The fundamental reason for|
The current criticism of Freemasonry
Presented at the Vancouver Grand masonic Day, October 16, 1999
by Bro. Gary Leazer, Masonic Information Center, Silver Spring, Maryland
The hypothesis of this paper is that with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, a particular kind of theology called dispensational fundamentalism is the driving force behind the current effort by a small number of very vocal people pushing their conservative churches and denominations to condemn the masonic fraternity as a false, or even Satanic, religion. Most of the current criticisms against Freemasonry are coming, not from members of the Southern Baptist Convention, but from members belonging to independent churches and other denominations.
I do not wish to attack anyones religious belief or faith, and let me hasten to say that many men who consider themselves conservatives and/or fundamentalists are active and dedicated freemason. I, myself, am a conservative in theology.
I believe I understand the mindset of those individuals who seek to condemn Freemasonry. I seek to explain and not attack.
One recent illustration can be offered. A church in State College, Pennsylvania, has told its members,
I and several others from the Masonic Information Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, flew to State College to speak to freemasons and critics representing clergy in several churches in the State College area in an attempt to resolve some of the questions being raised about our fraternity. We were extremely pleased with the response and the anti-masonic rhetoric has subsided, although it has not died out completely.
A number of reasons have been proposed for the current anti-masonic effort, but I would argue that they are outward signs or symptoms of a much deeper cause. Several reasons being offered, but which miss the real cause are:
"It is hoped that those members and adherents... who are Freemasons will choose to disassociate themselves with Freemasonry and inform the Board of Elders and the Pastor of their decision. The Board of Elders along with the Pastor will meet with each member who desires to remain a Freemason and decide on the appropriate action in each case."
Cardinal Caro y Rodriquez, Archbishop of Santiago, Chile, was opposed to Freemasonry because he claimed freemasons were behind the removal of the crucifix and images from public schools (after the Chilean elections of 1924); were behind the organization of the Boy Scouts "with the concealed purpose of alienating the children from the [Catholic] Church;" were behind the effort to replace the Catechism and influence of Catholic parents with "teachers of lay morality, without religion;" and favors and helps Protestantism, which he defined as "a rebellion against the authority established by His Church by Our Lord Jesus Christ."
Dictatorships such as Nazi Germany and various communist countries drove the fraternity underground during the early part of this century.
I would argue that all of these illustrations are but symptoms of a far more fundamental hatred of the fraternity.
I will present what I firmly believe is the fundamental reason for the attack on the fraternity at this time in history.
A particular kind of theology called dispensational fundamentalism is the driving force for all Protestant evangelical critics of the fraternity. Dispensationalism traces its roots to the early 1800s with Margaret MacDonald and John Nelson Darby who began to teach that evil would soon take control of the world under the rule of the Antichrist, who is the beast in the Book of Revelation, who will fight Christ in the final Battle of Armageddon. This particular theology found its main followers within rural, less educated Christians, until the mid-1960s when it became increasingly popular among more educated main-stream Christians such as independent churches and then Southern Baptists.
Professor Donald Bloesch of Dubuque Seminary finds that one of the marks of dispensational fundamentalism is its inordinate attention given to eschatology; an emphasis on the last days of human history.
According to this theology, the world as we know it will last 6,000 years. Since it was created about 4000 BC, or 6,000 years ago, we are living in the last days. According to this theology, we are living in the final church age, called the Laodicean age in Revelation 3, which is marked by liberalism and apostasy in the church and moral decay in society.
Signs of this moral decay are said to include the USA Supreme Court rulings disallowing prayers in public schools in 1963 and allowing abortions in 1973, the teaching of evolution, acceptance of homosexuality, the breakdown of the family, drug use, &c.
The creation of the nation of Isræl in 1948 is said to be the greatest sign. Hal Lindsey, a leading popular exponent of dispensational fundamentalism, writes in The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, "And after nearly 2,000 years of wandering through exile, the Jews returned to Palestine and formed the nation of Isræl on May 14, 1948. On that day, the prophetic countdown began!"
The creation of the European Common Market is seen as a fulfillment of the biblical prophecy in Revelation 17 which speaks of ten kings who make war against Christ. Lindsey writes, "When I wrote that in Late Great [Planet Earth in 1970] the only possible successor to the Roman Empire (in my opinion) was the European Common Market."
When he adds the Arabs, Russia and China, Lindsey concludes, "Thus we have all five pieces of the [Old Testament] prophets' scenario for the later days. All the powersIsræl, the Arabs, Russia, China and the revived Roman Empireare fixed in place.
