Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Freemasonry and Religion

I'm currently reading a book which is one of the hardest I've had to force myself to read.  Not because I find the work itself challenging, but because there is so much I simply don't agree with.  While I'll reserve my review for when I've finished the book (anything else would be unfair to the author), I will expand on how it is making me think about religion and Freemasonry.

The central tenant of Masonry is this:  Good men believe in God and try to do good as a result.  There is no requirement as to who or what that God is; just that one believe in a higher power.  I happen to be an evangelical Christian.  I believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that one must repent and be born again.... Yadda yadda, you've seen it on a yard sign somewhere, I'm sure.

By sitting in Lodge with those whose faith I don't share, am I viewing their faith as equal to my own?  No - I am simply respecting their right to believe whatever they want.  By working together with a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, I am not saying that I see Mohamed, Vishnu, or Buddha as equal with Christ.  Do do so would be a violation of my faith - just as them seeing Christ as equal with their deity/prophet may be a violation of theirs.

This also does not mean I see all faiths as equally relevant.  The fact that I choose to be a Christan demonstrates that I see Christianity as the faith superior to all others.  If I didn't, why would I continue to worship as such?  If I felt that Islam or Hinduism had something more to offer than Christianity, it would be pointless to remain Christian.

This doesn't mean I don't see positives in other faith traditions and religions.  Any belief system which encourages its adherents to do good in the world has positive aspects.  According to my religion, however, this doesn't grant it the same same salvation and redemption benefits.  In John chapter 14, Christ states that he is the only way to receive salvation:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
Quite honestly, I believe if one isn't a Christian (in the sense that they believe Christ is God incarnate and trust him to save them from sin, not in a "well I go to services each week" sense), they aren't going to heaven.  Is that a bigoted opinion?  Perhaps in the eyes of some.  Does that mean I look down on others who don't share my belief?  Not at all.  We all have the free will to choose what to believe.  We all arrive at our opinions and views through our own circumstances. 

If someone is angered by this sentiment, why?  In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."  If someone doesn't believe they're going to hell for not following Christ and I do, what difference does it make to them?  I am not forcing my faith on others, so leave me be and allow me to worship and believe as I choose.  Let's focus on the good which we all have in common and leave the rest to personal opinion.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Masonic Hams (Radio, not Pork)

In my previous post, I highlighted my trip to the fall meeting of Iowa Research Lodge #2.  I edited out the details of my visit to National Cigar Store, but you wouldn't know that.  Check them out if you're a cigar buff though, the place has a very nice selection and John is very knowledgeable. 

Anyway, I happened to be browsing the Masonic blogs at Aslar to Ashes and saw that another brother had also been there.  Clicking on over and browsing his site, I noticed another commonality - we both have ham radio licenses.  Imagine my surprise!  Finding a fellow Mason in the wild is rare enough, but one who is also one of the remaining 700,000 ham radio licensees in America?  What are the odds?  (Metaphorically speaking of course.  I know the chances are pretty slim.)

Perhaps I'll have to dust off the Icom and check into the Masonic Gathering Net sometime.  It's nice to find friends whom one has more than one thing in common with!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A recap of my visit to the Iowa Research Lodge #2 meeting


I recently had the pleasure of attending the fall meeting of the Iowa Research Lodge #2, hosted by Blackhawk Lodge #65 of Cedar Falls, Iowa.  As with any Masonic gathering, I was quickly welcomed as a friend and made to feel right at home.

The entrance to Blackhawk Lodge is easily one of the most unique I've yet to encounter.  One walks through a door and into a room roughly ten feet square.  All that is within this room is an elevator and the button to call for it.  Very emblematic of the steps one takes when becoming an Entered Apprentice.  I have to admit I was a bit more than nervous.  What would await me when the doors opened?

The answer: One heckuva nice lodge, that's what.  Of all the lodge buildings I've been in, this was the first I'd seen with a big-screen TV and cable.  And, if one is smart enough to guess the password of the guest account of the coffee shop below, free wifi.  (Hint:  It's "guest.")

Walking into the banquet room, one is greeted with a comfortable setup of the usual vintage 1960's furniture.  At this point I'm convinced that no lodge is allowed to have furniture less than 40 years old.  It's well-kept and still comfortable though, not held together with duct tape and baling twine like some I'd seen.

