Moral Courage in the Lodge Room
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Kentucky with Senior Midnight Freemason contributor, Greg Knott. Greg has a home right off of Lake Barkley. Saturday while trying to decide what to do, I asked Greg if he had ever been to the Patton Museum of Armor at Fort Knox. Greg had not, and after deciding that it wasn't too far away; we took off for that destination. The Patton Museum has been rebranded as the "Patton Museum of Leadership". Upon entering the museum, the visitor sees several screens projecting qualities of leadership. It should come as no surprise that Character was one of the very first screens.
The quote displayed on the screen, by George S. Patton Jr; "Moral Courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men" really struck me. Let me define what Moral Courage is. I know Wikipedia isn't the greatest of sources, but it says that: "Moral Courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. Courage is required to take action when one has doubts or fears about the consequences. Moral courage, therefore, involves deliberation or careful thought".
Another word for deliberation or careful thought is Contemplation. Contemplation works on two levels for me personally:
1. It is the act of thinking profoundly about something.
2. It is the act of having an inner vision into oneself that transcends the intellect, entering a state of mystical awareness of God's being (however you define "God") through various practices like prayer/meditation.
I'm sure I've oversimplified the definition, but as I said, this is my definition of my personal contemplative practices.
This being said, the majority of our society and Fraternity seems to be lacking both Moral Courage and the ability to contemplate on both levels. I am the first to admit that I am among those lacking Moral Courage. Let me explain. I have for far too long seen the polarizing influence of the profane world invade the sacred space that I call my Masonic Lodge(s). I have endured my brethren talking about things that we know to cause disharmony in a lodge (politics and religion) building, in a lodge room, and sometimes during the meeting itself. My personal failing is that I have lacked the Moral Courage to say anything. I have used the personal mantra of the Duties of a Senior Warden as an excuse for my personal cowardice. "Harmony being the strength and support of all institutions, especially ours." I say nothing because I don't want to cause issues with my brethren. I realized in reading the quote from Patton this weekend, that I am wrong.
But what about the idea of whispering wise counsel? Wise counsel works when it's another brother. Wise counsel doesn't work when it's a majority of your lodge members. What needs to be said, is that to paraphrase the song lyrics by Twisted Sister: "I'm not gonna take it anymore". What I need to communicate is that the lodge is where we do contemplative work as defined by both of the above, and that should be our business. If we can't leave the outside world behind when we enter the building, then why are we here? Are we really becoming better men by regurgitating everything that we are hearing in the media or reading on social media to our brethren in a lodge building?
The goal of our lodges should be to practice contemplation. Masonic Education should have the goal of improving either our critical thinking skills (definition 1) or how we view our relationship with the divine (definition 2). Something that is done in some jurisdictions is that at the close of a meeting, the brethren come out on the floor and they form a circle around the altar, which is to illustrate the universality of the memberships of all being on the level in the lodge and the eyes of God, but also to focus the Supreme Blessing upon the brethren. Some jurisdictions have ritual to accompany this. However, something as simple as this is a contemplative practice that can be done prior to closing in those jurisdictions that don't already have it as a moment of unity and silence.
Ultimately, we need to take back the sanctity of our lodges. We need to have the moral courage to fight back against the influences of the profane world. We need to engage in contemplative work so that we can help each other use the tools of Freemasonry in our own lives. The tools that should be allowing us to display moral courage in our own lives. Because if we start showing that we're Freemasons, and living according to the values that we're taught, and displaying moral courage in the profane world, then we can be a force for good. Let's put in the contemplative work to make that happen.
WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.