This is a very long letter--a response to criticism of Freemasonry written by a new Master Mason (raised April 2010). It's long, but I think it's well worth the read. The original was posted at You Are the 1%. If you go to the original article, there are a number of links at the bottom that are well worth check out as well. It was well researched--in fact, as you're reading it, ask yourself how many Master Masons you know have learned as much about our fraternity as this new member has.
I’m so glad you approached me about the Masons yesterday. I’d love to be a resource to clarify any questions you may have. While I’m relatively new to the fraternity (joined in April of 2010), I am continuously reading Masonic literature on the history, philosophy, and application of Masonic principles.
The following is a lengthy discourse I’ve spent several hours working on to give you a sense of what and who Freemasons are.
Masonry spans many different subjects, histories, and concentrations, so your first resource would best be Wikipedia. From there you can get a basic understanding of what Freemasonry is and branch out to the more interesting facets.
In a nutshell, Freemasonry is a system of morality (a code of ethics), veiled in allegory (expressed in a way that can be interpreted subjectively by the recipient), and illustrated through symbols (taught in a way that hearkens back to the time when most people were illiterate and learned from masters drawing in the dirt on the floor to teach an apprentice). It is the oldest and largest fraternity in the world and exists in every corner of the free world and underground in countries where such organizations are illegal (Iran, North Korea).
In it’s present state, the ritual of the Freemasons comes from northern England in the early 1700s where it was crafted by pious men of God (read: “Christians”) who applied the operative symbolism of the stone worker trade guilds to a speculative philosophical art. It went from medieval European cathedral builders to builders of “good men” on a foundation of service to God. Using the symbols of stone masons and the allegory of the building of King Solomon’s temple, we impart deep and virtuous teachings on our members.
Where most people are turned askew are the “secrets” of Freemasonry, which are the modes and manner of recognition (handshakes and passwords whereby two Masons may recognize each other in the darkness as well as in the light). Freemasonry is not a “secret society”, but more appropriately a “society with secrets”. As I explained, these secrets (the handshakes, passwords, and ritual) can all be found on Google in under 5 minutes and have been exposed in published writings back in the 1780s.
There is also no “Masonic conspiracy” as perpetuated through Dan Brown and films like National Treasure. The idea that Freemasons are power brokers of the world stems from the fact that in early Masonic history, the men that associated fraternally in the taverns were the mayors, doctors, lawyers, clergy and merchants. The image of the wealthy and powerful meeting together was intimidating. But what conspiracy theorists never tell you is that the farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths and bakers were also in the Lodge room and had equal standing regardless of position in life outside the Lodge room.
Masons meet on a plane of equality that disregards race, creed, color, sexual orientation, political views, material wealth and any other dividing bias. In fact, the reason why Masons dress in formalwear when we meet is to make a visual display of that equality, that regardless of whether you just got off the job from the bank or the bakery, we are all equal in the Lodge. I regularly meet with men through the fraternity who would be inaccessible to me if I didn’t have a Masonic introduction.
The idea of spiritually aware, good-natured, God-fearing men meeting under the precept of brotherhood still attracts new members to join a massive network of men who prescribe to the same moral values as another Brother. It truly is a brotherhood. There are men who I’ve met who would drive 100 miles to help if I broke down on the side of the highway. Men who would give with all their ability if I were in financial trouble. Masons who would visit me daily in the hospital. And still there are a handful who would lay down their life for me if the situation arose. And more importantly, I do and would do the same for them. When I find someone to be a Mason, I know that his moral compass far exceeds my expectations of the non-Mason and that he is bound by certain oaths to serve God and his fellow man in a manner of service and dedication found in no other organization. I can go just about anywhere in the world and know that if I need help, or a place to stay, or a warm meal, I can find it.
Masonry is also very independent. There is no national or international governing body. In the US, each Masonic lodge is chartered by the state’s Grand Lodge. It receives a warrant to meet as a regularly recognised body of Freemasons and enjoys parity and reciprocal recognition with lodges around the state, in other countries, throughout the world. The word “lodge” in Masonry means three or more Masons assembled in one place under the authority of God. It refers to the people as well as the place, just as “church” means two or more believers assembled in the name of God and also refers to the place in which they meet.
While there is a statewide governing body, each individual lodge is free to operate the business of the lodge; it’s agenda, it’s events and activities, it’s buildings and grounds, as it sees fit, as determined by a democratic majority of its members. Each Lodge owns and operates its own facilities. While there are national and international conferences of Masonic bodies, they neither have the objective or authority to legislate on the behalf or to affect the local lodge. There is no Masonic, new world order, conspiracy. We have hard enough of a time planning a picnic let alone plotting world domination. Is it really that hard to believe that our God who created the infinite universe could gather a few million Masons under the banner of brotherly love?
