Mooning the Preacher

I don’t know how mooning started as a thing. Was it a prank, a stunt, or a joke? I can see a comedian bombing onstage and thinking, “Well, I’ve got nothing else left,” before reaching for his zipper. Or did some soldier looked at his enemy and decided, “I cannot beat you, therefore, I will expose my butt to you!”

In case you’re too young or too mature (doubtful since you’ve read this far) for that sort of thing, the dictionary defines it as:

Moon /slang/: (v) to expose one’s buttocks to (someone) in order to insult or amuse them.

It may have disappeared from popular culture for a time but was ushered right back in with that paragon of cinematic genius, Porkies. That movie spoke to me. There were several things my young self took away from it, one of which was a desire to moon someone.

One must wait for the right time and situation to moon properly. Or sometimes, those situations just arrive and you unwittingly share full view of your buttocks with innocent eyes. So it was for me.

The summer of 1984: my friend Andy and I had been asked to paint the interior of the youth building at our local church. It was a good job, even though we weren’t good at it. I recall that we were covering an off-white with a pale brown. Of course, the first thing we did was paint all kinds of bawdy words on the walls, giggle, and then cover them with paint to make them disappear. And we almost got caught. Luckily Andy was able to distract while I played Letter-man and brushed over a consonant or two.

That should show the maturity level of the paint crew. If more evidence is needed, what happened when these paragons of sophistication go to the other building to wash their brushes and find a 35mm camera sitting on a shelf?

Naturally, they moon it. They moon it from every angle!


Andy didn’t think there was film in the camera so he became the photographer. He was snapping away while I posed like a butt model – if there is such a thing.

“The camera loves you!”

“Yes, to your left a little. A little more. That’s perfect.”

We were hamming it up when we heard two sounds that stopped us cold.

The first was the sound of the door opening.

The second was the unmistakable sound of the camera rewinding a roll of spent film!

Andy quickly put the camera back up on the shelf while I covered my bum and we hurriedly resumed our brush-washing. Luckily, the film finished rolling up before the preacher peeked his head around the corner. We made small talk and scuttled back to the other building as soon as possible.

Grace is a remarkable thing.

We finished painting over the next few days – a little more serious about our work than before. While we expected a hand of justice at any time, it never came. I found out later the church used that camera to take pictures of new members. Can you imagine what happened when they got that roll of film developed? I have a vivid mental picture of that kindly preacher sitting in bed with his wife and the pictures fresh from the Fotomat.

“Oh, honey look – the Clements. What a nice couple.”

“And the Jenkins. They’re a handsome family. This could be their Christmas card. I think I’ll give them the negative.”

“Mr. Adams – he’s such a stoic man but I think he’ll be a good usher…”

And then… my butt… over and over again from many different angles. Still, he never said a word. Grace… or perhaps he is waiting for me to get famous and then he’ll blackmail me over my butt-tape.

Rationally I know the market for that would be nonexistent. I just like to think that he chuckled about the clowns he’d hired and threw the pictures out. But maybe, maybe the preacher was a Porkies fan, too!

A View from the Back

I’ve always felt like if you are going to do something, you should go all-in. Not only should you commit to the fullest, you should urge others to jump into the pool, too. I never understood people sitting on the sidelines watching others pull the load.

If your kid is playing ball, you should be coaching.

If you believe in the issue, lead the charge.

If you’re a member, actively participate.

Everyone should be all-in. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Be 100% committed. These have been my mantras and I don’t think they are inherently wrong or bad. What is wrong is the judgment and lack of sympathy for others who aren’t in accord. This epiphany came to me during an innocuous conversation last week.

I was asked to sit on a panel at Emory University to speak to young people who hope to go into medicine. The topic was patient experience – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Having experienced each of those during our cancer treatment, I was able to elucidate all three positions. One of my fellow speakers was a cancer mom I have met digitally, but never in person, although I have interviewed her daughter via FaceTime.

Before the event started, we were in the midst of a good conversation regarding church and faith when she asked where we went to church. A legitimate question… but it has a trick answer. For the first time in our married lives, we don’t have a church home. Right now, church doesn’t feel right. The two congregations that loved us through Kylie’s sickness and death both worship in sanctuaries that contain stages on which she performed numerous times. To sit through a service at either place is to see her singing, acting, and dancing. We tried for a while and never heard a sermon… we just heard her.

We do go to church – sometimes “homechurch”, but frequently a large church where the sermons are deep and thought-provoking. It’s a place where there are plenty of opportunities to serve, but also contains a huge, packed sanctuary where people can sit in the back and get lost in the masses. I explained that we had always been active leaders who taught and served, but right now we need to blend in the back.

“This should be a lesson to us that everyone at church can be at a different place in their life and have different needs,” my new friend wisely said.

I’m a dense sort. I smiled, agreed, and went on until later in the day when I was alone, something started gnawing at me. That epiphany jumped up and bit me.

You see, for all of those years, not only have I been on my church’s front row, I’ve looked down on the people in the back row – the 80% not pulling their weight. Oh, I never confronted anyone, but I certainly considered them inactive leaches while we pious 20% did the heavy lifting. And now, from my new seat, I realize that while I sat in judgment, there are plenty of legitimate life situations that plant people in the back row. I probably looked down on many helpless and hurting people. Rather than condemn them, I should have been more loving and celebrated the fact that they had the strength to make it through the door.

And this doesn’t just pertain to church. Maybe a bunch of those dads who wouldn’t coach soccer with me or build theater sets felt lost, inadequate, or had issues I couldn’t have dreamed of.

 Wow! This self-discovery stuff is great until you discover you are the one with the problem.




A Pharisee, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22: 35-40 (NIV)