Porn King Finds Peace

Steve Lane produced hard-core pornographic magazines and Web sites for two years. But in 1998 he left the business and dedicated his life to warning people that porn can destroy lives.

Warning: This story contains sensitive material, which may be offensive to some. If you do not view pornographic material, you may not want to read this.

By Andy Butcher

Steve Lane made an excuse when his daughter asked him to visit her school and speak about his profession. In a previous year he had delighted the kids by bringing a lion cub from the zoo he helped market. But he didn?t want her to know that he was now selling a different kind of exotica?as a pornographer.

Surrounded by sex, deep into drugs and on the brink of making millions, Steve had discovered that, like the supposedly domesticated wildlife he had once promoted, the wild life he was now pushing seemed appealing, but had claws that could maim or kill.

As a promising new "entrepreneur" in the multibillion-dollar industry that has paraded from the back alleys to the main streets as a legitimate enterprise?complete with its own trade shows and "Oscars"?Lane proudly defended what he considered to be his First Amendment rights?and privately ensnared some of the tens of thousands of Christians believed to be in the grip of pornography.

It wasn?t hard. Fueled by cold business acumen and hot personal hatred, he used hacker software to snatch e-mail addresses from Christian online chat rooms. Then he would bombard them with pornographic messages and links to his XXX-rated Web site.

Christians were good targets because they usually held down solid jobs, which meant the credit card details they supplied were trustworthy. And they reminded him of his stepfather-preacher whose own private pornography collection Lane had discovered as a small boy.

"It was a vendetta," he recalls. "I hated them, and I wanted to show the hypocrisy. I kept a record of how many of them subscribed to the site?probably five out of 10. All of them would at least visit."

Following a dramatic personal encounter with God two years ago, Lane now travels the country speaking about the dangers of pornography and the deliverance to be found in Christ. And he wonders how many of those in bondage are in chains he helped forge.

"There are Christians out there who know exactly who I am," he says. "And to be honest, I make some of them a bit nervous."

At 34, Lane is unusual on two counts: as a man who admits how pornography affected his life and damaged his relationships; and as someone who has seen the inside of the industry and has turned his back on the scene because of his new relationship with Jesus.

Sharing his testimony, he exposes the real world of pornography with a passion and a personal vulnerability that unsettles some but encourages more that there is freedom in Christ?if they will be honest. Altars fill regularly when he challenges those gripped by porn to step forward to confess their weakness and need for God?s power.

Associate pastor and counseling director Euell White believes that Lane?who has visited his Florence, Alabama, church to speak about pornography?is "anointed, perhaps more than anyone else in the nation, to expose the evil of pornography in the world as well as the church."

Senior pastor "Doc" Shell observes: "When a man?s been there, he can talk to someone who is there better than someone who says, ?Don?t go there.?"

Lane has been there. He takes us along for an insider?s tour of the online porn scene that has exploded in the last couple of years, multiplying the number of Christian men fighting private battles of lust and despair because of the Internet?s seductive cocktail of easy access and anonymity.

A Lethal Seduction

Within a few clicks of the mouse we had moved from naked women and straight intercourse to galleries celebrating the kinds of sexual activities many people have probably never heard of?and wouldn?t want to. Child porn. Bondage. Self-mutilation. Bestiality. Amputees. Rape. And more. It?s ugly stuff, but it isn?t going to go away by being ignored, Lane says. Change is only going to come when the church cleans house first.

"We won?t be able to convince people in the secular world they need to come to the church to get right if we are not right ourselves," he says. "If they see we are just as sick as the lot we are trying to reach, where are they going to go for healing?"

Lane believes Christians have lied to themselves about this for too long.

"We have considered this whole thing to be a taboo subject. But God has addressed sexual immorality throughout the Bible," he says.

"I?m trying to right the wrongs I have been a part of," he adds. "I am compelled to do this. I love the church now, but I want it to be well, and the only way that will happen is if we get honest and tell the truth.

"I have known churches where everything looked good: the worship, the tithes, the new seat covers and the banners?but no one in the church had a clue that their own pastor was defeated for 20 years by pornography. He would fall at his own altar when the church was closed and say, ?God, I know that I am going to hell.?"

Not surprisingly, no one really knows the full scope of the problem. But everyone involved in ministry in the area of sexual brokenness agrees that it is huge and?thanks to the Internet?s seductive tentacles?growing all the time. Those in counseling ministries estimate that probably 1-in-3 Christian men have some sort of struggle with pornography or other sexual addiction.

