The Rent-Seeking Church

Rent-seeking, in economic and public-choice theory, refers to attempting to increase one’s share of current wealth without producing or creating any additional wealth according to

What is rent-seeking? Definition and meaning

They also helpfully provided this excerpt:

Rent-seeking taxi license corruption tariffs closed shop

Rent-seeking comes in many forms, including barriers to entry like onerous licenses, having to belong to a particular trade union in order to work in a trade, imposing tariffs, and corruption in government. In all cases, no additional wealth for the nation, sector or society is created. …

If you need to get a time-consuming, expensive, and extremely hard-to-acquire license to become a taxi driver, there will be fewer competitors in that market. If fewer competitors are permitted to operate within that sector, it means that each player gets a bigger slice of the wealth pie.

And now, today’s new low for the Church in North America: people are getting online ordinations in order to perform weddings for family and friends. Clergy are so outraged by this loss of revenue that they successfully lobbied the state of Tennessee to ban online ordination… and accidentally let their mask slip.

By the Power Vested in Me by God Or the Internet: The Fight Over Online Ordinations

By Kate Shellnutt, 5 July 2019

After a religious freedom lawsuit, a federal judge this week blocked Tennessee’s new ban on online ordination for wedding officiants, citing “serious constitutional issues.”

The Universal Life Church Monastery—a top destination for giving friends and family credentials to perform ceremonies—had sued the Volunteer State over the policy, which it said “grants a preference to certain religions” and “burdens its members’ free exercise of religion.”

Segue to Wikipedia,

The Universal Life Church Monastery is a non-denominational interfaith ministry that is primarily known for its online ordination program, which allows individuals to preside over weddings, baptisms, and funerals across the United States depending on state and county laws.

Universal Life Church Monastery’s mantra is “We are all children of the same universe.” It also has two core tenets:

Do only that which is right.

Every individual is free to practice their religion in the manner of their choosing, as mandated by the First Amendment, so long as that expression does not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and is in accordance with the government’s laws.

The monastery’s stated mission is to ordain anyone regardless of their spiritual or religious denomination. It does not have a physical building that serves as a house of worship, and conducts ordination through its website. According to the church, ordination allows its ministers to perform marriages, funerals, baptisms, and exorcisms

Heehee. BWAHAHA! A perfect black knighting of the seminary-industrial complex! Troll 10/10 because at least three state governments have tried to ban them for undercutting the local clergy’s monopolies on ceremonies! (Pennsylvania and Virginia being the other two that I know of.)

I am seriously thinking about getting ordained by them. Ordinating organizations are all hypocrites these days anyway. Might as well hit up the cheap one!

Fuller Seminary: [Our] practice-oriented Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program forms ministry leaders to be reflective and nimble to change. It will stretch you theologically and challenge you with new models of ministry for an ever-changing world. (actual statement)

Universal Life Church: Forty bucks.

Proceeding to some more background on the ULC,

Controversial online ordination surges in popularity

By Daily Emerald, 10 May 2011

When Justin Pratt was asked by his friends to officiate their wedding during the winter break, he already knew what his answer was and knew just what to do.

Pratt immediately went online and typed “free online ordination” into Google and found Universal Life Church Monastery, an online church whose website touts its sole mission is to provide ordinations to anyone, “regardless of your spiritual or religious denomination.” With just a few clicks of a mouse and by entering in a few pieces of personal information, Pratt was almost instantaneously an ordained minister.

“I was surprised at how fast the whole process took, but I shouldn’t have been, because we live in a pretty fast-paced world where you can do pretty much anything online,” said Pratt, a University junior journalism major. “I kind of figured that there was going to be more to it … it just asked me to put in my name and address and pay the fee, and that was about it.”

I found a Rev. Justin Pratt, currently senior pastor of a Baptist church, but not the same guy.

According to the Universal Life Church, Pratt isn’t alone, and he represents a controversial growing trend of people turning to online ordination to officiate weddings and preside over baptisms and funerals — a move lauded by religious freedom advocates and castigated by theologians.

The Universal Life Church neither holds religious Sunday services, nor has a physical building that serves as its house of worship. In fact, church spokesperson Andy Fulton said the original Modesto, Calif., church that was founded in 1959 no longer exists.

ULC is now located in Seattle and that’s just doubling down on the meme.

Rather, Fulton said the main mission of the church is carried on through its website. Even before the online ordination became the newest fad next to miniskirts and sweater vests, the Universal Life Church had already provided nearly 18 million ordination certificates worldwide between 1962 and 2009, and that number has grown to nearly 20 million in 2011, according to the church’s website. In fact, it touts 114 University students alone as ordained ministers.

On the church’s website, ordained ministers can pay anywhere between $13.99 to $139.99 to purchase a variety of products and services, including receiving a religious title, doctor of divinity certificate, doctor of metaphysics certificate, master of Wicca certificate, “ordination package” and a “ministry-in-a-box.”

A new definition of “Crossfit”!

