If brotherly love, relief, and truth are the foundation stones of Freemasonry, Tolerance is the cement that unites them. Yet, in a world that has recorded and/or witnessed increasing tolerance, we as Freemasons are intolerant of much. In many ways, the unacceptable level of intolerance within our lodges makes sense when we observe the efforts to maintain the current status quo.
Do Freemasons honestly support the right of each brother to be different from a majority? In the 1900s Freemasonry envisioned itself as builder of society, while supporting freedom and democracy. Freemasons who wrote and spoke during this period identified the fraternity as an institution working toward the betterment of society, welcoming men of all races, religions, ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic levels, and all backgrounds together and promoting a world of peace. It is often said we should improve the human condition through education and use Freemasonry to help the human family live happily together.
Our society of friends and brothers speaks of our diversity as an enriching aspect of our fraternity. It is a brotherhood that joins men of all walks of life together. James Anderson said in the 1700s, Freemasonry brings men together who would otherwise remain at a perpetual distance. Freemasons of the 1900s and the brethren of his generation said Freemasonry could promote world peace through human understanding. Intolerance, racial, ethnic, religious, social, and political injustice has plagued the world. The experiences of intolerance by humans, including Freemasons, throughout the world reveals that humanity must learn to deal to with equanimity interacting with differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicities, culture, language, nationality, lifestyle, religions, and political differences if we are to survive and continue evolving as a species.
Freemasonry could be, could have been in the past, in all times and in every way, the single promoter of tolerance and meeting upon the level. As Freemasons, we could be the leaders in seeking racial and cultural harmony, egalitarian relationships, and vocational parity between men and women, and create space for respectful relationships between people of differing political philosophies.
Tolerance is a unique principle and expected behaviour associated with Freemasonry, more so than any other institution in history. Because of this unique principle, Freemasonry could be the cutting edge organization promoting and supporting tolerance for all, everywhere, in all circumstances. Yet, in all honesty, if Freemasonry is to be the greatest, unique, and cutting edge leader toward tolerance, we must eliminate intolerance from within our Brotherhood. Intolerance must be eliminated immediately and without waiting for others to change.
It must be adopted and made clear within our respective jurisdictional codes! It must be demonstrated and expected in our actions within all of our lodges; balloting, recognition, and friendships with all humans regardless of race, religion, colour, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, politics, lifestyle, or anything else outside the makeup of a their character.
It is vital that the Masonic tradition and ideal of tolerance is incorporated within our brotherhood. Paradoxically, there must be zero tolerance of intolerance related to anything beyond the makeup of another human’s character. Through this action, Freemasonry can and will be the greatest institution on the face of the earth in its uniqueness toward promoting and supporting tolerance and equanimity for all humans. This action will be our strongest contribution and legacy on behalf of our Masonic ancestors, of us, our future brethren, and to the world. If we refuse to embrace the Masonic principle of tolerance, then we dishonour our ancestral brethren and ourselves and will have no right to claim association with the ancestral brethren who met upon the level, acted on the plumb, and parted upon the square.
By W. Bro. C Shawn Oak