Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesdays

Most Worshipful Grand Master McCarthy has begun a series of articles on his blog focusing on the subject of Tolerance. I have found these short pieces to be very erudite. Tolerance is one of the precepts of Freemasonry in my state. We are taught that we should not discuss religion or politics in Lodge nor should we regard a man for his wealth but look to the strength of his character. I want to thank the Grand Master for focusing on this most important subject for the study of Masons.

If you would like to read his past articles, you can find them below.

March 30th

April 7th

April 13th

April 21st

April 26th

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don Wildman at the House of the Temple

Don Wildman of "Cities of the Underworld" fame (you can find the show on History) appears to be helping the Scottish Rite Masons of the Southern Jurisdiction explore their own history. Wildman was invited to speak before the DC Scottish Rite and was given a behind the scenes tour of the House of the Temple. The video is a preview of a show called "A Masonic World". I am not sure if or when this show will go live but the supposed show does have its own Youtube channel. We will see what the guys behind this series plan to go with it. You can find the full story of Wildman's visit can be found on the front page of the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction's site.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Corinthian Lodge #67 Awards/Widows Night

Corinthian Lodge #67 hosted an open Table Lodge/Awards Night/Widows Night. I had a great amount of fun from toast to toast. We had jokes told by our Worshipful Master, Paul, and a very good presentation by our Area Deputy, James. We honored our Widows with a tribute. We also presented Awards to our brothers for their long service to the Craft. We were even fortunate enough to present a one brother with his 60 Year Award. Oh yeah, and I was named Mason of the Year for 2009.

This is a great honor that has been bestowed upon me by my brothers. I was very shocked to learn that I was earning this great award as I didn't know until thirty minutes before. I am truly honored that my brothers think of me so highly and I promise to continue working to improve our Lodge to continue to earn this honor. As I stood to accept my Award, I thought of what I would say. This is an extremely shortened and paraphrased version of what I said:

Masonry stands at a paradox. We are changing rapidly as new brothers and new ideas enter our Lodges. However, we are also an organization that has remained in its current form for centuries. What do we do? I believe that it is to allow exploration to occur but it must always be in the back of all brother's minds the ancient nature of this Fraternity. We truly have our work and our rewards ahead of us.

On an unrelated note, I passed the Bar Exam.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today in Masonic History: Humanum Genus

On April 20th, 1884, Pope Leo XIII issued the papal encyclical, Humanum Genus, denouncing Freemasonry and forbidding Catholics from becoming Freemasons. Here are some key quotes

Candidates are generally commanded to promise - nay, with a special oath, to swear - that they will never, to any person, at any time or in any way, make known the members, the passes, or the subjects discussed. Thus, with a fraudulent external appearance, and with a style of simulation which is always the same, the Freemasons, like the Manichees of old, strive, as far as possible, to conceal themselves, and to admit no witnesses but their own members. As a convenient manner of concealment, they assume the character of literary men and scholars associated for purposes of learning. They speak of their zeal for a more cultured refinement, and of their love for the poor; and they declare their one wish to be the amelioration of the condition of the masses, and to share with the largest possible number all the benefits of civil life. Were these purposes aimed at in real truth, they are by no means the whole of their object. Moreover, to be enrolled, it is necessary that the candidates promise and undertake to be thenceforward strictly obedient to their leaders and masters with the utmost submission and fidelity, and to be in readiness to do their bidding upon the slightest expression of their will; or, if disobedient, to submit to the direst penalties and death itself. As a fact, if any are judged to have betrayed the doings of the sect or to have resisted commands given, punishment is inflicted on them not infrequently, and with so much audacity and dexterity that the assassin very often escapes the detection and penalty of his crime.

A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor a bad tree produce good fruit...the Masonic sect produces fruits that are pernicious and of the bitterest savor.