Conspiracy hunter and author of the book, The New World Religion, Gary Kah, in a recent program on Pat Robertsons Christian Broadcasting Network, warned about the coming "One World Government." He lists groups he claims are promoting the "One World Government." They include the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. Kah says, "I have found repeatedly, as I have investigated some of these organizations, that the leaders of many of them do belong to one or more of the secret societies, particularly the institution of Freemasonry."
The church and the government have been unwilling or unable to stop the moral decline in our society. It is believed government, religious leaders, church-related academics, and liberal pastors seem to have lost their way and become part of the problem. Fundamentalists see themselves as Gods last hope in our world today.
Everyone is believed to be either for or against God. So-called true believers and so-called unbelievers are divided into two camps. These individuals form the extreme right in the religious world; anyone to the left of them is automatically a part of the other group. Human institutions , civil, political and religious, are inherently defective and doomed.
In the political arena, we see this in the rise of the religious right and the Moral Majority and the candidacy of men such as TV evangelist and masonic critic, Pat Robertson. [SeeThe New
World Order, 1991.]
Democracy must be replaced with a theocracyor rule by God rather than man. Of course, the religious right sees itself as the only avenue through which this can occur. One Southern Baptist leader warned the Republican Party, "evangelical Christians are looking for parties and candidates that endorse their values, not vice versa. I add that if you want evangelical Christians to support you, you must adopt and support their values and concerns."
Democracy has allowed citizens to have too much freedomwhere all convictions about right and wrong are of equal value. Fundamentalist Ralph D. Winter said, "I recall with chagrin how naïvely in my youth I accepted that famous line from the Declaration of Independence'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' What a poison for any nation to drink."
In addition to the government, the church must be prepared and made pure by purging it of liberalism, false doctrine and unbelievers. The church is called the "bride of Christ" in the New Testament. The church must be a pure virgin when Christ returns. Thus, the purge taking place.
Concerning this purge, there can be no compromiseand the purge is on the fast-track. Total defeat of anyone perceived to be opposed to God is the only goal. Nothing less will do. George Dollar says, "Evil and error must be exposed. It is vital for fundamentalism to resist any tolerance of error and compromise and to maintain its militant spirit." In another book, Dollar defines fundamentalism: "Historic Fundamentalism is the literal exposition of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible and the militant exposure of all non-biblical affirmations and attitudes."
Mortimer Ostow says, "Fundamentalists think in terms of black-and-white polarities, finding the intermediate shades of gray inconceivable."
Compromise is not a word in our critics' vocabulary. The hope that masonic critics will eventually forget about the fraternity is a naïve hope which simply will not be realized.
My replacement at the Southern Baptist Conventions North American Mission Board has referred to himself as the only official heresy hunter in the SBC. I never considered myself a heresy hunter. His attitude points out a major difference between freemasons and fundamentalists. Freemasons seek friendship even with people whose beliefs are not the same as ours while fundamentalists look for evidence of liberalism, apostasy or toleration with the world and seek to isolate or destroy anyone holding a view different from theirs. Freemasons point out the good they do in society, but the critics are not interested in that good. They do not look for the good, but only for the perceived bad. They look for reasons to condemn and reject.
One fundamentalist pastor recently admitted his philosophy was control. He said, "If I can't control you; I will intimidate you. If I can't intimidate you; I will freeze you out." I experienced all of this during my study of Freemasonry. Our critics will never accept Freemasonry. If freemasons refuse to renounce their membership, they will be intimidated and if necessary frozen out of leadership positions in churches at the leastand fellowship withdrawn at the worst.
Pluralism in America has emerged as another enemy. Harold O. J. Brown asserted that if "evangelical Christians are to have any impact for the transformation of this society... it will be necessary to kill the sacred cow of pluralism."
The questions are often asked, "Is Masonry Satanic?" or "Is Masonry Occultic?" Several reasons for these questions may be cited. First, the Leo Taxil hoax which falsely claims Albert Pike spoke of Lucifer as the god of Freemasonry. Second, the mention of pagan deities such as Isis and Horus in masonic writings. Third, dispensational fundamentalists believe that an increase in satanic or demonic activities is a characteristic of the end times. Therefore, they watch for any signs of this which will confirm their preconceived ideas that Satan and his demons lurk behind every bush.
Williams writes, "One needs only to read one of Frank Perettis novels to see how pervasive is this conviction and how committed many fundamentalists are to conspiracy theories."
