Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Grand Lodge of Georgia violates own rules by promoting sectarian Christianity

I've been accused more than once here of being overly anti-Christian. And a few days ago, in the comments section here, someone remarked that I was being too tough on "title-seeking, gold chain-wearing" Grand Lodge officers who aren't really promoting the arts, parts and points of Freemasonry so much as simply making a name for themselves among Georgia Masons.

I've written many times on the issue of mixing sectarian religion — usually a fundamentalist Christian sectarian viewpoint — with Freemasonry. Masonic tradition, Masonic etiquette, and Masonic Code forbid the discussion of sectarian religious topics within Freemasonry.

But that hasn't stopped many, many Georgia (and elsewhere, I'm sure) lodges from appointing chaplains who are fundamentalist Christian ministers, or fundamentalist Christian church members. These men defend their open defiance of Masonic Law with phrases like "...but that's just the way I pray."

If you're not familiar with what happened when I pointed out this violation of Masonic Code to my own lodge brothers, read Small Town Freemasonry — Part 1: A Bucket of Rattlesnakes.

A chaplain is an appointed officer of a lodge. His job is to lead the Brethren in opening the lodge with a prayer — one prescribed in the Masonic Manual — to the Grand Architect of the Universe. Chapter 4-6 of the Masonic Code gives the Grand Chaplain's duties to be to attend the Grand Lodge annual communication and perform "the customary religious services" there," and to prepare "all memorials." It's unclear what "religious services" are referred to — Wardens have no vote at Grand Lodge in Georgia, so I've never attended.

The prescribed prayer was intended to be as much a part of ritual as any other recited or acted-out ritual done in the opening and closing of a lodge. But somewhere along the line, a preacher uttered his own words as a prayer instead of the ritual prayer, and the practice spread like wildfire.

But that doesn't make it right. As the Masonic Book of Etiquette for Georgia says (pages 49 and 50):
Freemasonry is a fraternity. It is not a religion. Its members are presumed to be religious and it operates on the highest and best moral principles taught by all the great religions. But direct or even indirect reference to one's religious preference in a prayer, though inadvertently often done, or the display of a particular religious flag in the confines of a Masonic Lodge, are breaches of good manners and the spirit of Freemasonry, if not of the law itself.

It would be immaterial if all present at the Lodge meeting were all of the same religion and sect, yet this would seem rare and unlikely.... These things are pointed out that we may avoid the violation, in spirit as well as in fact, of one of the most important tenets of Freemasonry.... Our practice seems to show that we are fully aware of the injunction with reference to politics; many do not appreciate fully how our inadvertences in prayer strike some other of our brethren....

For Masons in Lodge to indulge in or practice any form of religious sectarianism is to risk the destruction of the Craft as surely as would be the rule against the discussion of partisan politics in Lodge or participation in partisan politics by the Lodge itself.
To further make my larger point, that the Grand Lodge serves no useful purpose and in fact promotes violation of its own Masonic Laws, I direct you no further than page seven of the current (August 2006) issue of the Grand Lodge of Georgia's official magazine, Masonic Messenger.

W. Bro. Reuben W. Hattaway is currently the Grand Lodge of Georgia's chaplain, an appointed position. As such, he is in a position of representing the spiritual side of Freemasonry, and, if he has a duty at all, it is to serve the spiritual needs of all Georgia Freemasons. It is not his job to promote his own personal, sectarian religion.

In the U.S., the Bible is the most common Book of Sacred Law upon the Holy Altar in a Blue Lodge. It is given us "as the rule and guide," a symbolic reference to the universal laws given within. In some parts of the U.S., and in other countries, other Books of the Sacred Law may be found on the Holy Altar. In the U.S., certain verses from the Bible, by tradition, are used in various ritual work during circumperambulation of the Lodge.

The Bible's use and presence in a Lodge does not mean that a sectarian form of Christianity should be promoted, espoused, or endorsed in a Masonic activity or by a Masonic Lodge. The Grand Lodge is a Masonic Lodge, and its officers are bound by the same rules and traditions as other Masons. "All Masons are on the level."

