It’s the question nobody wants to deal with, as the answer may destroy the foundation upon which we have built our soapbox. It’s the conflict no one dares to touch. So we ignore it and hope the question is never asked. In other words, “don’t violate my comfort zone.”
On Monday, we revel in the glory of knowing that the founding fathers of our great nation were Christians. On Tuesday, we boldly condemn the institution of Freemasonry with a broad brushstroke. But on Wednesday, dreaded Wednesday, some enlightened soul dares to point out that many of our founding fathers were Masons… and now we have a problem.
This is our platform, our soapbox, our foundation. Under no circumstances should this worldview be clouded with unnecessary facts-facts pointing out that the grave markers of my most cherished founding fathers are Masonic obelisks!
To “remind” me that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock were all Masons… Are my heroes also my enemies? America was founded on the Christian principles of our Christian founding fathers. This is the source of ammunition in our fight against the atheist left that is trying to steal this country. Are you trying to take that away from me? Is it possible to acknowledge that some of our founding fathers were Masons and still stand tall fighting for right? Is this a truth that can be confronted?
(We are not experts in the spiritual roots of Freemasonry. Jamie Brendan, a contributing writer to Endtime, is a researcher and a recognized authority in this area. We asked him to clear it up for us. —asst. ed.)
A certain friend often reminds me that “America’s founding fathers were all strong Christian men who gave this nation a Godly heritage.” It’s a noble statement—one that instills patriotism and a sense of purpose, one that grants a foundational platform from which to sound off …“In God we trust!”
But if Christians in the United States were to look deeper, they would find themselves faced with an uncomfortable paradox. On one side of this paradox is the patriotic Christian view that upholds America’s founding fathers as pillars of the Faith – the Christian crown of America’s history. On the other side of the divide stands a history of Masonic Lodge memberships, unorthodox religious views, and significant connections with Egyptian and astrological belief systems – the second crown in America’s past.
How then, as Christians, do we reconcile this conflict? Were America’s founding fathers believers or were they not?
As is often the case with an emotionally charged history, the truth lies somewhere in both camps. Yes, many of America’s founding fathers were devout Christians. This is especially visible in the wording of various State documents and letters, constitutions, and early educational material. But many, including some of the most famous founding fathers, had a foothold on the other side of the paradox.
In the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s, the Masonic Service Association published a series of documents highlighting Freemasonry’s connection with the early history of the United States – and the founding fathers in particular. When the MSA conducted this study, it did so without any evident bias or agenda; by all appearances our present paradox wasn’t even in question at the time.
Using a simple but effective format, the Masonic Service Association listed the founding fathers in three categories. “Group I” – Lodge members confirmed by official Masonic sources; “Group II” – founding fathers whose family records, personal letters, and various other documents point to a very good possibility of Lodge membership, but no official sources are known to exist and hence they cannot be listed as “confirmed” Masons; “Group III” – no Masonic affiliation known at all.
The list of Lodge members include George Washington, Robert Paine, John Sullivan, John Hancock, James McHenry, John Glover, Henry Knox, Jacob Broom, John Fitzgerald, Richard Montgomery, Gunning Bedford, Daniel Carroll, William Whipple, John Dickson, and Benjamin Franklin, among others.
Not unlike many Masons today, it’s very likely that a number of the founding fathers who were members of the Lodge failed to understand the spiritual significance of Freemasonry
– principally that the Lodge is a universal melting pot of religions and mystical concepts. In fact, of all the accusations made against Freemasonry, this is one which the Lodge gladly promotes—religious universalism.
Consider this statement from the Masonic Service Association’s publication, Universality of Freemasonry,
“Masonry is not Christian; nor is it Mohammedan nor Jewish nor to be classified by the name of any other sect. The power which has held it together, the chemical which has caused its growth, the central doctrine which makes it unique, is the opportunity it affords men of every faith, happily to kneel together at the same Altar, each in worship of the God he reveres, under the universal name of the Great Architect of the Universe.”
Today we would call this “inter- faithism”—a belief that all religions are valid paths of truth and that collectively we can call on a “higher power.” As previously stated, this does not necessarily mean that each of the founding fathers who were Masons recognized or understood this. Some of the founding fathers who were Masons went on to do great work in promoting the Bible and Christian values. Conversely, others may have understood and embraced Masonry’s universalism.
Regardless of who-knew-what, Freemasonry is still significant in the sense that today’s interfaith movement has its roots firmly planted in the soil of the Lodge. Moreover, Freemasonry has been a tangible and influential force within this country’s societal makeup since the beginning, especially at leadership levels. Even the Boston Tea party and the American Revolution have tight historical connections with the Lodge[see the Appendix in Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas' book, The Hiram Key].
