Have you ever wondered how hard it is to become a minister? Well, wonder no more, friends and gawkers! For I, Rhubarb Tiberius Swank, Queen of Steves and Lego Dinosaurs, Starter of Many Things and Finisher of Few, Supreme Glittering Viscountess of Run-on Sentences and Abuser of Ellipsis…es?, have recently had holy orders conferred upon my person.
That’s right, I’m now officially an ordained minister!
Why, you ask? Well, that’s kind of a funny story. And, as with a fair number of my questionable ideas, it all starts with Facebook…
If you don’t know what this means, I’m a) very sad for you, and b) think you’re probably up past your bedtime.
So, the other day I was skimming through my Facebook feed, as I am often wont to do of a weekday afternoon when the rigors of sending the same emails to the same people over and over again have inevitably brought my brain to teeter on the precipitous brink of madness. It was during the initial aftermath of the recent SCOTUS decision about the case where that asshole baker in Colorado decided they didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples. There was a friend on my feed posting about how she’s ordained and would be happy to perform marriage ceremonies for any gay couples in any state, etc. That made me smile of course, because love is love. People should be able to marry whoever the frig they want (assuming both parties are down with it, obviously), and it ain’t nobody’s business what flavor of human another human likes to boink.
But it also got me thinking. Not the boinking thing, I mean (although…), but rather, the ordination part. The person who had posted this was someone I call a friend, but I’ve never met her in person. We’ve never had any talks about beliefs, philosophy, or religion, but given the avenues through which I became acquainted with her, I was pretty comfortable in assuming that she leaned pretty atheist. Rather than send her a message and start asking all kinds of probing questions about her personal beliefs and religious affiliations, I instead took myself over to trusty ol’ Google and typed in “how to get ordained”.
Side note here: if anyone ever truly hacks me, I’d be 97% willing to give up my credit card and bank account information in exchange for the solemn promise that they not compile and publish a comprehensive list of my lifetime Google search terms, because HOLY POLE DANCING CHRIST, I would never live it down. Like…you don’t even know. You don’t WANT to know. It’s that bad.
One of the first things that came up in the results was a site called Universal Life Church. Having never heard of them, I was 50/50 on whether it was some kind of “every sperm is sacred” situation (you know, the ones who say you can’t even masturbate because THINK OF THE POTENTIAL CHILDREN), a cult like that one that starts with an S and ends with -ology and kind of sounds like the word ‘science’ (I am genuinely afraid of them and refuse to type out the whole name online. If you aren’t afraid of them, you need to watch Louis Theroux’s movie about them. Google it. I’m not even linking it because I’m convinced they keep track), or maybe just a nice, gentle, UU-type “don’t be a dick and everything will probably be alright” kind of thing.
Wait, that was three options, not two. So rather than 50/50 I was…33.3333/33.3333/33.3333…ish. Shout out to infinite decimals, heyyyyy.
Fucking A, where was I?
Ok, yes. Universal Life Church. I held my breath, clicked on the link, and was immediately greeted with a cheerful banner image of a dove in flight, with the words “We are all children of the same Universe”. Following this was a link to a video of Conan O’Brien proffering his own certificate of ordination from Universal Life Church. I exhaled. These were clearly my people.
There was a big blue button mid-page that said “Online Ordination”, flanked with what I originally thought were lightening bolts (me, internally: fuck yes, let’s get Norse up in this motherfucker! Zap me with some Odin-juice! Wait…), but what I now see are actually rough approximations of olive branches. Which make more sense, to be fair…but are a little on the boring side.
I clicked on the button. Through the dark arts of tiny HTML gnomes with pixel-axes (get it? Heeee), I was whisked to another page which said a bunch of stuff about how this ordination was legal in all states, how I couldn’t lie and give a fake name, some crap about online communities that were available if I had questions, etc. Much more interestingly, there was also a sidebar showing some of the other famous people in addition to Conan who had been ordained through the site. You know, in case I needed more confirmation that I would be in truly esteemed company. The list included such luminaries as:
- Lady Gaga
- Stephen Colbert
- Ian McKellan
- Paul McCartney
- Richard Branson (maybe not as compelling of a selling point as they think)
- that Beneflick Clumbermonk guy, and…
…wait for it…
…Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who I personally have oft considered worshiping as a supreme being in and of himself.
I couldn’t hit that next big, blue, definitely-olive-branch-and-not-lightening-bolt-festooned button that said “Begin Ordination Now” fast enough.
The next step was a web form to fill in. First and last name, email address, state and country of residence, and password to use for the site. I filled it all in and read the fine print at the bottom, which was just some junk about being 18 years of age, and how to access your paperwork later on.
I hovered over the “Submit Ordination Request” button for a minute, wondering what I was getting myself info. Would there be a background check? Would I have to submit references who could vouch for the fact that I’m not secretly a puppy-kicker? Would I have to demonstrate my knowledge of…well, anything?
My gaze floated back up to the ecstatic pearly grin of Mr. The Rock. It was almost as if he was offering a benediction through the computer screen, a blessing for my interminable curiosity and the weird places it often takes me. And my roody-poo candy ass, of course.
I’m shining it, Mr. The Rock. I’m shining it! (If you’re unfamiliar with The Rock’s wrestling catchphrases, that’s going to sound really sordid out of context. I acknowledge this, but I do not apologize.)
I don’t THINK I actually uttered the words “I’m doing this for you, Rock…” out loud as I hit the button. My co-worker didn’t ask what the shit I was talking about at least, so I’m probably safe.
A split second after I hit the button, the screen flashed up with a big certificate with my name across it (my real name…I didn’t lie to the church like I do to most of social media), proclaiming me officially ordained, legally capable of performing marriages…
…and starting my own ministry.
[ Imagine a picture of my official certificate here. I can’t actually show it to you because it costs $39.95 to download and I haven’t coughed that up yet. You’ll just have to trust me.]
That’s right. I could actually start a Church of Rhubarbology, if I so chose. Or a United Church of Swank. Or I could start a religion where there were ascending orders of holiness named after the chapters in The Hobbit, where you’d have to complete thematic initiation rites for each order. I could start an actual church devoted to the worship of perfect avocados. Or the smell of freshly cut hay.
I COULD CREATE THE CHURCH OF LATTER-DAY STEVES.
In all seriousness, though: I didn’t actually do this as a joke. I saw the potential for amusement in it, sure…but my sincere motivation was to be able to make myself available to conduct marriage ceremonies for people that might otherwise have a hard time finding someone to do so. It is remarkable and continually infuriating to me that we still live in a country where some people can’t love who they want to love without being given a load of shit about it. If my silly little ordination adventure can be counted as taking a stand against that oppression, then I’m truly proud to do it.
And if you’ve already got an officiant for your big gay wedding but are having trouble finding someone to bake you a cake, I can sort you out there, too.
I promise I won’t even make you have rhubarb as one of the flavors.