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.