Saturday, September 27, 2008

Political and Religious Discussion

by RmOlano

"i think the ban on religion and politics being discussed inside a lodge are only observed in anglo-saxon masonry unlike in the grand orient or franco-masonry where the lodge is a venue of debate and exchanging of ideas." --- a Brother commented

Very keen observation my Brother. An opinion is something we thought that could be true but not as important as belief or Faith. So my dear Brother, the thought that you believe to be true which you characterized as lowly and unimportant is in reality has a ring of truth.

If we are to take exception of the American Revolution, which was carried out by members of the so-called Anglo-Saxon “brand” of Freemasonry, many revolutions were initiated, led and carried out by members of French-based Scottish Rite “brand” of Freemasonry. Not that the English-speaking Freemasons were immune from political agenda and influence as English history is also a history of divided groups of Masons supporting either usurper or disposed royalty.

It is interesting to note that English Freemasonry is under the patronage of their royalty who would not mind to socialize with commoners thereby, keeping tab and ensuring the loyalty and harmony of their subjects. Compare this setup with French-invented Scottish Rite Masonry where the rebel leaders ensured that the King literally lost his head along with great numbers of royalty during French Revolution. In addition, there was a time in Spanish history that large number of Spanish men were executed just because they are members or thought to be members of the Craft. Mindful of what happened to their neighbors; Spanish royal families were not fans of Freemasonry. Let us not guess who were the players of revolutions in South America, Mexico, Cuba, and yes, the Philippines. Logia Revolucion in Barcelona and the all-Filipino Logia Solidaridad in Madrid were not created with intention to be politically correct to the Spanish ruling class. It is seems the pattern was that where more violent revolutions in countries where Scottish Rite is strong and popular than with countries dominated by English-speaking brand of Freemasonry. How much political discussions or level of passion to argue/debate/talk about this subject among Masons seems to depend on the orientation of the Craft i.e., with or without Royal Patronage.

An opinion is a tentative thinking that could be true and could change based from additional variables. A confirmed or proven opinion becomes fact. For those who do not end exchanging opinions with “Period,” allow me to use the fashionable “au contraire” as oppose to more egalitarian --- nope, you’re assumption is wrong again. The use of such fancy repertoire might have some value for some folks but 'just the same and if I could borrow Brother Author Stephen Defoe’s recent word--- “pretentious.” Someone implied that those who entered in political arena in national, international or local level are not members of the mainstream Grand Lodge. This opinion was based on the common belief that politics were not to be discussed within the Lodge therefore; those who disobeyed this mantra must be from non-mainstream Grand Lodge.

When a group of people decided to do something, --- my friends that is politics. When the Master of the Lodge approved a motion to participate in KidsID at City Park during 4th of July---my friends that is politics. When a Grand Lodge adopt and proclaim that a certain day of the month will be dedicated to celebrate the creation of U.S. Constitution--- again, my friends that is politics. And if we urged a newly made EA his duty as a citizen i.e. “ to be exemplary in the discharge of (his) civil duties…” we are dabbling in politics.

It is NOT the discussion of politics within the Lodge that is prohibited but rather it is the sectarian or the my-way-or-highway approach to civil discussion which often led to disharmony among Brethren. What is not allowed is the mentality that my opinion, my party, my religion and my God is right and all others are wrong. Politics and religion will always be in our thought, to "prohibit" its discussion is to say, I have provided all the argument and all available documentation therefore, the case is close---Period. This kind of mind-set ought to be prohibited not the content of the discussion whether its politics, religion, sports or the best watering hole in the area.

In a speech titled World Wide Masonry and Its Desirability delivered by the Senior Grand Warden Oliver D. Street, before Bessemer Lodge No. 458 on May 29, 1922, published in Little Masonic Library Volume I, Book 2 (1924) Southern Publishers. Kingsport, TN., he said,

“If we drew the line on those who, we think, engage in politics, let us imagine, if we can, what the Masonic Fraternity of the United States would do if some party were to arise in this country which openly declared against free speech, freedom of press, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and in favor of domination of the state and church. If Masonry did not fight such propositions it should perish, yet these are precisely the propositions which confront Masonry in France, Belguim, Spain, Italy and in all South and Central American nations, not to mention Mexico and numerous other countries. There are certain great fundamental political questions which Masonry always and everywhere has professed and for which, if it is not willing to fight, it is not worthy to exist.” (Street, 1924, pg 118).

