A church, a lodge: Fraternal twins pt 2
G.M. Howard L Woods
We offer this Part 2 of the highly controversial subject of the Church and Prince Hall Masonry and their relationship, with a firm hope that more preachers will be given the opportunity to be brought into the marvelous light of this great fraternity. Once again, we offer our thoughts on the why’s and the wherefore’s as to the reasons they do not want Masonic ceremonies or regaled Masons in their churches, including, but not limited to Masonic services for the departed brethren and sisters.
Some brothers can be their own worse enemies, and therefore, they cause derision on the fraternity, not only in their locale, but all over the world. This is not limited to Prince Hall Masons, for like it or not, Black and White Masons and non-Prince Hall Masons are linked together whether they like it or not. Consider when the bulk of this negative thinking first started, during the hey-day of Dr. Hobby of Southern Baptist fame when he asked the convention to condemn Freemasons. He did not specify White Masons who were the object of his attacks, and what with the internet and some of our Black preachers “surfing the internet.” Dr. Hobby’s negative attack reached a lot of eyes and ears. Our fraternity is innocent of the charges and our history is definitely different from the White Masons, but, because we all are associated with the word “Freemasonry” rather than Prince Hall Freemasonry, we share the negative results of such attacks.
But, on the other hand, we have some brothers that bring on the attacks by doing unbrotherly acts, with Masonic emblems everywhere, on their head, on their body (T-shirts), lapel pins, license plates and emblems across the trunk. It reminds me of an old adage about Freemasonry and its emblems: The more you show, the less you know! It is amazing how many “superficial Masons we have, a lot of show, but no “know.”
You know them! The ones that have no religious background and you never see them in church except on a “special” day where they can show-boat. Never take part in any church function, if they even belong to a church. They brag about how many degrees they have; talk about “riding the goat.” They get a few drinks in their bellies and can’t keep quiet or refrain from abusive language. They may even show up at a Jubilee Day service smelling like a distillery; or show up at a St. John’s Day service, still drinking. We see them at Grand Lodge hauling liquor by the case, but never attend a session; same with a Supreme Council or Imperial Council, lots of partying, but no representation.
The preachers see this and want no part of it. Not that they condemn the drinking, for a lot of preachers drink, but there is a way to do everything in “decency and in order.” However, that is a Biblical saying, and a lot of our brothers think that the Holy Bible is on the altar for decoration. Sunday School is for kids, invades their minds and Bible Study is a waste of time, for “I am a ritualistic Mason.” The preachers know this and hang their heads in shame. What to do then, in cases like those above, is the question, and the answer is very simple: Educate.
EDUCATION: CHRISTIAN AND MASONIC, THE SAME!
Some of our brothers try to separate the two, Christianity and Freemasonry, and it shows, most of the time, negatively. If one does not understand the need for Christian education and its teachings, then one cannot understand the complex, yet simple, teachings of Freemasonry, for they are basically the same, Love God, Love thy Neighbor. This, we received at the first, in the third degree when we were received as candidates for the Master Mason degree. The reception was exemplifying the teachings of Jesus when he told the young ruler the second greatest commandment, for the ruler knew the first, Love God!
One of the mistakes made by uninformed Masons, is the “mastery” of the symbol or emblem” rather than who or what the symbol and emblem represent. Much is given to the star of the Order of the Eastern Star, in its inverted position, calling it a Satanic emblem or symbol. Supposedly the two upper points represent the “horns” of a goat, the next two points represent the ears of a goat, and the bottom point represents a beard of a goat. That may be, for those that believe that Satan comes in the form of a goat, but, I believe that Satan comes in the form of things, or people, that look “good” to the physical eye, for would we yield to a temptation that looked ‘bad’? Not hardly! To a man, Satan may come in the form of a beautiful woman; to a woman, a handsome man. Always something that ‘looks’ good! However, the bonafied Christian knows that we fight, not against flesh and blood, but the powers and Principalities behind the ‘good-looking things or persons.’
The members of the Eastern Star then, should know the Bible as well as the Master Mason, and know who the star points represent and why the star is inverted. The star of the Easter, is a ‘passive’ star, to receive, while the star of the Masons is a generative star, to give. Once again, the star is just a symbol or an emblem; it is not the object of Masonic study, but who or what it represents. The star of the Masons represents the Star of Fellowship, the Five Points of Fellowship, and they can be explained to Masons and non-Masons alike, for the points teach us our responsibilities to each other as Masons:
- To go to the aid of our fellowman.
