What Religion is Shriners Hospital for Children? A Heartfelt Look at Their Mission

Have you ever wondered about the story behind those red fez hats and the Shriners Hospital for Children? With its distinctive Middle Eastern imagery, this renowned healthcare system often raises questions around its faith origins and beliefs. As someone interested in charitable causes, let‘s take an in-depth look at the inspiring principles, membership, and practices behind Shriners Hospitals for Children and Shriners International.

The Meaning Behind the Mystique

To fully understand Shriners Hospitals, it helps to first learn about its founding fraternal organization, Shriners International. Tracing its origins back to Manhattan in 1872, this group started as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

Intriguing, yes? This mystique-filled name and related symbols came from one of its founders who had visited Egypt and was enamored by the exotic motifs there.

Shriners International originated from a branch of Freemasonry known as the Scottish Rite of Masonry. Here‘s a quick primer on Freemasonry to give helpful context:

  • Freemasonry is the world‘s largest fraternal organization, with origins dating back to medieval Europe.
  • It promotes ethical teachings focused on virtue, truth and brotherly love.
  • To become a Mason, individuals must profess belief in a Supreme Being.
  • There are approximately 5 million Masons worldwide and 2 million in the U.S.
  • To become a Shriner, a man must first complete the 3 stages to become a Master Mason. While inspired by mystique, Shriners International is not affiliated with any specific Middle Eastern faith or religion. Its imagery and titles reflect the fraternal legacy of its 19th century Freemasonry roots.

    Let‘s explore further how this foundation influenced their evolution.

    Diverse Members United by Service

    With approximately 200 temples and clubs across North America, Shriners International today has close to 200,000 members from all walks of life.

    While historically only open to men, some temples now accept women and families. The common thread uniting this diversity is a commitment to fellowship, charity, and improving lives.

    Here‘s a statistical snapshot of today‘s Shriners membership:

    Christian faiths (Protestant, Catholic) 70%
    Jewish 2%
    Muslim, Hindu, other 3%
    Masonic affiliation 95%

    While many Shriners belong to Christian denominations, membership crosses lines of religion, race, and creed.

    Above all, it‘s a dedication to service that defines Shriners, not any particular theology.

    Providing Care from the Heart, Not Preaching Faith

    The first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Started by a group of Shriners who wanted to help children with polio, it sparked a growing healthcare network.

    Today, there are 22 Shriners Hospitals across the United States, Mexico and Canada. Since 1922, the system has provided care to over 1.4 million children, regardless of families‘ ability to pay.

    The hospitals provide specialized pediatric care in areas like:

  • Orthopaedics
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Spinal cord injury rehabilitation
  • Severe burns
  • The focus is on delivering medical treatment and support to children from all walks of life. The hospitals themselves are non-sectarian and do not promote any particular religious doctrine.

    As one long-time Shriners physician shared:

    "Our mission is caring for kids – all kids. What matters is their need, not the language they speak or the God their family may pray to."

    A Top-Ranked Charitable Endeavor

    Independent organizations that analyze charities confirm Shriners Hospitals‘ stellar reputation and careful financial stewardship.

    In 2019:

  • 88% of expenses went to medical care and research
  • 4 out of 4 stars from Charity Navigator
  • A+ rating from BBB Wise Giving Alliance
  • Shriners pours donations directly into helping children – not spreading religious beliefs. Patients and families consistently praise their kind, quality care.

    One mother described her experience:

    "They treated us with such compassion. It didn‘t matter that we couldn‘t pay the full cost. They made my daughter their priority."

    United by Values, Not Theology

    At their core, Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals revolve around compassion, leadership, virtue and helping the vulnerable.

    By coming together to heal and strengthen children worldwide, members find meaning and purpose beyond any one religious practice.

    The fez hats and temple names reflect tradition and identity – but not rigid theology. Brotherhood, charity and humanism are the driving forces, enabling work across barriers of race, language and background.

    As one Shriners leader expressed:

    "We are bonded by the desire to give back. Seeing kids get care they desperately need – that‘s our theology."

    So in summary, while Shriners draws from its Masonic lineage, the hospitals welcome children of all faiths and backgrounds. The focus is care, not creed. This philanthropic organization represents noble human values that transcend any one spiritual path or doctrine.

    At its heart, Shriners reflects the open spirit of people helping people – a "religion" anyone can believe in.

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