The Silly, Masonic Debate on Whether We Worship the Same God

It seems that some things never go away, and the running battle over whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God is one of those.  The day I picked to take on this subject is deliberate: it’s the feast of St. John the Evangelist, which is also one of the great holidays of Masonry.

As I’ve noted before, Masonry runs deep in both sides of my family, especially my father’s. Yet, in part because of the secret nature of the Lodge, Masonry’s influence on the way Americans look at things is consistently overlooked.  This is a subject where Masonry has had a very significant impact.  So, on their holiday, I think it proper to take it on.

Let me begin by going back to an earlier post where I look at the running attempt by Malaysian Muslims (you heard it right) to suppress Christian usage of the word “Allah” for God:

In this country, it’s “politically correct” to assume that a) both Christians and Muslims worship the same god and b) by extension, it’s permissible to call him by names common to both religions.  This is the line encouraged by CAIR and other groups.  However, I have seen this attacked in Muslim literature as Masonic, not Islāmic.  Evidently that, in a roundabout way, is the position of the Muslim protesters in Malaysia.

The court, on a factual basis, is correct.  Christians in Muslim countries (especially Arab ones, but also in places such as Indonesia) routinely refer to God as Allah and this is reflected in Biblical translations.  Conversely all English “interpretations” of the Qur’an before the last century translated the Arabic Allah as “God.”  It was left to Marmaduke Pickthall to transliterate the term “Allah” because, in his opinion, “there is no corresponding word in English.”  Evidently he felt that the Christian and Islamic conceptions of God were so different that different names were necessary.

Having set that up, let’s turn to the Lodge. Masons often defend themselves by saying “We don’t believe that,” but that’s the Masonic way: take a position and then hide it behind the secret ritual and deny it. (Perhaps that explains the game of bluff of American politics, but that’s another post…) But Masonry has two underlying tenets that anyone who is honest about the subject will admit:

  1. All religions are the same, have the same goal and ultimately lead to the same god.
  2. The Lodge offers a way to the “Great Architect of the Universe” that transcends all the other religions, via good works.

The first is falsifiable by a casual examination of different religions.  We cannot worship the same god when the number is different, i.e. polytheistic Hinduism, non-theistic Confucianism, Buddhism which can go either way, etc..  Islam, as a monotheistic religion, is a little more complicated, but we’ll get to that.  The second basically makes Masonry a religion in its own right, something it has worked hard to deny for many years.

A culture which has been permeated by the first proposition–and American culture certainly has–is vulnerable to confusion based on the first point. If both religions are monotheistic, then they must worship the same god, and thus both will get us to “heaven”, right?  It’s little wonder that Christian leaders are so quick to differentiate two “Gods” in a culture soaked with this kind of thinking.

But such a concern is really unnecessary.  The easiest way to explain this is to look back on all the years that the European Christians and the Muslims fought via the Crusades, the reconquest of Spain, the Ottoman conflicts, etc.  Islam was portrayed in Europe as a Christian heresy, as any reader of Dante is aware of. Christians were called “infidels” not because they were atheists or worshipped a different God but because they rejected the revelation that Mohammed received.  In both cases, access to God was as important as the existence of God himself; both sides took as axiomatic that bad access led to bad eternal consequences.

The problem with pushing the “two Gods” idea is that it not only undermines the concept of monotheism; it opens the door for other interlopers such as the Lodge to make inroads, and as we see they’ve already done a good job in that regards.

Access is really the key issue here. Christian–and Islāmic leaders for that matter–should stop and consider things carefully before they take positions that are antithetical to the ones they’re supposed to hold.

The Place Which Watches the Grass Grow Gets a Pass on Shari’a

Brunei slides past our sybaritic elites:

The sultan of Brunei has issued an edict that threatens Muslims with five years in prison if they celebrate Christmas. Christians are told that their celebrations must remain secret or they can be jailed as well.