I, myself, am not a Catholic nor do I know much about Canon Law concerning Freemasonry. I know many Catholic brothers that I know are good men. So here I stand, man standing on the outside of the glass, my only contact with the Catholic world coming from brothers and friends who are of that world and even some of them are Freemasons.

If you want to know more about the Catholic Church's evolving Canon Law on Masonic membership, click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reverend Davidson Loehr on "In the Stream"

My favorite radio host now has a new show broadcast live online by the City Pages, a hip city paper in Minneapolis, called "In the Stream". I really found his Good Friday show to be fascinating as he had Reverend Davidson Loehr as a guest. He was on Mischke's show to discuss his views of belief in America.

Rev. Davidson Loehr, a Vietnam War veteran, earned his Ph.D in religion from the University of Chicago and has been a Unitarian minister for two decades. He is also a member of the Jesus Seminar.

If you are unfamiliar with Rev. Loehr, one of his most famous sermons is entitled, "Living Under Fascism" which you can find here. You may disagree with the Reverend but it is always important, in my opinion, to understand the arguments of scholars on every side of an issue, especially one as important as religion. I was really interested in the understanding of compassion as it relates to living beings, not merely human beings, but all creatures. According to Rev. Loehr, studies are showing that all creatures seem hardwired with a sense of compassion for their fellow creatures.

If you have time, you should also listen to Mischke's other shows as he is truly one of the jewels of Minnesota radio and is on the forefront of how radio will be: online, on demand, broadcasted over the airwaves, and in many new forms not yet conceived.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: Parks and Recreation

I checked my DVR today and began watching a show I was interested in seeing called “Parks and Recreation”. I was interested because 6 out of 10 years of my entire working life was with two parks and rec as well as my Eagle Scout project was with the City Parks and Rec. While I was watching the show, a very funny Masonic reference made during the public forum. Apparently, a man feels that he is being targeted by a 9° Mason. I always knew that bureaucrats were “higher” level Masons. Pretty funny show all around.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Myrtle Chapter #13 Installation

I was fortunate this weekend to visit the open officers installation of Myrtle Chapter #13, Order of the Eastern Star. I was there as a representative of the brothers of Corinthian Lodge #67. I have never been to a Eastern Star meeting or event and I am not a member so this was a very new experience. The best way to describe it is with an example; I have heard that those who speak Spanish can be somewhat familiar with French but may not understand. As I watched the installation of the sisters and brothers of Myrtle, I could recognize some of the similarities but it was only of the basic structures.

I have heard brothers complain about Eastern Star. "Why do they meet in our Lodge rooms?" However, I am of the belief that Masonry should be a family affair. Certainly, I am not saying that women should be made Masons but do we really need to separate our Masonic life from our family life? RWB Tom, the Senior Grand Warden has a very great saying: "Masonry is a way of life." Our families are a part of our lives.

I noticed also that within the concepts of Eastern Star is an overarching theme, the women are in charge. Masonry, CGMMNA and PHA, is a male dominated organization. It only allows men to join and only men take part in its ritual. Many fraternal organizations have ladies auxiliary but it strictly delineates the roles of the sexes. Eastern Star is designed around both women and men being able to meet together and it is the Worthy Matron that rules over the Chapter.

In my Lodge, even women that are not in Eastern Star are still invited to our Holiday potlucks, our Sweetheart's Night and our family picnics. Why? I think it is to so our ladies know that we do care for their opinion and approval as Masons. I want to congratulate Myrtle Chapter's new Worthy Matron, Kerry, and I hope for her a very good year. I know that she and I will, should tradition prevail, be working very closely together.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fraternalism Experiencing Upswing?

