Ronald A. Seale, 33°
S.G.I.G. in Louisiana

The Scottish Rite can do much to assure that family values continue, no matter what form families may take.

Who would ever have thought we would seriously have to ask "What is a family?" or "What is a value?"

And yet, day by day, these questions become more pressing. Twenty years ago, it first became evident the social definition of "family" was changing. Now that change is a fact. Nearly two-thirds of children today do not live in a home with both birth parents. Divorce and remarriage have become so common that high schools, at graduation, have long stopped the practice of announcing the names of the graduates crossing the stage as "Linda Smith, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Smith." Today, the typical graduate does not have the same last name as his or her mother or stepfather.

Then there is the kaleidoscope of extended families where grandmothers and grandfathers, uncles and aunts, godparents and foster parents fulfill parenting roles because of whatever circumstance, not to mention the families of singles or of partners in alternative lifestyles. This constant restructuring of the family contributes to the increase in the violent behavior of children and their often seeming lack of remorse when they have hurt others.

Even the biological definition of a family may now change. Leading scientists speculate that human cloning will be possible within 10 years. Children without biological fathers could soon be a reality. What, then, is a family? For the first time in history, we would be forced to confront, head on, the age-old question of the effects of heredity and environment. Are our genes the most important thing in making us, us? Or do our experiences and environment determine our fate?

Central to the teachings of Masonry is the concept that each human being is a precious, unique individual—that when the potential of one person is wasted, when the possibilities of one life are unrealized, the loss is absolute. We have thought of human beings as rare, hand-illuminated manuscripts, each a unique work. Now we are forced to realize that we may be more like a Xerox copy, replicable at will. Once, we were sure we had the right answers, now we must make sure we have the right questions.

Why is this of concern to the Scottish Rite? Because we are a source of values, a repository of ethics, a force for the elevation of the dignity of human beings. Those great themes roll like thunder through the Degrees of the Scottish Rite. They are our business, our concern. We have no reason to exist except to teach these values. We justify ourselves by the positive development we make possible in ourselves, in others, and in society.

Even with an uncertain future, some things are certain. Every human, whether cloned or born as the result of the joining of a man and woman, comes into the world with basic needs. Whether heredity or environment is the major determinant, all children need to be loved and to learn to love. All children learn from the examples of those around them. All children must learn hope and faith. While children may come "pre-wired" with different potentials, they will not realize those potentials without an environment which nurtures them and provides them opportunity to grow, to experiment, and to expand.

In the future, family values and morality will be more important, not less. If some families become less traditional, if genetic engineering is added to cloning to the point in the future that we have "designer babies" in much the same sense that we have "designer jeans," the need for the humanizing efforts of the teachings of Masonry will be even more obvious.

If we agree that the Scottish Rite should really stand as a champion and source of family values (and someone had better do so), how do we do it?

First, we should exploit the means already available to us. The Masonic youth orders are a powerful place to start. There is hard evidence that they work and make a major, positive difference in the lives of young people, giving them confidence and the skills to work in society, as well as helping them resist temptations to negative behaviors such as joining gangs and taking drugs. Masonic youth groups do not work perfectly in this imperfect world, but they work well.

We can sponsor youth groups in our Temples and in our Lodges. We can provide a place to meet, supply moral and financial support, and find the men to work with them. The problem is not attracting young people. The problem is finding adult leadership. If we really care about family values, we can help. DeMolay’s don’t call adult Masons "Dad" without reason. Yes, boys will be boys and girls, girls. Somehow the tip on a Warden’s rod may get mysteriously broken or a carpet spot may suddenly appear where none was before. But the problems and inconveniences of opening our Masonic facilities to young people pale before the good that can be accomplished for them—and for us.

Second, we should find and promote methods of teaching parenting skills. The Scottish Rite is advocating just such a course called "Success in Parenting." Most of us learned how to parent from the way we were parented. Many of the young men and women having children today were not parented. How, then, can they have developed the skills? Fortunately, there are some very good programs available which teach men and women how to enhance their family life and to be good parents. We need to facilitate that material, help purchase supplies, offer places for groups to meet, and do everything we can to increase the number of good and effective parents.

Our children are our future—the only future we have. The life span of Masonry is limited to the youngest present Mason. The Scottish Rite can do a great deal to assure that sound values continue, no matter what form families may take. If we want a future badly enough, we will know not only the right questions but also the right answers.

Ronald A. Seale
was honored as a K.C.C.H. in 1977, I.G.H. in 1993, and S.G.I.G. in Louisiana in 1995. He serves on the Jurisprudence and Legislation and the State of the Order Committees of The Supreme Council as well as the Council’s 2001 Bicentennial and Family Life Program Subcommittees. A member of the Valley of Baton Rouge where he resides, he is an attorney by profession and a member of the First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge where he has taught Sunday School and adult Bible study for a number of years. A member of the York Rite and Red Cross of Constantine, Ill. Seale is a Past Master of East Gate Lodge No. 452 of Baton Rouge and is a plural member of St. James Lodge No. 47, also in Baton Rouge. He is married to Saundra J. Seale and is the father of two children, Stephanie and Michael.