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Anti-Islam and Masonic Responsibility

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c.m.ellis View Drop Down
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    Posted: November/23/2016 at 9:48am
Brothers,

As a 20-something Christian, I wonder what other Masons think about the Fraternity's role/responsibility in the current landscape of religious intolerance (i.e., anti-Islam in particular). 

I was thinking recently about the 17th degree of the Scottish Rite - The Knight of the East and West (I know this is the 17th degree for the Southern Jurisdiction; it seems like it's the same for the Northern Jurisdiction, but I'm not sure about the lessons of the degree). Without getting too deep into the material for Brothers who may not have received the degree, this is from the DC Scottish Rite's website (http://dcsr.org/degrees/degreesRoseCroix.php, underlining added by me):

This is the first of the Philosophical Degrees which penetrate the inner mysteries of Masonry. In all times truth has been concealed in symbols. At the time of John the Baptist, all the ancient philosophical and religious doctrines became intermingled on account of the various conquests which brought the nations together. John, who taught some creed older than Christianity, must have belonged to a sect of the Essenes, which was very similar to Christianity. It is from the Essenes that this Degree is sprung. The Essenes believed that Truth was scattered throughout the world among different sects. They believed it the duty of every man to gather these fragments of divine revelation into a harmonious whole to be used in spreading the right thinking and right living among mankind. Thus, they combine the thought of the Orient and the Occident, from which fact we draw the name of this Degree.

I know that some Brothers are adamant about what books qualify as Volumes of the Sacred Law and I don't want to get into that discussion or the compatibility of Islam and Masonry. However, thinking about the concepts below, what do you think the Fraternity's role is regarding religious intolerance in today's world?
  • Toleration/temperance as a cardinal virtue
  • Rebuilding the temple of Masonry being an allegory for rebuilding humanity as a whole / correcting the fall of man (as discussed by Wilmshurst in The Meaning of Masonry)
  • Commonality of religion as discussed in the Scottish Rite
  • LATE ADD: Action being taken by religious zealots against the Fraternity, such as the attack on the Lodge in Milwaukee in early 2016. I'm still asking for a response along the same vein as the other topics above (i.e., not "we should put retinal scanners on all the exterior doors")
Furthermore, what action should we as individual Masons or Lodges take today?

(Moderators: get your trigger fingers ready. Sorry for the potentially divisive topic. :-) )


Edited by c.m.ellis - November/23/2016 at 10:35am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/23/2016 at 11:49am
I think it's intriguing about the Essenes. There has always been speculation that John the Baptist and his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth belonged to that sect, but I don't think it's ever been verified. I would have to say that for the Scottish Rite to assert that John the Baptist must have belonged to the Essenes would be a stretch. I'm not denying it, but where's the proof? The Bible, and I think the Apocrypha, never mentions either John the Baptist or Jesus of Nazareth belonging to the Essenes. Outside of these, are there any other historical documents that would point to that fact? I think it was Knight and Lomas, in one of their books, all but insisted that they were, but their evidence was very circumstantial.

No matter, your post asks what is the Masonic Fraternity's role in the current climate of religious intolerance. Well, the Masonic Fraternity has always stood for religious tolerance; I believe it is a landmark in many jurisdictions. I think the best course for the Fraternity as a corporate body is to maintain its quiet, but steady and firm commitment to religious tolerance. The actions individual Masons can take are as varied as each individual. The individual Mason should follow their conscience and act as he feels fit to promote tolerance without bringing discredit to the Fraternity or violate his obligations. 

It's kind of a tough question to answer as there are many instances of religious intolerance, and the appropriate response to each instance would be varied according to the character of the instance and the individual responding to it.At a loss 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote c.m.ellis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/24/2016 at 11:32pm
It seems complicit, though, that we as the master builders and torch carriers of the rebuilding of the temple (calling back to my language in the original post) would stand by while good people are demonized for no reason than ignorance and fear being allowed to run unchecked through every community with a connection to any news source.

