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In Jesus Name

ImageHow often have we heard that phrase?
I use it, or phrases like it, daily at my own supper table.  My children will learn to live by it, and they will hopefully teach their children to do the same if I am lucky.  For me, that phrase is sacred and personal.  For me, I believe my savior died on the cross and by His Grace I have been washed of my sins.  I pray to the Creator in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I have served 3 years on my Church council as Vice President from 2008-2011. My Lutheran Parish had, at the time, 3 churches and, as vice president of my Church’s Council I was also a member of the Joint Council board which governed the entire parish.  My main focus as a board member was to help keep the place running smoothly, help plan congregational and family events, take care of the Parsonage (which given the current preacher was a lost cause), and maintain a healthy relationship among the members of the three churches.

With that said, and to give a further disclaimer, I am not a super, bible pushing, in your face Christian who will stands on a soap box and screams about all your sins and tells you what you need to do to reach Heaven.  As a matter of fact, I hate that guy.  I can’t stand being in the same room as that guy.  I cannot stand being in the same building as that guy.

On my own, I am an inwardly religious person, and I keep my thoughts to myself, generally, unless asked.  On occasion I reach out to my old preacher or Aunt for religious guidance and comfort. I happen to be Lutheran, but I think I am pretty much like the majority of Church going Christians.  (Although at present I don’t attend regularly on account of my current preacher’s political and social ideology being shoved in my throat every Sunday, but that is a story for a different time.)

How does this relate to Masonry?
Well, it doesn’t.  OK, it does only in the sense that I am free to believe all of the above and more, and it does not interfere with anything inside the lodge.  When I am inside the lodge, my beliefs of the above are every bit as strong as when outside of the lodge.  When the prayer is given to The Great Architect of the Universe, in my head, I am praying to my creator God in the name of the Jesus Christ.  The same goes before a dinner prayer, a funeral prayer, and any Masonic event where we have a prayer.

However, if I had a friend named Muhammad (forgive the stereotype) odds are, he would sit beside me as a brother, listen to the same prayer, and utter the same phrase, “So Mote it Be” but be preying on a completely different level than me.  His God may not be the same Christian God that I pray to, but it is of no concern to me.  The message we both receive is that we are both asking our creators for blessings and safety, at the same time thanking them for what we have.  That, I think we can agree upon in lodge, is universal.  Inside the lodge, we are all the same regardless of who we are praying to or what we may call our specific Supreme Being.

Why is this important?
There are many arguments made by both Masons, non-Masons, and anti-Masons on the grounds of religion. I plan on offering up my opinions as to what I view as correct, incorrect, acceptable, or ridiculous, as I interpret Masonic law.

In my lodge, as with all lodges, we are given prayers approved by our Grand Lodge to say before the open of any meeting, at the close of any meeting, before the making of new Masons, for our Country and flag, and at the death of a brother.  There are other prayers, but from my own experience these are the most common.  These prayers are usually started by saying something like, “Oh Glorious Lord God, Thou Great Architect of Heaven and Earth who art the giver of all good gifts and graces.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, that phrase pretty much covers my God.  I can’t say that I have worshipped with any many Muslims, but I bet that phrase also covers Allah as well.

The title of “Great Architect of the Universe” is simple a title that covers “creator” while also holding reference to building and masonry.  It is not different than one saying “The All Mighty” or “The Father.”  These commonly accepted phrases are used daily by many people of different faiths who congregate and offer praise.  “Great Architect” just happens to be strictly Masonic.

Anti-Masons and the profane will always accuse us of being a universal religion, or neglecting the teachings of our religion and substituting a strange religion.  This cannot be further from the truth.  If anything, what Masonry has taught me was how to be a better Christian.  Through Masonry I practice charity and virtue that I normally would not have been involved with.  I’ve learned and used organizational skills that have been an absolute addition to my role as a council member.   Meeting structure and networking skills gained in lodge constantly spill over into my personal life, a major portion of that being my religion.  Masonry is not a religion in any sense of the word, but in my opinion, and from my own experience, it is the ultimate side kick to religion.

What is acceptable?
This is where an educated Mason has to toe a fine line, both as a giver of prayers, and a teacher of Masonic conduct.  I live in a majority Christian area.  I know very few men of Jewish faith, and I have personal contact with almost no Muslims.  As a result, often times when standing for invocation at a Masonic meal or diner the person offering up the prayer will end with “In Jesus Name we pray” or some other similarly Christian phrase.

This has never been a problem where I come from.  This has never caused any hate or discontent where I come from, and even if there was a person of Jewish or other faith nearby, I think it would generally be glossed over and disregarded as a social norm of the area.  While that is all well and good, unfortunately it does not make it correct Masonic conduct to end a prayer that way.

In lodge, we are to be brother and all the same, or “On the Level” if you will.  While said most likely in ignorance and with no malicious intention, whatsoever, putting a Christian label in a Masonic prayer is not only assuming your entire population shares your religion, but also excludes those who do not share the same beliefs as you do.  As a Mason, and as a civilian, we just have to put ourselves in the other’s shoes I think we’d all be a little better off.   So although you probably won’t see many waves being made over it, and it does not offend me,  it does go against Masonic conduct.  Just some food for thought.

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