Guest post by Eleanor Adams. Eleanor is a freelance writer, reluctant yogi, part-time van dweller, and much funnier in real life. Find her on her website, eleanorad.com.
Late last year, at the breaking point of my faith journey, I decided it was high time I got ordained.
It was past high time really, considering how every boy I knew had already done it at 12 years old. A girl like me, on the other hand? I was nearly 27 years old. I wasn’t ordained and had no prospects of ordination. My faith crisis was already a spiritual burden to my parents. And I was frightened.
Of course, as a woman, I could never be ordained in my first choice of religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Therefore, I did what any of us scrappy, Charlotte Lucas-types would do—I went with the next best available option. Or at least, the next easiest option.
So don’t you judge me, reader. Don’t you dare judge me.
The Latter-Day Dude
I’m proud(ish) to say that on October 26, 2021, I was officially ordained as a Priest in The Church of the Latter-Day Dude.
If, for some odd reason, you’ve never heard of it before, The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, which I will heretofore refer to as Dudeism (because adopting a colloquial nickname for a complicated moniker is actually a good idea) distinguishes itself as “the slowest-growing religion in the world.”
Derived from the Coen brother’s 1998 film, “The Big Lebowski,” Dudeism aims to embody the lifestyle of the eponymous character Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski. Core tenets include preaching non-preachiness, practicing as little as possible, and just taking it easy, man.
If I had to translate it into “real” theologic vernacular for the inquiring academic minds that want to know, Dudeism is a blend of Chinese Taoism and Epicureanism. Christians have Christ, Buddhists have the Buddha, and Dudeists have The Dude. Yes, for real.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet (it is rated R, after all), picture The Dude as your “cool” uncle who smokes a lot of weed, doesn’t have a real job, and couldn’t care less about what people think about him. He’s a deadbeat, but also a really nice guy.
The Dude Hath No Pavilion
My journey to Dudeism came after yet another anguished night of asking where the flip the big-ass pavilion was that hid God’s regard for women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Which I will heretofore refer to as CoJCoLDS, despite that acronym somehow triggering my trypophobia in addition to sounding very much like the part in Lord of the Rings when Sauron speaks the language of Mordor. You’re welcome, Russ.)
It’s a feeling I’d bet most women on a faith journey identify with: Where is my place here, awesome uterus and reproductive capabilities aside?
After all, if every single LDS woman died this instant, the CoJCoLDS wouldn’t need to change at all. Every *structural* place a woman holds, after you also remove all other women from the equation, can be taken up by a man. The foundation the Church organization is built on is undeniably a male one.
It really hit me then: No matter what I did, because of my sex, I would never be able to preside, bless, officiate, or contribute to how the Church was run or operated. Well, at least not officially. The message the Church structure embodied was loud and clear: Ladies, you aren’t needed here in any tangible, sanctioned way.
It was also around this time that I watched “The Big Lebowski” for the first time. I found Dudeism after a habitual Wikipedia deep dive on the film revealed the religion’s founding and mission. I discovered anyone—and I mean, anyone!—could be ordained as a Dudeist Priest. Right now. Today, even.
Could it really be so simple, I marveled? A quick Google search later, I was on https://dudeism.com/ordination-form/. The only requirement for ordination there? Your name, birthday, and checking a box next to a statement that reads: “I vow to uphold the principles of Dudeism: To just take it easy, to be dude (easygoing) to everyone I meet, and to keep my mind limber.”
Yep. That was truly it. I immediately knew I had to do it.
Then I paused. Would checking that little box and giving a random website my email address constitute apostasy? Couldn’t I technically be excommunicated for “joining” another religion? Was I trading my metaphorical CoJCoLDS birthright for a PDF version of metaphorical, Dude-ordination soup?!
Yet, I wanted this, I realized. I wanted to be ordained. Some part of me even needed to be ordained. Yes, partly as a joke for the delicious irony of it all. But also because I needed to feel integral to something in an official way, even if that something was a religion founded on doing nothing.
Two minutes later, I had my certificate of ordination and was proudly boasting to my husband and family how I was now a Priest. A Dudeist Priest, but a Priest nonetheless. Look out, world! I’m coming to officiate your wedding and I’ve already got a lot of bad jokes lined up.
Lighthearted Is Still Light
Turns out, making light of a question that had plagued me for years gave me more light—and laughs—than I had known in a long time. No, it didn’t heal the wound that faith deconstruction left in its wake. But it did light a spark of hope—a light at the end of the tunnel, if only a pinprick.
One day, I’d remember when I believed that getting ordained as a Dudeist Priest was my best option. One day, I’d be able to look back on this time in my life and laugh. One day, I’d have something real to be a part of in tangible, meaningful ways. And it may not be where I had initially hoped, but it would bring me joy. And maybe even a laugh or two.
After all, lighthearted is still light.
This post is part of the series, Reconstructing Faith. Find more from this series here.