Edited by c.m.ellis - November/24/2016 at 11:33pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/25/2016 at 7:10pm
The characterization of today's Freemason's as "master builders" and "torch carriers of the rebuilding of the Temple" is very symbolic and subjective, and I'm not sure that requires or even allows us to be very public or militant about us combating religious intolerance. In today's climate, I think for Freemasonry to directly get involved in this issue would risk us jumping into the political arena, which, of course, is forbidden for us to do, not to mention highly dangerous. So there seems to be a clash in what you are suggesting between our tenet of religious tolerance and not getting involved in political issues. Your post seems to hint at the religious intolerance to Islam, but, there has also become a high level of intolerance to Christianity. Should Freemasonry approach that aspect of the issue with the same zeal?

If Freemasonry leads, or even gets involved in the seeming intolerance against Islam, Christians will ask, and rightfully so, what about us?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote coach Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/26/2016 at 4:17am
Originally posted by c.m.ellis c.m.ellis wrote:

what do you think the Fraternity's role is regarding religious intolerance in today's world?


To education each member in spotting uncivil intolerance, revealing options to deal with it civilly and in encouraging each to take civil actions that are best for himself.

Originally posted by c.m.ellis c.m.ellis wrote:

what action should we as individual Masons or Lodges take today?


As individual members, educate ourselves in spotting any uncivil intolerance and taking civil actions that are best for each member's overall best interests.

As lodges, educate our members.

BTW - I am not a believer that civil intolerance is wrong. Some things need to be either resisted or rejected, especially when what is being shoved our way infringes on our rights and liberties.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/26/2016 at 7:40am
Coach wrote:  I am not a believer that civil intolerance is wrong. Some things need to be either resisted or rejected, especially when what is being shoved our way infringes on our rights and liberties.

I agree that intolerance is not always wrong. There are are certain Moslems, Christians, Jews and probably from all religions who hold extreme views and advocate extreme measures on those who would disagree with them. There are also secularists of the same type. I think it's OK to be intolerant of that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote c.m.ellis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/27/2016 at 11:04am
I would agree with the idea that extremism should be rejected. Doesn't that hearken back to a Scottish Rite philosophy about stamping out tyranny? It also makes me think about Pike's analysis of the symbolism of the ruffians' strikes (implements used and part of the body attacked).

Also, I don't mean to appear to advocate a "militant" approach to combating religious intolerance. I was thinking more about soft skills for individuals - deescalation techniques, promoting conversations with families and friends to break down the fear barriers created by the fog of ignorance.

And you have a good point about Christianity demanding to be included if we decide to be protective of Islam. However... what religious demographic do you see most often speaking out against/bashing Islam? I tend to think that Christians do so because (a) they are acting out of fear that is catalyzed by ignorance [and this is the heart of my question] and (b) Islam threatens the Christian worldview that is founded in a literal interpretation of the Judaeo-Christian scripture [which, in my opinion, one could potentially argue is another example of religious extremism].
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/27/2016 at 1:46pm
It very well may be that the rejection of extremism is related to a Scottish Rite philosophy of stamping out tyranny; I really wouldn't know. I haven't been involved in Scottish Rite for almost 15 years, and my experience is confined to the Northern Jurisdiction with no experience in the Southern Jurisdiction. The stamping out of tyranny is only, let's say, "glossed over" in the Northern Jurisdiction as best I can recall. Perhaps it is more emphasized in the Southern Jurisdiction. And I can't comment on Albert Pike; he is not mentioned in the Northern jurisdiction.  In any event, this philosophy is at least strongly implied overall throughout all Masonry, in my opinion.

I do agree that the "soft skills" you mention are effective and appropriate for Masons.