In every Masonic lodge, there is an altar on which a Volume of Sacred Law is opened during meetings. It is symbolic of the Light of God that comes through His unerring word and that the Lodge is governed under His divine Truth. In most lodges, the Volume is the Holy Bible. But it may also be the Tanakh, the Koran, even the Book of Shadows for a Wiccan, in an extreme example. Whatever the belief of the congregant Masons, their holy book is represented as a source of Light (read:”knowledge”) on the altar. For example, at Acacia Lodge #20 in Dover, the Bible, Tanakh and Koran are always present on the altar because of its religiously diverse membership.
So in reality, there is nothing secretive about the Masons today. It’s actually less secretive than the Roman Catholic fraternity and civic organization, the Knights of Columbus. Where as the Knights must invite you to become a member, the Masons follow a “2B1Ask1” model where someone interested in joining must ask to petition the Lodge for membership. Not the other way around. We also are expressly forbidden from actively soliciting membership, which is why some think we’re so secretive.
To become a Mason, one must be a man (whatever your driver’s license says), over the age of 21, who doesn’t have a criminal record, is of sound mind, and believing in a Supreme Being. The Masons don’t mandate what that Supreme Being is called, and uses the umbrella term “Grand Architect of the Universe” and is referred to as ‘God’ or ‘Deity’ in our meetings and represented by the letter “G” in our square and compass symbol.
This is where Randy got caught up with me and I have heard the same argument from another, more conservative evangelical Christian on my mission trip to El Salvador. Masonry is not a religion, or a substitute for religion. We don’t teach a path and we don’t offer salvation. We don’t tell people what to believe or where to seek God. We encourage Masons to be active in their local church or synagogue, but the imperative concept is that seeking the face of God is a personal journey, and not one that the Masons will dictate or enforce under a certain sect or brand of faith. We do teach tolerance for all faiths, the right to the freedom of religious belief, or non-belief, regardless of whether we agree or not with those beliefs, and defend that right of freedom for all people. But no atheist can be a Mason.
I’m relatively new to the evangelical contemporary Christian movement, but in my upbringing as a Catholic, evangelizing; converting heathens and non-believers, is not natural or encouraged, per say, save Catholic Charities missions. Going out and being the hands and feet of ministry was something that was talked about as a concept, but never practiced, at least in my church. Masonically, it is improper to impose or convert people from their own belief or non-belief. We endorse seeking God through whatever path makes sense in the time and place for an individual. For example, Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God works for me, right here, right now, but it might not be the case if I lived in China or India 3000 years ago. Masons concede that our human minds are too limited to know all the ways in which God works and are open to the idea that He may work through other prophets and paths to Him.
A study of world religions reveals that for the most part, they all share many commonalities and even similar teachings and parables. Christianity remains to be the only one that teaches salvation through grace and the God who became flesh to become a blood sacrifice for our sins eternally. But simply because I believe that doesn’t negate or vilify the other belief systems in the world. I’m not going to use the idea of Jesus to place myself on a pedestal above Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Deists, and Atheists. But if someone comes to me asking for a path to the Light I would share with them the message of love and forgiveness of the Gospel.
One facet of the Masonic lodge (the group of men meeting) is that any discussion of politics, religion, and personal gain are prohibited to keep the peace and harmony of the Lodge. Our meetings consist of a benediction, the Pledge of Allegiance (to the US flag), a review of sickness and distress amongst the members, paying the bills, new and old business, a closing prayer and God Bless America is sung.
Our other activities include initiating new members, which is like a college fraternity initiation, except there is nothing contained within it that will humiliate, harm or embarrass members. No alcohol, no paddles, no goats. Very benign. Very symbolic. Very powerful presentation. It’s nearly word-for-word unchanged for over 200 years. The same cornerstone laying ceremony we conduct publicly today is the same ritual George Washington used when laying the cornerstone of the Capitol Building or when Masons layed the cornerstone of the Statue of Liberty (which was a statue designed by a French Mason and donated by French Freemasons to the people of America. It was American Freemasons who funded the construction of the Statue when it arrived here. And ironically, the statue is not just Lady Liberty, but a torch bearer, the bringer of Light to a new world of darkness. A very Masonic theme.) Further, the flag of our country was made by Betsy Ross, whose husband was a member in the same Lodge as George Washington, who commissioned the work. There are many other similar Masonic connections with the history of our nation. Incidentally, the initiation ritual for many college fraternities are directly taken from Masonic ritual.
We also are very active in the civic affairs of our community. We do a ton of volunteer work. Worldwide, Freemasons donate over $2 million a day to various charities. My Lodge in Madison does 2 blood drives every month, has 3 scholarships for local high schoolers, and has an “Angel Fund” where we partner with local schools and social services to anonymously cover any requested donation. For example, a child in Madison elementary school needs eyeglasses but the parents can’t afford them. The nurse tells the principal, the principal contacts us, and our Angel Fund committee dispatches services free of charge. The child can go to a doctor or pharmacy and we will already have arranged ahead of time to pay in full. In Boston, their Angel Fund is so large that they literally have warehouses of shoes, coats and clothing for children in need that are distributed across the state. All requests are processed and fulfilled in about 3 days. The recipient never knows who provided the services. And we like it that way. We don’t like to take credit for God’s work.
