What is Masonry All About?
A. D. Hanna, Grand Master Grand Lodge of Texas
I recently have received several letters and telephone calls, asking me to "Take a stand" regarding the apparently growing attacks on our fraternity by misguided religious individuals and groups.
In the last issue of the Texas Mason we reproduced a masterful article by Reverend Forrest Haggard, Christian minister and Kansas Past Grand Master, showing how religion and Freemasonry are compatible. Reverend and Brother Haggard has written a number of other articles and has written a book on the subject, "The Clergy and the Craft". In the July "Vanguard Newsletter" to Masonic leaders, I devoted my entire message to the general subject.
I must admit that I am getting pretty tired of the hassle that has been created by these well-meaning but woefully misdirected folks. As Reverend and Brother Haggard sair, "They are an embarrassment to the Church. I have to assume that Satan rubs his hands in glee as their message of hate, exclusineness and divisiveness goes out to the public."
I am an active Christian layman. For years, I have been active in my Methodist Church. I have served on its Board of Trustees, the Finance Commission, on the Stewardship Committee, and have served as President of the Methodist Men.
I don't point this out to brag, but only to point out that, like most of the Masons I know I have "paid my dues" in my chosen faith, and I resent the accusation that I am a member of a Satanic cult, or else that I am too stupid to know the difference.
No, I take that back. I don't just resent the accusation — it almost makes my blood boil!
A few days ago, I received a communication from a long-time Mason in San Antonio. He wrote that he had just had a confrontation with his minister (he happens to be Baptist) over his membeship in Masonry.
The minister had one of those violently anti-Masonic publications and was aking the Mason to prove it to be incorrect.
The Mason was particularly upset at this, because, as he said he told his minister in no uncertain terms, he was not going to be put on the defensive.
The Mason told the minister that he had been a Mason well over fourty years and was deeply proud of it, and if the minister thought so little of his long and faithful service to the Church — and of his good judgement as a lifelong Baptist layman — he would look for another church.
I suspect that neither the battle nor the war is over.
Unfortunatly, this is not a particularly unusual story. And although I agree with my Baptist brother that we should not permit ourselves to be put on the defensive, I have come to the conclusion that each Mason — yes, and each friend of Masonry — Should be prepared to respond in such cases quietly, factually and firmly.
Generally, the charges against Masonry come in two areas: First, these pamphlets and tracts and audio cassettes try to make their case by quoting some of the writers on the mid 1800's, usually Albert Pike.
Albert Pike was a dreamer and a philosopher who wrote thousands and thousands of words, mostly incomrehensible to the average individual.
Pike made statements that, taken out of context, bordered on the blasphemous (particularly if you failed to understand his entire trend of thought) — and certainly were never approved by the general body of Masonry.
To my knowledge, no Grand Lodge in the world ever endorsed Pike's writings.
You cannot hold Albert Pike's writings against todays Masonry any more than you can hold the vile and infamous Inquisitions against the modern Catholic Church. The same thing goes for all of the other independant writers of the same ilk.
Each Grand Lodge is totally independant,a nd it is vital that you understand their position. Individual writers speak for themselves alone.
But the detractors go right on making such absurd statements as, "if Masonry is not Christian, it must be anti-Christian. There can be no middle ground."
But my friends, consider the pledge of allegiance to the flag and the Constitution of these United States. Are they anti-Christian since they mention only God?
The second general charge against our Fraternity is that its practice is anti-Christian.
What bunk! Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are not anti ANY faith. Non-christian, yes. Also non-Jewish, non-Mohammedan, non-Buddhist, non-Republican, non-Democratic. We are a fraternity of good men what make notest of religion or politics. We are merely a God-Fearing, God-loving group of men of many faiths who can sit side by side in respect and consideration for each other.
From our point of view, it is only the bigot — the individual who does NOT respect the right of personal religious choice — who would charge us as being against Christianity.
