"Can a non-Christian feel comfortable as a member of the Knights Templar?"
I struggled with this question for a long time. I couldn't get enough straight and frank answers out of members. So, finally I decided that I probably wouldn't join, and that I would read the ritual to determine if my decision was correct for me. I read the 1971 edition of the ritual put out by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the U.S.A. (It wasn't hard to obtain a copy.)
Disclaimer: I'm not saying I'm not a Christian, but my beliefs about Jesus are extremely far off the beaten path. Also, I apologize in advance if I have offended or made uncomfortable any Knight Templar by writing this post.
So, below I will outline the aspects of the first two Orders: The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, and The Mediterranean Pass and Order of Malta, that I would flag as religiously "sensitive" and which might even be considered offensive to some people.
I believe all of these points need to be considered by non-Christians who are considering joining the Order, (and in my experience, the Sir Knights I have met are more than happy to admit non-Christians if they are willing to defend the Christian faith) and I hope that posting my findings here makes it so others won't find it necessary to go to the extreme that I have by reading the ritual in order to determine whether they would feel comfortable in the Order.
I will endeavor to do this without revealing any R.C. or Malta secrets. I haven't examined the Order of the Temple yet in the same way, but I intend to do so soon and will post my findings at that time.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS ORDER OF THE RED CROSS
The Red Cross is almost fully acceptable from a Non-Christian point of view. It continues the setting and symbols which were already present in Royal Arch Masonry. The only offense I detect is a line contained in the Lecture, which reads, "As Judaism was a preparation for Christianity, so let the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross be a preparation for the Christian Order of the Temple." This line, in my reading of it, diminishes Judaism to a footnote or stepping stone upon which to build something greater. This is not a good thing to say or think, since Judaism is a wide-spread, living religion, even today, and even has many adherants among the Craft.
There is one other line that might be slightly offensive to those who self-identify as Pagans, "The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross is not a Pagan rite nor is it a mere social observance. It is an Order founded upon Truth, and is a proper preparation for the solemnities of the Order of the Temple."
THE MEDITERRANEAN PASS, AND THE ORDER OF MALTA
The Meditarranean Pass or Knight of St. Paul and the Order of Malta present many challenges to the non-Christian Mason. I will attempt to enumerate them here:
- Several references are made to "fallen man" or man's sinful nature.
- Prayers are offered to "Immanuel."
- Several references are made to "Jesus Christ, our Lord"
- The candidate is made to take on the identity of St. Paul at least in allegory, for a short period.
- The New Testament is the only book prescribed to be open on the Altar.
- Without going into specifics, the Obligation would require a Knight of Malta to treat another Knight who has been unfaithful to his Knights of Malta Obligation in ways that I would consider contradictory to his prior obligation as a Royal Arch Mason. In other words, there is a possibility that upholding the Malta obligation would cause someone to violate their Royal Arch obligation.
- Candidate is encouraged to wear a certain Cross continually.
- Phrases such as "My Lord and My God" and "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" are used in reference to Jesus.
- The officers repeatedly speak of their belief in the resurrection and ascension of "our Saviour" in reference to Jesus.
- The candidate is asked, "My brother, is it still your wish to join our Order, and fight against all opposers of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?"
- There is a very mild form of flaggelation used in order to create empathy with Jesus's own suffering.
- The candidate is asked, "My Brother, do you believe that the Savior died on the Cross for the remission of sin?"
- The Prior says, "in the name of our Holy Religion," implying that all present are of the same religion, and that it is "Holy."