Stephen Dafoe’s There’s A Hole In Our Bucket article was a solid reinforcement analysis of what he and I and others have been writing about for some time now. American Freemasonry is like the NFL Indianapolis Colts until just recently. The Colts spent all their money on offense and not much on defense. Consequently they could score a ton of points but they often gave up just as many. Freemasonry has spent a ton of money on marketing the product and not much on maintaining the quality of the product. Hence it has been the solution of many of the writers who seek to motivate Freemasonry into being all it can be to call for Freemasonry to practice Freemasonry.
Most of us venting our spleen on this subject have gone over time and again what is lacking in our Lodges. Boring business meetings, poor food, no agenda, few activities, no Masonic education, research and study, run down old drafty Lodge buildings falling apart and sucking the budget dry and dues held artificially low all result in no Freemasonry.
Dafoe is right on when he pointed out that we don’t have membership problem we have a retention problem. The death of our older Brothers is not depleting the ranks anymore for we are replacing them with new arrivals. The continuing decline is due to demits. And Dafoe has proved that analysis with tables and statistics to back it up.
But when all is said and done many Lodges who have corrected the folly of their ways and have vastly improved the Freemasonry that they practice, they still do not see the results that they were expecting. Perhaps there are other mitigating circumstances. I have written about the albatross around Freemasonry’s neck, the expense of their Lodge building in “The Old Past Master & Lodge Foreclosure.” I have also addressed one other shortcoming in “How Freemasonry Is Missing The Boat”, the lack of being socially relevant and I will not readdress either point again.
But the key here to what Brother Stephen DaFoe has presented us is the statistics, the facts. Like Sgt. Friday on Dragnet, “just give me the facts, ma’m, just the facts.” And the facts are those that have been demitting are not Masons who have been members of the Lodge for 20 years who band together to keep dues and expenditures artificially low. Those that demit are much newer members who have found something lacking in the practice of Freemasonry. We have always assumed that it is “the poor Lodge performance” that has caused all these demits. But what if that is not so? As previously noted many Lodges have corrected most of these deficiencies yet they are still receiving a large amount of Brothers just walking away from the Craft.
Then we have the issue of those who might join who do not. Those that see something in the Fraternity that turns them off before they petition. Could the cause be the same in both instances?
When you step back and look at Freemasonry you realize that you are looking at a very old society with deeply and tightly held traditions. If you stop and ask yourself if there was no Freemasonry, if it never existed and today you were going to invent just such an organization would you make it exactly the same as it is constituted today? If you say yes I don’t think you are being honest with yourself.
There is a great deal of difference between how we as a culture today in the United States and Canada look at — society, at the role of science in society, at God and the practice of religion, at gender equality, at sexual preference, at race and issues such as slavery, at politics and government and such issues as government welfare, and at human beings right to change and alter the universe — versus how Western society looked at these issues in the 1600s and 1700s when Speculative Freemasonry was formed.
But sometimes these deeply held traditions remain with us even though society has moved on to a more “enlightened’ view or arrangement. I think of my church, The Roman Catholic church when I say this. When Catholic churches were built way back when, they contained a multitude of statues and pictures. Much of the belief system could be seen in the stain glass windows and on the walls where the Stations of the Cross were carved. This was so structured because much of the population of the time was illiterate. Protestant denominations that followed long after saw no need to have their churches so adorned. As we became a better educated and more informed society did the Catholic Church remove all its statues, pictures and carvings? No it kept them and added to them modernized methods. Freemasonry is a lot like that.
And now the Catholic Church is experiencing an extreme shortage of Priests to the point that soon many churches will not have a Pastor. There is of course a solution to this crisis. If tomorrow the Catholic Church would admit women to the Priesthood they would have more than ample Pastors to go around. But they will not do that. They cling to the old ways and the reasons and justifications of many hundreds of years ago when human beings looked at things through a whole different set of eyes. Freemasonry is a lot like that.
