WHY AM I A FREEMASON?
Religious men of many faiths have spoken in favor of Freemasonry. The
following quotations are a small selection and most of these quotes were posted
into the newsgroup, alt-freemasonry
I have had the privilege of being a member of many organizations, but none outside of my church has meant more to me than Masonry....
All Masons obligate themselves to help, aid and assist the poor, the distressed, the widows and orphans. Nor is charity restricted to fellow Masons only, but extended to all. It shares the common bonds of race as children of one great Creator, and seeks to unite men of every race, color, sect and opinion. Masonry practices the Golden Rule and seeks always to eliminate divisive forces which build walls between people."
Dr. James P. Wesberry
Masonry... a fraternity blessed by God
When I attended one of your ceremonies, I was very pleased to see that "faith in God" plays a central role in your fraternity. I noted with great joy that in your ceremonies you give God's word a position of honor. This, for me, was certainly an encouraging sign. But, of course, the physical presence of the Bible in your ceremonies is not enough. What is more important is God's word in your lives, in your actions, in your decisions. This holds true for all men, including us priests; for we may be surrounded by the physical trappings of religion, but we could have very unreligious, unholy and uncharitable decisions and dispositions towards others. No, it is not enough to give the Bible the marks of honor and respect. It's by far more important to make the divine precepts it contains and the norms for checking the acceptability of our decisions and actions.
Next, I would like to make it exceedingly clear that, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, it is not true that one religion is as good as another. That, my brothers and sisters, was exactly one of the fears the Church in the past had about Masonry, for to say that one religion is as good as another would be some sort of religious indifferentism. As a professor of Law, I myself would advocate that sects be given equal status before the law.
But as far as we Catholics are concerned--and now I speak as a Catholic, what was clearly enunciated in the second Vatican Council as part of the dogmatic constitution of the Catholic Church is this: There subsist in the Roman Catholic Church the elements of the true church of Jesus Christ. This means, it is true that one religious sect is as good as any other. If we are sincere Catholics, then we must profess our faith that in the Catholic Church subsist the elements of the true Church of Jesus Christ. My third point is, Religion cannot and should never be a secondary issue. All other issues are, in fact, secondary to religion. Religion should be the primary governing and determinative issue.
But, my brothers and sisters, we cannot go back to the old days of bigotry towards others. Is is, in fact unchristian to assume a position "I'm better than all the rest." It is, indeed, presumptuous to consider ourselves wise and all the rest dumb. Rather, in the face of the truth of Jesus Christ, we should have the humility that allows us to open to others, to dialogue with them, to be hospitable to them.
If the Masonic fraternity is, above all, a fraternity that welcomes all men, well and good. If it is a fraternity by which character is built and moral fiber strengthened, then it can only be a fraternity blessed by God. If its members take their religious duties with utmost seriousness and if, through its light, they make religion the pole star of their actions, the criterion of their decisions and the standard by which their choices and options are resolved, then Masonry can be a fraternity blessed by God.
"In a day of mistrust, suspicion, discrimination, separation and even hatred, Freemasonry removes the distance between men. Friendship, morality, and brotherly love are the hallmarks of our relationships. There is a basic integrity in the Fraternity so often lacking in many of life's relationships.... Let me quickly and emphatically say that Freemasonry is not and has never been a religion; however, Freemasonry has always been a friend and ally of religion. In 50 years as a minister and as a Mason, I have found no conflict between my Masonic beliefs and the Christian faith."
Bishop Carl J. Sanders
Why I am a Mason
"Are you a Mason?" The question was asked by the Master of the local Lodge. We were about to do a funeral service together. The answer was easy: "Yes." That same question has been asked, and the same answer given many times in my ministry. Until recently no one ever asked, "Why?" That is a bit harder to answer. But let me try... It was in a little East Texas town that I first encountered a man who called himself a "Freemason."
As I observed his behavior in the community, it was evident to me that he had something and knew something that I wanted to have and know. There was a behavior that seemed to supplement his religious faith. As we talked, it was soon clear that I wanted to become a part of that group of men who called themselves "Masons." There are some things that I don't remember about that night I took that first step toward a rich and rewarding experience that has enhanced my life. But there are some things that I will never forget. There was a foundation of trust...trust in God as the One to whom I could look for support and counsel...trust in a Brother who could lead me in my blindness to the light of understanding. I discovered the reality of prayer as the place to begin before undertaking any task. So I began the journey that through the years was to lead me to a new understanding of myself, my fellow human beings and God.
