Monday, April 13, 2015

To Lodge or not to Lodge...

For this week's newspapers, I answered a question about what would keep a Christian from joining or participating in a lodge or other fraternal organization, such as the Masons, Eastern Star, Shriners, Odd Fellows, Eagles, Elks, Moose, etc.  

Q:  Why do some churches forbid their members from joining lodges, secret societies, or other fraternal organizations?

While the reasons behind prohibitions on lodge membership by some churches are explained in diverse ways, they all relate to the common theme of concerns about compromising spiritual convictions. 

In the cases where the organization does not have any decidedly spiritual or ritual elements to their activity as a club, there would typically be no concerns, and members of most churches would be free to participate in organizations like the Lions, Kiwanis, or Rotary.  Only a very small number of churches would raise any objection to participation in these kinds of community service organizations.  When they do it is usually because they do not believe in praying with people outside of their own denomination, but this could usually be resolved by the member excusing himself during the meeting’s opening prayer. 

Other times, the activities of an organization take on such an obviously spiritual quality that a church or denomination classifies them as a religion in their own right, which means that an individual could not be a member of both that organization and his church, because it would amount to being a member of two different religions.  In other cases, the secrecy of the organization’s rituals creates an environment where they are forbidden to members of a church out of caution. 

In the majority of cases, it is a particular element of what is known about a lodge or other organization’s activity and rituals which results in members of a church being forbidden from joining it. 

One example of such concerns would be if a lodge ritual involves prayers where people whose religions worship different gods engage in joint prayer as if they were addressing the same god, or they actively promote all religions as equally valid before god or imply that all religions are just different paths to a common deity.  In such cases, many churches would prohibit their members from participation on the grounds that it would constitute idolatry. 

In other cases, membership in a lodge might involve making promises or acknowledging ideas in membership oaths with contradict Scripture or the teachings of the church.  In these cases, the Christian could not have loyalty to both and would ultimately be left to choose between his lodge and his church. 

These organizations often have a concept of afterlife that is promoted in their rituals, and if that concept contradicts what is taught in Scripture, the Christian could not in good conscience promote the ideas of the lodge against those of his church.  Similarly, there are often ideas promoted about how one reaches the proposed afterlife destination, which usually include upholding the virtues and principles of the lodge, which would be a contradiction to the Christian teaching that salvation comes only through trusting Jesus.  Likewise here, the Christian could not in good conscience promote the ideas of that lodge and remain consistent with the teachings of his church. 

When any of the above are taught or practiced by a lodge or other fraternal organization, it causes a conflict of conscience for Christians of many denominations and creates an environment where membership in it contradicts the teachings of a member’s church.  In such cases, many churches consider lodge participation to be incompatible with Christian teaching and church membership.  

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