From the Personal Representative (November, 2010)

posted May 20, 2015, 4:16 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 20, 2015, 4:20 PM ]

Brethren, Ladies and Friends

When I was a young man I was influenced by many, many people whom I knew and read about, and one of those I was impressed with was a minister from New York; Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Not that I studied his works or life, so much, as that I learned he was a great speaker, heard a couple of his sermons on the radio, and was impressed that one man could make a difference in the lives of so many. 

It was not hard to understand why he was such a strong influence in the lives of a lot of people, for if you were to listen to his messages you’d soon begin to believe that there was a great deal we could do for ourselves by way of personal growth, if we’d simply start with a positive attitude and try not to let adversity influence our ultimate aims in life. It’s a risk awareness mind-set, and one must be prepared to accept failure and disappointment along the way, but not be adversely influenced by them. Though Dr. Peale was a noted theologian, he mixed his Christian message with such a strong message in self confidence and personal motivation that thousands of people were drawn to his circle of influence, and purchased his publications as well as joining his church and listening to his radio programs.

Peale was the author of such concepts as “The power of Positive Thinking”, and publications like “Guideposts Magazine”, which is still in circulation, seventeen years after his death.  Peale's simple, optimistic, and dynamic sermons, in which he offered a positive outlook on modern living, brought increasing numbers of parishioners and increasing fame to him as a speaker and religious leader.

The interesting thing about Dr. Peale was that he was, and still is, the object of a great deal of criticism from some religious communities for the very thing that made him great. He preached a philosophy from the pulpit of Marble Collegiate (Dutch Reformed) Church in New York, for over fifty years, that there is one God over all the world, and that you don’t necessarily have to believe “my way” or subscribe to “my religion” in order to get into Heaven. He was complimentary of many different religious orders, and even went so far as to express the belief that those practicing religions outside the traditional Protestant Christian faith might also enjoy an afterlife as is promised in the Christian Bible.

Sound familiar? In Masonry, we are also subject to severe criticism for our association with any and all men of differing faiths. Our basic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth are elements of positive thinking and kindness to all mankind. We welcome men of diverse faith into our inner circle so long as their personal belief includes recognition of God and life after earthly death. Is it any surprise, then that Dr. Peale was also a 33° Mason and active in his own Lodge, Scottish Rite Valley, and Shrine? 

Unfortunately, our critics share one erroneous belief; that Masonry is, or aspires to be a religion. In the words of another noted Freemason, the Reverend Dr. W. Kenneth Lyons, Jr., 32°, K.C.C.H., “Scottish Rite and Symbolic Lodge Masonry have never inferred nor stated that their edifices were to be houses of worship, but places where every good man's religion would be equally respected”.

Brethren and friends, the criticism we face will not end in our lifetime, or that of our children or grandchildren, but if we can just learn from Dr. Peale’s message we can do great things in Masonry and for mankind, not just in spite of, but also because of the condemnation we face from those around us. Listen to those who condemn Masonry and try to live your life in such a manner that they will find nothing in your conduct to support the idea that we are anything but a society of friends and brothers who are not out to change the world, but to inspire and support positive change wherever it may occur. Attend your church or temple, or synagogue as frequently as you see fit, and work with those believers who are trying to improve the world, no matter what they say of Dr. Peale, Masonry, or any other of the positive influences in this short life of ours. 

I read recently in an anti-Masonic article the advice that a “fundamental Christian” should avoid discussing his criticism of Masonry with a Mason because most Masons are so well versed in both disciplines (Masonry and Christianity) that they would soon convince the Christian that Masonry is not contrary to the Christian message. In other words, they should only listen to one side of the argument or they might be converted.  That tells me that their argument is too weak to stand the test of truth.

So mote it be.

Bob Winter - Personal representative of the Deputy of the Supreme Council in California