On that journey I discovered that I was not searching for some particular religious creed that would set me apart from other people. I was in fact discovering some great principles that would enable me to live life at its very best. Principles like faith...hope...charity...wisdom... beauty...truth. I would discover that there is a universal love and respect for all persons of all religious creeds and beliefs. My Masonry would let me stand with my Brothers as an equal no matter what their theology or religious beliefs. While Masonry has never been a religion for me, it has set before me some very high moral and ethical standards that have supported my religious beliefs. It has also confirmed my duty to "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and support the widows and orphans."
While it is impressive to know the extent of Masonry's charitable organizations and agencies that work for healing and health (some say we spend over $1 million a day), it is much more impressive to see a child walk, or a child see, or a child be nursed back to health from a severe burn. Most would not have been able to receive such help had it not been for the benevolent concern of some Masons. So I saw duty acted out in deeds. As I remember those early days working in the Lodge, I remember the care and support of those fellow Lodge members. They made me feel that I was someone special about whom they really cared. Across the years as I have moved to different churches (some United Methodist ministers move a lot), and visited in different Lodges in different places, that same feeling of support and Brotherhood has been there.
Because of my position in the Church and membership in the Lodge, I have always felt wanted and accepted. That's a very special feeling! While this great Country of ours has felt the impact of leaders who have been Masons, much of what Masonry represents is seen in those men who have lived the principles of Freemasonry in their respective communities. On my journey I have met some of them. One of them was Ben LeNorman, whose honesty was known and respected. He was an example to the youth of the little town where he lived. That example brought many a young man to knock on Masonry's door. Another was Don Davis, whose compassion for those who were hurting was unsurpassed. He would give of his time and money so that a crippled child might have dignity and health. He was willing to reach out to help anyone who might be hurting. No time was too valuable to give. No distance was too far to fly or drive. No effort was too great to make. When he heard the cry for help, he was ready to respond. These were good men who were better men because they were Masons. Neither of them will have their names in the books of history, but they will always be remembered by those whose lives they touched. And the best thing is that you know these men. Their names may be different, but they are a part of every Lodge and live in every corner of this great land of ours. They are those who believe that Masonry is not something to commit to memory, it is something to live. You never hear it in their boasting...you see it in their living.
So the question "Why are you a Mason?" can be answered. It has allowed me to grow personally...to serve my God...and to reach out in concern to my fellow human beings. It has supported my personal faith and work as a churchman. Let no one say you cannot be a Christian and a Mason at the same time. I know too many who are both and proud to be both. Ben was...Don was...I am. I will always be glad that one day in a little East Texas town....
What Freemasonry means to me
I recently received a letter in which the writer asked: "Why are you a Freemason?" The question caused me to think and reaffirm my feelings about Masonry. At first I thought about my own forebears. My grandfather was a Mason for 50 years, my father for 50 years, and I have been a Mason for 60 years. This means that my tie with Freemasonry extends back to 1869 when my grandfather joined the Masons. My feelings on my first entrance into a Masonic Lodge are very clear in memory. I was a young man and it was a great thrill to kneel before the altar of the Lodge to become a Freemason. This must have been the same feeling my father and grandfather experienced before me.
And it must also have been identical to the one that many great leaders of America and the world felt as they became Masons. Prominent among this select group are George Washington, Harry Truman, and 12 other Presidents as well as countless statesmen and benefactors of humanity. So I found myself thinking: "What does Freemasonry mean to me?"
Of course Masons say that Freemasonry actually begins in each individual Mason's heart. I take this to mean a response to brotherhood and the highest ideals. I recall the story of a man who came to me once and said: "I see that you are a Freemason. So am I."
As we talked, he told me of an experience he had years ago. It seems that he joined the Masonic Fraternity shortly after he became 21 years old. When he was stationed in the military, he decided to attend various Lodge meetings. On his first visit to a Lodge in a strange city, he was a bit nervous. One thought was constantly in his mind; could he pass the examination to show that he was a Mason? As the committee was carefully examining his credentials, one of the members looked him squarely in the eye and said: "Obviously you know the Ritual, so you can enter our Lodge as a Brother Mason. But I have one more question. Where were you made a Mason?" With that he told the young visitor to think about it because when he knew the answer the examiner would not have to hear it. He would see it in his eyes.