“We are a church, but the purpose of our church is to ordain people so that they can perform these wedding ceremonies,” Fulton said. “What we do is perfectly legal; we’re a service organization, if you think about it. People hear the word ‘church’ and they expect a brick-and-mortar church with a pastor or priest, but when you look at the Universal Life Church Monastery, you have to look past that model.”

However, not everyone is supportive of online ordination. John Holbert, the Lois Craddock Perkins professor of homiletics at Southern Methodist University, said he finds online ordinations to be “absurd” and correlates its popularity to the secularization of modern-day.

“I believe that ministry is a learned profession that means that you don’t imagine yourself one day to be loved by God, and then go out and do it,” Holbert said. “I think it’s a kind of sign that the culture is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the traditional understandings of church and clergy.”

Holbert disagrees with exactly what Jesus and the Twelve Disciples did.

Nevertheless, Holbert said he understands why this shift in society’s perception is occurring when he considers the numerous scandals many religious institutions have faced in recent years.

“I think the online thing has become a kind of outlet and a kind of revolt or rebellion, really, against the traditional church,” Holbert said. “I don’t defend it at all, and I frankly think it’s a mockery of traditional ordination, but at the same time, I’m not surprised that it’s happening.”

Because Holbert himself is a mockery of traditional Protestantism. “You can’t just pick up your Bible and do God’s will! You have to be ordained by the Real Church(tm)!”

“But my behavior is compatible with State guidelines on church behavior!”

“We’ll see about that!” *Lobbies Tennessee to ban the competition.*

Fulton defended the Universal Life Church’s actions by saying the organization’s sole purpose is to ordain people to conduct wedding ceremonies, rather than grant people the religious authority to start their own congregations.

“If people that we ordained wanted to go out (and) form their own churches or their own congregations, then that would be a little sensitive and a little suspect, but 99.9 to the umpteenth degree percent of the people that we ordain are ordained so they can perform wedding ceremonies — they don’t go out to start churches,” Fulton said. “I feel like anyone who criticizes the Universal Life Church Monastery or criticizes online ordination doesn’t really know the whole deal behind it.”

Fulton is lying, too, or those bits about performing baptisms and exorcisms are very new products in his catalog. That makes him a peer of Holbert. I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses:

The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time. Daniel 11:27

It’s not a theologically important verse but the mental image never gets old.

End this long segue.

The [no-online-ordination] law was set to go into effect July 1, but federal judge Waverly Crenshaw decided on Wednesday to allow weddings conducted by online-ordained celebrants to resume until a trial later this year. Officials argued the policy was designed to ensure officiants were responsible enough to perform their duties on behalf of the state.

THEY SAID IT! THEY SAID IT! They said the truth but only for the love of money!

Unlike most denominations, churches, and religious organizations, nonprofits like the Universal Life Church and American Marriage Ministries exist primarily to ordain the growing number of friends and family members tapped to officiate weddings. Recent surveys show between a quarter and half of US ceremonies are now performed by loved ones rather than traditional ministers.

How has this statistic not pinged my radar yet? No wonder the rentseekers are dropping Benjamins on lobbyists.

While Tennessee lawmakers see pastors and religious clergy as beyond the scope of the ban—since they already meet the legal standard of “a considered, deliberate, and responsible act” for ordination—the law could become an issue if churches begin to offer “online ordination as the culmination of online theological training,” according to Jennifer Hawks, associate general counsel at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

“For now, if the law is upheld, most ordaining organizations will continue to ordain their leaders as they have always done,” she said. “Only those religious groups which do not include an in-person component for their ordinations would have to make changes in order to satisfy the requirements that must be met for private citizens to perform this state function.”

By similar logic, persons shouldn’t be allowed to use their private vehicle for a taxi business. Classic rent-seeking.

In the US, weddings represent a unique intersection of church and state. The government licenses marriages, in part, to codify the legal benefits and protections afforded to married couples. More than a decade ago, CT reported how Pennsylvania barred online ordination for wedding celebrants, requiring religious officials lead to a “regularly established church or congregation” to qualify. Virginia has similar requirements, asking that religious officiants provide evidence of their role at a gathered congregation and that they are in good standing with their denomination.

Yep. Classic. It doesn’t matter if you know God’s will and are responsible for it! You must by paid by a group of chumps in a wooden box to do Caesar’s God’s will! Actually, I did mean Caesar because Caesar now agrees with me. So, ha!

Same-sex marriage? Frivorce? No, the REAL marriage crisis is that officiating State representatives aren’t backed by ‘traditional’ denominations.

But after state and county procedures have long straddled the civil and religious functions of the ceremony, fewer Americans care about the latter, leading to the rise of nontraditional and secular celebrants.

Some Christian leaders have questioned whether the church should be a part of the civil ceremony at all, particularly as same-sex marriage became legal. About a quarter of pastors and a third of Americans said clergy should no longer be involved in state marriage licensing in a 2014 LifeWay Research poll.