Probably the one place where historical Freemasonry is most evident is in Washington DC. It’s at this vital govern mental hub that Masonry has left an indelible mark on the nation’s fabric. The Capitol Building, the White House, and many other federal buildings were either designed by Masons or dedicated by a Masonic ceremony of “corn, wine, and oil.” In fact, the entire city of Washington DC- including large sections of its street lay out – is liberally laced with the fingerprints of Freemasonry and astrological symbolism [see David Ovason's book, The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital, HarperCollins, 2000; forwarded by C. Fred Kleinknect, Sovereign Grand Commander, Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction of Freemasonry]. Moreover, Washington Monument, the tallest structure in the capital city, is an openly recognized Masonic edifice, with a meaning directly connected to ancient Egyptian belief systems [so too are many other obelisks scattered across the United States].
But what about Thomas Jefferson? Jefferson is often given as an example of a Christian founding father. Yes, he was religious, but his version of Christianity was centered on a different version of “deism” than is normally associated with orthodox Christianity. Putting this belief into words, Jefferson wrote his own edition of the New Testament, complete with the removal of all “extraneous matter.” What does this mean? Simply put, there are no miracles or supernatural events in Jefferson’s version of the Bible. Jesus was not born of a virgin, He didn’t perform any miracles, and He didn’t rise from the dead. The last two sentences of Jefferson’s Bible read,
“Now, in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.”
In a letter to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson explained the reason for writing his version the way he did. “I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his [Jesus' words] and which is easily distinguished as diamonds in a dung-hill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages.” Commenting on this work, Jefferson wrote in an 1816 letter to Charles Thompson,
“I, too, have made a wee little book from the same materials, which I call the philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigm of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrine of Jesus… If I had time I would add to my little book the Greek, Latin and French texts, in columns side by side.”
Later, Jefferson enlarged his text, which became the Jefferson Bible we have today; miracle-less, and with Jesus still in the tomb.
All of these issues, plus others, are cause for serious concern regarding the historical foundation of America. This is especially the case today as America’s “Christian heritage” has become popularized within segments of the Christian community – to the point that some Christian leaders and organizations readily use this as a platform. And herein lies the paradox: they are not necessarily wrong.
America does have a Christian heritage. It can be found in the hospitals and charities which have been in service since the country’s founding. It can be seen in the education system of that earlier time period. It has been witnessed through the many missionaries who have carried the gospel forward from America’s shores. Evidence of the Christian heritage can also be observed in the social and moral structures of the early American culture – a culture that recognized the importance of Christian morals, church life, and a degree of common sense based on God’s Word [the Ten Commandments come to mind]. So too can it be found in the thousands of immigrants who fled to America because of the persecution they experienced while standing for Christ in their homeland – and in carving out a new life in a new land with the freedom to practice their faith.
And it can be found in the fact that many of America’s early fathers were truly Christian in their beliefs. This was the predominant stance of the day; even those of Masonic leanings spoke of “God” and “Providence,” and were regular church attendees – George Washington included. Understanding this historical context is vital. At the time of America’s founding fathers, the accepted vernacular was laced with Christian terminology, and the moral and social fabric was deeply grounded in biblical literacy. Unlike today, it was a time when ministers of the gospel were sought after for daily advice, be it in the realm of personal affairs, business, or politics. Simply put, they were respected by a large majority of the community, even by those who didn’t “share the faith.”
In other words, whether the founding fathers were Masons or not, or whether they were Christians or not, the reality of the day necessitated that they appealed to a solid religious foundation. For some of the founders, “Christian” terminology may have been only that – an appeasement to the accepted moral order of the day. For others, no doubt, the Christian faith was living and real.
One unquestionably based on the work and influence of the Masonic Lodge, and one based on the work and faith of Christian men and women. To say America has had a Christian founding is true, but it’s not entirely accurate. To say America has been guided by secret societies is also true, but doesn’t portray the whole story either.
In facing this dilemma over America’s heritage, we need to realize that we are dealing with a uniquely American phenomenon. As a country try, the U.S. is still relatively young, and the nation is currently undergoing a cultural clash, which brings to the forefront a range of emotions, arguments, and counter-arguments.
It’s accurate to say that Europe is also facing massive societal shifts, but Europe has experienced many rounds of change over its long and bloody past. For America, this is its first truly deep cultural rift since the Civil War – with shock waves emanating from industrial/information age changes, alterations to the religious and moral fabric of the land, and rounds of political and economic transformations that are rearranging the nation. Call it the shift from nationalism to globalism.
The dichotomy over the founding fathers is a product of this clash, and exploring this paradox by trying to better understand the historical roots of America is an important task. But in trying so desperately to determine which crown America wears, we run the risk of fixating on the past. Today’s Christian needs to face where we are now, rather than the state of America two hundred years ago. Whether the founding fathers were Christians or not doesn’t change the fact that the United States of the present is nothing like the United States of two centuries past, nor will it ever be again.