Monday, December 3, 2007

No Strings Attached

I drove past a medium sized local church the other day. King Solomon’s Baptist church (no relation for the Brothers who just gave a smile). They have one those standard church signs that have the name of the church on it and the replaceable letters below the name so that they can post kindly messages or church special services times and the like. Nothing extraordinary about it, quite to the contrary, it was quite ordinary. But, because of the King Solomon reference, I found myself reading the inspirational message illuminated upon it at the present time. It read, “True love has no strings attached.”

It seems on its face a reasonable and inspirational enough message and is likely intended to remind us that G-d’s love “has no strings attached” and because of this, you should strive for such a lofty goal.

As I whizzed by in my present mode of transportation, I initially thought that it was nice enough little message. Then, as is normally the case when I get into trouble, I got down to thinking. And I concluded the message is bunk, bologna, hogwash, fallacy, false, etc….

Let’s try, at first, for the sake of argument to define “true love.” This, in and of itself, would allow for much philosophical debate, which is not the intent of this particular espousal and would not be a judicious use of words. For the purposes of this particular address I will use the definition I believe was intended by the drafters of this wonderfully disguised little falsehood.

For the purposes of this discussion the definition of true love is: Loving someone or something the way G-d loves us.

Allow yourself to examine that love. Does it come with “no strings attached” as this message would indicate? No, you bet it doesn’t. There is a major tome called the Bible for the Judaic or Christian faiths teeming with strings. You might say that the strings allow us an avenue to express faith as an action and not sit back on our duffs doing nothing. In short, regardless of your current religious affiliation it is likely you are charged within your holy book or writings with:

String 1—Doing good. Doing unto others as you would like done unto you. This is also taught in the Christian faith in Biblical versus that reference doing things like picking up your cross to follow Jesus and the like. The Christian dogma is a moral dogma and requires allowing the “Christ within” to be the rule of guide of your conduct. This is a major string. [Side note: for those claiming G-d still loves you in spite of these. No, he sends you to hell for not following these and that is not love folks.]

String 2—Having faith in G-d and/or his representatives on earth. [Again a lack of faith equals damnation]

String 3—Valuing the proper things in life and in people. Most holy books speak to the inner part of our being and not the outward appearance being the important part of mankind. [Harder for a rich man to get into heaven…you know the rest]

String 4—More important than faith is not misplacing your faith in things such as worldly goods or riches.

String 5—Following the dictates and precepts of the particular religion, the 10 commandments for instance.

Now, the Evangelicals will be up in arms at this point screaming that it is through grace alone and no such strings our attached. I say your Evangelical actions speak louder than your words. This particular group heaps a few more strings upon its devotees in the form of its orthodoxy which it claims not to have. We will call these E-strings:

E-string 1—You need to believe the Bible is inerrant.

E-string 2—Lots of people go to hell when they don’t believe correctly.

E-string 3—We believe correctly and we are some of the few who do and even other Christian denominations are going straight to the fiery place.

E-string 4—Real Christians come to church, join small groups, and get active.

I guess no strings attached might be true as we have enough here to braid a nice rope.

Now, let’s look at what our own human experiences teach us. Because this is empirical evidence of how we administer love. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not picking on the religions of the world for doing something wrong. I think it is right and proper that love have strings. I am pointing to these contradictions to the original statement as evidence that love does, and maybe should, have strings attached.

Marriage, hopefully unions between to people that have found true love, right? So what do we do to seal the deal when we have found this true love? We bind ourselves under a marriage obligation. We give an oath to be faithful and true to one another. We agree to abstain from sex with others and to be honest with one another. We stand before a judge, priest, pastor, or whatever, and take an oath and attach a bunch of strings.

Love should have its limits. When it does not, a bunch of people believing that questioning love and using reason and logic are bad, take a bunch of grape Kool Aid and never wake up. Heck, if there was just one little string attached, like “I will never ask you to harm yourself for me” the tragedies of Jones Town and Heavens Gate would never have occurred.

Those who have managed to this point without being enraged in religious fervor may well be asking themselves what all this has to do with Masonry. Recognizing the value of an obligation as a vital and critical part of true and brotherly love is what Masonry has to do with this.

The light of Masonry provides, in allegorical format, a vivid picture of the importance of a man’s Word. It is recognizing that a man can keep his word that he is brought into the fold of the Craft and loved like a Brother.

An essential aspect of true love is the obligation. The obligation we make to our G-d in following the precepts of our religion. The obligation we make to our spouse to be good and true to them. The obligation we make to our children in rising to the challenge of raising them and sacrificing for them. The obligation we make to ourselves to do the right thing even when no one is looking because we have learned to love ourselves. The obligation we make to our Brothers at the altar of the Craft.

True love is honorable because you have honored the obligation of it, because it is hard work sometimes, because we rise to the occasion to honor our obligations in it; true love has strings attached.

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