Former Pastor Shunned For Porn Addiction Finds New Calling Helping Others

By Victoria Kim 08/18/17

The former Alabama pastor went into recovery for his addiction and is now giving back to the community with his wife. 

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Silhouettes of a group of people expel one man from their community.

Greg Oliver, the former Alabama pastor who was shunned by his congregation after his porn viewing habits came to light, has found a new calling—using his experience with addiction and recovery to educate parents, teachers and more. 

Oliver was fired from his Birmingham-area church in 2009 after 11 years with his congregation. “I was exposed, I lost my job, but I began recovery,” he told AL.com. After being turned away from the church, Greg and his wife Stacey took up counseling and “got into a recovery process.” 

“I’m a recovering addict,” says Greg. “I know the shame people feel.” The couple began counseling others at support group meetings at their new church, the Church at Brook Hills, and founded Awaken Recovery, an addiction recovery ministry, around 2015.

The former pastor says it’s unrealistic to believe that parents can prevent kids, even as young as 10 years old, from viewing porn. “There’s kind of no escaping it,” he said. “We’ve got to get over the naive way of thinking. If your kid’s 10 years old, he’s probably already seen some type of pornography.”

The best approach is to prepare kids for the sexual content they come across online. “No matter how well you try to keep kids from seeing it, there are things they are going to see. You’ve got to protect and prepare: prepare them so when they see it, they know what to do.”

Oliver represents a new generation of Christian leaders who acknowledge that focusing on abstinence and suppressing conversations about sex isn’t exactly a healthy approach in a world brimming with sexual innuendo.  

“We need to be talking about sex early and often in an age-appropriate way,” says Oliver. “The biggest tool is encouraging a safe, open dialogue where parents say, ‘You can ask me anything.’”

“Sometimes more hyper-fundamental churches with oppressive spirituality create isolation, and isolation is a big driver,” said the former pastor. “People who feel isolated are more likely to look at porn.”

A 2014 study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior showed that people living in U.S. states that identify most as religious and conservative are also more likely to search for sexual content online.

“If you compare evangelical Christians and those who don’t go to church, the stats about porn use are virtually identical,” said Oliver. “You get as many people in the church looking at pornography as outside the church…It’s really heavy within the church. Sixty percent of male Christian leaders said they looked at porn within [the] last week; 40% of females.”

One especially unfortunate and widely publicized example of this phenomenon is Josh Duggar, perhaps best known as the oldest son on the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting or as the executive director of the conservative Christian lobbying group the Family Research Council Action.

Duggar’s wholesome image suffered immensely in recent years, when it was discovered that while “espousing faith and family values,” he was unfaithful to his wife, had a porn “addiction,” and molested five underage girls when he was a teen, including two of his sisters.

Oliver is trying to find a happy medium between minimizing excessive porn and sex habits within the Christian community without denouncing or suppressing it as dirty and shameful.

“God has a design for sex that’s awesome,” says Oliver. “[Porn] is a counterfeit. It cheapens it, reduces intimacy. This is going to hurt your ability to have healthy sex later in life.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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