A Church, A Lodge - Fraternal Twins!
Amid the problems that beset Prince Hall Masons, there is a major problem facing us, as the titular heads of an organization that is beseiged by preachers, ministers and laymen of several organized churches, mainly because of ignorance and some unbrotherly acts by Masonic Brothers. In some instances, the Masonic Ritual, through ignorance, is actually used as a tool to beseige those Prince Hall Masons that often use the ritual as if it is the last word in Freemasonry, and mistakenly The Great Light (VSL) is the last word in Masonic Circles.
The ritual is not the foundation of Freemasonry, but it is a road map, structured and aligned so that if one is not tutored in reading Masonic maps, so to speak, one would be lost in confusion. The ritual gives uniformity to those that study the same ritual, more light to those that read several, and a rewarding bit of wisdom to those that would adhere to its teachings. It has been said that the ritual is the beauty of Freemasonry. To some, this may be true, for, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Others may disagree and find their beauty elsewhere, such as in the Bible or other religious books. Such is my case.
Normally, the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge does not accept members that have no church home. While we do not try to pick one religious institution over another, the majority of Prince Hall Masons belong either to the Baptist or Methodist denominations. In the lodge hall, there are no discussions of any particular denomination, except to announce where St. John's Day Services will be held, or where some worthy brother will be funeralized. Prince Hall Masonry prides itself in the membership of many well known clergymen, of various denominations and of various religions. This writer, being a so-called Metho-baptist preacher, has preached in a number of churches all over the nation and in some foreign countries, and have yet to be refused the used of the pulpit because I was a Mason.
The adversaries of Prince Hall Masons are those preachers and laymen, who sometime in the past, have had one or more of the following things happen to them:
1. Problem with an individual Mason, either in church or otherwise.
2. Jealousy of the attention paid to Masonic activities rather than to the church.
3. Fear of more funds being diverted from the church to the lodge.
4. Seeing a pictured ritual and making decisions without explanations of what he saw. Also, he has heard of riding the "Goat" an emblem of Satan.
5. Fear of the words, "Secrecy and Swear." Will normally quote scriptures about them.
6. Believes Freemasonry is a "secret" organization, and has never been made the wiser, even by so-called wise Masons.
THE INDIVIDUAL MASON AND HIS CHURCH
As stated before, normally, the person seeking admission as a member in a Masonic Lodge, is a member of some organized church. While we do not put one church over another, we do demand that the prospective member have a belief in a Supreme Being, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Only one "Supreme Being" fits that description and that is Almighty God, by whatever name He is called, whether it be Allah, Jehovah, Adonai or the Grand Master of the Universe, or the Grand Architect of the Universe. The well informed Mason knows that God has more than one name, and that God does not mind what name you call Him, as long as you call Him! The well informed Mason also knows that "religion" can separate people, not because the religion is bad, but because the adherent cannot or will not adhere to the basic principle of "Love God, Love thy neighbor." More people fall out because of church ritualism and doctrine, when all anyone of the Christian faith has to do, is follow the writings in the Bible.
An astute Mason is an avid church worker, as that lends to his knowledge of Freemasonry by going to the source of Morality, which is the sum total of an Entered Apprentice Mason. The 'good' Mason is a Sunday School teacher, an officer, sometimes a minister or preacher as well. Of course, all members are not Christians, but all Christians are members of a church. In actuality, there is no such thing as a good pew member, and there can not be a good Mason if he does not read and study the Bible, THE Great Light in Freemasonry. It is not just a piece of furniture of a church or home. It IS the rule and guide of our faith and practice.
Now, we come to the member of the Family who is not an avid Church-member, and only attends when something 'big' is going on, and sometimes, will hold an important office and is "right down front." The pastor of the church is aware of the brother's membership in the lodge, and often knows of his high title. Because of his lack of church attendance/participation, the pastor gets an attitude about the lodge and/or its members.
Another case, one like we had in Arkansas, is where the Most Wise and Perfect Master of the Knights of the Rose Croix, was a "rank sinner" but was conducting the Maundy Thursday Feast, including the "service of the table." The pastor, a 33rd degree Mason himself, never forgave the consistory, or any other house of Freemasonry. We elect officers sometimes because of Friendship, rather than ability and his morals.
LACK OF SUPPORT BY THE INDIVIDUAL BROTHER IN HIS CHURCH
A well informed Master of a Lodge will have activities going on at all times, and there is a hard-core of brothers that will support the lodge or other houses, no matter what, but will gave lack-luster support to the pastor's anniversary or some other church program, and sometimes even brags about his Masonic activity. He may not know it, but he is pouring salt in the wounds of the pastor that does not understand that power of leadership and/or lack of, and that is what he may be portraying. A Mason is one of the hardest members to preach to, especially if he is an adept Mason. Then too, especially in small towns, everybody knows everybody and knows the good brother "loves" his lodge more than his church.
Therefore, the individual Mason should be a good church worker in all aspects, and if he is not an officer of the church, but is an officer of the lodge, he should be aware of the pitfalls that could cause bad relationships between the paster and the brother.
FEAR OF DIVERSION OF FUNDS
A lot of preachers, some just starting out, have an aversion to the lodge because of fear that funds that would have come to the church, are being diverted to the lodge. Consequently, he feels that the lodge is competition, and therefore, an enemy, and all enemies of his, are enemies of the church. It is a negative thought, but it is his and the individual Mason has to deal with it. Some churches publish the givings of its members and consequently, they may try to compare what the brother is giving to the lodge, with all its dues and assessments. Don't believe for a minute that the congregation does not know how much the dues are in each house.
