Ezekiel Bey on the Prince Hall Masonic group Blue-Lite introduced the group to an old Theron Dunn article from his site, A Beacon of Masonic Light. Theron passed away three years ago but his work lives on.
That article brought back memories of the days Theron and I did battle. We met on Stephen Dafoe’s Masonic forum, thelodgeroom.com in the 90’s and later we both became Moderators of that forum. But Theron and I never saw eye to eye on much and we had some ferocious battles on line. He was a vocal proponent of the New Age Freemasonry that advocated marketing the Craft and becoming super active in community affairs, often called Masonic Awareness. This approach invested heavily in Institutionalized Charity and building membership by showing the uninitiated how good we are.
I felt that was wearing charity on my sleeve and a corruption of Masonic Relief which not only did more harm than good, but that produced Freemasons who had little knowledge of the intricacies of the fraternity to which they belonged. My theory on life is that it is as much about being as it is doing. After all we are human beings not human doings. Theron’s Freemasonry had so much doings that it crowded out time for just being.
Well one thing led to another and pretty soon Theron and I were not talking to each other. He moved on from thelodgeroom.com and much later so did I. After awhile we starting talking again, gingerly at first, but then a full blown relationship was re-birthed. At the time of his passing, Theron and I were once again debating the Masonic issues of the day but this time we had a healthy respect for each others opinion. We had learned the Masonic lesson of being able to disagree without judging. And that is what the article that Brother Bey featured and which is reprinted below is all about. It is one of Theron’s finest works.
Homosexuality in Masonic Lodges?
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The purpose of this article is not to discuss homosexuality, nor really, to discuss the possibility that there may be gay men in lodges. That written, it would be silly NOT to note something fairly obvious: given that 2% of the population is gay, and no lodge asks if a candidate is gay, we must assume that there are gay men in the lodges.
Of course, the corollary of the above argument may be true. Homosexuals are not exactly welcomed into most lodges, and if an openly gay man showed up at the west gate asking admission, I would not be at all surprised if at least one member of the lodge would not cast a black cube. Masons are men and products of our culture, after all.
I am not going to ask you to think about whether you would blackball an openly gay man, nor ask you to consider not casting a black cube on a gay man (ok, that last isn’t entirely true). Of course, the issue here really isn’t homosexuality, its just an example, because the issue here is whether or not we should be projecting OUR morality and value set(s) onto other people.
Freemasonry teaches us, among other issues, that we should be tolerant and charitable to others. What I am going to suggest is what we, as masons SHOULD be doing about the issue.
Lets say this year, the candidate proposed for Junior Warden was revealed as an active gay man. Lets say for the sake of argument that he is a pillar of the lodge, always ready to lend a hand, is a voice of reason, leads Masonic education in the lodge, and is otherwise the very embodiment of what we look for in a Mason.
Then you find out he is gay. Would you vote for him to serve as the Junior Warden of your lodge? Would you vote for him to serve as MASTER of your lodge? If not, why not? Think carefully here, because as Masons, we are taught the value of tolerance and are taught that we are each to apply the tools of Freemasonry to ourselves.
Christianity teaches that homosexuality is a sin… but Christians are also taught to hate the sin and love the sinner. Christianity teaches many things, but Masonry, as we keep telling the objectors and other pinheads, is not a Christian based organization. It is not a religion at all. It is a fraternity, as we all know, of men with a faith in g-d, however we each, individually, know and define him in our lives.
A fundamental (sorry) tradition of Freemasonry is that we do not push our religion on others in lodge. So how can we apply our understanding of a book translated from a language that has no word for homosexual into the lodge? How do we apply our morality?
This has much larger implications for the lodge, for our lives and our community. I chose this instant example because it is one that we have certainly experienced, or thought about, or talked about. How you apply your morality to your life is important, because it defines the Masonic edifice you are erecting.
How you apply your morality to OTHER people’s lives also defines you and that Masonic edifice.
Would you deny a man the opportunity to learn and grow from a Masonic experience, a man who is otherwise just and true, because of one aspect of this life, an aspect you personally do not agree with? If you would cast a black cube on a gay man, knowing he was gay, or vote no for a brother (because yes, he is a brother) who was nominated as an officer in your lodge because he was gay, what other action would you take to enforce YOUR morality, your understanding, your version of truth on others?
Lets step away from the issue of homosexuality for a moment, because its really not the focus here. What if the candidate was living with his girlfriend and their child? Would you cast a black cube then? What if the candidate had lived with his girlfriend for years, and then married her just before petitioning for the degrees, would that change your vote?
What if the man were participating in a totally legal enterprise where you lived? Lets say he owned a restaurant with a bar in it. Some brothers feel that selling alcohol is immoral. Would you cast a black cube for a man because he sells alcohol?
This is an important question, not because of the instant issue, homosexuality, alcohol, living in “sin”, because the issue isn’t these things. The issue is you, my brother, it is each of us, in the silence of our conscience. Honor and integrity is what you do when no one is looking.
We are each called to act in a just and upright manner, in our several stations before g-d and man. EACH of us individually. We are called to circumscribe our passions, desires, prejudices, each of us. No where in Freemasonry are we tasked with circumscribing each OTHERS passions, desires, prejudices.
I have stated often, its not about me changing them, it’s about me changing me. Here is a perfect case of that, and the question is, what will we, each of us, do when confronted with something we don’t like or agree with in our lives? Will we judge it? Well, we can’t avoid judging, its our values based lives that require it.
Judging, however, does not mean imposing sentence. As Masons, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family, the rich and the poor, the high and the low, who, as created by one almighty parent and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other.
If a man, who is otherwise qualified, is blackballed or a candidate for office in our lodges is voted down who is otherwise qualified, ready, willing and able, because of something in his life we disagree with, how are we helping him, aiding him, supporting or protecting him? Would we not be failing him in doing so?
As I noted above, I am not here to advocate homosexuality, nor, frankly, to condemn it. It is not for me, but then, I wasn’t born gay… and no one can seriously think ANYONE would CHOSE to be homosexual, any more than someone chooses to be blonde, or brown eyed, or short, or tall or… it is what it is.
We need, each of us, in our growth as Masons, to apply the tools of the fraternity to our own rough ashlars, assist our brethren in perfecting their ashlars, and refrain from applying our tools to their work. That is a great task set before us… and frankly, most of us have enough to do with perfecting our own ashlars without judging others…
You see, its really, really easy to judge someone else. The difficult part is in judging ourselves… that’s why many spend so much time judging other people and so little time judging themselves. We however, are Masons. We work in stone, and the work, while rewarding, is difficult.
This then brings us to the subject of Masonic Morality. But then, that’s another blog topic for later.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon you and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.
As Theron so convincingly wrote, it’s not about homosexuality, it’s about judging others. And that judging leads to basically importing personal morality into Masonic code, thereby excluding those with different values and lifestyles. The entire Grand Lodge then becomes judgmental. That means outlawing gambling and alcohol from Masonic gatherings. It means not allowing any other Holy Book on the Masonic altar besides the Holy Bible. It often translates into “Christian only” and White only.
But Freemasonry is not about exclusion, it’s about a broad inclusiveness. Freemasonry only limits its membership to free men of good character who have a belief in Deity and even then you would get some argument from Women Masons, Co-Masons and the Grand Orient of France. Every culture, creed, race, lifestyle, political persuasion, and economic status should be considered as qualified to become a Mason if they meet the basic requirements. When Freemasonry becomes exclusionary it loses its universality.
Individually or collectively as Freemasons we would do well to abide by the Biblical verse:
Matthew 7:1-5 ESV
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Of course we don’t have to be Christian to heed that advice.