It's interesting you ask, " what religious demographic do you see most often speaking out against/bashing Islam?" I think you are implying that it is the Christians who are doing so, and it very well might be. But you asked, who do we most often see doing so? What we see is what we get from a secular media, and what I have seen is that this is a part of a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) campaign against Christianity by the media. I get the impression that it is a very small number of Christians overall who hold such extreme views against Islam overall, and it seems to me that Christians are not the only ones bashing Islam. The Russian and Chinese governments are two examples who hold anti-Islamic views and both of those are quite secular. So, I have to ask, are the Christian elements of anti-Islamic rhetoric really all that significant?

I also have to disagree that that the Judaeo-Christian sees Islam as a threat according to a literal interpretation of scripture. The Jewish scriptures actually teach a tolerance for other religions, as do many Christian denominations. I would not paint Judaeo-Christian philosophies with such a broad brush.


Edited by droche - November/27/2016 at 1:47pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ga.mason Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/28/2016 at 7:57am
As someone of the Christian faith, I find it hard to tolerate a religion, any religion, that glorifies child rape, beheadings of non-believers, honor killings, etc... What should we do as a fraternity you ask? Guard the inner gate against those who hold these beliefs. This is not fear, this is fact!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote c.m.ellis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/28/2016 at 7:38pm
ga.mason, I'm glad you brought that up. Are you familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church? Is it safe to say that WBC does *not* represent the view of the majority of Christians? How do you feel about them picketing military funerals because those soldiers died because America's sinfulness? Is it possible that people living in another country could see that vitriol that imagine that is what Christianity is about, and that is what you are about?

Similarly... I hope you can see where I'm going here... Is it possible that ISIS and the kind of extremist vitriol that you called out does not represent the majority of Muslims? Is it possible that there are people living in Snellville, GA that are ashamed of what extremists have made of their religion? What would you say to those people who are broken and can't even meet your eyes at the grocery store because they are so crippled with fear of what a paranoid society will do to them for the smallest unintentional slight?

Furthermore, thinking about beheadings, stoning women for being raped, etc. - did you know that things like that happened in Europe 600 years ago? If you had lived in those times, you would very likely have seen nothing wrong with those kinds of activities. Now, that's not to justify those kinds of atrocities happening today (or then). But they occur as a function of the society, though and are examples of the basest elements of humanity. They are not a function of the religion. Extremism takes these things and twists and contorts the doctrine to meet it's evil purpose. 

I agree that Freemasonry must guard the western door / inner gate, but how can we do that when the fog of ignorance is so thick that we can't see the ends of our noses?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adept? Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/28/2016 at 8:14pm
"As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities."

-Voltaire-


"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies."

--Thomas Jefferson

"We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself." - Carl Gustav Jung

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B. Anthony

If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all humankind would quickly perish since they constantly pray for many evils to befall one another. - Epicurus

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God? - Epicurus

Edited by Adept? - November/28/2016 at 8:32pm
"It is humanity that creates god, and men think that god has made them in his image, because they make him in theirs."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote windrider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/29/2016 at 10:38am
I've had the pleasure of discussing Freemasonry with several "militant" muslims. The conversation usually begins with, "Why do you Freemasons worship the devil?" or some such accusation. I've found that the best approach is to educate myself about Islam and point out the common ground we share. There is a lot of common ground. Both Islam and Freemasonry teach Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love. We hold dear the concept of Hospitality and the privilege of hosting visitors. The list of common ground goes on and on. 

When we as Masons follow our teachings and principles, we will treat all men as people who deserve our respect. So answering these kinds of accusations with kindness and respect allows us to open the door to understanding. 

We should be aware of where these beliefs about us come from. Many Imams are taught that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are true. They cast us as evil and friends of their enemies. When we simply deny these accusations, this is what they expect and they react as they were taught. They have no reason to mistrust their elders and teachers and every reason to mistrust us. When we answer with what we have in common, true dialogue can begin. Some of these conversations end in meeting on the level and parting on the square.