Many preachers may state that the lodge members are "devil worshipers," or that we are a cult. Cults naturally collect more money than orthodox churches a lot of the time, for we do love spectacles, and a charlatan preaching for five nights in a town, will attract more people than a pastor preaching every Sunday.
RITUALISM VERSUS SCRIPTURES
When a preacher attacks Freemasonry, he usually talks about "what's done in the dark will come to light." Or, will talk about what he has heard. Of course, "I heard" and, "They say!" are the two biggest liars ever known, and will never get any better. Therefore, the preacher may have seen a Masonic Ritual, especially one with pictures in it, and may think he sees a candidate "bowing" down to the Worshipful Master. Then too, the term, "Worshipful Master" is offensive to a preacher not in the know. The proper term is "Master", while the term is only used in the Lodge Hall while the Lodge is at work. Of course, the preacher has a problem with the term, "Master" as well.
While we may have many members that are ritual-rich, one has to wonder why, in all that ritualism, there was no lesson on religion the members have learned. I have heard Masonic preachers talk about how Hiram Abif was killed by the three assassins, yet, in my Bible, we do not read where Hiram died, let alone killed by three ruffians. Therefore, our members need to learn scriptures and how Freemasonry relates to them. You cannot discuss intelligently, from the rituals, when the other person is discussing the Bible. You must use the same book, and therefore, if the preacher is not a Mason, you must use the Bible to prove your Masonic existence.
FEAR OF THE WORDS SECRECY AND SWEAR
When you hear someone say, "You're not supposed to swear" right away, you may believe them, for they are right, you should not swear "falsely" for to do so could cause pain of the highest sort. You can swear, as in court, for there you have consequences. You can swear in the Lodge, for you have penalties there. You shouldn't swear if you do not mean it, for there are higher and stiffer consequences if you swear falsely. You should not "swear by God" either.
Abraham's servant swore to do right by Abraham's son Isaac. Are we less than Abraham's servant? Not by a long shot. However, if a candidate has an aversion against the word "swear", the answer is simple, don't use it! If his word is no good anyway, the words affirm or swear will not make his word any better.
Jesus spoke in parables, which we in Masonry liken unto allegories, meaning one thing while saying another. A parable is different as it uses an earthly story to tell a heavenly meaning. To a person that does not understand a parable or an allegory, there abides secrecy. It's like a Bible in your house that is never opened, but is there for show. Whatever is in the Bible remains a secret until it is opened, read and understood by studying with other people, especially one with Biblical understanding. What Freemasonry teaches is no secret, but is a private thing, meant for the ears of those that are willing to adhere to its principles and teachings. One way to turn people off is by quoting one or two scriptures to "condemn" rather than teach love.
FREEMASONRY, A SECRET ORGANIZATION?
One of the worst answers to a question from a non-Mason is, "I can't tell you that, because it's a secret!" If a brother doesn't know, he should say it, rather than copping out with those worthless, yet damaging words concerning secrets. A preacher loves to "jump" on Masons if he has doubts and fears about us. Live with it and if you can't counteract the negativism, learn how to turn it into a positive.
You would be surprised how many preachers actually do not know about the intracies of Freemasonry, because no one took the time to sit and talk to them. We are not a secret organization, nor do we have any secrets. We do have private things, for you can't "see" a secret, nor can you "hear" a secret, for once two or more see or hear a secret, the secrecy is lost.
Most of the ritual deals with scriptures in ritualism form, and it is to that end that we should always look. The lessons of scriptures are hidden in the allegories, with the greatest one being the one of Hiram Abif. One that has studied Freemasonry from other sources than the ritual, will readily see that Hiram represents:
1. The sun in Winter
2. Jacques de Molay
3. Jesus Christ
One would have to understand the term, "Raising." This all goes back to receiving Light, More Light and Further Light. All Masons do not have the same level of Understanding, and consequently, confusion sets in when ignorance moves into the individual's house, and ignorance does not care where it lives.
The practical Master of the Lodge, and the Grand Master of a Jurisdiction, should recognize that the Church and the Lodge are the last two organizations we can call our own, and when they fight, it will cause losses on both sides. God is not the author of confusion, and if we had more Masonry in us, rather than more "us" in Masonry, we would not be here today.
How do we counteract this dilemma in modern times when in the olden days, the minister was sometimes the Master of the Lodge or at least the Chaplain, and knew all the other preachers. Use the ministers in your Lodges and your Grand Lodges! They are the experts in your Lodges and Grand Lodges! Get them to address issues with the craft first, and try to see where the blame lies. If the answer is not one of those listed above, try to find the answers somewhere else. Try talking to the offending ministers, one on one.
One way is to allow your craft to visit churches sometimes, notifying the minister ahead of time, and leave a substantial offering there, especially on his anniversary or appreciation. Above all, get the brethren to watch their actions in public. Too often, the emblems of the order are found in places you would not go; too often words are heard by the public that you wouldn't say; too often, actions are done that you would not do, all in the earshot in sight of the public.
Last, but not least, lift up the famous ministers and their Lodge membership in your cities, states and nations. Some are: Reverends Ben Hooks; Jesse Jackson; B.F. Smith (President, Progressive Baptist Convention); Henry J. Lyons (National Baptist Convention, USA); Fredrick Kelly (Grand Master of Ohio); yes, even Howard L. Woods from Arkansas.
Lift them up to preachers that have problems with Masons (rather than Brothers doing unbrotherly things).
Arkansas, Grand Master Howard L. Woods, 1997