So the reverend asks the naked cowboy, “Do you need a license for that?”

WELCOME to the UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH MONASTERY

Reverend
Papa Bradstein

Congratulations! You are now a legally ordained minister for life, though you may relinquish your credentials at any time. YOU HAVE BECOME A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS CLERGY. You have earned a title worthy of admiration and respect.

Let it be known on this date that in accordance with the laws of the Universal Life Church Monastery, as ordaining officer, I, Brother Martin, do ordain you into our ministry. From this day forward, you are entitled to all of the rights of an ordained minister. You have the authority to perform marriages, baptisms, and all other ceremonies of the church. You are an independent minister of this church. This is a position that carries with it a burden of responsibility; please respect others and comply with the laws of the land.

We offer beautiful ministry certificates and clergy packages, as well as wedding and baptism certificates. Please visit the Ministry Products page to see what we have available and view our beautiful Victorian wedding certificates. Anyone you marry will love the selection of designs we offer. We also offer religious doctorate degrees and much more.

Of course I used my real name for my ordination. I just replaced it here with my nom de blog to keep that pseudo anonymous air of mystery about me–daddy, reverend, geek . . . who is that man?

All joking aside, I had to get ordained to fulfill the wishes of one of my two best friends–outside of Mama and 3B, that is–who wants me to officiate at his wedding next spring in NYC. But this is just the first step, because NYC has probably the most onerous wedding laws in the country. In fact, for a number of years, they were one of the only jurisdictions in the country that didn’t allow ULC ministers to perform weddings.

That’s right. It was perfectly legal in NYC for a naked cowboy to perform in Times Square, but not for an ordained minister to perform a wedding. I guess that they got that all worked out, but there are still forms to fill out that require certificates, letters of good standing, four-part harmony, and a processing fee. Of course.

It’s been an interesting journey down the thin line that separates church and state here in the U.S. One one side is the state, for which marriages are a legal union, requiring laws and regulations and certifications; on the other side are the churches, for which marriages are a spiritual union, requiring devotion, commitment, and love. Somewhere in the middle, church and state have to come together because the state has declared that it must know when two individuals wed–making the transition, in the eyes of the law, from two separate entities to one, unified entity.

Somehow the state has expanded the notification requirement into a set of requirements that each church and marriage officiant must meet. In the case of NYC, the standards were so stringent that the city declared that the ULC wasn’t a church at all. That’s a dicey position for a government to take. Especially one that operates under the U.S. Constitution, which states that

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Of course, this could all be untangled if the government wouldn’t pass laws that sanction religious rites such as marriages. But it’s in the interest of the state–according to the state–to have as many married couples as possible, which is why they offer tax breaks to married couples, which is why they need to know when two become one.

As a married man myself, I suppose I can live with that, although I’d be hard pressed to explain why it’s not discrimination against nonmarried people. But I can only live with it as long as the government remembers that it’s not legal for the state to become one with the church, even if only by so extensively regulating the church and its activities that the state is, in effect, dictating the affairs of the church.

Beyond that, it’s also been an interesting journey into my own beliefs about love, friendship, marriage, and faith. Although it seems easy enough to fill out the online form and become ordained, it gave me great pause to think that I was doing it to take on the responsibility of performing the ceremony that will join two of my friends for the rest of their lives. Of course, they are already so joined, but they have asked me to officiate at the ceremony at which they seal their relationship publicly, legally, and spiritually, which is not something that I take lightly.

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  • Can we call you the Right Reverend Papa Bradstein now?

    Personally I’d like to see our elected representatives work on more pressing issues than “The Defense of Marriage.” Like, maybe, feeding all those hungry kids in this country. Can’t get more family-oriented or compassionate than that.

  • Just a note to tell you that I had to do some speedy mousing to get that photo off my screen when the kids woke up from nap yesterday. Didn’t really want to explain that one.

  • Congratulations your eminence. I have a few transgressions in my closet that I could use some absolution for. So if you could wave some incense my way it would be greatly appreciated.

    Seriously though, that is very cool of you….what a great honor to be asked. They must be wonderful friends.