I am a certified minister of the Universal Life Church. My friend Joel, himself a Universal Life minister, ordained me so that I could minister his marriage to Sharon. I'm about to perform my second wedding ceremony, and I'm looking forward to it.
Over the internet, I was certified as a legitimate UCL minister, which meant that I could, if I so wanted, start my own church -- either an internet church or a bricks and mortar version. I laughed, "Ha, ha, ha, wouldn't that be funny -- me with my very own church!" I closed the email from the ULC and went on to the next email, which was a request for a letter of recommendation from a student's mom. Her salutation was "Dear Christ."
I had a good friend in graduate school who for a while believed I was the second coming. She was diagnosed with manic depression and temporary schizophrenia soon after this belief blossomed, but nonetheless, SHE WAS CONVINCED.
The other day, headed south on Highway 59, I passed the new Lakewood Church in what was formerly the Compaq Center -- once the home of the legendary Houston Rockets. Christians now flock to the refurbished arena, where their shepherd, Joel Osteen, leads them in their worship of a "God of Restoration" (from the www.joelosteen.com). As I drove past, I thought, that guy Osteen is making bookoo bucks. My next thought was, I could do that, start my own church.
L. Ron did it. J.C. did it. L. Ron Hubbard said the way to make millions is to start one's own religion.
I admit now: I want to make millions. Nay, squillions.
But Jesus didn't necessarily want to get rich. He hung out with the poor folk. I hang out with poor folk too, come to think of it: artists and theater types, teachers and writers. J.C.'s earthly dad was a carpenter. Mine was a NAPA auto parts salesman.
The Universal Life Church isn't about Jesus, though, which is fine by me, because I'm not really about Jesus either. I am about divinity, though. And my lapsed Catholic soul DIGS the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe. I choose to believe that there is a greater power, a higher power (I need to say it here: I'm not an AA advocate). I consider that higher power a sort of spiritual network -- an ethereal intelligence, a circular cosmic order. This higher order is the sum of all the individual consciousnesses and energies in the universe, which is why I believe it's important for people to be nice to one another, that being nice to one another and offering love and peace to one another is, in deed, heaven on earth.