W. Bro. Hattaway abuses his bully pulpit — his column in the Masonic Messenger — with his August article, which as its title quotes a Bible verse: "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord (Exodus 14:13)." The paid-for-with-dues Masonic Messenger should not be used to print Christian sermons.

I found it particularly ironic (and weird) that his article, promoting his sectarian Christian views, is apparently written to defend Freemasonry against the anti-Masonic fundamentalist Christians who say Masons are Satan-worshipping, New World Order conspiracists.
We all are God's Creation, and there is no power on earth which has a good reason to negatively judge us about our relationship with Freemasonry except God Himself. The Bible tells us that "God is Judge Himself" (Psalm 50:6). And, it also tells us "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). What would the situation be today if Freemasonry had never been born? Who then, would be the vitcim to be criticized instead of Freemasonry? The answer to the first question is very simple. Every Freemason has the answer and would tell you that there would be many unfortunate men, women and children today if Freemasonry had never been a part of their lives. Freemasonry has given hope to those how have been a part of it and to those that are less fortunate than we are.

It is sad, but here are enemies all around us, lurking in the darkness to devour us like an animal would, but we have to listen to what the Bible tells us: "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord (Exodus 14:13). [sic] These words are God's command to us when we face difficulties. We cannot retreat; we cannot go forward. What are we to do? Listen to the Master's Word, "Stand Still!" If we believe in the existence of a "Supreme Being" as we once confessed, then we can put on a cheerful courage, and in the worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness. We in Freemasonry can follow the course if we are children of God, because His divine command has bid us to "go from strength to strength" (Psalm 74:7), and we will, and neither death nor hell will turn us away from our course.

Why would anyone, whether it is the religionist, the ignorant, the uneducated, or whomever, speak evil of the greatest, largest, and oldest fraternity in the world? We never criticize or bother anyone. We only try to help those that are in need of help. So, the answer to the question, and I will be kind, it can only be those who have a lack of knowledge of the light that Freemasonry has to offer.

In the meantime, let all who read this article, love God, be obedient to His will and we will see that He is the VICTOR. We should never talk about ourselves getting the victory; we should belong so completely to the VICTOR that the victory always belongs to Him. "We are more than conquerers through Him (Roman [sic] 8:37).

"Stand still!" Keep the posture of an upright person, ready for action so you can hear the same voice that told Moses to say to the people of Israel," Go Forward!" (Exodus 14:15).

May the Lord help us to live to His praise!

If it is not to late, do you approve?

— Reuben Hattaway, Grand Chaplain
The sentiments in his sermon are not Masonic; in fact, it could be argued that they are anti-Masonic, in that he urges men to meekly wait around for a message from God, instead of actively seeking that which was lost.

I'm not here to argue his scriptural logic or non-logic, though. I'm simply saying that he should have kept it to himself, and not pushed his sectarian Christian views onto the many Christian and non-Christian Georgia Masons who became Masons under the belief that Freemasonry offered more than a cheezy sermonette they can hear in any roadside Baptist church in the state on Sunday. Surely there is more to Freemasonry than rehashed Baptist sermons and platitudes.

Does this bother me? Hell, yes, it bothers me. I was pushed out of my lodge nearly a year ago in part because of my outspoken belief that promoting fundamentist Christianity in the Lodge was wrong. I was basically told to go away if I didn't like it, because "that's how we do things."

I didn't go into their churches and tell them not to practice their religion; I went into a Masonic Temple, and expected them to practice Masonry. Telling Sunday School stories in Lodge is not Freemasonry.

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18 comments:

  1. Great post! I hear you and agree with your stance, that is one of the reasons I left my lodge and ultimately the GL of AL, the other being on the basis of my ethical stance against racists. I was witnessed to like a pagan fresh out of the woods, in the lodge building no-less. That type of polarization and intolerance should never be found in a lodge or GL.

