George Washington’s Christian Faith is often called into question when people realize he was a Freemason
Often times people will ask about the religious views of the founding fathers, and specifically about George Washington. When people realize Washington was a Freemason, it is often accompanied with a question on if he was a Freemason, or a Christian. This is of course based on a false dichotomy that you cannot be both a Christian and Freemason, which is absolutely not true.
Was Washington A Freemason or Christian?… Why not both?
Freemasonry is said to have originated from stone mason’s guilds who are largely accredited with building the European cathedrals of the Christian religions. These monuments were temples built to reflect very christian understandings of the world, life, and the afterlife. There is no way that these temples of stone could have been built for churches of the Christian faith, without the builders knowing quite a lot about the christian religion itself, and often practicing or leading it. So from its roots, Operative Masonry, and later Freemasonry is founded in roots of christianity. That being said, Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it trying to be. Freemasons do not see themselves as practicing a religion, but instead participating in a civic organization that rests on spiritualism.
Some will say, “the practices of Freemasonry in the 18th century were not necessarily incompatible with Christianity. It is completely plausible for George Washington to be both a Christian and a Freemason.” Of course we agree here, but we would stress that this is true even more so today!
The same people claim (who are not members of the fraternity) that Freemasonry was more in line with Christianity at the time of Washington than it is today. These individuals believe that today Freemasonry is actually contrary to Christianity. We would like to ask those people “how would you know” given the fact that you are neither a member today, nor were you a member 200+ years ago to know what Freemasonry was like then.
What we can tell you is that Freemasonry in the 21st century is definitely less secretive and esoteric than it was 200 years ago, so from our perspective, it is likely more in line with Christianity today, than it was back in Washington’s time. However we know that the Freemasonry of George Washington’s time was in line with our practices and standards today, and that it was in fact, absolutely in line with Christianity, both then and now.
The fact is that records show George Washington was associated with both Freemasonry and the Christian faith as shown in his memberships of multiple Masonic Lodges and of the Anglican Church.
Washington’s Masonic Membership
An argument against Washington’s involvement in Freemasonry was his lack of attendance in the Lodge he was raised in, and that he only attended “4 times.” This argument is not a complete picture of his Masonic story. Keep in mind Washington joined a Masonic Lodge at the age of 20 in 1752, and shortly after Washington become a Master Mason, he joined the militia as an officer, and started traveling for battles.
The “4 times” myth is pretty easily debunked. Records show George Washington’s date he was initiated, the date he received the 2nd degree, the date he received his 3rd degree, the date he affiliated with Alexandria Lodge, the date he was installed Master of Alexandria Lodge (this and of itself made him the presiding officer of the Lodge, and would require regular attendance and leadership), the date he presided over the cornerstone laying of the Capitol as Grand Master Pro Tem, two separate St. Johns’ day Masonic meetings and ceremonies with American Union Military Lodge at Christ Church, the meetings he attended at Christie Christiana’s tavern in Williamsburg, his attendance at Fredericksburg Lodge when traveling to the state capital, his attendance at AW22, Washington Army Lodge that was named in his honor and followed the American Army and his Masonic funeral which was requested by his widow, Martha Washington.
You can see from his own writings his closeness to Freemasonry and his Masonic Brethren in his Masonic Correspondences. These document many letters to Masonic dignitaries of various Jurisdictions and Brethren of multiple Lodges.
George Washington’s Christianity of Tolerance
We are not here to argue the faith of George Washington in Christianity. We believe evidence of his faith can be readily found to show that he was active in his church, and true to his faith, but we know that being a Christian and a Freemason is not mutually exclusive. Those who would tell you otherwise come from positions of ignorance, and who have either been taken in by an old Hoax against the Freemasons, or are of a faith that do not believe men of different faiths can or should fraternize with men of other faiths.
The thought that Freemasonry is not compatible with a man’s religion has been the position of many extremist groups throughout history, including the National Socialists (Nazi’s) of Germany during world war 2. Freemasons were actually some of the first to be rounded up and executed in concentration camps, because the people under Nazi Germany rule were convinced by state propaganda about the “evils” of Freemasonry.
This believe continues to exist in many extremists countries, which today are generally those under fundamentalist islamic rule. As an example of this, the Grand Lodge of Iran is not allowed to meet in Iran today, Masonic membership is forbidden in the country, and that Grand Lodge and many that have escaped Iran’s government now meet in Massachusetts. The fact is, dictatorships have historically been afraid of organizations of Free thinking men, which makes Freemasonry a perfect target. Christianity of today would be wise to not follow the follies of these historical examples of religious extremism.
In stark contrast of this religious isolationism, Washington himself wrote to a Jewish congregation:
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
The United States was not built on divisive politics. If it had been, the colonies would have surely fallen apart, and America would likely still be living under a crown. The United States was formed on tolerance and acceptance of others over differences, UNIFYING people and states into a common society, despite their differences. It was brought together by founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington who were Freemasons (among many others) and their membership in the Fraternity is no coincidence.
Freemasonry’s central purpose is bringing together good men, despite their differences, to work together to contribute to the aid and growth of their communities, through a process of self reflection, personal growth, and fraternity. It is no wonder that many of our founding fathers were Masons, and were the leaders in the formation of this country. Very few others outside of the Fraternity at the time of this nations founding were likely so focused on tolerance and union of men across division lines. Washington was likely successful in becoming the iconic figure that became the first President, and uniting the people, not because he was a Christian or Freemason, but because he was both!
So was George Washington a Freemason AND a Christian? The answer is definitively YES, and the answer would continue to be so if he lived to today. The question for those who question the ability to be both a Christian and a Freemason would be, does your religious teachings of today align with the tolerance of those practices of faith that existed during the time of Washington?… or does your faith profess divisiveness and intolerance to people of other’s faiths? If your religion teaches tolerance, you can take comfort in knowing Freemasonry aligns with your beliefs.