In metroactive, a Silicon Valley weekly newspaper, there is an article entitled “The New Fraternals” which has really raised my spirits for Freemasonry. The article describes the revival of fraternalism in the Bay Area. The story of Neils Espenship is truly the centerpiece of what is happening in Freemasonry and the broader Fraternal world. He was into the punk scene, and did not join Freemasonry until he was 35. On this blog, I have described the movement of the young 20 somethings joining the Craft but that is unnecessarily and unreasonably narrow. I have noticed in my Masonic travels that it is men in their thirties, forties and fifties that are joining are ranks in greater numbers.
I have a theory about this phenomenon, as men have become older and wiser, they began to see the need for companionship. This desire for companionship cannot be fully realized by one's family or job. The avenues of good cheer and fellowship among non-family and non-coworkers complete the social life of men.

At the Grand Lodge of Minnesota's Annual Communication in Saint Cloud recently, we were fortunate enough to have Worshipful Brother Robert Davis, the 2008-2009 recipient of the Duane E. Anderson National Excellence in Masonic Education Award, who was kind enough to explain the reasons for men joining groups again. However, the main reason for men to join the Craft, and I thought was really driving all this home, was the simple fact that men like to get together.

My favorite quote from the article is actually a word of caution for those guys joining with "confused" motives:

A lot of people go into it now thinking that they're going to be handed the keys to the universe, and get to do all these clandestine, weird rituals," he says. "It's not that at all. It is gonna be you hanging out with a bunch of old men.
It isn't only the Freemasons that are experiencing a renewal. The Moose and the Odd Fellows were also featured in this article. I have very little knowledge about the Odd Fellows but I was fascinated by the Odd Fellows Park. In California, the Odd Fellows maintain a housing community. To be allowed to purchase a house in the community, a person must either be an Odd Fellow or a Mason. I had never heard of this phenomenon but I was immediately impressed. Fraternal organizations are built around the idea of community so the idea of building a neighborhood around those great values seems like a no-brainer. (Fun fact, the Bohemian Grove meets only a few miles southwest of Odd Fellows Park.)

We are making a comeback, brothers, and it is how we handle this renewal that will decide where we go from here on out. It use to be that we would ask ourselves, "How do we get members?", now the question is, "What do we do with all these guys joining now?" It is a good problem to have, indeed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Returning to Masonic DEFCON 5

I have been informed that the resolution passed in the 156th Annual Grand Lodge Communication which would have our Grand Lodge investigate and make a recommendation on withdrawing recognition of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia has been rescinded by our Most Worshipful Grand Master. The edict presented today shows that just as there are two sides to every court case, there are two sides to every action in Masonry. In fact, the Grand Lodge of West Virginia has presented their side complete with their Appeals and Grievances Committee report to our Grand Lodge. Although there remain unanswered questions, I am willing to admit that as it is in the civil court system of the state of West Virginia, they are in the best position to determine the truth. The edict, itself, could go down as one of the best written Masonic jurisprudence documents of its time. I want to thank MWB McCarthy for having a cooler head than most when it came down to this issue.

I still admit that I see merit in MWB Haas' plea to the brethren but I understand why this resolution must not stand. There is, in fact, a court case going forward at this moment. There are still unanswered questions but there is a wise Judge presiding over that case that will sort through the arguments made. Also, it is bad form to attack a Grand Lodge when this is exact action has happened before to us, i.e. Grande Loge de France. The most important argument to me is that the resolution is far too vague to even give any guidance to the External Committee, the Grand Master or the Grand Lodge. In the law, vagueness and or overbreadth are two ways that a statute cannot stand. When a law is vague, it is nearly impossible to apply and is almost assuredly going to be unfairly applied to someone. All in all, MWB McCarthy has shown that good legal research and argument as well as good sound judgment can keep brothers from doing something rash. My sincere hope is that there is a just and rational determination made by both parties to resolve this case. I know that I am backtracking and sounding like a hypocrite which is fair to say but as the old song goes, "what a diff'rence a day made." Here is the full text of the edict signed by MWGM Tom McCarthy.

And as my Grand Master has talked us off the ledge, I have decided to include a classic WKRP in Cincinnati episode about a ledge and a newsman known as Les.