I got my certification from the National Enquirer, or maybe the Weekly World News. In addition to reading the news stories from cover to cover (“Woman Survivor of Titanic Found On Iceberg”), I also checked the Want Ads. That’s where I got my bishopric.
There was this church in California (in Pismo Beach, I think) that offered to make you an ordained minister for $25. I read the fine print and found that for another $10 I could be an archbishop. Sold! I paid the money and in no time got my certificate. I promptly framed it and put it on the wall of my tiny newspaper cubicle.
The only requirement was that I not use my new powers for evil purposes. Also, I had to face west (Pismo Beach-area if possible) once a week and meditate. Piece of cake. Then I forgot about it.
I forgot about it until my newspaper uncovered a scam that involved bogus members of the clergy. Or real ministers who were using their status to get certain tax breaks. Or swindle people out of money. Or get breaks on their auto tags. Lots of things.
It was a big story, and it got a lot of attention. Rightly so.
While it was in progress, the managing editor put out a memo to the staff. It asked if anyone was a member of the clergy. If so, he wanted to talk to them. There were, I think, only two: One was a real minister, the other was an archbishop. That would be me.
When I advised him of my dual status, he asked me to bring my credentials to his office. I did. He read them carefully, asked me about the True Church of the Divine Pacific (or whatever it was called) and asked the obvious “Why?” question. I told him it was a lark. That I thought it was fun and would look good on my resume, and also impress visitors with my piety.
He was less than impressed. He asked me if I had ever gotten any tax breaks as a minister. I said no.
He asked if I had ever collected money from any of my flock. Again, no.
Had I ever counseled anybody? I said I had tried, sort of, but nobody listened.
Finally, he asked if I had ever performed a marriage. I said no, although I had once attempted (in vain) to persuade a young woman I knew that we were, as it were, married under the stars. For the record, she said no!
So I was off the hook. Clean as a whistle.
But it was a lesson. I burned my certificate. And I burned my robes (actually a cheap robe from Sears that was pretty beat up).
I haven’t knowingly looked west, to Pismo Beach, since. At least not in that way.
In fact, I’m so careful of the church-state separation thing, I don’t even say “bless you” when somebody sneezes.
Mike has spent the majority of his life inside the Beltway and has an interesting and humorous perspective that he will share every Wednesday. Mike has spent his career covering the federal government for the Washington Post and now for Federal News Radio.