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To The Critics Of Freemasonry...
   
  From Northern Ireland to Iran, from the Middle East to United States, religious extremism is a growing force throughout the world.  Jarred by the rapid pace of social and cultural change, especially the apparent disintegration of moral values and the breakup of the family, some people within this movement have sought refuge from the complexity of modern life by embracing absolute views and rejecting tolerance of other beliefs.
   
  Simple, east, seemingly stable answers bring comfort in a rapidly changing world.  For example, some churches have responded to the personal anguish of their members by circling the wagons; that is, by strictly defining theological concepts and insisting their members "purify" their fellowship by renouncing any other beliefs.
   
  The next step, already taken by various churches, is to yield degrees of control within their ranks to vocal factions espousing extremist views.  These splinter groups focus the congregation's generalized anxieties on specific targets.  The proffered Cure-all is to destroy the supposed enemy.  Freemasonry has become one of those targets precisely because it encourages members to form their own opinion on many important topics, including religion.
   
  Thus some churches have expressed concerns, even condemnations, of Freemasonry.  Generally, these actions are based on misunderstandings.  A case in point is the June 1993 report to the Southern Baptist Convention by the Convention's Home Mission Board.  The report defined eight alleged conflicts between the tenets and teachings of the Masonic Fraternity and Southern Baptist theology.
   
  Let's briefly look at those areas as representative of the thinking of some well-meaning but misinformed church members today, and see if the concerns are real or simply a matter of misinformation or misunderstanding.
   
  Most of the issues really deal with language in one way or another.  Almost every organization has a special vocabulary of words which are understood by the group.  It's hardly appropriate for someone outside a group, and without the special knowledge of the group, to object to the terms unless he or she fully understands them and why they are used.
   
  If someone wants to read the Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, that is his right - but he doesn't have a right to complain that the articles use medical terms.  A person reading a cookbook had better know that terms like fold, cream the butter, or soft ball have special meanings - or they'll make a mess instead of a cake.
   
  The same is true of a non-Mason reading Masonic materials.  As to the critique of Freemasonry by the Southern Baptist Convention (which, incidentally, had several positive things to say about Masonry), here is a brief explanatory discussion of each point.
   
 
   

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