We'll get to the secret in just a second. First, let's wag the finger at our clerical colleague, Rev. Jim Moats of Christian Bible Fellowship Church in Newville, Pennsylvania. According to his website, Moats "unashamedly preaches 'an old fashioned message' for 'new-fangled people.' " We're guessing that he's doing it with just a bit more shame these days.
See, word got a round in his parish that Moats had been a Navy SEAL in Viet Nam. He never said much about it, but there was this plaque in his office honoring all SEALS for their service, and, well, there you go. Then, in a recent interview, he came out of the, uh, closet: about SEAL training, being slapped around by his instructors, even about the time his wild side got the better of him and he was busted down to company cook. Just like Steven Seagal in Under Siege. And a little GI Jane.
Anyway, it was a lie. The guy was never a SEAL. He spent a few years in the Navy, on a ship in the Mediterranean. Maybe he really was a cook; we have no idea. But he wasn't a SEAL. He was just a wannabee, a regular guy who -- like his father before him and his sons after him -- served his country. But for whom that wasn't enough.
It took a genuine ex-SEAL, Don Shipley, one day to out the guy. Shipley apparently spends a lot of time checking up on guys who claim they were part of his old unit, largely because so many of them are lying. And here's the line that gives us pause:
“We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” Shipley said.
Ouch. Look, you know how we sometimes wax censorious about preachers who use "true" stories that aren't? Well, just in case you weren't sure, this is worse. We oppose pastors lying about their military service for just the reason we are in favor of letting gay pastors go public about their sexual preference: because a liar in the pulpit will inevitably give people reason to doubt the truth of the Gospel.
So, okay, lecture over. We promised you a juicy tidbit and here it comes.
For years now, there have been rumors about Fr. A's past. They were all started by a piece of art he used to keep in the church office, nothing too conspicuous, but a treasured memento just the same. He never said anything, but people started to talk, and he never told them they were wrong. And why should he? They were right. It's all true.
So there it is. We don't like to talk about it. We aren't proud. But yes, it's true: For a few years, just before seminary, Father Anonymous was a Blade Runner.*
* Not strictly true, but we'll say anything to build that flock up.