2. To pray for our fellowman.
3. To keep our fellowman’s business in our bosom not in our mouth.
4. To reach out to assist and serve mankind, and protect his/her reputation.
5. To always give good counsel to fellowmen; help them find a “better way” and warn them of the consequences if they do not heed you.
It has been said that there are five (5) relationships a man can have with his fellowman:
- With his father.
2. With his brother.
3. With his son.
4. With his friend.
5. With his ruler.
When a man adheres to the principles of the Star of Fellowship and recognizes that his relationships should be built on righteous living, he will be a fit piece of timer for the celestial Lodge above.
The Five Points of Fellowship are not contrary to the laws of God and certainly not the church, but, if misunderstood by their adherents, any principle can be misused and abused. It is no wonder that some of our young people are so confused, especially when our houses of morality (Churches and Lodges) appear to be fighting each other. The Church and the Lodge are partners, with the Lodge being the minor partner. A Lodge can never, or, should never, be used as a substitute for a religious institution. However, the actions of each of us, will reflect on all of us, whether negatively or positively. We are linked together whether we like it or not, and that includes White Masons, Prince Hall Masons and non-Prince Hall Masons, for the general public does not know the difference between us.
The preachers of today probably feel that the internet is all-powerful, and that whatever is seen there is almost gospel, especially if enough people say it. Anti-Masonic material is showing up everywhere, and mainline churches/pastors are getting in on the bandwagon. There can be no defense of our beloved fraternity if the defender is not a well-read Mason, and when I say well-read, I do not necessarily mean secular books, but religious books. You cannot defend what you do not know, no more than you can understand something you do not belong to, but you can always attack that which you do not understand. Ignorance of a subject does not prevent such attacks, and this is what we are facing with some of our preachers. Teach them, if you can, refrain if you cannot! That is very simple, and if it is done right, there will be no problems with trying to explain that which you are accused of. Just because it is written, does not make it so! This is the message that should go out to ignorant preachers, especially when it comes to the internet. On the other hand, once you start defending the fraternity, you have to know your Bible well enough to see through selective scriptures like the ones the Anti-Masonic writers talk about, such as:
- Thou shalt not swear:It should be “Thou should not swear DECEITFULLY!”
2. The goat is a symbol of Satan:Read Leviticus 16 and learn about the “Scapegoat” and the sin offering.
3. You bow down to a man! We bow down at the altar and Holy Bible.
4. You have secrets: We do not, nor do we belong to a “Secret Organization. Our ‘secrets’ are in the Bible.
5. You Masons worship the Devil: We worship God, the same as you.
6. But you have your own God, The Grand Architect of the Universe. That is just one of over 365 names of God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
7. But you take in anybody, from all religions. We vote on candidates, and we do not try to tell them what religion to follow, as long as they believe in God, the maker of Heaven and Earth.
8. But they are not all Christians. Jesus told His disciples: I have sheep of other folds ye know nothing of.
9. I have heard Masons are anti-Christian. We are not anti any religion as long as they believe in God.
10. But, they don’t believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, If you believe in God, believe also in me. In another scripture, He said, If you don’t believe me for MY sake, believe me for my WORK’s sake. We cannot be saved by works alone, and must have faith, but faith without works is dead.
11. I have heard that Freemasonry is a religion. We are not, but it is built upon religious principles, and we embrace ALL religions, but each Mason is free to follow his very own.
12. You do not allow women in the Masons. You are right, for it is a man’s fraternity. We do follow the plan of God, man, woman and child. That makes a family and we are family oriented.
13. What about the Shriners? They do a lot of drinking and partying. Each member of a Lodge must work out his own salvation. We do not condemn drinking or partying, for our Lord and Savior loved people and He drinked with them and attended parties even turning water into wine at one. Would you call Him a bootlegger? Not hardly.