"Sexual sin has been one of Satan?s main weapons since Old Testament times, but I think the age in which we are living is one of the most depraved times in the history of the universe," comments Mark Laaser, director of the Minneapolis-based Christian Alliance for Sexual Recovery.

Doug Weiss, who runs a Christian counseling program in Forth Worth, Texas, contends that breaking the chains of sexual addiction is crucial not just on an individual level within the church, but corporately.

"If you really want to have revival in your church, you will heal the sex addicts, because once they are free from guilt and shame, they are going to want to fulfill their calling and their ministry," he says.

It wasn?t long ago that being a preacher was the last thing Lane would ever have contemplated. He hated the hypocrisy he had seen in the church while growing up in small-town Arkansas. His parents? marriage broke up after his mother was drawn into an affair with the local pastor, who had led Lane in saying the sinner?s prayer.

At age 8 his world fell apart. He began skipping school, dappling in drugs and alcohol. Then he discovered the magazines under his stepfather?s mattress. Tame by today?s standards, they still touched a deep need somewhere inside the lonely and hurting youngster.

"It made me feel powerful," he remembers." No matter how bad things were, I could always look at porn."

During a happier time, Steve Lane (right) says his world began to fall apart at age 8, when his parents divorced and he got hooked on pornography.

Confused by the mixed messages sent by the man who "preached fire-and-brimstone on Sunday and the rest of the week was addicted to porn," Lane assumed double-standards were just part of the Christian life. "It looked like the perfect Christian home from the outside, but from the inside my life was hell."

He would play in a gospel music band while high on marijuana. Then his mother died of cancer when he was 17. "I went outside, looked up into the sky and shook my fist and shouted, ?God if this is You, then I don?t want it!?"

Leaving home for the Army, he went on to drift through a series of jobs in sales and marketing. His marriage, which produced three children, broke up. He and his older brother, Mike, teamed up and started publishing a community newspaper that championed First Amendment rights.

They began to attract advertising from strip clubs and other adult businesses, and soon produced a Florida tourist guide featuring nude dancing venues. Seeing the money it generated, they decided to plunge full-time into the pornography business. From a beachside condo they launched a Web site, a bank of 900 tele-sex lines and began planning a hard-core magazine.

"We considered ourselves businessmen," Steve says. "We used to say we could never be as cheesy or scummy as some of those other people. We said porn was art, and that we wanted to produce a magazine that was so classy people would have it on their coffee tables."

They hit on the idea of a magazine featuring explicit shots of dancers from local strip clubs. Most pornography featured anonymous models; these would be naughty girls-next-door whom men could go and see literally in the flesh, boosting revenue for the clubs. The brothers shot their own pictures?in their home, and even on a public beach, just before dawn.

Lane drove a sports car, wore "more gold chains than Mr. T" and enjoyed being a rising celebrity. He was troubled, though, by an encounter with someone from a child porn site who wanted to run an ad on Lane?s site.

"I told him we weren?t like that, but he just laughed and said we were in exactly the same industry. I couldn?t just see myself as a businessman anymore. It bothered me," he says.

Today:  Steve Lane has True Joy
and True Peace.

But not enough. He used liberal amounts of cocaine?once snorting every day straight for a month?to silence the internal questions.

"In the porn industry, it comes to a point where you either have to kill your conscience and all you morals, or you have to get out," he reflects. "I viewed women as a product."

Any qualms he may have had were eased by the promise of big money?an even bigger turn-on than the over-abundance of naked flesh. The brothers? tested-and-perfected magazine won an offer of distribution by a national company, pushing the pair to the threshold of a potential multimillion-dollar contract.

The Chains Are Broken

Then came the morning the two brothers were channel surfing, looking for The Andy Griffith Show. They happened across a talk show as the host mentioned the word "porn." Intrigued, they switched back to find out more and discovered it was TV evangelist James Robison, talking about how pornography destroyed people?s lives.

What impacted the pair was how Robison spoke compassionately, not condemningly. "As I listened, I realized that the very thing I was producing was the very thing that had devastated my home as a child." He stumbled into his bedroom and tried to pray.

