These are words from the title, in many cases, we either don’t take note of or “tune out” when we hear them or some variation thereof, recited during the closing of every Symbolic Lodge regardless of jurisdiction.
I think we all have a good idea of what moral virtue is. Social virtue? Perhaps not so much. The definition of social virtue addresses the need for us to respect the rights and freedoms of others, establish peace and harmony (anyone recognize “harmony” from our ritual?).
These original words, coined by Bro. Francis Bellamy, when he wrote our Pledge of Allegiance and amended after his death by adding “under God,”--“One nation, under God, indivisible...” should most certainly give us pause as we look with wide eyes at our Nation and the world today. Social unrest, pandemic, and natural disasters the likes of which we have never seen in one short period of time. The world remains on edge as COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head, and we, domestically, seem to be literally fighting for our lives to get ahead of it.
Political polarization has gripped our Nation with a firmer hand than in many generations. Discussions among our Brethren often deteriorate to the point of anger or hurt feelings. During the Civil War era, there are many references of Freemasons confronted with a Brother against Brother scenario, often ending well. One such act of kindness was documented during the First Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861. Union Col. W. H. Raynor was critically wounded and suffered many indignities at the hands of his Confederate captors. Near-death, he was rescued by Confederate soldier J. H. Lemon, given ice for his head wound and offered money. As Col. Raynor thanked his captor for his kindness, Lemon addressed the Masonic pin on the Colonel’s shirt, saying, “I can only hope to get the same treatment from your men if I ever fall into their hands. If you relieve the distresses of a suffering Brother Mason when in your power, I shall be well paid.” History is full of renditions such as this. We would be well rewarded if we were to mimic these acts of kindness in our current times.
Politics is a long-established taboo topic in our lodge rooms. Nothing is a surer bet to pit one against another as the mention of opposing political views. It is said that Freemasons are a fraternity of “gentlemen.” Our Pledge says we must be indivisible, unable to be divided or separated.
Why then are we now seeing Brother pitted against Brother as in a war? Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are awash with divisiveness. And no, I don’t reference random folks. I reference Brother Masons, who have become so entwined in the politics and turmoil of the day that they openly chastise, belittle, and confront each other. Brother against Brother. While Freemasonry has been physically shut down for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have struggled to remain centered as Masons. Sure, we have Zoom, Houseparty, etc. where we can meet virtually. This is certainly helping. We must, however, remember that the refuge of social media is not a sanctuary of anonymity.
Words written on social media carry the same barbs as those spoken in person, perhaps even more so. When things digress to the point that our leaders must issue us guidance on what is and what is not acceptable on social media and remind us of who were are as Masons, then I fear we must look in our mirrors and re-boot our thoughts and how we portray them. In no way am I talking of controlling what we do in our personal lives but am suggesting that we temper what we say and do with respect to our Brothers. We, as Masons, must remember that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and must be leaders amongst ourselves and in our communities. As many say, “Masonry never stops.” Let’s keep that in mind.
I recently heard matter-of-factly about a Brother of 4 years taking a demit from a Concordant body. No explanation. No inquiries as to why. No one knew. Knowing this Brother as active, a good ritualist, a dedicated member of the Fraternity and community, I decided to call him and find out if all was well and what might be troubling him. After some chatting, the truth was revealed. The Brother was offended by things being written on social media and spoken in person in assorted venues. Inflammatory and incendiary language as it relates to our current political situation is not what he is about as a man and as a Mason.
He felt it was in his best interest to distance himself. We are on the verge of losing a good Mason. Indivisible? All I could do was to apologize for the words of others and offer my support.
My Brothers, we must be aware of who we are as Masons and respectful of our Brothers who may not share the same politics as we do.
The election approaches. Now is the time for us to heal. May Brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us.
Be safe, my Brothers.
RW Bro. Lort is a Past Master of Alexandria Lodge #297 in Alexandria Bay, NY, and a dual member of Gasport Lodge #787 in WNY. He is also a member of the NYS Grand Lodge Committee on Charters, Committee on Law Enforcement, as well as others. He is a 32°member of the A.A.S.R Valley of Syracuse, current High Priest of Sackets Harbor Chapter #68, RAM, & a member of the Divan of Media Shrine, in Watertown, NY. RW Bro. Lort is a past DDGM of the Jefferson-Lewis District, Grand Lodge of NY, and currently is a Grand Lodge Regional Asst. Grand Lecturer. He is a retired Law Enforcement officer and enjoys many outdoor activities. He attributes his successes in Freemasonry to his early days in DeMolay in Western NY.