Edited by windrider - November/29/2016 at 10:52am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ga.mason Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/29/2016 at 12:46pm
Mr. Ellis, yes I have heard of WBC. And I do not agree with them. But I have yet to see or read of them driving a car bomb into a crowded marketplace. Nor have they flew planes into our WTC and killed over 3000 of our AMERICAN CITIZENS. You have heard of the WTC? Might I also point out, when I see a so-called peaceful muslim stand before the tv camera and denounce the atrocities committed in the name of a @%^!&@%$ called allah, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. I will not hold my breath waiting on that to happen. BTW, if you will read the first line in my first post you will see I clearly stated "any religion". That includes Christianity! Anyway, I only posted a reply to your question to see how many folks on this site would make excuses and offer their interpretation of the so-called peaceful religion of islam.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adept? Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/29/2016 at 7:24pm
Originally posted by ga.mason ga.mason wrote:

AMERICAN CITIZENS.  

Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine.  So many people call themselves "American"  they are not necessarily wrong.  However, I cringe when I hear our country identified as "America"  America is a continent; two continents actually, North America, and South America.


Our country is The United States OF America.



Edited by Adept? - November/29/2016 at 7:24pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote c.m.ellis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/02/2016 at 8:04am

I think this is developing into an interesting conversation. ga.mason, reading back over my post with cold eyes, I fear it may have come across as condescending. That was not my intent at the time and I apologize if it caused you any heartache.

Responding to your comment about WBC vs. extremist activities, I would suggest that the society that the WBC operates in simply would not tolerate the level of extremism that ISIS and the like employ. If the USA (thanks, Adept? - I'll try to be sensitive to your position, although I don't necessarily agree with it :-) ) were not as societally advanced as we are, we very well may condone those kinds of actions. Another lesson from the Scottish Rite is that we must be sensitive to the mistakes of others, because, if put in the same situation, the same upbringing, the same oppressive political/religious regime, most if not all of us would follow the same path and make the same mistakes. Our good fortune to not have made those mistakes is pure luck of being born in the time and place we were - or predestination, if that's your cup of tea. NOW... THAT'S NOT TO SAY that we shouldn't take the military action that we've taken - frankly, that's not the point of this conversation and I don't intend to argue one way or the other on that particular topic. Getting back to WBC, I agree with your assessment of the difference in the the philosophical distance between WBC and "mainstream" Christianity and extremist Islam and the moderate Islam that I'm suggesting exists. However, my point is simply that the distance does exist in Islam, and I use the WBC analogy to communicate the concept.

To your comment about expecting moderate Muslims to apologize for extremism, that's preposterous. It's preposterous for the same reason that no one asks you or me to apologize for the stupidity of WBC and we are not expected to apologize for slavery in America. While those things are morally wrong, they are perpetrated by people who do not represent what you or I think. To suggest that someone should have to apologize for the actions of people that don't represent their own philosophy is ludicrous. They have nothing to apologize for.

Respectfully, I would ask anyone that is passionate about this topic to read this NPR article (http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/07/15/485900076/how-a-danish-town-helped-young-muslims-turn-away-from-isis) or this podcast episode for the same article (http://pca.st/67Qi). Please allow yourself to be open-minded about the fact that the world will never be as simple as we make it out to be.



Edited by c.m.ellis - December/02/2016 at 8:05am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ga.mason Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/05/2016 at 8:43am
We must live in 2 different Americas Mr. Ellis, for I am constantly asked to, not only apologize for slavery, but to make reparartions for it as well. I am also constantly being asked to apologize for my Christian faith as it may offend someone elses beliefs. And FWIW, I never asked for an apology from so-called moderate muslims, I asked that they "denounce" the violence, which they don't. Personally I do not need a "safe space" so even if you were condescending, I suffered no heartache. Nor do I wish to engage in a "pissing match". But you are mistaken in your analogy. There are plenty of people that pointed out that WBC was not speaking for them. I just have not seen the same from the other side. Perhaps that's because deep down inside they agree with it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote c.m.ellis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/05/2016 at 2:42pm
Thanks for your time and your thoughtful responses, Brother. I also have no interest in a "pissing match". I hope that we can depart this conversation on good terms. To your comment on on a "safe space" and being condescending, it's not that I am afraid of hurting your feelings, but particularly that I would consider it to be unbrotherly conduct. In other words, I would have done you a disservice and failed to meet the standard that I set for myself as a man and Mason.

