Number 296 – September 20, 2010
By Ed Halpaus
Dear Masonic Student,
Over the years there have been times when I have heard criticisms leveled at the Fraternity by Freemasons because they felt that Freemasonry has not been involved in important social and political issues of the day. Many times they mention, as examples, Freemasonry’s stand on the issues of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially the events leading to the American ‘Revolutionary War’ and America’s ‘Civil War,’ or the ‘War Between the States,’ as it is also called here in the U.S.
Actually there is no evidence that the Masonic Fraternity itself had anything to do with the events that led up to the American Revolutionary War, and the American Civil War. There is, however, ample evidence that individuals who were Freemasons were deeply involved in the issues and politics that led up to these conflicts. Actually Masons were deeply involved as individuals on both sides of the issues that preceded these conflicts.
Some good books to read on the subject are “Freemasonry in American History” by Allen Roberts, ISBN-0-88053-078-2, “The American Revolution and the Craft,” published by Anchor Communications ISBN-0-935633-19-7, and “House Undivided – The story of Freemasonry and the Civil War” by Allen Roberts ISBN-0-88053-056-1 Any Freemason who enjoys studying American history and Freemasonry will enjoy the learning that is available in these books. I think each of these books might be out of print, but you may be able to find them in a good Library (Masonic and public) as well as used book sources: My favorite source for good used Masonic books is Brother Harold Davidson (founder of the Billings Masonic Library and Librarian for The Philalethes Society) at email@example.com
When a person studies history, and Freemasonry regarding the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, that person will find no direct involvement by The Masonic Fraternity. It is true that Freemasons, as individuals, were involved in just about every level of involvement in the political and social issues, as well as the wars, but as individual citizens of their country. In modern times Masons can still be found to be involved in many social and political issues; as individuals and citizens of their respective countries, but not as Freemasons.
Having said that – there are times when Grand Masters have encouraged Masons in their jurisdictions to get involved in some social issues, and there are times when a Grand Lodge has become involved with Social issues too. A recent example in my jurisdiction (Minnesota) is the Masonic Cancer Center (hospital) connected with the University of Minnesota. It is a teaching hospital as well as a place for cancer patients to receive excellent care. Our Grand Lodge has made significant cash donations (funding) to help this cancer center continue its important life-saving work (I may be understating my Grand Lodge’s role over the past decades) and just last year the Grand Lodge, on behalf of the Masons of Minnesota, pledged another 65 million dollars, the first payment of that pledge coming this year.
Examples of Grand Masters encouraging Masons as individuals and Lodges to get involved in social issues have involved donating dollars to worthy causes. For some worthy social issues the Masonic Service Association of North America acts as an agent to distribute money on behalf of all the Masons and Grand Lodges who donate towards the worthy cause: The M.S.A. does this without deducting even one-cent for administration; it’s a wonderful place for people (Masons and non-Masons alike) to have handle the money they donate to a worthy cause.
In Minnesota, one of our Past Grand Masters encouraged Masons and their Lodges to do things to support the efforts of ‘Shelters,’ (if I term it correctly); these are local organizations for the support and protection of people who have been battered in domestic situations, (these people tend to be women and children.) M.W. Brother Roger Taylor encouraged Masons and Lodges to do something good for these ‘shelters’ and their clients. Many Masons and their Lodges continue to do this. More recently our Past Grand Master Thomas G. McCarthy encouraged the Grand Lodge officers and other interested Masons to get involved by attending seminars and training sessions with the ‘Men’s Action Network,’ which is an ‘Alliance to prevent sexual and domestic violence.’ The idea is that Freemasons take a stand to let the community know that Freemasons are foursquare against sexual and domestic violence.
This week I received an email from the Men’s Action Network here in Minnesota telling of a free training opportunity at Camp Shelia Wellstone for Men; this camp is about “Taking a Stand‐ Men Organizing to End Violence Against Women” Here is what the email says:
“The Sheila Wellstone Institute along with a team of men from Minnesota organizations who are working to end violence will host the first-ever Camp Sheila Wellstone for Men, an historic state-wide gathering of men who are working to end violence. This men-only [Free] conference will be held in the Twin Cities and is designed to:
· Build a stronger coalition of men who are working against violence in Minnesota
· Provide education about violence against women and effective – models of prevention
· Teach critical organizing and advocacy skills that build power and end violence against women and children
It will be held at the Best Western Kelly Inn – September 23 – 24, 2010 – located at; 161 St. Anthony Ave. St. Paul, MN55103 – 1:00pm —5:00pm Thursday –and 8:30am—4pm Friday.”
I simply thought that interested Minnesota Masons, who have the time available, would want to know about this free training event. If you are interested in attending this free Training here is the link to register: https://www.thedatabank.com/dpg/114/mtglistproc.asp?formid=MTGC3&caleventid=7119
I’m not sure, but I think other States and provinces have similar organizations, which men who are against domestic violence can become a part of.
So when Masons comment that Grand Lodges should take a stand on social issues – they do. I wish I were more aware of every program all of our Grand Lodges and all related Masonic bodies are involved in for the betterment of society. However, there is a very good book that talks about many social programs Lodges, Grand Lodges, and other Masonic groups, are involved in. The book is “Masonic Philanthropies – A Tradition of Caring,” by S. Brent Morris; published by the Supreme Councils of the Northern and Southern Jurisdictions of the Scottish Rite. My copy is old now, published in 1997; there are over 100 pages delineating Masonic involvement in social issues by many areas of Freemasonry. I don’t know if the book has been updated over the years, but I do know that Lodges, Grand Lodges, and Masonry’s appendant bodies, are still and even more involved in social issues in 2010 that they were in ’97.
When Masons like you and me get involved in one way or another in social issues as well as the political process of our respective communities large and small we are continuing a tradition of Masons as concerned citizens doing what they can to be a part of the change to better our society. Yes Masons do this; an interesting question might be; do they do it because of Masonry, or do they do it because of the kind of men they are? Another question could be; if they don’t do it because they are Freemasons, is Freemasonry something that these kind of men are attracted to, because they are good men who want to improve themselves through what they can learn from Freemasonry? Well, you might guess that I think Freemasonry is the kind of fraternity these good men are attracted to, and these are the kind of men Freemasons will be happy to recommend by signing a petition when such a good man asks to be made a Mason.
Words to live by: “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Isaac Asimov
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