14. You call a man Worshipful Master and the Bible said no man is the Master over another. The proper term is Master of the Lodge, and the worshipful part is just a sign of respect, English derived. It does not mean that we ‘worship’ any man. As far as Master is concerned, it simply means you are the head of the Lodge, like a Master Plumber, or Master Electrician, or a Grand Master of Chess, or Martial Arts. Neither ‘Master’ is ever worshiped, but is shown respect by and because of his title. There is no “Master/slave” relationship in the Lodge, just Brothers.
What do Masons do?Mainly we learn how to live and get along with each other, in a Lodge. This prepares us for the greater community in which we live and work. It does not always work, because all members do not adhere to Freemasonry’s teachings. Many may think Freemasonry is a social club, but it is a well organized fraternity, established for the purpose of character-building. Our teachings come from the religious books of the world, and in Christian Lodges (where in the majority), we use the Holy Bible. When a person of another religion joins, we use the Holy Book of his religion, and by studying together, we all learn of each other’s religion. It is the principle of “Love God, Love your neighbor.” We can’t always pick who will be our neighbor, but we all can love the ones with whom we come in contact. We support various charitable institutions, like NAACP, Legal Defense Fund, Urban League, etc. We give scholarships and grants to students in our areas, and many other things, too numerous to name.
16. But I saw Masons doing things contrary to Christian teachings:All Masons are members, but all members are not Masons. We get our members from churches and other institutions of religion, and they are not all good candidates, just like all Christians and Church Members, but all members are not Christians. We do have some Masonic members that act contrary, and we call them “brothers doing UNbrotherly acts.”
These are just a few statements that may come your way, and you should be prepared for them, and any others that may come your way. There is no one Mason that has all the answers, but it is a start, and we ask that the “sho nuff” Mason add to it and share; share with your fellow members, and when you see a Mason doing wrong, remember the fifth Point of Fellowship: …Remind him of his errors, aid in his reformation, but give him due and timely notice that he may ward off approaching danger. The answers are mainly found in the teachings of Freemasonry, as taught from the Holy Bible and the Masonic Ritual. All you have to do is look for them and be sincere in your search.
PLANS FOR COMMUNITY INVOLVMENT: ACTIVITIES
The following are some things that work where District Deputies and Masters work together and involve themselves in community activities:
- Church visitations:Our most successful district in Arkansas goes to church as a group quarterly, with most Lodges and Star Chapters attending, with the Lodge or Chapter with the highest percentage of members attending, getting trophies. The deputies of the men and women work closely together.
2. Masonic Face-off.Once again, men and women, come together and have a face-off on Biblical questions in separate settings, thereby giving them an idea of their Biblical background. Trophies go to the Lodge and chapter, as well as to individuals.
3. Easter Egg Hunt. Free to kids in the neighborhood. Folks will automatically flock to anything free, and the Lodge or Chapter will get good publicity.
4. Perform well in public outings, and intice preachers and laymen to WANT to join the Lodge. Also, attend their anniversaries and leave a substantial donations. They will appreciate that!
5. Use the ministers that belong to your Lodge. Get their input on Biblical background in their several Masonic Houses. There is a wealth of information there.
6. Go to church functions and get familiar with the structures of various churches and their ministers. Get acquainted with the various titles of preachers, i.e., Doctor, Elder, Reverend, Prophet, Bishop, Presiding Elder, Superintendent, Prelate; Apostle, Evangelist, etc. Know the various names of groups, i.e., Conference, Convocation, Association, Convention, etc.
7. Learn the various histories and religious philosophie of the churches, i.e., Baptist, Methodist (AME, CME, CUE, AME Zion, Fundamental, etc.) Church of God; Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Church of Christ, Full Gospel Fellowship, etc.
8. Organize a committee with members from the various denominations in it. If you have a Black Muslim in your Lodge, invite them too, or at least learn all you can about them, since they are the fastest growing in America today.
Above all, never feel that you are an enemy of the Black Church or any other. Never be antagonistic with a member of any church, for some seek fame for themselves rather than to glorify God. Learn, but never “know too much” as you will cut your supply of information off. Many people are turned off by know-it-all people especially when they are supposed to be knowledgeable.
Last, but not least, you will have to discipline your members for UnMasonic crimes, especially those that the public know about and let the public know. This way, they will know you will not put up with wrong doing. It has been said that Masons can get away with anything. Try to dispel those thoughts, not only from the public’s eyes, but more especially your members.