A recent example of this at work was last year when a house fire destroyed a home in Madison, killing the single mother of two children. Our Lodge was contacted to help and we fully funded the cost of school lunch for the kids. They don’t know who took care of it or why, but they know that someone cares. That God cares.
You may have heard of the Shriner’s hospital for burned or crippled children. The Shriner’s are an appendant order of Masonry, meaning you must be a Master Mason to join. We provide free medical care at these hospitals. Another branch of Freemasonry that I belong to called the Scottish Rite (which actually has its origins in France) runs children’s dyslexia centers around the country which offer free tutoring in a method of reading for people with learning disabilities. These free services, hospital treatments, and scholarships are available to anyone who needs help, not just Masons, their family or friends.
In New Jersey, the Masons also donate time each Sunday at the VA hospitals to bring the veterans to Sunday services in the chapel. We believe it’s an important duty to so serve those who gave of themselves for the freedoms we so freely enjoy. Every year we also host a Wheelchair Track & Field Meet, which is like a Special Olympics for disabled children.
So, in addition to the esoteric philosophical teachings of the Masons, we live out a tangible expression of our service to God and our fellow man. Very much like how Liquid Church brings church to the people through its engaging outreach ministry. In the sense of a civic organization, the Masons are comparable to Kiwanis, Lions Club, or Rotary. And in matters of God, the Masons are like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, which are devoted to God, but don’t say what God to which they are so devoted.
On that note, to answer the root question; no, we don’t teach that Jesus is the only way to God. In fact we don’t tell Masons at all how to come to know God. We do teach that by humbling yourself to others, studying the science, art and mystery of our created world, and realizing the ultimate fate of our physical body and the resurrection of the eternal soul to a oneness with God, a Mason can work toward perfection and unity with the Creator.
Sidebar: common phrases like “level with me”, “give me a square deal”, “rap of the gavel” or “he gave me the third degree” are Masonic in origin.
I reached out to my friends on Facebook for some good articles and scholarly papers on the subject of Freemasonry and religion, specifically Christianity, and it was actually another member of the Morristown Campus Staff that pointed me to a website called MasonicWorld.com which houses 600+ articles, a glossary of Masonic terms, graphics, and short talk bulletins on every subject imaginable concerning Masonry.
I’ve selected a handful of articles and papers that answer some of the questions you posed to me and I hope that the candor and at times, pedigree of the author, provides a more complete picture of how Freemasonry not only is compatible with Christianity, but draws people closer to our God.
You asked me “If Christianity is complete on its own, why do you need Freemasonry at all?”. And the answer is, you don’t. You don’t need Freemasonry to worship God. But for our organization, you need to worship God to be a Mason. Freemasonry is religious in nature, but not a religion. It complements, meaning that it enhances the experience of a believer in God, the life of a follower of God, but doesn’t conflict or interfere with his duty to God, his country, or his fellow man.
The values of a Freemason- Faith, Hope, and Charity; are complemented by core tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Universal values that encompass and strengthen a Brother, or any person, for that matter. As your staff member Janet can attest, as a member of the Order of the Eastern Star (like a Masonic ladies auxillery), Masonic values are universally applicable to all faiths and philosophies, most notably those that preach a message of love and compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters, especially the widows and orphans.
Because of this, you will find about 80% of Masons are Christian, with the rest following other faiths. Our ritual has its beginnings in Christian England and much of our ritual draws directly from Scripture (KJV with the thees, thous, and thys). And while the Catholic Church is officially opposed to Freemasons, believing our ability to organize a threat to their establishment, we accept Catholic Brothers with open arms.
The Masons carry a weird mythos and misunderstanding and if there are any questions I can answer that can clarify any of those points, I would be more than happy to do so. The more transparent Masons are and upfront with information about what we’re about, the less suspicious and critical the public can be. There are enough movies and History Channel documentaries to cause confusion. I’d love to provide insight.
Scanning through the list of Masons below, you may be surprised by who is or was a Freemason. From all times, places, professions; Masonry persists. I also invite you to visit my Lodge in Madison or the lodge in Morristown to meet with other local Masons and learn about what we do. I also have a friend who is an evangelical minister as well as a Mason and would gladly share his experience. There is a lot of misinformation out there. And if I can help dispel rumor, I will do so honestly, respectfully, informatively and pleasurably.
To conclude, it has been my experience that you will find no more humble a person, someone as selfless, serving, loving, and accepting than a Brother Mason, a Sister of the Eastern Star, or a child of DeMolay or Rainbow Girls/Job’s Daughters(Masonic youth groups). These people are truly the salt of the earth and I encourage you to embrace and learn from them rather than fear and reject them. You would be surprised how many Masons are in our Church, let alone our community, in the grocery store, pumping your gas, fixing your toilet, cleaning your gutters, filing your taxes, preparing your coffee or editing your morning paper.
Sincere regards and Happy Monday.
Your Brother in Christ,
Chase William Kruppo