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  2. Antients no longer know how to seperate religion from their Masonry.

    *ahem*

    I've said this before: I understand that you're frustrated by your experiences. It's a sad situation, and you have my complete sympathy.

    But remember that your experience of Freemasonry is not universal in that respect. Please don't tar the rest of us with the same brush.

    The Tao of Masonry

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  3. Bro. Tom,

    Can you ask your Grand Lodge to put some fraternal pressure on the Holy Rollers down here at the GL of GA to get back to Masonry?

    You more enlightened northern brethren could be of great help in dragging the southern Grand Lodges into the 21st Century on matters of religion and race.


    — W.S.

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  4. Bro. Tom,

    Would an official Masonic magazine in your state ever print something like W. Bro. Hattaway's article?


    — W.S.

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  5. So when are you going to drop your lodge membership?

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  6. Nice post.
    When I recieved the templar degree, I wondered myself about the oath I signed. I felt it leaned toward christianity and bothered me a bit. This is from a catholic.
    I've been to other lodges where the opening prayer has had a christian tint to it, some of my brothers looked astonished, and as I claimed, we do it our way, they do it theirs. As long as no one complains, no harm no foul, i guess.
    As one who believes in a god, and having an understanding of how the three major religions really got a foothold on society, I am rather disturbed as an individual when it is present in Lodge. But to keep harmony with the majority on this one, I would keep quiet and just move on, look at the middle east to see what happens when one tries to get between man and his religion. And masonry is no different, as the other stated before, racism is no different religion, there is o place for that in ANY form of a masonic group.

    If you wave the flag of masonry over your group, "THE POWERS TO BE" should stomp you out if you bring either into any lodge!
    The one sacred place on this god forsaken planet where we(mankind) should be level/equal.

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  7. My local anonymous visitor asked "So when are you going to drop your lodge membership?"

    Who wants to know? Why should I drop my lodge membership? Can I not effect more change within than without? It is not I who is wrong, but they.

    Should one jump overboard and leave rats to capsize a ship, or should he try to rid the vessel of its vermin and guide the ship back onto its true course?


    — W.S.

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  8. Would an official Masonic magazine in your state ever print something like W. Bro. Hattaway's article?

    I can answer with some authority that, no, it would not happen. I happen to know both the previous and he current GCs, and both are what you would call "stand-up guys", and very understanding of the wide range of religious and spiritual faiths represented in the Craft.

    Understand, though, that Conn is a fairly small state, but also very diverse. We have several lodges in the state that some brothers refer to as "the jewish lodge" - often by their own members. That said, I've also seen chaplains and older PMs recite a quick prayer that's obviously Christian, but I've never seen anyone get upset or insulted; you can tell that it was done in a moment of comfort and relaxation and not our of a desire to convert the pagans.

    A few years ago, someone in another lodge in my district and I became friends - all the better when we discovered that we each held the smae positions in our respective lodges. We affiliated with each other's lodge. He's Jewish and belongs to one of those "Jewish" lodges, which merged with another lodge. They have Xmas parties and Seders. It's all good. And I think that they would be puzzled by what you're describing down South.

    The Tao of Masonry

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  9. //Masonry got your T-Square a little askew?

    //Disheartened by your Lodge as you dutifully face East while your brothers falsely face West?

    //Tired of always being led with a rope around your neck?

    Wear aprons no more! Become a Discordian! Hail Eris!

    Eris ever spreads her arms wide to lovingly devour new souls into salvation from pre-conceived order and dogma.

    A new life awaits you in the Off-World colonies.

    THE ONLY "FAITH" THAT PROMISES ACTION - THRILLS - SUCCESS IN SEX AND BUSINESS! THE PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA --or, How I Found the Goddess and What I Did To Her When I Found Her THE MAGNUM OPIATE OF MALACLYPSE THE YOUNGER Wherein Is Explained Absolutely Everything Worth Knowing About Absolutely Anything

    Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!

    Grouchogandhi, congealed as The Great Milky Wey finnegan Fenderson of the First Church of Binary Consciousness. Dig it!