So let me ask you again, if you were going to invent American Freemasonry today, armed and influenced by the modern outlook of today, would you structure it into 50 individual state Grand Lodges? Would you have it racially separated? Would you even deny another race the right to practice Freemasonry, this your new invention? Would you exclude women? Have we discarded the ancient belief so much evidenced in the Holy Bible that women are just property, the property of men? I would hope that you would say Western society has. But ask yourself, has Freemasonry?
Today’s young men and women would affirm a belief in a society that regards all races as equal, all gender as equal, sexual preference as a personal choice and every expression of worship of the Creator as equally valid. They will only fraternize with and join groups, organizations or societies that reflect those core beliefs. So if you were to invent Freemasonry today you would probably structure it around those modern views, those progressions of society, so tightly held today. If you would do that then why not reform Freemasonry today into that image? Because it may very well be that this is what is causing the demits and the refusals to petition. This could be what is stunting the growth of Freemasonry. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Margaret C. Jacob.
“At present in the United States freemasonry is in serious decline, with numbers dwindling and lodges closing. Yet at the same time American reformers have arisen, many of them identified with what they see as the more liberal forms of freemasonry practiced in continental Europe. Central to their concerns are issues of gender and race.”
“Officially women are still not admitted as sisters in the American lodges. In fact, and in spite of the official position, lodges for women, and for men and women do exist in major cities and receive some encouragement from brothers who value gender inclusiveness. But this is a struggle, and the outcome is by no means certain. More lodges may close and charitable work cease before the inclusion of women becomes the official norm. In the meantime such exclusions seem increasingly beside the point, as slowly and only through struggle do Masonic women appear closer to a still distant equality.”
“But there is another matter, that of race, perhaps even more serious in terms of its larger implications for American society in general. Vast numbers of lodges, particularly in the American South, are segregated rigidly by race. Recently when addressing an entirely white audience of freemasons in Louisiana – all without exception immensely gracious – I was asked what I thought about the future of the American lodges. What can be said in the face of an institutionalized social system that works against our highest civic ideals? I find it hard to imagine the young men and women of every imaginable racial background who populate my university classes – where an ease in social mixing is now the norm to be sought – being attracted to lodges that would exclude one or another of their friends. Obviously, the future does not lie with segregation.” (1)
Finally let us address the two stumbling blocks to any such solution, “It can’t be changed”, and “It isn’t my problem.”
There is nothing humanly created that cannot be humanly changed. The Constitution of the United States has been changed many times. The Landmarks of Freemasonry are not sacrosanct or exempted from such change. Like altering the Constitution of the United States it should be very difficult to do so but not impossible. To write into any Constitution, by-laws, rules or regulations that no changes can ever be made is unrealistic and invalid. Everything changes. The definition of life is change. Freemasonry, The Catholic Church and any and all other institutions possessing a long history and tradition have to learn when it is time to move on, when it is time to get a life. Failure to do so will see such institutions whither and die.
The Catholic in Nebraska says, “we have no pedophile priests in this state. This controversy has nothing to do with me and should not reflect on the Catholic Church in Nebraska.” Is there any way that you believe that to be true? If not then don’t say the same thing about Freemasonry. Racism in another jurisdiction but not yours does reflect on Freemasonry as a whole. Gender persecution is unlawful in the United States of America and Freemasons are always told to uphold the civil law. Why let it be that way in Freemasonry? Sexual preference, although legislated more locally, is a right across the United States. Why let it be different in Freemasonry? The tradition of non-interference into the business of another jurisdiction is just that a tradition and an unwritten one and merely an excuse. Codifying laws, rules and regulations that negate basic human rights and civil rights if not illegal is at least morally repugnant.
Soon Masonic Central will have as a guest on its radio show/podcast an articulate female Mason, Karen Kidd. I hope that you will listen with an open mind and be willing to accept the challenges of the 21st century.
Don’t tolerate intolerance
Don’t be a Taliban Freemason
(1) “The Origins of Freemasonry – Facts & Fictions” by Margaret C. Jacob, pgs 130-131