The current anti-masonic craze may end in a few yearsafter some of the current end-of-the-world craze dies, but it will never go away. There is very little we can do about most of these issues. We can respond to some or the more blatant charges. We must take seriously the criticisms being leveled against the fraternity. We must get back to the basics of what this fraternity is all about. We must educate the brethren. Promote the fraternity and open it up. You and I know our critics are standing in quicksand with their arguments.
I contend there are very few men who join the fraternity because of our so-called secret teachings. But there are probably many men who would make good freemasons but don't join because of newspaper articles, books, tapes, sermons, etc. which question and attack our organization. My next-door neighbor is an example. He petitioned a lodge and was accepted. He happened to mention this to his minister, a Presbyterian, who warned him about Freemasonry and the man has now decided not to become a freemason.
So what then should we do? We must not concentrate on what our critics are sayings. We must take the high road in all of our efforts as Masons. It is said that actions speak louder than words and this is a case where I believe they do.
I am first of all a theologian and a churchman. I spent more than six years in graduate schools and for over twenty years have studied church growth: why some churches grow and some die. There are a number of well-known reasons, some as simply as changing communities. But a key reason found in all studies is that churches which grow move outside their walls into the communities, to identify the needs of the people they are trying to reach and of meeting those needs. Churches that die do not do this. I contend that Freemasonry must move outside our lodge halls and into our communities, to get involved in helping to solve the growing social problems we face. The men out there are the men we would like to see in here. If I could change one thing about the fraternity, I would insist that every lodge have at least one hands-on project in its community every year where the men of the lodge are seen doing something for their community. It might be something as simple as raking leaves in someones yard, or painting someones house, or sponsoring a youth ball team. The possibilities are endlessand the rewards are immeasurable. Put on your thinking caps and lets get busy sharing our light in our communities.
- Some freemasons have speculated that perhaps some masonic critics were turned down when they petitioned for lodge membership. While this may be true, I have found no evidence of that. I have found that some freemasons, such as Jim Shaw, joined the fraternity for the wrong reasons. He grew up in an abusive home. His father deserted the family when Jim was only a few months old. His mother remarried. His step-father beat him and his mother. Then, his step-father threw him out of the house at age 13. His parents gave him little religious training. Shaw looked to Masonryhe was encouraged to "try to be like your Uncle Irvin" who was a "good man and a Mason." He joined the fraternity and began an active member, eventually becoming a 32°( KCCH). When he became a Christian, Shaw said he found what he was looking for in his newfound faith in Christ. Because Freemasonry had not provided what he had hoped it would, he turned against it.
- James Larry Holly, the Beaumont, Texas physician who was recognized as the leading Southern Baptist critic of Freemasonry between 1985 and 1994 states that one of the reasons he is opposed to Freemasonry is because it is a religion. Indeed, all masonic critics begin with the assumption that Freemasonry is a religion. But Holly has a more personal reason for his opposition to the fraternity. His father is a freemason and an Episcopalian. Holly says his father is not a Christian and blames Freemasonry because he claims his father was told Freemasonry is all the religion he needs.
- Money is a driving force for many masonic critics. In fact, most of the agitators are people who operate a ministry seeking to condemn not only Freemasonry, but the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups they have decided are not "Christian." Sensational stories sell magazines and books just as putting a scantily-clad woman on the cover of a paperback sells books. Ed Decker finds streets in Washington, DC that form a five-pointed star or pentagram and a square and compasses. To fire up his readers, Decker calls his diagram an "occult iceberg" with the White House, the Washington Monument and the House of the Temple within his "Masonic conspiracy puzzle." He sees the head and ears of what satanists call the goat of Mendes in the circle drive and short streets behind the Capitol and associates this with Freemasonry. When he finishes spinning his web, he concludes that the United States is under the control of freemasons and assorted other groups.
- In some countries, politics plays an important part in the condemnation of the fraternity. This is a primary reason behind the Roman Catholic Churchs opposition to the fraternity. A freemason, Giuseppe Garibaldi, led the successful effort to crush the temporal power of the Pope in Italy, reducing the Roman Catholic Churchs holding in Italy to the 109-acre Vatican City. This successful effort was a main catalyst for Pope Leo XIIIs infamous encyclical, Humanum Genus, in 1884. It condemned Freemasonry as a "wicked force" and a "contagious disease" because freemasons:
- call for religious liberty;
- call for separation of [the Roman Catholic] Church and state;
- call for education of children by laymen rather than the [Roman Catholic] Church and;
- believe people have the right to make their own laws and elect their own government.