The author of this article, Stephen McCall Jr, is a highly regarded historian in the international community. McCall is not only a specialist in the study of the Freemasonry movement of the 1830s in New York, but he is also a member and a Past Master of Moody Lodge located in Valdosta. The methods of this particular article are based on a cultural methodology. The author investigates the historical context of the anti-Masonic movement through the prism of the cultural values of the time, namely various beliefs, rituals, and superstitions. This article gives a detailed answer to the causes and course of the anti-masonry movement in a particular territory, as well as the unfolding of other religious sects during this period. The article states that the main reasons for joining religious sects at the time were religious uncertainty and low social status. Furthermore, political paranoia and disillusionment with Masonic ideology in favor of Protestantism are given as the main reason for the emergence of the anti-masonry movement.
The article examines the problem of the Masonic conspiracy, which became relevant in the political struggle in the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The first attacks by the anti-Masons on the secret society, accompanied by the publication of a significant amount of exposing and denouncing literature, did not ultimately yield the desired results. The article’s cultural methodology allows us to examine the early social, political and cultural context of the formation of the anti-Masonic movement. Nevertheless, to begin with, the article examines the reasons why people joined Masonic lodges and religious sects. The explanation is the high level of superstition among people, the popularization of various occult professions, and religious uncertainty. “Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of the future prophet, noted that there was a serious yearning for the people in Palmyra to join a church because “most were desirous of uniting with some church but undecided as to the particular faith which they would adopt” (McCall 26). In this way, people joined various religious sects en masse.
Speaking of the immediate causes of the emergence of the anti-masonry movement, the author identifies several significant reasons. First, the Masonic faith began to be widely recognized as demonic and sinful, and several books were published, through which such propaganda was delivered to the superstitious society. There was a significant gap in this system – at that time, most of the priests were totally uneducated individuals, nor was there a uniform interpretation of the faith. Consequently, each preacher read his own morality, breeding and multiplying even more different religious offshoots. The author identifies one of the most characteristic religious sects of the area, the Mormons, whose morals had a significant influence on society’s cultural and social environment. Secondly, the mass propaganda of anti-masonry increased in proportion to the increasing political paranoia of the ruling elite. Such people were afraid of losing control of the political situation in light of the French Revolution. In addition, the author also emphasizes the paranoia about an armed slave revolt – which can also be seen in the context of the cultural methodology of the article, since at the time, the slave-owners were indeed afraid of a mass slave rebellion.
Furthermore, it is essential to point out that society’s cultural and social context at the time also provoked a social situation that led people to turn to sects en masse. This situation turned out to be related to poverty and mass deprivation of education (McCall 25). The author stresses that priests and higher church ranks mainly became people of the lowest social classes, which only confirms this statement.
In conclusion, I would like to say that this article has provided an in-depth look at the emergence and course of the anti-Masonic movement through specific events and personalities. I agree with the author that mass deprivation of education and political paranoia were the leading causes of the emergence of this movement. In fact, religious fragmentation also arose for these reasons and because the priests also lacked theological education and understanding of the need for the integrity of religion. Eventually, when the public began to voice dissatisfaction, Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day movement, founded a school, but it was not a vehicle for real theological education, but simply another blunder to preach and impose his own morality. For me, this article is educational, mainly because it reveals not only the cultural and religious but also the political aspects of the origin of the anti-masonry movement.