The truth is that when men surround themselves with the visual emblems of Freemasonry the same way another person might surround themselves with the visual emblems of their favorite professional or college sports team, it is reasonable to wonder if their commitment to practicing the Royal Craft might be the same as their commitment to practicing the skills necessary to perform a professional sport. How many people wearing a Red Sox hat, scarf, jacket, keychain, wristbands, shoelaces, lanyard, and who have Red Sox bumper stickers on their car are capable of hitting a ball from home plate at the Fenway over the Green Monster? How many can collect a bunted ball and get it to first base before the batter reaches the base? How many know which pitcher to play and which to let rest for another game?
It takes no character whatsoever to cheer on Freemasonry as a fan. The Royal Craft and Sublime Art takes daily improvement. It is difficult; so difficult that most men are unsuitable for the task, and we never ask a man to engage in such a strenuous path, and if a man petitions us for the privilege, we investigate his character thoroughly, read his name aloud in lodge; and only after every lodge member knows the name of the petitioner do we have a ballot that must be unanimous to accept him. All lodges that actually practice the Craft educate their candidates in the workings of the Craft, that moral and intellectual discipline that makes us better men and Masons. Such Masons know their obligations and live by them.
Our history shows us that in a Masonic lodge, Protestants and Catholics who outside the lodge room were engaged in bloody, acrimonious, sectarian warfare, sat together as Brothers. Tories and Patriots, Federals and Confederates, slave-owners and abolitionists, cavalrymen and Native Americans, all sat together as Brothers. They understood that within the tyled lodge, different rules applied to them than in the profane world. They understood the Mystic Tie that binds us all together as Brothers, that they were Living Stones for that spiritual building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
But is a friend list of 100+ Masons, and a profile decked with squares and compasses, sufficient to vouch for a man's progress in this Craft, enough to forego due trial, strict examination, or lawful information? Does it demonstrate the smoothness of his Ashlar?
Two recent incidents come to mind:
- I saw the status message of a Mason who had recently friended me (whom I did not otherwise know), and I was troubled by the sentiment. I don't remember the quote exactly, but it was something like "I wish that all men were Master Masons, under a common Father." I commented that black cubes exist for a reason; that there are men unsuited to our Craft, and they are met at the door by a man with a sword. His surprise and outrage astonished me. Had he been raised a Master Mason without anyone teaching him how our Craft works? We are an elitist organization, however meritocratic. We cannot accept the morally inferior, or Freemasonry is ruined. Anyone on earth can become a fan of the Boston Red Sox, but not every man can be a Mason, even if he earnestly desires to be. That should be obvious.
- On a thread I started, there was a political discussion involving several Masons I only know from Facebook. I noticed that the discussion was getting heated, and even though I thought I was right, I realized that I was offending other Masons, so I wrote the following: "My blood is up and I've gotten very passionate on this thread. I'm going to use the compasses to keep my passions within due bounds, especially with you gentlemen." After which, I no longer participated in the discussion. Instead of backing down, one of the other Masons responded with "you just don't get it," and after continuing to argue his point with several comments over the next few hours, defriended me. Charitably, I can imagine that, chagrined by his excessive passion, he defriended me so that he would defend a fellow Brother from his possibly intemperate tongue knowing that we had many points of disagreement, but I'm not sure my theory is correct. I was taught that, no matter what our political and religious differences are, we are still bound by the Mystic Tie, and that bond is stronger than our passions. That is basic to any practitioner of our Craft, and if not, no amount of gold and purple can make it so.
UPDATE: I received the following warning on Facebook about a scammer friending Masons and inviting them to join the Royal Owl Society:
To anyone who was added to the Royal Owl Society, please note, they are a money making operation. This is from one of their posts in the group: "We buy into $5000 Internet Marketing Training courses, and train members, but we never promote a specific business opportunity. Its strictly for educational purposes."