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  10. ANYONE WITH A BRAIN IS PUZZLED BROTHER!

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  11. Eris ever spreads her arms wide to lovingly devour new souls into salvation from pre-conceived order and dogma.

    I was a Discordian before I was a Mason. Maybe I should have called my blog:
    The Sacred Chao of Masonry

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  12. Folks such as our "Anonymous" little friend are simply symptoms of the problem.

    (*I think It's Josh the Ignorant leper messiah! You know...he's probably pretty lonely since he no longer allows free speech on his "Impractical Theological Soliloquy Blog"... I mean, how can you have a discussion when you're the only one talking???)

    The Blue Lodge needs to quit trying to buddy up to the "fundy-whackos" and get back to basics. I didn't join Masonry to listen to some snake-oil and hell-fire sermon from some inbred, Baptist, Christian-wanna-be!
    I'm glad that the UGLA is NOTHING like that!!!

    Darren
    Most Wanted by the F.B.I (Fundamentalist Bureau of Inquisition)
    "God... Save me from your followers..."

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  13. Not only was that a sermon but this brother did suffer his zeal for the defense of the Institution against ingnorance that ridicules us. Thanks brother for fighting the good fight, Masonry survived on its mystic rights since antiquity and they will not be defeated now.

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  14. TubelCain420:
    Are you serious? Are you sure that you are a Sir Knight? One of the requisitions in this body is to express a belief in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, that is what the Commandry is all about! The operative Knight Templars gave safe passage to Christians on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to give battle to infidel muslims who attempted to stop them.
    Mary and the widow's son: Please do ua a favor and just jump off the boat. You are too much of a hypocrite to be a true freemason.

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  15. Bro. Tim - are you aware that you have been commenting on posts that are two or three years old?

    Before you get too worked up, I suggest that you subdue your passions and read some of the newer articles.

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  16. Bro Tim,
    Thank You for your enlightenment.
    For your enlightenment:

    “Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1).”

    “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers”

    Voltaire

    “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

    Mother Teresa of Calcutta

    “Never judge a man's actions until you know his motives”

    unknown

    “We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path.”

    Paulo Coelho

    “If you judge, investigate”

    Seneca

    “The more one judges, the less one loves.”

    Honore de Balzac

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  17. Until the 1800s and for more than a thousand years prior the majority of Operative Freestone Masons were Trinitarian Christians and always gave their Prayers in the Name of the Holy Father Holy Son Holy Ghost, and thus latter Speculative Freemasons did the same, and within the American South known as the Bible Belt Southern Freemasons still in their Masonic Lodges and even in Grand Lodge give their Prayers in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ. This is in line with the established Ancient Landmarks of Masonry.

    In the 1800s the United Grand of England unlawfully disregarded the Ancient Landmark of the Christian Holy Trinity as being the ONLY - GAOTU, many other
    Grand Lodges followed their unmasonic example requiring only a belief in a Supreme Being for membership, and so if a man calls his out house a Supreme Being, and called it his god he would qualify for membership by Masonic Grand Lodge Jurisdictions having such a ridicules standard as only requiring a belief in a Supreme Being.

    The Grande Lodge of Sweden still requires its members to be Trinitarian Christians in accordance to the established Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry.

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  18. Thank You for publishing you opinions of Freemasonry. But you always have to remember what the true rules are. You have to obey the rule and guide of our faith and practice (what ever book is on the holy alter of your lodge, and the laws of this country. Which states freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and liberty. Liberty means freedom from all unnecessary repression. Which your UN-christian views are doing. Just because your lodge wants this it doesn't mean all lodges have to with this. The only way masons are going to grow in numbers are to remember what we stand for freedom, peace and harmony. This is what makes us strong. Every brother has the right to state what ever he pleases in a lodge that is what makes us masons. That is what makes us brothers. Remember there nothing wrong with a mason being a Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Racism is being anti-christian too. So you (the pot) quit calling the kettle black.

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