Free Falling

“Be ordained now!” the heading on the e-mail message screams. “As a minister, you will be authorized to perform the rites and ceremonies of the church. Minister Charles Simpson (no relation to Homer, I presume) has the power to make you a legally ordained minister within 48 hours!!!!”

I can always tell a good deal by the number of exclamation points attached.

The message offers lots of helpful suggestions. For example, “Marry your brother, sister or your best friend. Don’t settle for being the best man or bridesmaid.”

First of all, I really don’t want to marry my brother or sister. That’s just too weird. And, besides, I am already married to my best friend.

Funerals are a “very hard time for you and your family,” the Rev. Simpson realizes. “Don’t settle for a minister you don’t know!!”

Again with the exclamation marks.

And, what about baptisms? “You can say, ‘Welcome to the world!!!! I am your minister and your uncle,'” the e-mail exhorts.

Even if you are a woman?

But, wait. There’s more. You can forgive sins (in case the Pope is busy), visit correctional facilities (maybe permanently) and even start your own church (insert favorite denomination here).

“At this point you must be wondering how much the certificate costs,” the e-mail continues. “Well, let’s talk about how much the program is worth. Considering the value of becoming a certified minister, I’d say the program is easily worth $100 (sadly, about what most ministers make per week). Wouldn’t you agree? However, it won’t cost that much. Not even close! My goal is to make this life-changing program affordable so average folks can benefit from the power of it.”

I wonder how much the Rev. Simpson has benefited already.

The actual cost, including shipping and handling, is a mere $29.99. You will receive an 8-inch by 10-inch certificate professionally printed “by an ink press,” as opposed to a non-ink press, I suppose.

You will also receive a “Proof of Minister Certification in your name!!” Actually, it might be better to have it printed in somebody else’s name, preferably one that is made up. That way, when the IRS comes calling to question the tax exemption for your church, which is actually your home, you will be able to stay one step ahead of the agents.

I could think of some pretty good tax deductions right off the bat, though.

That Olympic-size swimming pool I’ve been considering for my backyard could be written off as a large baptistery.

The breadmaker I bought my wife for Christmas? We need communion bread, don’t we?

The TV antenna on the roof looks a lot like a cross, doesn’t it?

My new bathrobe could certainly double as a choir garment.

And, no self-respecting chapel would be complete without a Dolby Surround Sound public address system with multi-disc CD changer.

When you stop and think about it, 30 bucks is a small sacrifice for all the benefits a person could garner from owning a ministry certificate.

On the other hand, the business of religion can be quite demanding. After all, when it comes to bosses, there’s nobody higher on the ladder than the one you’d be working for.

So, I think I’ll just save my $30 and, come Sunday, I’ll put it in the collection plate of a church with a minister who likely paid a bit loftier price for his credentials.

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