Admittedly, Freemasonry has generated some of its own problems over the years, largeley because it has refused to debate the issues in the public arena, and has insisted on its right to privacy. However, in more recent years, this attitude is beginning to change, and Grand Lodges have changed the approach from "Freemasonry is good. Let's keep it to ourselves" to "Freemasonry is good. Let's talk about it."
Brother thomas Starkweather, of El Paso, an articulate Masonic writer, said: "It is interesting that the faultfinders of Freemasonry find it expedient to never mention a number of facts concerning the organization they are intent on damning."
"I suppose this is understandable, since to do so would undoubtedly undermine their arguments and even atract new members to the fraternity they profess to despise." Here are some of those facts:
"A listing of the greatest anti-Masons of the world most assuredly can be headed by Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Vidkun Quisling, Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Lenin. One of the first acts of dictators and tyrants has been to outlaw Freemasonry.
"Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternity in the world. It is estimated more than 100 million men have taken the vows of Freemasonry in the past 300 years, including thousands who were members of the clergy — ministers, priests, rabbis, even popes. There are more than six mission active Freemasons in the world today.
"authorities have traced the roots of virtually every fraternity and sorority in this country — from college campus Greeks to the Knights of Columbus — to Freemasonry. They were either founded by Freemasons, pattered after Freemasonry of imitations of groups that had ties to Freemasonsry."
"while no responsible historian would claim Freemasonry founded this nation, it is acknowledged by any historian of credit that Freemasonry played an important role in the creation of the United States. George Washington and many of his generals were Freemasons. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Freemasons. One third of our presidents have been Freemasons."
Reverend and Brother Wayne B. Williamson, in addressing the Conference of Grand Masters of North America in 1987, said: "...Freemasonry has an impossible task in seeking to persuade members of certain Christian denominations, particularly those with strong fundamentalist orientation, that our Ancient Craft is compatible with Christianity."
"It is important for the Christina Freemason to understand that there are those fellow believers...who doo believe in an absolute revealed moral truth. It is their view that any moral system which is not Christian, as they understand Christianity, is ipso facto unChristian and antiChristian."
"Freemasonry, on the other hand, believes that truth, including moral truth, can be conclusive without being exclusive. To the best of my knowledge Freemasonry makes no claim to possess ultimate moral truth. If it did, it could rightly be placed in the category of a religion and be judged as such."
It's true that Freemasons at times have, themselves, brought ridicule upon the Fraternity, particularly when they speak or write before checking their facts. Masons even today occasionally repeat fantastic claims like: all Washington's Generals were Freemasons; all Presidents were Masters of lodges; all memebers of Congress are Masons - and other foolish bunk.
Historians with good intentions and poor perspective have sought the origin of Freemasonry in the religions of the ancient world and in the Crusades — all of this in spite of the plain evidence that modern Freemasonry is a direct descendant only of the operative masons of the Middle Ages.
English Freemasonry's Dr. Oliver, now cherished as a devoted but misguided Mason — and obviously no authority — even traced Freemasonry to the Garden of Eden with Adam as its first Grand Master!
Fortunatly he did not claim Eve to be the first Worthy Matron of the eastern Star! The ladies' organization had not been invented when Oliver wrote — or he might have.
Oh yes, Freemasonry has its faults. How can Freemasonry be perfect when it is made up of men? Is the Church perfect? It, too, is made up of men. But no sensible man decries the Church because a minister may fall from grace, and no sensible man can laugh away Freemasonry because some if its members do not always follow the craft's teachings.
Some people go to church just to show off new cloths — to ensure themselves of the esteem of their neighbors. And some men join Masonic lodges to become leaders of a small group, to wear a sword or fancy costumes, or to strive to win influence for their businesses.
But these men are the exception. Most Masons are men who support a church, love the church and try to follow its teachings.
It is not the fault of the religion when the churchgoer fails. It is not the fault of Freemasonry when the Freemason fails.
It is the fault of men who fail.