Anyway, an early Merry Christmas to you and yours! :-)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ga.mason Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/06/2016 at 7:20am
Merry Christmas to you and yours as well. I hold no ill will resulting from a spirited debate. That's what makes the world go around!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scout Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/07/2016 at 7:40am
When I go to the inner door, I don't ask a man about his religion.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote windrider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/13/2016 at 12:12pm
Not to reignite a flame war, but I think the WBC analogy is completely bogus. WBC is not a Christian organization. It is a small group of mostly family members who are coincidentally also lawyers. They do what they do not from some sort of religious zeal but simply to enrich themselves. It's a con game based upon the laws of free speech. They set up their absurd protests and simply wait for someone to get angry enough at them to cross the legal line "violating their civil rights". They then sue the angry party. 

 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote c.m.ellis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/17/2016 at 5:00pm
windrider, that's precisely what I was driving at. Someone who isn't educated enough on the facts could look at WBC and misinterpret it as being what Christianity stands for. I know that sounds asinine, but what if you lived on the other side of the world and your exposure to real facts was minimal? Similarly, is it fair to say that we as Americans (sorry, Adept?) *could* be under-informed about what Islam stands for and jump to conclusions? That was the only point of the analogy - not to argue that WBC is or isn't a Christian organization.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote droche Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/18/2016 at 9:49am
Being a member of Patriot Guard Riders, a group that protects family members at the funerals of servicemen killed in the line of duty from Westboro Baptist Church, I am all too familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church. On the several "missions" in which I have participated with Patriot Guard, I have never run into members of Westboro Baptist Church but I have been ready to stand up to them. The difference I see is that the Westboro Baptist Church has been repudiated many times by other Christian churches and organizations. I have in fact seen several Patriot Guard members wearing patches of Christian biker organizations. On the other hand, one rarely sees more moderate Islamists repudiate the extremists among their numbers.  All it would take is a "fatwah" against these extremists issued by an Imam or the like to help shut them off or show that Islam does not support them. I have never heard of this happening.

You asked, could Americans be better informed about what Islam stands for? Of course, but it seems as though your opinion is that Americans in general have a negative view of Islam as a whole. I don't think that is so. The American media and the current administration have done a very good job  to jump on any instances of Moslems being abused or mistreated and to separate the good from the bad. One hears the term "Islamophobia" bandied about quite frequently, for example.

I'm not sure what makes you think that Americans have such a negative view of Islam but it seems to me to be a tempest in a teapot. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cemab4y Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/13/2017 at 7:55am
I have spent a year in Saudi Arabia. I lived under Sharia law, and I did not enjoy diplomatic immunity. I have studied Islam thoroughly. 

I now live in WashDC Metro area. There have been incidents of anti-Islam vandalism and bullying, etc.  The church I attend is taking a position against violence and religious bigotry. Many of our members recently attended an "open house", at the local mosque. I am going to teach a class in "Islamic literacy". 

In this national atmosphere of religious bigotry, we all should take a lesson from Brother George Washington. He wrote a letter to a Jewish congregation, which should speak to us now.

See:


"To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance"- These are the words we should live by.

as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, let us remember his words as well-

"We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will surely perish as fools"


Charles E. Martin

Alexandria, VA

Bowling Green Lodge 73, Bowling Green KY (GL of KY, F&AM)

Alexandria VA Scottish Rite Bodies (AASR, Southern Jurisdiction, USA)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cemab4y Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/13/2017 at 8:00am
We should remember the words of Martin Niemoller, who was incarcerated in a Nazi Concentration Camp.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Charles E. Martin

Alexandria, VA

Bowling Green Lodge 73, Bowling Green KY (GL of KY, F&AM)

Alexandria VA Scottish Rite Bodies (AASR, Southern Jurisdiction, USA)
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