"I felt something cover me from head to toe, like someone had taken a giant fan and frozen me with 30-degree water. At the same time I had chills from my head to my feet, I started sweating. My heart began palpitating. It wasn?t chest pains?my heart was hurting. I had never felt so empty and dead; I was just hurting from grief."

Lane dialed the Robison show?s number, spoke haltingly with a telephone counselor and gave his life to Christ. "Peace flowed over me like someone dragging a cloak over you." He went back into the den to find Mike on his knees, after a similar experience. They decided to get out of the porn business there and then.

Within days they had closed down the phone lines and suspended the Web site. They declined to sign the distribution contract, and ended up storing 30,000 copies of the magazine in their home for weeks while they decided what to do with them.

Eventually they put the magazines in storage, where they sit to this day. Unwilling to declare bankruptcy because the magazines could be sold as an asset to defray debt, Lane is hoping to one day raise $50,000 so that he can buy out the brothers? only other investor, and then legally do what he wants to do with the magazines?destroy them.

He believes that his dramatic TV encounter came not a moment too soon and that it not only changed his life but possibly saved others. "These were not girls you would never be able to see," he observes quietly. "These were girls who could very easily have been traced and stalked."

He has certainly saved some from embarrassment, at the least. The young centerfold of the magazine?s first edition had been alarmed to learn of its potential coast-to-coast sales.

"She got real nervous," Lane says. "She said that she hoped her youth minister didn?t see it. She told me about growing up in the church and being very active in the youth group."

Many of the girls Lane came into contact with in the industry had some sort of religious background. "You?d be surprised how often Christianity came up as a topic of conversation in strip clubs," he says.

Most of the young women he knew were involved in or had previously been in some form of abusive relationship. "They think it?s pretty much normal to be exploited?and accept it. Now (they think) at least they are getting paid good money for going through the abuse."

But it is still not without its toll.

"Before the night is over they pretty much have to be under the influence to take what happens to them in these clubs," Lane says. "That?s why I get upset when I hear Christians out to bash them with their picket signs and wanting to mistreat them, abuse them, and call them sluts and whores. These ?sluts and whores? are somebody?s little girls. They have grown up in dysfunctional homes. The last thing they need is somebody abusing them in the name of God."

Although he believes that pornography should be fought and obscenity laws enforced, Lane has been reluctant to lend his name to anti-porn crusaders because he believes that those who produce porn need to hear about God?s love for them as much as those who consume it.

"There are many people in the industry who would accept Jesus if we would just introduce them to Him with a message of love and compassion instead of hate and condemnation," he says. "So many groups are fighting fleshly battles. I have found no Scriptures where Jesus carried picket signs."

Yet he does do some anonymous cleanup work of his own. He trawls Web sites and Internet chat rooms for child pornography?using the software he once employed to trace Christians to track pedophiles. Then he turns the information over to authorities. Lane estimates he has helped in more than 100 arrests.

"Some of the stuff out there you would not believe," he says. "Some of the worst is coming out of Russia right now. Pictures of soldiers with children as young as 5."

By the time he encountered God, Lane?s lust had been sated: "It got to the point where I didn?t want to go into work and see another naked woman."

He also knew just how far removed from reality pornography is. Computer editing would alter the girls? appearances.

"There?s no perfect body. No perfect anything. All these girls, even the prettiest, had flaws," he says.

Attending a support group for sex addicts as part of his early Christian growth he also saw the ugly reality of how porn consumes its own consumers. One of the men there had introduced his wife to porn, and they had invited another man to join them in a sexual encounter. She became pregnant by the stranger, and the couple aborted the child.

After later appearing on Robison?s TV show to tell of his remarkable transformation, Lane received a telephone call from one-time hero Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. The infamous porn king, whom Lane had revered for his First Amendment "defense" of pornography, told him he had been brainwashed by Christians.

"I told him that my brain had been washed?in the blood of the Lamb," Lane says.

When Lane speaks in churches he calls himself "a mirror"?recognizing that many people can see something of themselves in his story of a broken home, religious hypocrisy and the search for false comfort in sex and substance abuse.

Recently remarried and devoting himself full-time to his Tupelo, Mississippi based Freedom Ministry, Lane says that he would like to see himself "out of work, eventually." But judging by the phone calls and inquires he gets?from pastors and Playmates to deacons and dancers?he knows that will not be any time soon.

And he has told his daughter about his new job. She proudly completed a school project on his efforts to combat child porn.

Reprinted by permission, Virtue.