My Masonic fate is rapidly barreling toward me. Before my anticipated departure from the Fraternity, I wanted to share something to show just where I think the "less than" Most Worshipful Grand Master of Tennessee Billy Ray Cutlip is heading.
First of all, to commemorate a Grand Master's year, he gives out a commemorative lapel pin and sells pocket knives. Here is a picture of the current pin:
This pin is unremarkable from previous Grand Masters pins, except for the symbol on the right side, the Christian Cross. Unless you are a Mason, the significance of this will escape you. I will clearly explain why this terrifies me and should likewise terrify all good Masons.
For some context, here are five of the 6 last Grand Master's pins. I do not have one of PGM Hastings' pins:
Each pin reflects something personal about that Grand Master. Going from Left to right, Past Grand Master Boduch's pin is shaped like a Doctor's black bag and has a caduceus because he is a Physician. #2 is for PGM Mack Johnson and it has a star reflecting where his Lodge is within the state (just off the left tip of the square) and has his initials under the star. The middle one for PGM Laddie Wilson has the symbol for the Marine Corps, since he is a former Marine and a trowel, one of Masonry's symbolic tools. PGM Etherton's says "200 years of brotherhood," since his year was 2013 and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee was formed in 1813. PGM Musick's pin is University of Tennessee orange and a star over Memphis, where his home lodge is located.
Before I can go into why GM Cutlip's pin is terrifying, I must dispel the myth that the Masons are a religion. While it is a requirement that a petitioner believe in a Supreme Being and publicly express that belief, beyond that the Masons do not inquire as to the exact religion or Supreme Being. I do not care the manner in which my brothers worship their Supreme Being and they likewise do not intrude on my communion with my Supreme Being.
The Masons accept men of all religions without preference or prejudice. That's the standard to which we hold ourselves and our brethren accountable to. No one religion, even the primary religion of the land, is to be elevated above the others in Masonry.
The symbolism of this pin is terrifying to me as a Mason, even though I am a Christian. I do not begrudge a brother from wearing any religious regalia, in fact I support it because it shows he is not afraid to show his love for his Creator and will freely share his beliefs to all who ask about it. That being said, when the "less than" Grand Master Cutlip decides to promote his religion at the exclusion of all others as part of the symbol of his office, he might as well be saying, "NO KIKES, RAGHEADS OR OTHER NON-CHRISTIANS ALLOWED."
Do you think I am engaging in hyperbole? Could it be possible I am exaggerating? It has been tradition for over 100 years throughout Masonry that you don't discuss politics and religion in a Lodge. Because of the passions many people feel on those subjects, discussion of these subjects lead to disharmony among the brethren. We as Masons try to work in harmony for the betterment of ourselves, each other and the world in general. Preferring Christianity over all other religions sticks a big knife in the back of every non-Christian Mason that lives in or travels through Tennessee. I don't care if 999 out of 1,000 Masons in this state are Christian, why does the "less than" Grand Master Cutlip want to make that one brother feel unwelcome here? I don't care if that lone brother is Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, Pastafarian or any religion, it is not GM Cutlips' (or any other brother) place to exclude another brother because of their religion.
Just to make it clear, I understand Christianity is important to GM Cutlip, however I would be just as concerned if instead of the Cross it was the Star of David, the Islamic Crescent or any other specific religious symbol. I am not concerned about the phrase "Put God back in America" because I see it to be non-sectarian. The word "God" is actually a generic term, "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" (more precise Names for the Christian God) would be unacceptable for the non-sectarian Masonic fraternity.
This is what happens when you let extremists drive the bus. It doesn't matter if they are political or religious extremists, anyone who does not submit to the drivers' brand of extremism tends to end up under the bus rather than in the bus.