Civilized men agree to disagree. No one has the monopoly of the fountain of knowledge hence, has the last word on this exchange of ideas i.e. “Period.” When politicians run out of arguments, the common tactic is to divert the topic and talk about personal issues including grammar and spelling. This is the basis why civil discussion fails within the Lodge room. It is not the topic e.g. politics, religion, or best beer brand but the mentality that some people were already enlightened thus does not need to be challenge because what presented was the Truth. Freedom of speech is still guaranteed by U.S. Constitution and that should include discussion inside the Lodge. Moral person knows what is right and what is wrong, finding the balance between the two extremes is a lesson all Masons labours to find --- of searching that which was lost. Equilibrium is not just a word, it is an axiom not only reserved for Scottish Rite Masons but also applies to the entire human race.

from Brother John L. Cooper III, PGS, GLofCA

There is some truth in what you are saying, but also some problems. Freemasonry has always taken the position that partisan politics and religion should not be discussed in a lodge. That is essentially an English-speaking Masonic tradition. It is not the tradition in much of European and Latin American Freemasonry (except for the GLNF). However, that being said, it is an exceedingly hard process to monitor. In theory every Freemason should accord to another the courtesy of respect for his opinion. But over the years I have seen how difficult it is for some to truly practice it. The problem, as I see it, is that each one of us has some fundamental principles which are difficult to reconcile with tolerance and understanding.

Let me offer but one example. Freemasons are patriotic. Often at Masonic gatherings I hear prayers offered for our troops overseas who are thought to be protecting our country from the enemy. Probably 100% of Masons in the room would agree – until we get into the details. I’ll stay away from current events (Iraq) and talk about Vietnam of a generation ago because that may be safer. Some Masons then were supporting and participating in the anti-war movement. Some firmly believed that our war in Vietnam was immoral, and that America should get out as quickly as possible. This outraged other Masons who saw this as treason. Neither side could talk about the other’s position in a dispassionate way. If you want to take this into today’s arena, try discussing the issue of the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. What do you think would happen at any Masonic gathering you know of if a Mason advanced the point of view that this phrase should not be in the pledge, and that the unsuccessful lawsuit against it in Elk Grove Unified School District a couple of years ago should have been otherwise decided. Do you truly think that most of the Masons you know could have treated a Mason who advocated this a with the civility you are advocating?

I don’t want to be pessimistic about the prospects, but I cannot be sanguine about its success in most Masonic groups. When it comes to religion, there is usually little problem with civil dialogue amongst adherents of recognized religious groups. Roman Catholic Freemasons and Episcopalian Freemasons are unlikely to come to blows over the Pope. But we have had some serious problems with “new” religions, such as the Gnostic Catholic Church, and its parent organization, the Ordo Templi Orientalis. In 1998 the Grand Master authorized the use of the VSL from this organization on our altars for members of this faith to use for the Obligations. In 2004 another Grand Master withdrew this permission. All this was perfectly legal, and within the prerogative of the Grand Master. But why was this group singled out? All you need to do is to take a look at the liturgy of this church and the contents of their “sacred law” and you can see how it pushed the limits of toleration.

I am personally in favor of discussing things of substance and importance in the lodge. I am also aware of how difficult it is to maintain respect, civility, and toleration amongst our members when the limits of our respect, civility and toleration are pushed too hard.

/s/ John



First, I thank you for time and commentary. If my estimation is correct, I would say that we are in agreement that discussion within the Lodge should not be limited to any subject as long as the topic is "of substance and importance in the lodge."

I readily concurred that politics and religion will always be a hot topic as well as Red Socks and Yankees or Forty-niners and Raiders. The prevailing principle that certain subjects should not be even discuss because of the difficulty or failure of presiding authority to moderate the discussion is an acknowledgement of weak leadership and adherence to the contemporary cliché---politically incorrect. Standing on the level pavement adorned with black and white squares signifies that the speaker and his issue are on same plain along with other speaker with the opposite view. Both deserved to be heard regardless of the color they representing. To regulate what to bring forth is to disregard the lesson of Mosaic Pavement. I submit that Justice---equality and fairness will bring harmony among the group not restraining views but those notions could be a utopian thinking along with spotless apron for a mortal man.

If I could ask the VW John's permission to publish/attach his response to the original posting for furtherance of Brethren and my Masonic Light, it is always an honor and privilege to elicit responses from you. I thank the Brother in advance for consideration.



Permission granted. /s/ John
Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:00 AM


Seth ABRAHAMS said...

I would like to highlight and agree with the comment in the original post that " What is not allowed is the mentality that my opinion, my party, my religion and my God is right and all others are wrong." and go further and say that any text that promotes such a mentality should not be used as a Volume of the Sacred Law

Unknown said...

Thanks all for their nice, informative and really excellent comments. But today I want to say about religious faith. We some have strong religious faith on the other hand someone has no faith at all. Is there any way to measurement the depth of religious faith? I was always confused about the depth and power of my faith on my religion. But today it is clear to me some days ago I got a nice application which is able to measure the religious faith. It is really funny too. I like to share this with all to you. I think you all will also get a lot of fun and will be astonished too.

This Faith Announcer Application is used to Announce Religion Faith.