There seems to be a yet another advertising pitch that tells the potential candidate for the privileges of Masonry: "All you have to do is ask." Last night, a friend from the UK had a banner posted on Facebook with such a sentiment. I gently pointed out that asking is necessary but not sufficient. A clear ballot and suitable proficiency in the degrees carries one into sufficiency. A profane friend of his snarkily pointed out that I had burst my friend and brother's bubble, and shown the Mason's "true colors", that while my friend had a vague, friendly and encouraging sentiment, I showed that we were actually something less friendly. My friend's response was to remove the banner and all comments from his page before I could post the first paragraph below as a response. I decided to post it here, along with some further observations.
In Masonry, all worthy men are welcome. This worthiness is not based on class, race, particular religion, political inclination, profession, or any other extenuating factor, but on the quality of a man's character. We don't want evil men in the Craft. We also don't want good men who want to be in the Craft to sit around waiting for decades for someone to recruit them. Freemasonry was never intended to be for all men, regardless of how awful they are. Black cubes exist for a reason. Knaves are unwelcome. Intolerance of knavery shows our true colors. Accepting all good God-fearing men as Brothers under a common Father shows our true colors. Any advertising campaign in Masonry is predicated on the fact that good men want to find us, and in every age have found us, and found each other through us.
Evil men occasionally get in, and can cause a lot of damage before they are removed. That's why the application and the investigation and the ballot are crucial.
It is no criticism to call us exclusive or elitist or not welcoming of all men. The Craft of Freemasonry can do nothing for those souls too damaged to engage in decent social intercourse with other men. Our system only works on men who seek to be good, and have some measure of goodness already. It was not built to redeem the fallen, but to hone and sharpen the goodness of those good men who earnestly seek to improve. Dante populates Limbo with those souls who never did anything good or evil enough in life to merit paradise nor damnation. The Fraternity can do nothing with those souls destined for Limbo. And yet the Limbo-bound seem the most vocal about our exclusivity and perceived elitism.
Men who are Freemasons are quite capable of sin and error, and Freemasonry will not save us from our mistakes. The moral lessons of our Craft are useless if ignored, misapplied or forgotten, and not every Mason is capable of heeding the particular moral lesson he needs the most in a given moment. We make no claims towards salvation, but leave such questions to a man's individual faith. We do strive to present a peer group of men among whom each of us has to work hard to be worthy of being with, and yet each of us strives this way. It is reciprocal, and iron sharpens iron.
Anyone who thinks that every man should be a Master Mason would do well to notice, next time he attends lodge, the man standing outside the lodge door armed with a sword. He should run his hands through a ballot box and notice that the black cubes sit there with the white balls. He should ask himself why he was investigated before being balloted upon.
And the so-called Mason who is ashamed of the Tyler, who apologizes to the profane world for the Tyler and his crucial job, without which the lodge could not exist, is not a Mason in his heart. It will never be necessary for the profane world to understand why the Tyler stands outside the lodge room with a naked sword. He exists for us, not them.