Focus September 2006
It's About Time!
Freemasonry, the world’s oldest, and most highly respected fraternal organization, has the responsibility for insuring that its values and purposes are correctly defined and properly expressed to the public. To meet this challenge the Masonic Information Center was asked by the Conference of Grand Masters, in February 2004, to address the question of Masonic Public Identity. The MIC is currently addressing Masonic Public Identity in three major ways.
1) It’s About Time!
Moving Masonry into the 21st Century – The first major step taken by the MIC was to ask ourselves the very difficult question: Who are we as a fraternal organization within the context of the 21st century? This question began the discussion that, ultimately, led to the report It’s About Time! which was published in December 2005. It’s About Time! examines the historical context of the Masonic fraternity; where we are today; and how we can move into the 21st Century. This report is available in printed form simply by requesting it from the Masonic Information Center. There is no charge for the report itself although if multiple copies are requested we do ask reimbursement for shipping costs. This report is also available for downloading from the MSANA website www.msana.com
2) The Twain Award
As a direct result of the report It’s About Time the MIC concluded that one of the major steps in the process of developing Masonic Public Identity was to involve lodges. To stimulate lodge thought and creativity we developed an award called the Twain Award named in honor of a brother Mason and world famous author, innovator and performer, Mark Twain. Participation in the Twain Award competition will be a journey enhanced through learning, doing and networking. Information has been sent to all lodges and Grand Lodges through the Short Talk Bulletin. Any lodge whose Grand Lodge is a member of the North American Conference of Grand Masters is eligible to enter the program. Full information and details may be found by going to the website www.msana.com From the home page click on Twain Award. MIC welcomes communication about the Twain Award at the email address email@example.com.
3) Website Enhancement
Websites are a major source of Masonic information—fast becoming the major source. Each succeeding generation is turning more and more to the internet for information. It is imperative that Grand Lodges, lodges, and other Masonic bodies have the most attractive, informative, and easily accessible websites that can be developed. MSA/MIC is no exception. We have just completed a major review of our site which resulted in making it more accessible and far simpler to browse. We invite you to go to www.msana.com. Please share your thoughts and comments by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Freemasonry in Popular Culture
The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure have helped to create an enormous amount of interest in the Masonic fraternity by the general public. While both the book and movie were positive about Freemasonry they both left the false impression that one of the major roles of the fraternity is to act as a guardian for something of enormous value. Those who create fictional stories for popular enjoyment clearly have a right to express views that are needed for their plotline, as long as what they create is labeled fiction. Seeing the success enjoyed by The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure other books, movies, and TV shows are riding the crest of this popularity. Two recent examples are:
Fiction, in spite of the best intentions of its authors, will oftentimes leave a mistaken impression of Freemasonry with the reader or viewer. The Masonic Information Center has prepared the following statement for use in responding to questions about fictional portrayals of our fraternity.
Freemasonry makes an appealing topic for fiction writers
Freemasonry is a highly respected, centuries-old-fraternity dating from—at least—the time of the stoneworker’s guilds of medieval Europe, making it an attractive topic for legitimate research and for wild speculation. Recently, the Masonic fraternity has been woven into the plotline of a number of fictional movies and books that put Freemasonry back into the realm of popular culture. The privacy associated with the fraternity has been exploited as secretive, and popular culture has been given inventions of fantasy such as the following myths about Masonic identity: Freemasonry as a Guardian of the Holy Grail; keepers of an enormous fortune; a sinister force, who together with the Jews, are involved in a plot to take over the world; a threat to religious freedom; or a group of men who somehow must have something to hide. Although entertaining concepts, these false interpretations fail to present the authentic purposes of the Masonic order. Purposes that are found in its system of values based upon the following cornerstones: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual; the right of all persons to worship as they choose; the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education.
Freemasonry encourages personal study and social betterment
Freemasonry, as we know it today, is very much a product of the Age of Enlightenment, which has, over the centuries, developed into a fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment. Worldwide, there are 3.5 million members of the fraternity of Freemasonry who continue to help men and women face the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood, performing good works in our communities and upholding the ideals for a better tomorrow.
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