One of my family business‘ customers was Brunei Shell, as the state sanctioned oil monopoly was called at the time. (Note that the Dutch were complicit in creating this Islamic money machine, as were they and other Western countries in just about all of the world). Our personnel would visit from time to time; my brother stopped by about a quarter century ago.  His comment was that Brunei was “a good place to watch the grass grow”. Now we have a situation that, with Shari’a law, that’s about the only legal thing left to do.

You think that our “freedom-loving” government would want to do something about this? Think again:

But while most Americans don’t know about Brunei, the Obama Regime does know about Brunei. Members of the Obama Regime loves Brunei. In fact, they love Brunei so much, they included Brunei in the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal…Under this deal, there can be no labeling to tell you a product is made in America. Do you want to boycott Brunei because of the way it treats Christians and because it is implementing Islamic law? Good luck finding labeling that tells you products were made in Brunei. Under the TPP, it is even arguable that citizen boycotts of the products of a certain nation could open the individuals up to litigation.

Everybody knows that the current Occupant has little use for Christians.  But wait: didn’t the Shari’a-loving Sultan get into it with the LGBT community because he owns hotels in the Los Angeles area? Guess they’re out of luck too on a boycott. This is especially strange since our government has made a great effort for same LGBT community in Africa, with dubious results for everyone.

The really sad thing this about this is that we have yet another Muslim monarch giving way to the brainless, Saudi Arabian policy of enforcing across-the-board Shari’a in a way that not even the early caliphs did.  They could have taken a cue from the earlier Ottomans, but that, sad to say, is out of fashion in Islam.

Anglicanism Without Canterbury

The Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala, Kenya’s Anglican primate, lays it out:

It has been suggested that the way forward is for the Anglican Communion to abandon the idea that there should be mutual recognition between the provinces and that it should instead find its unity simply in a common relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This is not historic Anglicanism; the See of Canterbury is honoured and respected as the Mother Church of the Communion, but the unity of the Communion does not depend upon the Archbishop of Canterbury. Rather, it depends upon the various provinces being able to recognize each other, with all their differences of culture, as truly apostolic and committed to the faith as it has been received. Tragically, that recognition has now broken down and affection for Canterbury is no substitute.

I have felt for a long time that the North Americans on both sides are too heavily invested in Canterbury and need a reality check, both about the current state of the Communion and what a Christian church is really supposed to be all about.  Wabukala evidently has figured out both; hopefully both he and his North American counterparts will arrange for “open return” travel arrangements for the meeting next month.

The Non-Nestorian Theology of “Mary Did You Know”

Jordan Smith’s stunning performance of “Mary Did You Know” on “The Voice” is a reminder of the fact that this song–written by Baptist comedian Mark Lowry–is American Evangelicalism’s “official” Christmas carol.

What Evangelicals probably don’t know is that, for all of their reputation for sloppy theology, Lowry nailed it on this one:

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

One of the first heresies the church had to deal with after it picked itself off of the floor after Arianism was Nestorius’ contention that Jesus Christ was very dual in his being, that the human and the divine persons were very separate. Nestorius himself contended that “God is not a baby two or three months old”.

And so, Evangelicals, when your Orthodox friends (assuming you have any) rail at you when you don’t know the Thrice-Holy Hymn, or that you do not cross yourself at all let alone with two or three fingers, or that you do not recite the Creed during your worship of God, you can say that you’re not a Nestorian.

Which shows, I suppose, that Evangelicalism is where the comedians have a better grasp of theology than the pulpiteers.

Home is Where the Heart Is, But the Wallet Cannot Go

Christmas is the time of year when we think of “home”. Home for many Americans generates warm fuzzy feelings of a place where things were simpler and life was, somehow, better. It brings memories of places we’ve left, assuming we’ve left them behind at all.  And it’s a place where, for all the saccharine sentiment, most of us wouldn’t want to move back to, because where we’re at is better materially than where we started.