One thing I didn't notice was the Lodge room itself.  The banquet hall and social areas were massive.  Where was there even room?  The answer was down the hall, through another social area for Eastern Star, and through a very esoteric-looking oak door complete with brass knocker and old-fashioned peephole.  A large lodge room with some of the newest carpeting and wallpaper I'd yet to see, filled with stadium seating to the North and a double-row of seats along the South.

The business meeting was called to order and the upcoming book selection was discussed.  This being my first visit as a member of Iowa Research Lodge #2, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Thankfully they weren't as dry as the meetings I'd attended as a party-level district political representative.

Following the meeting we were treated to a meal in the banquet hall.  The dinner was one of the finest I'd had the pleasure of having at Lodge (sorry Keith) and was well worth the $12.00 I'd paid to attend.  Roast beef with stewed potatoes, carrots, and peas were the main course.  A side dish of jello fruit cocktail was served (I love that stuff) along with chocolate cake and ice cream for desert.  There was more than enough for everyone, us fat guys included.  The cooking staff did a tremendous job.

We were then ushered back into the lodge room for the evening's lecture.  An update on the Iowa Online Mentoring Course being put into place by Grand Lodge, the goal of which is to regain the one-on-one time lost when Iowa stopped requiring rote memorization of ritual work.  After hearing the presentation, I honestly believe this will be a huge step forward in educating new Masons, as well as giving older Masons something to rekindle their involvement.

Membership was presented as a hole-filled bucket.  New members come in the top and leak out the bottom via holes of death, life changes, lack of interest, and non-payment of dues.  The question:  How do we plug the holes?  You can't stop people from dying, and you can't fault people for leaving due to career changes and other circumstances.

New members are joining for spiritual enlightenment and self-betterment.  They want the Freemasonry of Mackey and Pike, and often encounter a hollow shell which is nothing more than a Men's club requiring belief in God.  Dissatisfied and feeling as if the Fraternity isn't what they thought it would be, they quietly slip out the back door and never return.  If we don't provide what the members are seeking, the Freemasonry of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, they won't stay members for long.

The presenters noted that most new masons these days have read more about Freemasonry prior to joining than many current Masons have read since being raised.  This hit home for me, as it's clearly my situation.  My collection of Masonic books numbered in the double-digits before I'd even thought of petitioning for membership.  I joined looking for esotericism and philosophical discussion, not arguments at business meetings.  Thankfully I've the fortitude to change what I don't like and be that catalyst as needed.

Queue the Online Mentoring Course.  This optional program presents the new initiate with a plethora of esoteric and gnostic teachings which are central to Masonic enlightenment.  It explains not just the symbolism, not just the whys, but the hows and musts of Freemasonry.  It returns to the Craft the one-on-one instruction and teaching which, apparently, has been inadvertently lost since the days of two men in a basement going over the cipher book.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0955035287/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0955035287&linkCode=as2&tag=thlali-20&linkId=NUULVFF5AY5E3A2GThe Brothers in Iowa have accepted this idea more than was hoped.  Four eight-hour classes on the OMC were scheduled across the state and all were quickly filled.  (A shame, since I'd planned on attending one myself next week.)  From the sound of the Brothers explaining the classes, they'd expected light participation at the most.  Now they are anticipating having to hold more classes due to the overwhelming interest.

The meeting concluded at 8pm sharp, as promised, which was an absolute blessing given that I had a three hour drive home.  I headed out on the road with a new book in hand, The Goat, the Devil and the Freemason.  It promises to be quite the interesting read, going in-depth on how the goat stories started, why people think Freemasons worship Satan, as well as other falsehoods about the fraternity. 

Overall, my evening with the Brethren of Iowa Research Lodge #2 was quite enjoyable.  I made several new acquaintances and enjoyed some very stimulating conversation.  If you're interested in joining, if only for the quality reading material you get at bargain prices, please do so.  I guarantee you won't be disappointed. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Iowa Research Lodge

I've recently joined Iowa Research Lodge #2, and will be attending their meeting in Cedar Falls, Iowa this Friday evening. It will be quite the drive - a little over six hours round-trip - but I am looking forward to it. When I asked on reddit "what fun things research lodges do," I was told "nothing fun, just write papers." Well if that's accurate I'm in for a treat, because I love doing that.