelity that is part of Genesis in the Bible.
"It's a classic line: God brought Eve to man and said that 'What God has joined together, let not man separate,'" he said. "There is no parallel word in English, but the Hebrew word -- "echod" -- means one flesh and fused together at the deepest level.
"In our culture sex is more and more just recreational play, biological animals," said Comer. "But God says and Jesus affirms a more beautiful and powerful thing when people become one, physically and spiritually permanent and unbreakable. When you are promiscuous, you are giving away yourself."