1. Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. This order traces its hist. to guilds of stone masons of the Middle Ages. The words free and accepted first appear 1722 in the name of the order. Membership in masonic associations was highly prized by men who traveled, because it offered assurance of assistance, hospitality, and good service. Operative masonry consisted of the total number of workmen that designed and erected bldgs.; they included freemasons, who worked in free stone, carved free hand, and used geometry. Operative Freemasonry descended from freemasons. Speculative (i. e. symbolic, theoretical) Freemasonry arose within Operative Freemasonry. Modern Speculative Freemasonry began in London 1717, when 4 lodges formed the Grand Lodge of England. Antiquity dating to Bible times is sometimes claimed for Masonic organizations, but such traditions are only legendary and cannot be substantiated. Masonic rituals have often been printed in code to assist the initiate in memorizing them; many deciphered versions have also appeared, as well as manuals and periodicals containing the symbols, ceremonies, and philos. of Masonry.
2. Speculative Freemasonry put deism in place of the Christian elements of former guild rituals. The name of Christ was eliminated from all prayers and Scripture passages. The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man became the dominant religious emphasis; a system of doctrines and symbolism was adopted. Masonry regards the Bible only as one of many valuable sacred books. It teaches resurrection of the body and immortality as religious doctrines, promising eternal bliss to all who follow Masonic ethics. Jesus Christ is not regarded as man's Redeemer.
3. The Blue Lodge, in which the first 3 degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason) are conferred, constituted the essence of Freemasonry. Higher degrees are arranged for those who wish to pursue Masonic philos. farther.
4. Freemasonry at times adapts its program and philos. to the religious convictions of an area or country. In Eng. and Am., Freemasonry occasionally appears to support Prot. Christianity; but the Christian degrees of the Scot. Rite and the Christian Am. Rite contain nothing that would distinguish Christian from Muslim, Buddhist, or unitarian. The anti-Christian character of the ritual is recognized by those who make an indep. study of the ritual and of its interpretation by spokesmen of the order. The lambskin is a badge of Freemasonry; it is to remind the Mason of purity of life, essential for admission into the Celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides.
5. Order of the Eastern Star. Am. Rite of Adoption organized 1876 at Indianapolis, Indiana; membership limited to Master Masons and most of their female relatives. The ritual borrows heavily from Masonic philos.; includes references to Jesus but is deistic.
6. Order of the Rainbow. Organized 1922 at McAlester, Oklahoma; membership limited to girls who are children or close friends of mems. of the Masonic Lodge or Eastern Star. Each local lodge is sponsored by a Masonic or Eastern Star lodge. Religious emphasis centers in good deeds.
7. Order of Job's Daughters. Organized 1920 at Omaha, Nebraska; similar to the Order of the Rainbow, but its membership is somewhat broader, including more girls of families unaffiliated with Masonry. The ritual revolves around the faithfulness of Job and emphasizes righteous service.
8. Order of DeMolay. Organized 1919 at Kansas City, Missouri; membership limited to boys with close Masonic relatives; strives to teach patriotism, reverence and related virtues; functions as a preparation for Masonic membership; ritual approaches God apart from Jesus Christ and promises eternal life to those that abide by the philos. of the order.
9. Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (Shriners). Organized 1876 at NYC; related to Masonry inasmuch as it admits into membership only Masons of the Knights Templar degree (York Rite) and 32d degree (Scot. Rite); it is a playground of the Masonic Lodge. The order has performed notable service in treatment and rehabilitation of crippled children regardless of color, creed, or nationality.
W. Hannah, Darkness Visible (London, 1952) and Christian by Degrees (London, 1954); W. J. Whalen, Christianity and American Freemasonry (Milwaukee, 1958); T. F. Nickel and J. G. Manz, A Christian View of Freernasonry (St. Louis, 1957). TG, TFN, PHL
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
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