"When Does a Boy Become A Man?"
"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways."
The apostle Paul speaks of his maturing, his becoming a man in his brief but beautiful chapter on love which Paul says is "the more excellent way." The great apostle, spokesman for his Christian faith, says that when he became a man he no longer spoke, thought, or reasoned as a child. Some never mature. Some never give up childish ways. For example, some must always have their way or they will quit, take their ball and go home. It is funny to see a little boy throwing a fit of anger act like that, but it is sad to see an adult behave in that manner.
When does a boy become a man? Historically, parents have been responsible for their children as minors, or until they reached the age of 21. My parents had to give consent for me to marry since I was not 21. In our western culture we have said that a boy becomes a man when he turns 21. That is his legal age. However, we have lowered the age of manhood in time of war. We have expected our teenagers to be men in wartime. We made men out of them in a hurry. We have taken the best -- that is the healthiest and strongest -- and put them in harm's way. We have killed off the cream of the crop. I will never forget being called into the service of our country as a physically immature 18 year-old. I will never forget the shock that accompanied the words of that hardened supply sergeant who threw an M1 rifle at me and said, "Here soldier, take care of that rifle. We can get another like you easier than that rifle." If my mother had heard those words, she would have said, "Billy, you come home!"
Teenagers today are physically more mature than they were in my time as a teenager. When I graduated from high school, I was five-foot four or five. I weighed 130 pounds. I did not have to shave until a platoon sergeant told me, "Harner, you will shave!" I had nothing to shave. Today they graduate teenagers with full beards, six-foot plus, and 200 pounds and more. We have lowered the age for voting. Teenagers have been given the privilege and the responsibility of sharing in the election of those who shall govern us. I am in complete agreement with that.
Which leads me to my reason for this column. I am whole-heartedly in favor of our Grand Lodge's decision making 18 year-old young men eligible to become Masons. I know we have "never done it that way before." Where did you hear that before? I am in favor for all of the above reasons. And, I feel that it is wise to allow DeMolay youth to move directly from DeMolay to Masonic membership. If we do not do so, we lose some of them to other lesser things. We should look for the same things, I feel, in the eligible teenagers that we have always looked for in the men who have indicated the desire to become members of our ancient and honorable fraternity. I am in support of Grand Lodge's decision, not as a way to help solve our declining membership, but for all the good and right reasons I have listed above; and I am sure some of you can add reasons that I have not included.
When does a boy become a man? What do you think? If you agree with me, then why not give a "Friend to Friend" brochure to the potential Masons among the good, mature young men you know?
So mote it be!
Bro. Harner is the Chaplain of Boyertown Lodge No. 741