Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

03 March 2007

Freemasonry and Dissent

An esteemed older Brother invited me for dinner some time ago. I had no idea what he wanted to talk about when I accepted. On the appointed night we met for dinner and while seated at a quiet table he got right to the point: should Freemasons be able to criticize Grand Lodge government in blogs. This was never something I seriously questioned: Yes! Actually, the answer is a little more complex...

I recognize that there is an absolute requirement in all of our discourse that we maintain a certain level of mutual respect and love, yet when we say "...harmony being the strength and support of all societies, more especially ours..." it is not meant to stifle all forms disagreement. If that were true, we ought to be ejecting One Day Partisans left and right without regard for whether they are for or against. Then who would remain to participate in our meetings?

We two talked for some time about the matter at hand. He outlining the authoritarian position common to his generation, which he imagined was acquired from their participation in hierarchical institutions. He would be more inclined to release his personal opinions to fully exist within the structure of his lodge, District, Grand Lodge and so forth. It is, essentially, a chain-of-command approach. I eventually realized that while my generation apparently believes in the right of individual conscience, my own position was based much further back in history.

Portland Lodge No. 1, chartered in 1769, included both Loyalists and Patriots, or rebels depending on your point of view, and managed to meet during the American Revolution with officers of mixed political affiliation. Two Brethren, with passions inflamed, nearly came to blows in the street, yet still met in lodge together. Freemasonry in Maine is positively drowning in Civil War buffs. Just try asking a Freemason who is a Civil War enthusiast, "Is it really true that Freemasons on opposite sides of the line really helped each other?" Make sure your chair is comfortable because the discourse can positively go on for hours.

Is the censoring of Tim Bryce a more intense debate than the Revolution? Is the United Grand Lodge of America more divisive than the Civil War? I defy any reasonable Freemason to argue this position; it is preposterous! The current debates are so incredibly minor compared to the debates of our Brethren before us that if we cannot tolerate these, then, my Brothers, we are not Freemasons at all. If we cannot safeguard dissent over these minor issues, then what we have today is less than a shadow of the great Fraternity of our forefathers. We would then be but children play acting in the attire of our parents.

I do not believe that. I believe that what we have can survive this and though we may occasionally loose our way, as it appears the Grand Master of Florida has, we will find it. I place my trust in the essential goodness of these men and their ability to resolve this embarrassing situation.

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