The other day I came across a (presumably) Christian advert or editorial describing how basically everybody is going to be damned to Hellfire and brimstone for all eternity. One of the things that really did it for me was on that list was my fraternity as I am a Freemason. We all may be Hell-bound, but at least we’ll be in good company.
Last night I decided that I’d get myself a few extra scoring marks with Satan’s pitchfork and opted to visit a local Masonic lodge. I’ve been a Mason for six years and haven’t attended a meeting since I moved to Florida a year and a half ago. Visiting lodges is very much the point of Masonry, and the idea is that you visit and you more or less build relationships with people you might not otherwise have known. It’s a fraternity based on shared beliefs and ethics. That sort of “like-minded” thing so that anywhere you go you have a friend.
I come from a long line of Masonic influence. My great-grandfather was a Mason, my grandfather was too and raised me to the third degree when I went through. My mom was also a member of Rainbow which is like Masonic girl scouts.
I sort of forgot how cool it was to be involved in this group. I walked in the door, showed my dues card, and ate dinner with people I’d never met, carrying on a lively conversation before the meeting started. This was their first meeting of the year, and they had just installed a whole new group of officers into the lodge. I’m not giving away any secrets here, but the heads of the lodge (for lack of a better term) is the Worshipful Master, followed by the Senior Warden, and then the Junior Warden.
When dinner was over, we went into the lodge and went about process of opening it. It was at this point that it really hit me just how important and omnistic this fraternity is. The Master of the lodge was Muslim. The Senior Warden was a retired police officer, and the Junior Steward was Cuban. The secretary was a long-winded Southern cracker who had no issues busting the chops of any and all members and had his own commentary about the minutes being read which was rather comical. There was an American flag on a pole to the far left (where it’s supposed to be because no other flag can come before it), followed by the flag of the State of Florida, followed by the Confederate national flag, and finally the Canadian flag.
My new secretary friend was duly impressed that I recognized the Confederate national flag and lamented that “Lots of Rebel types love to display the Confederate battle flag, but you’re a Yankee and you know more about their heritage than they do.” Suffice it to say I’ve been welcomed back anytime.
It was such a cool experience to sit in a lodge that was that diverse, under circumstances that most people can’t comprehend. I once had a religion professor, who was also an Episcopalian minister, who told us that he’d been part of a task force that was set about trying to come up with an idea to get Jews, Christians, and Muslims to be able to worship in one ceremony. He made it sound like it was this great ground-breaking thing, but my fraternity has been doing this for three hundred years. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it’s established on the idea that everyone is equal and has value. It’s such a simple concept, but the results are that a Muslim is leading a Masonic lodge founded by Confederates, in a Southern state, in a nation with a severe case of Islamophobia. (An interesting side note: the only things that the Civil War did not destroy was Masonry. There are LOADS of stories about how Union and Confederate Masons treated one another as if they weren’t enemies).
These guys don’t see any of that stuff as being relevant. The only thing that matters is that they are all Masons, and that makes them brothers. They share a common belief in the value of ideas, faith, and humanity. Anything else, to them, is superfluous.
James Windale is the author of several novels, all of which are available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.