Why You Can’t Be a Lutheran Pastor and a Freemason
Secret Societies, Ecclesiastical Practice, and Gnostic Heresies
When I was in the process of Candidacy in the ELCA, I had to sign a lot of documents. These were related to scholarships and loans for school, leases for on-campus housing, one document where I promised to be chaste, and one where, among other things, I affirmed that I was not and had never been a member of the Freemasons. That one stood out to me. A college dalliance with organized leftist politics had me scanning for clauses about being a member of the Communist Party, but I hadn’t expected anything about the Freemasons. So, what gives?
Like most people in the US, what I think I know about the Freemasons mostly comes from pop culture, which mostly links them to conspiracies to secretly rule the world or shape history or something. What I actually knew about them was pretty limited: they are a social club exclusively for men and they have meetings, hang out, and participate in charity. They network, make connections, and maybe even strike a few deals, but that’s to be expected any time prominent people congregate. I found no real evidence of secret plans for world domination or human sacrifice. In fact, I even got a tour of a lodge from a Freemason!
One of my college roommates had done study abroad with a guy who turned out to be a kind of low ranked Mason. The building he took us to was nice! It had a carpeted floor, high ceilings, stained glass windows he wasn’t allowed to explain to us, and pictures of groups of Masons. My roommate was a little perturbed by some of the imagery in the stained glass, which showed a remarkably light-skinned King Solomon presiding over the Temple as it was being built by shirtless, dark-skinned workers. Some of the rest of the group thought it was weird that the lodge made him keep secrets, but I didn’t worry about it too much. I knew that organizations might keep secrets for all kinds of reasons, either to conceal membership if the work they do is sensitive, or to prevent people from interfering with their business. It’s natural for organizations of all kinds to keep some information close to the vest. It’s just as natural for this to make outsiders suspicious, so what’s up with the Freemasons, officially?