For those of us who grew up in a place like Palm Beach, life is different.

To start with, Christmas in South Florida is something of a mind bender. When we South Floridians (or anyone who grew up in a tropical or sub-tropical place) hear of people waxing about “sleigh bells in the snow” our first question is simple: snow? For me, memories of Christmas turn to a Christmas day when my brother, first armed with a driver’s license, and I cruised down the streets of West Palm Beach in 75 deg. F weather, windows down, and sunny.  Who needs snow?

Being on our side of the lake–the barrier between us and the riff-raff–was even stranger.  People go on about many things they experienced where they grew up, but honestly the best thing about being a kid on the North End of Palm Beach was (and probably is) Lake Trail. A bicycle/pedestrian trail that runs most of the length of the Town of Palm Beach along the shore of Lake Worth, it was a two-wheeled interstate down to more interesting places (including, after 1971, Publix). To get there from our house, we went up and over Palm Beach’s fabled coral ridge and down a paved path at a vacant lot which put us on the Trail.  Our cat was likewise enamoured with the area, but he reached it by imperiously sauntering down the streets of Palm Beach as cats are wont to do. One time he came home with blood in his eye, which led us to suspect he came in contact with something bigger than he was.

The years have come and gone, and so has the vacant lot. The Palm Beach Country Club built a house on the lot and sold it in the 1980’s, and that house is now on the market for a paltry USD37,450,000.  From the looks of it the access to Lake Trail has been cut off as well, although there are alternatives.

Our abode was nowhere near that magnificent, and it wasn’t on the water either. Nevertheless, while many of my contemporaries wouldn’t go back to the place they came from because they have “advanced” (their material circumstances have, the mentality has not) I could not go back because, frankly, I can’t afford to.  As my grandmother would say, we are “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash“, by current Palm Beach standards.

Some of that is the fate of multigenerational success; sooner or later it fades. But another reason is the stratospheric rise of real estate prices in Palm Beach and other places like it. It’s kind of like the debate over sea level rise: is the sea rising or the land falling? That’s the case with several places I or my ancestors called home at one time or another.

God is good and so is life; I don’t mean this to be a gripe session.  Palm Beach’s social system may be the one I reference all others by, but then it wasn’t much fun. I still find all the obsession many of my contemporaries have with “moving up” distasteful, especially if they profess and call themselves Christians. But Christians especially would be well advised to lose the obsession with “moving up” in this life at least.  We live in a time when technology and the productivity it can produce great improvements in life, but our economic and political systems tend to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few while making the rest of think that we’re in charge though a dubious electoral system.  With the downsizing of life our elites plan to mandate in the name of saving the planet, there will be many more who will find the “old home place” out of reach financially.

And that will probably include the place we’re at now.

Tribalism All The Way

I saw a Facebook post which characterised the Jr. Jerry Falwell’s recent comments about concealed carry and Islam as follows:

This is probably what most people expect of Fundamentalists– hyper conservative, right wing bigots who see anyone who disagrees with them as godless enemies. This is religious tribalism at its most basic element. We are right. You are wrong. Our God is God. Yours is not. Be assimilated or, if you provoke us, we will kill you.

As is the case with bad foreign policy, must be something in the water, as this post observes about the departure of Yale professor Erika Christakis:

Secular progressivism is not a developed intellectual position that seeks out followers by honestly setting forth its premises and challenging rational adults to contest or accept its conclusions. Instead it’s a tribal marker, like a tattoo or feather headdress, that marks off “insiders” from “outsiders,” appealing not to the cogitative centers of the brain but the deeper, older and murkier parts. These dark places in the mind have no room for “true,” “false,” or “arguable,” but deal only in “Us” and “Them.” For all that they are the fruits of advanced rational thinking and astonishing technical achievement, both academia and social media are exquisite mechanisms for training millions of people to regress from intelligent discourse to brutal, herd-like groupthink.