SHORT TALK BULLETIN
Vol. VII No. 6 — June 1929
Hardly a speech is made in a Masonic lodge, to interest and inspire an audience of Master Masons, which does not refer to the Mason's duty as a citizen. But it is rare to hear any particulars as to how the duties of a Mason as a citizen differ from those of the citizen who is a non-Mason.
As a matter of fact, the duties do not differ; but there are grave reasons why the Mason should add the weight of his Masonic membership, his loyalty, his obligations and his Masonic Character to his intent to be a good citizen of the country in which he lives. In the Charge to an Entered Apprentice in most Jurisdictions, these, or similar words appear in the manual or monitor:
"In the State you are to be a quiet and peaceable citizen, true to your government and just to your country. You are not to countenance disloyalty and rebellion, but patiently submit to legal authority, and conform with cheerfulness to the government of the country in which you live."
All citizens will agree that to be "quiet and peaceable" is a duty. To be "true to your government" may have many interpretations; in a large sense it means "do not be a traitor." In the narrow sense it may mean "don't fake your income tax!" No good citizen "countenances disloyalty and rebellion" against a "good" government, yet such a revolution as our War of Independence against the mother country was certainly considered at that time, by the British Authorities, as "disloyalty and rebellion." To "patiently submit to legal authority" needs no interpretation; to "conform with cheerfulness" means a smiling willingness to abide by a particular statute or an equally smiling shouldering of the inconvenience of going to the polls on a stormy election day. The great lesson of life — as distinct from spiritual values — as taught in the Master Mason degree, is integrity, fidelity to trust, staunch loyalty to duty in the face of the greatest odds and most severe temptations.
To most citizens, at times, comes the opportunity to break some law for private gain. We are fond of making the statement that we are a "law abiding people" but, as a matter of fact, "going to the law about it" has been called "the great American pastime." In practically every suit of law, one side accuses the other of not having acted in accordance with some law, made and provided. There are many acts which are difficult to prove to be illegal, but which all may see as unmoral, or immoral; it is these, perhaps, more than the infraction of the letter of the law, which the real Master Mason will avoid, if he lives his Masonry.
For instance! A Master Mason possesses a valuable painting. He insures if for a thousand dollars. As he leaves his house to go to lodge, the nail pulls out of the wall and the picture falls to the floor breaking the glass, which cuts the valuable painting to ribbons. Being in a hurry, and there being nothing to do about it right then, the Mason leaves the wreck on the floor and goes on to lodge. While he is away his home burns down.
A Man might collect that insurance and still be a "good citizen" according to the law. But a good Mason would no collect it — even if the man who sold him the insurance and the men in insurance company were "not" Masons. A real Mason will not wrong any man, Mason or not, out of the value of a penny, even when the letter of the law permits it.
In the charge to the Master Mason, he hears "Your virtue, honor, and reputation are concerned in supporting with dignity the character you now bear. Let no motive, therefore, make you swerve from your duty, violate your vows or betray your trust."
True, the vows and the trust here mentioned are those made within the lodge. But, "virtue, honor and reputation" a man possesses as a citizen, not as a Mason. The newly raised Master Mason is told that all with which he faces the world, unafraid, able to look any man in the eye, is concerned in his character as a member of an Ancient Craft.
It is a poor rule which does not work both ways. "Per Contra," then, all the reputation as a Master Mason, all the "teachings" of integrity and fidelity, all the magnificent examples of firmness and fortitude in trial and danger — even in the Valley of the Shadow — which a man has been taught, as a Master Mason, are concerned in supporting with dignity his character as a citizen of the land of his birth.
It is well understood in all Masonic lodges that politics are never to be discussed. This law, so well known and obeyed that it is not even written in most Grand Lodge Constitutions of lodge by-laws, and comes down to us from the sixth of the Old Charges in which it is set forth that:
"No private Piques or Quarrels must be brought within the door of the lodge, far less, any Quarrels about Religion or Nations or State Policy, we are resolved against all Politicks, as what never yet conduc'd to the welfare of the Lodge, nor ever will. This charge has always been strictly enjoin'd and observ'd," etc.
In the lodge we meet upon the level and part upon the square. We are not Democrats, Republicans, Progressives; but Masons!
Similarly, no lodge may take any political action; to do so would be to draw upon it the immediate censure of the Grand Master and Grand Lodge. But neither of these prohibitions mean that Masons should not study political economy; even as a lodge of Masons they may listen to talks upon the science of government, which is, of course, a "political" matter if the word is used in its broad acceptation.
It is the duty of all citizens to be interested in the Public Schools of their city, town, country or state. The prosperity and progress of this nation rests on education. So much is agreed. The Masonic citizen should be especially interested in education; his interest should mount higher than the non-Mason's, for the reason that Masonry's continued existence rests upon the kind and character of the candidates who enter her West Gate. Give the Fraternity educated, intelligent, thoughtful men and she will grow, prosper and continue to be a silent, static power for good in a noisy and dynamic world. Provide her only ignorant, prejudiced, intolerant men for candidates and in time she too must become intolerant, prejudiced and ignorant.
"A FREEMASONRY WHICH IS INTOLERANT CANNOT LIVE!"
The welfare of the state depends upon the education of its youth. But the very life of Freemasonry depends upon the quality of its membership. Therefore, the Mason as a citizen has two reasons for his interest in, his support of and his loyalty to the Public Schools of his State and Town.
No doctrine is more fundamental to America than the separation of Church and State. No body of men insists more strongly that the individual brother need subscribe only to "That Religion in Which All Men Agree" (Old Charges) to be left free within the lodge to worship God as they choose. Freedom to worship God was the reason for the perilous voyage and the terrible privations of the Pilgrim Fathers. Separation of Church and State is a natural outgrowth of freedom to worship as we please. Masonry has only the Fatherhood of God and The Brotherhood of Man for her religion — the foundation of all religions, a faith in which Presbyterian and Parsee, Methodist and Mohammedan, Buddhist and Brother of Christ may, and do agree.
The Public School System is one of the bulwarks of liberty in this nation; not only political liberty, but liberty of thought and conscience. As long as the Public School has no sectarian or political bias, it will remain a cradle of liberty of thought. Therefore, not only as American citizens but as Masons, our brethren are obligated to see that no encroachment, from any angle, from and sect. from any political party or private organization be made upon the utter and complete freedom from any religious bias of our Public Education System.
In a few words, and brief:
The duties of the citizen of the United States, devolve upon the citizen by virtue of the "manifold blessings and comforts he enjoys" because he lives in the United States. As a citizen, a man is expected:
- To obey the law;
- To uphold the Constitution and Government;
- To do his duty in jury service;
- To go to the polls and vote;
- To bear arms when called to the colors;
- To pay his just share of taxes;
- To take an intelligent interest in his Government, his party and political
- To support the Public Schools;
- To reverence and honor the Flag;
- To keep peace;
- To serve his country, state, country and town; when called to leadership;
- To live so that his neighbors are happier for his living.
When the citizen becomes a Mason, he adds to these moral obligations his pledged word, his sacred honor, his character as it is seen naked to God; that he will do certain things, and refrain from doing certain things. Every one of these pledges involve not only his duty as a man but as an American citizen.
Underlying all Masonic duties as a Masonic citizen are those which are meant when it is said to the Newly-raised Master Mason: "You are now bound by duty, honor and gratitude; to be faithful to your trust, to support the dignity of your character upon every occasion, and to enforce, by precept and example, obedience to the tenets of our Order!"
The Master Mason should be a better citizen than the non-Mason because he knows better, has been better taught, and has pledged his sacred honor!