Someone left a comment asking me to ordain them as a minister in their own made-up religion. Uh, yeah, no. An easy web search would have revealed that only Unitarian Universalist congregations (not individuals) can ordain. Another easy web search would have revealed lots of websites that will ordain you upon request. So I deleted the comment, because I’m guessing it’s one of the spammers and scammers who attack this blog on a daily basis.

But this does raise the interesting question of the meaning of ordination. There is not a universal understanding of what it means to be ordained.

Unitarian Universalists in the United States have our own understandings of what ordination means. Not only that, our understandings may differ from congregation to congregation. And U.S. Unitarian Universalist understandings of ordination differ substantially from Unitarian Universalists in, say, Romania or the Philippines.

That’s just within one religious tradition. Beyond that, Unitarian Universalist understandings of ordination may differ greatly from other religious traditions. For example, Roman Catholics understand ordination as a “sacrament” (honestly, I’m not quite sure what a sacrament is). In another example, some Buddhist groups ordain people into monastic orders, which is a different thing than ordaining someone to be a leader of a congregation consisting mostly of lay people. Then there are all those religious traditions that do not have ordination rituals.

This brings us to the interesting point about ordination. In a multicultural, multi-religious society like the United States today, ordination can only be understood in relation to a specific religious tradition — or even only in relation to a specific local religious community. What you mean by ordination might not be what I mean by ordination. This is not to say that ordination is meaningless. Ordination does have meaning, but only in relation to a specific religious tradition.