“The argument for allowing ministers to solemnize wedding with civil effect is basically an argument of accommodating the wishes and the convenience of the couple. Many people will want their wedding performed by a minister, by a clergy person, and why make them go through a separate ceremony?” said Thomas Berg, law professor and religious freedom expert at University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

“If the issue is accommodating the religious desires of the couple, allowing the couple to have that single ceremony, then it does not suggest that the state has a very strong interest in regulating the quality of the minister performing it,” he said in response to Tennessee’s law. “A friend may be more meaningful than anyone else.”

It’s not often that one can cite Elvis Impersonators for judicial precedent, but it’s totally in keeping with the shameless farce that American Christianity has become.

I Am The Law - Judge Dredd meme on Memegen

For years, even couples that weren’t active in their faith would refer to their local church when it was time for weddings or funerals. Pastors report that the availability of online ordination and private wedding venues decreased demand for those services.

Plus, many active Christians themselves are drawn to these options; only around 1 in 5 US weddings now takes place in a church, according to a survey by the popular wedding website The Knot. In almost every aspect of the wedding, people are less tied to tradition and ritual, instead preferring the kind of personalization showcased on Pinterest and Instagram, The Atlantic reported recently.

“The trends tell us that couples are not turning to the church to provide ‘marrying’ and ‘burying’ services. When was the last time you attended a wedding in a church sanctuary?” said Byron Weathersbee, co-founder of Legacy Family Ministries and co-author of To Have and To Hold and Before Forever. “Many churches are thankful to be out of the wedding business. In my opinion, this ends up costing them the relational capital to connect that newly married couple with the church.”

Relational capital, hell. Show me the money!

“What we’re seeing in this trend [of online ordination] is a symptom of the shift away from the importance of the local church. On one hand, it’s meaningful to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony because they know us well. But historically, marriage in the church has been just that—in the church,” said Catherine Parks, author of A Christ-Centered Wedding. “We submit to one another as members of a community of faith, and we need those people—pastors, elders, fellow church members—to encourage and hold us accountable in our marriages from the moment they begin.”

A female teacher of Christianity… calls for increased accountability in the Church… for the sake of one’s “community of faith”. Welcome to the Table of Two Lying Kings, Catherine. You’ll fit right in.

Scott Kedersha, who directs the marriage and newly married ministries at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, stresses the importance of couples choosing officiants that “communicate a biblical, Christ-centered view of the gospel and marriage,” whether they are a pastor, small group leader, college roommate, or best friend.

“At Watermark Community Church, we look for ways to partner with friends and family as they officiate weddings. We train and equip lay leaders to lead the ceremony well and we don’t change or lower our expectations for lay leaders to officiate weddings,” said Kedersha, author of Ready or Knot?.

While young couples may not be involved enough in a church to feel personally connected to a pastor, “candidly, as long as the gospel is proclaimed and God is honored through the relationship and ceremony, then we can still celebrate the marriage,” he said.

Scott gets it. What’s important in a Christian leader is not proper credentialism, it’s honoring God though relationship and ceremony. We judge the tree by its fruit, not its pedigree. Bonus points for simply using the phrase “we train and equip lay leaders”. Involving the little people in the Church has never been so rarely practiced, and though no coincidence at all, the little people have never been so aware that their leaders are rent-seeking betrayers of their trust acting in collusion with State government to protect an illegal monopoly on the work of God.

Scott Kedersha - Dallas

The pear-shaped face, denoting a personality that trusts others while demanding trust in return. Lower third is obviously the biggest, indicating practicality, and with both chin & jaw large enough to be assertive about his opinions. The low brow is impulsive. Eyebrows are thick on the inside so visionary rather than managerial. Small ears means he listens mostly to himself.

A very wide nose & nostrils is a good indicator for family life. (He has four sons and no daughters.)

A highly arched/rounded hairline like his is associated with a face shape that is very indifferent to social status. If invited to the party, he’ll have fun and be welcome, but if he’s not invited to the party then he’ll barely notice.

An excellent face for combining independent thoughts with confident actions.

And a thank-you to Federal judge Waverly Crenshaw for upholding an obvious case of religious freedom.

Judge Waverly Crenshaw Jr. honored with Bridge to Equality Award - The Community Foundation of ...

On the left. Whoa, not a face I was expecting. Appointed by Obama, no less. New Moon eyes and protruding ears are signs of deceit and nonconformity. Managerial eyebrows in contrast to Scott’s visionary eyebrows. Pronounced gab lines running clear from jutting chin to the lower eyelid, he must be quite the talker.

Probably not good with money, to judge from extra-wide nostrils (generosity) and bulbous nose tip (financial focus). The middle third of his face is clearly the smallest, which means he is not obsessed with social status/ambition, which is very good for a judge… and rare for a judge of his level, so perhaps nose-indicating greed outweighed face-indicating lack of ambition.

But he ruled right in this case and there’s no arguing with documented actions.


4 thoughts on “The Rent-Seeking Church

  1. HEH!

    I may .. or may not .. know something about this subject .. *

    * (this lil piggie laughs all the way home)


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