Freemasonry: As American As Apple Pie

Brethren,

Please forgive me for my absence from the blog–the past six weeks have been a bit insane. I’m now back on night shift at work so I have plenty of time during the day (when I should be sleeping) to ruminate on all things Masonic, and I predict the postings will come at a more regular basis over the next several weeks.

Given that we just passed Memorial Day, I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently thinking about the intersection between Freemasonry and the hallmarks of being a good American citizen [1] Our Masonic connection to our country runs much deeper our simple habit of saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the opening of lodge meetings. Instead, the very obligations, duties, and principles we so frequently inculcate to make ourselves better men automatically lend themselves toward making us better citizens!

It is necessary to first define “good citizenship,” as it pertains to this article. Merriam-Webster defines “citizen” as “a person who legally belongs to a country and has the rights and protection of that country.” [2] From this definition, we could surmise (for our purposes here, at least) that a “good citizen” is one such member of a country who, by his actions and outlook, actively makes an effort to earn those rights and protections offered to him by his country.

As Entered Apprentices, we learn to square our actions and circumscribe our passions. In order to be good citizens, we must restrain our passions and live a moral life. Reasonable discourse is seriously lacking in today’s political arena. Masonry supersedes party lines and political boundaries. Instead, as Masons, our willingness to view government policies objectively (seeing both the good and bad of a given piece of legislation) and engage in self-moderated discourse (outside of the lodge, of course) can serve to promote understanding and harmony at a grassroots level in a time of great political polarity, discontent, and uncertainty. Rectitude of life goes hand in hand with self-moderation. If we are to truly earn the freedoms we’ve been granted as American citizens, we have a responsibility to live moral lives. This morality should go above and beyond simple adherence to our laws. Instead, we have an obligation to actively strive to make our communities a better place for our fellow countrymen.

As Masons, we are taught to constantly seek more light, thus daily increasing in knowledge and virtue. It is imperative that good citizens be well-read and cognizant of the world around them. Part of earning the freedoms with which we’re entrusted as American citizens is making a conscious effort to understand those freedoms and how they differ and/or relate to those (or a lack thereof) offered by other countries around the world to their respective citizens.

The tie between Freemasonry and being a good citizen is so pronounced that Anderson devoted an entire section of his Constitutions of Masonry to that very relationship. According to Anderson, being a Mason is a direct antecedent to being a good citizen: “…[A Mason’s] obligations as a subject and citizen will not be relaxed, but enforced. He is to be a lover of quiet, peaceable and obedient to the civil powers, which yield him protection, and are set over him where he resides or works, so far as they infringe not the limited bounds of reason and religion. Nor can a real Craftsman ever be concerned in plots against the State, or be disrespectful to the magistracy; because the welfare of his country is his peculiar care.” [3] (emphasis mine)

In 1924, the Masonic Service Association of the United States published a series of short books into a collection called the “Little Masonic Library.” [4] One volume, entitled “Masonry and Americanism” sheds light on how Masonic principles can make our country a better place. 1924 was a difficult time for America. World War I had recently concluded, and despite the boom of the roaring twenties, America was still coming to grips with the tremendous loss of life incurred at the expense of the war. The political climate of the period in which this book was written, particularly regarding political discontent, parallels American society today a great deal. “Masonry and Americanism” contends that “Freemason has not one but many principles, which apply to the conditions America faces today. Those principles have heretofore been a passive force, and their influence has been felt in the world through the character of individual Masons. The challenge of the hour is that we make that force active…” [5] Our true challenge today as Masons and citizens, like back in 1924, is to  effect positive change of a wide scale. If we can band together as good men, Masons, and citizens, then perhaps we can illuminate the way for others and make this great country an even greater place for all who reside within its borders.

JR

[1] If you haven’t already done so, please pay a visit to The Midnight Freemasons for a fantastic article on Memorial Day from Bro Brian Schimian.

[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/citizen

[3] James Anderson’s “Constitutions of Masonry,” Section II.

[4] I’ve got about five of the 16 volumes that make up the MSA “Little Masonic Library.” I keep telling myself one day I’ll get them all!

[5] “Freemasonry and Americanism,” page 145.

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