My friend told me that after a couple of minutes a big smile came to his face and he looked at the examiner, who said: "That's right, in your heart." "Through Masonic teachings, good men practice love and charity. As a Fraternity they spend millions of dollars..." Freemasonry is not a religion though, in my experience, Masons have predominately been religious men and, for the most part, of the Christian faith.
Through Freemasonry, however, I have had opportunity to break bread with good men of other than my own Christian faith. Freemasonry does not promote any one religious creed. All Masons believe in the Deity without reservation. However, Masonry makes no demands as to how a member thinks of the Great Architect of the Universe. Freemasonry is, for all its members, a supplement to good living which has enhanced the lives of millions who have entered its doors. Though it is not a religion, as such, it supplements faith in God the Creator. It is supporting of morality and virtue. Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It offers no sacraments. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his own choice and to be faithful to it in thought and action. As a result, men of different religions meet in fellowship and brotherhood under the fatherhood of God. I think that a good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by his membership in the Lodge.
Freemasonry is much more than a social organization. Through Masonic teachings, good men practice love and charity. As a Fraternity they spend millions of dollars to support hospitals, childhood language disorders clinics, and research into problems that plague man's physical and mental being. Whenever I visit a Masonic hospital, of which there are many, my eyes fill with tears. As I see a youngster, who could not walk, now able to get from one end of the corridor to the other with the aid of an artificial leg, I am thrilled. For a young person to have the opportunity to become whole and productive is to me exciting and wonderful. And this opportunity is given at no cost to his or her family or the state. Living is beautiful but sometimes life can be harsh and cruel. Whenever or wherever people are in need Masons are there to help. From large undertakings to the smallest of needs, Masons are always there, caring and serving. I have always been interested as to why Masons devote so much time to their Fraternity. A good answer to this question came from a Grand Master who once told me that he enjoys his involvement because it gives him another dimension to living.
The same answer is echoed by Brethren as they meet in Lodge rooms from one
end of our Country to the other and around the world. Many of my best friends,
associates, and fellow Christians are Freemasons and good churchmen as well. In
my travels at home and abroad a goodly number of Freemasons notice my Masonic
ring, which I always wear. With pride they say: "I, too, am a
Freemason." To me, Freemasonry is one form of dedication to God and service
to humanity. I too was a Freemason in my heart and so I will remain. I am proud
of my involvement. I am proud to walk in fraternal fellowship with my Brethren.
Why am I a Freemason? Simply because I am proud to be a man who wants to keep the moral standards of life at high level and leave something behind so others will benefit. Only as I, personally, become better, can I help others to do the same. "I was brought up in a religious home, a son of a Rabbi with seven generations of Rabbis preceding me; and yet with this religious background, I felt I could still derive much from and give much to this Fraternity for the good and welfare of mankind....
My experience has shown me that Masons are for the most part religious men. I am proud to be a Mason and proud to be a part of an organization that is devoted to helping widows and orphans primarily, and also those who are in need without question or embarrassment.... I am proud to be a Mason who believes in the dignity of God's children and opposes hatred and bigotry, and stands for truth, justice, kindness, integrity and righteousness for all."
Rabbi Seymour Atlas
"Of course, he would be naive indeed who would declare that what Masonry meant to him it would necessarily mean to every other Mason. The author does not know it all, or anywhere near the all of Masonry; his book might well be called 'What Masonry Means To Me'."
"However, he claims to possess no 'authority' because of such studies; if he is right in his conclusions, they are completely valid to him alone."
"I AND I ALONE, am responsible for my own interpretations of Masonic teachings. Masonry does not proclaim any particular techniques whereby the Builder shall construct his spiritual edifice."
"The writer knows that the Masonic reader should not and will not take what he has said 'on authority';...."
"One of the usual errors regarding Masonry and religion is the confusion on the part of many non-Masons and a few Masons that Masonry is a religion."
LeRoy C. Brandt, Ph.D., Pastor
"I like the statement which I have heard and read many times, 'Masonry is religious but Masonry is not a religion.' Much of the criticism of Masonry has come because some of the Masons have not understood this statement. A few of the Craft have tried to make it a religion and it was never meant to be such. For example, we are not supposed to admit to our degrees men who are not already GOOD men. Masonry seeks to make GOOD men BETTER,"
John W. Dowdy, D.D., Pastor
"A Mason is a man who professes a faith in God. As a man of faith, he
uses the tools of moral and ethical truths to serve mankind. A Mason binds
himself to like-minded men in a Brotherhood that transcends all religious,
ethnic, social, cultural, and educational differences.
Rev. Jim Bilbrey, Ph.D.
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