A few years ago, I performed a marriage ceremony for my old friend Don Schaller’s son, Kane. It was great fun. I went online and bought a $25 license from the Universal Life Church organization. My signature on the marriage license was considered legitimate. The 300+ people attending the ceremony at Squaw Valley thought I was the real deal.
This is outrageous… and dangerous. I bought a black robe and a sash and BINGO, I’m legit. What nonsense.
By tradition, clergy are not state licensed as are psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, etc., etc. I have a PhD in psychology, but can not legally do psychotherapy because I do not have a license. To get a license, I would need to go through a lengthy period of training and pass a rigorous state exam, including supervision by licensed psychologists. Since psychologists do a variety of things like teach, research, consulting, etc., I can call myself a psychologist, but not one who can do therapy. Buy me a beer, though, and I’ll tell you how to solve life’s problems; I just won’t call it therapy. BUT, as a ULC minister, I’m sure I can do pastoral counseling. What the hell is the difference? Let’s not forget Jim Jones of the People’s Temple who was ordained as a Disciples of Christ minister.
I’m not saying that if Jones had been certified by the state, the Jonestown disaster would not have happened. After all, there are lots of cases where licensed therapists of all kinds go off the rails and do weird and awful things, like having sex with patients and forming cults.
I am suggesting that if people like Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate had to keep their state licenses current, like therapists and realtors and hair stylists do, maybe they could have been reined in.
Many people are lost and gullible. A smart guy with a robe, a white collar, and sash can do his will.
God has given me, Rev Rick, the light to see what my sheep need to get into heaven. Look at my robe. Look at my sash. Look at these silly gestures I am making. For you to find eternal bliss, you need to give me 25% of your net worth. Trust me, I am a man of the cloth.