Some of the mose bloody battles of hsitory have been fought over the proper name of God. The inquisition tortured thousands in the name of God. Today, over two hundred Protestant sects in this country stand divided upon form, ceremony, relief, ritual, practice and idea.
In the last two hundred years, Freemasonry has offered a lesson to most, if not all, of the religions on the world which are still fighting among themselves. It remained for Freemasonry not only to show but to practice that men of all faiths might kneel about a common alter and each revere his own God, under whatever name he chose, and do so in peace, harmaony, goodwill, fellowship and happiness.
Masonry has always been regarded as one of the most moral institutions that ever existed. And, although it certainly is not a religion, it is definatly based on the teachings of the Holy Bible. It is distinguised for its loyalty and Obedience tot he Laws and Institutions of the country, and it stands for good citizenship and goodwill to all. Masonry manages literally thousands of charitable and philanthrpoic programs and projects for the genral good of mankind.
Alphonse Cerza, one of America's most illustrious Masonic writers, said: "Let out battle cry continue to be: 'By our work ye shall know us'. Our answer to opponents of the Craft is good conduct, good works, and a noble example. Thus we will be fullfilling the fundamental precepts of our Order."
Reverend Lansing Harmon, a Methodist minister who resides in Richmond, Virginia, has written much excellent material with reguard to his love of Masonry. He said: "It is the great Fraternity of Brothers af many races, many creeds, and many climes that has found something that unites mankind into a common bond on which may rest the very survival of the human race on our planet."
"Languages and dogmas are not, and do not have to be, barriers to brotherhood. Sad to say, the narrow sectarianism and pios orthodoxy of religion has many times been in the forfront of those who would discredit Freemasonry. The voices of priests and clergymen have been raised in violent opposition to Freemasonry but those same voices have been silent in the prenence of tyrants and the oppression of the poor."
Reverend and Brother Thomas E. Weir of Maryland, writing in the Summer 1989 issue of "Royal Arch Mason" magazine, said: "As an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, amny of whose bishops, ministers and otehr leaders are and have been members of the Craft, I feel that Freemasonry and Christianity are not only compatible, but that Freemasonry provides a practicle means of putting into effect many of the great teachings of the Christian faith. I hope that Jewish and Muslim Brothers and those of other faiths feel the same about their religious and Masonic obligations and practices."
The great Rudyard Kipling wrote volumes dedicated to the Craft he loved. He wrote that the work of Freemasonry nobly teaches the worth of those old fashioned virtues of man which we hope will never go out of fashion — to do one's duty, to live cleanly, to live cheerfully.
In his autobiography, he wrote: "In 1885 I was made a Freemason by dispensation in Lodge Hope and Perseverence, No. 782, English Constitution. Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jewish Tyler who was a priest (rabbi) to his community in the city."
Yes, Masonry is universal. Thank God for universality. I am deeply proud and grateful that there is in this world at least one organization in which men of all faiths, of all political persuassions can sit side by side, enjoying simple fellowship with each other, confident in the knowledge that they will not be criticised or rebuked for being anti-anything.
How else would diverse personalities such as Dr. Norman Vincent Peal, Reverend Forrest Haggard, Preident Gerald Ford, John Wayne, Senator Alan Simpson, Cabinet Member Jack Kemp, Astronauts Vigil Grissom and Buzz Aldrin, Rabbi Robert Kahn, Methodist Bishop Fred Corson, Rev, Dr. Luther G. Baker, Florida's 1989 Grand Chaplain — I could go on and on — ever become, or even more important, REMAIN Freemasons?
There is one message I would give to each Texas Mason — to every member of the Fraternity, Masonry is GOOD! Let's talk about it!
To every Mason — to every of our families and to our friends - we want you to talk about this gentle Fraternity, what it stands for, what its contributions are to the world.
I would also say only this to our detractors: Perhaps ypu should spend more time praying for your own salvation and be less concerned with destroying those who would impove themselves for the good of mankind. It's impossible for me to believe that yours is the way of the Lord!