The Small Town Texas Mason E-Magazine has an excellent article going out in the November 2010 edition. The publication comes from the heart of a brother who publishes it to “enlighten, educate, and entertain Masons and non Masons alike.” Like so much of Masonic publishing it is a free press to circulate Masonic thought and interest.
In the November issue, the publisher Corky Daunt asks the question:
Is Freemasonry’s reputation was being harmed by to many news stories in newspapers and being repeated on the internet about Freemason bringing Civil Lawsuits against Grand Lodges for Masonic reasons.
You can read the original here.
He reserves his conclusions and posts instead three responses sent in by readers on the subject, two from North America (one from our very own Fred Milliken) and one from Australia. The relevancy of the question is an important one and something this site has been charged with repeatedly as reporting (or editorializing) on the bad in the news.
At the end of his piece, Corky asks “Do you think bad publicity is harming Freemasonry’s image?”
To be honest, I would have to answer and say that it is. But, with the caveat that the press and editorializing is only so bad as the reality of the events taking place themselves. Because there is no system to mitigate these events that lead to the bad press they are left to spiral out of control in an increasingly close world.
In other words, there is no system to police the system itself, so a free press (as with Democracy) needs to exist so as to ensure that the system adheres to its own principles.
The question then becomes is the system of Freemasonry of such importance that it needs such a medium to keep watch of its practice, or is it merely a membership organization like an athletic club like the YMCA or a big box shopping warehouse like Costco or Sam’s Club, where the membership value we get comes in the commodities we take away from it.
Ask yourself this:
Is Freemasonry really a practice of some moral philosophy? And if so, how do we (the members) practice it? Or, is it just a membership club that we go to for some monthly dinner socializing and entertainment in the form of democratic practice in voting on paying for the phone bill.
Personally, I like to think that its a Moral Philosophy that needs to be kept on its toes so as not to fall into the morass of base society, that it has an elevated sense of upright moral rectitude (that’s what we were told right?). Why else would we be members?
So to answer Corky’s question, Yes, I think the bad publicity hurts us as a fraternity overall. But, I think what hurts us even more are the activities being reported upon which chip away at the larger structure of the craft. We need to know what goes on in our own house, our Masonic house, so as to be vigilant against it and the only way to do that is to know what is going on – good, bad, or indifferent.
Otherwise, we can keep our heads buried int he sand while lodges are left to falter, members expelled for bucking the system, or indiscretions allowed to continue in fear of reprisals – all of which seem very un-Masonic in my handbook. But, if those are acceptable in the great moral society, then we can each just look for the next discount coupon for a reduced cost dinner at the next lodge meeting and not give a thought to our role in supporting a greater moral philosophy.
What do you think? Is the bad press hurting Masonry?
But, I think what hurts us even more are the activities being reported upon which chip away at the larger structure of the craft. We need to know what goes on in our own house, our Masonic house, so as to be vigilant against it and the only way to do that is to know what is going on – good, bad, or indifferent.
About time somebody figured this out.
Consider, too, that like the tip of the iceberg, what we probably see are only the small number of people who *do* bring civil cases; imagine the number of people who probably give up, or who get disgusted and simply walk away.
The function of the officers of the organization is to keep things running smoothly, but unfortunately, we all have a different concept of what “running” and “smoothly” are supposed to be. Masons with a progressive mindset are always going to clash with those who are conservative or reactionary. There’s a need for both perspectives, of course, but when the decision-maker (e.g., the GM, DDGM, etc.) appears to have a vested interest in the outcome, or when they approach it heavy-handedly, it rankles the brothers who brought up the issue in the first place.
A civil suit usually (but not always) signifies a failure on the part of a GL to resolve its own disputes in a “Masonic” fashion. Public reporting on it can often make the Craft in general look bad, but it also (hopefully) gives the members an opportunity to learn how *not* to resolve disputes.
Brother Stewart, first I wanted to thank you for picking up my story and putting it before a giant audience (compared to my small E-magazine). And offer much more thanks for the very fair way you presented it to your readers.
Regarding your “comment, “He reserves his conclusions and posts instead three responses sent in by readers”. With a very small readership of only 303 subscribers, I received exactly 3 responses (the ones posted in the November issue). So rather then draw a conclusion from such a small percentage, I posted them, as is, for the readers to judge.
Regarding my personal conclusions”, I have to believe that my statement, “if I had read all these news stories about how petty, viscous, unfair and mean spirited these Grand Lodges are claimed to be in the lawsuits, before I petitioned 18 years ago, I would have thought twice before becoming a Freemason.” in the November Issue would pretty well express my conclusions about the subject.
By they the poll responses after 2 days are, 15 for yes law suites are hurting Freemasonry and 1 for no they are not.
The Small Town Texas Masons E-magazine at http://www.mastermason.com/STTM-Emag/ It’s not just for Texans.
I believe that we must discuss with our brothers the meaning of our obligations and that our problems, issues and solutions should be kept within the lodge and not in the media. We are not perfect nor should we expect ourselves or our fraternity to be so, however we should be diligent to review our obligations and put them in context with our everyday actions.
Putting our personal issues with the lodge out in the media is a selfish action that does hurt the craft, its members and its future. We must always look humbly at our situation and work in the fraternity for a solution.
Bro. Mark, I think you miss the point that sometimes problems can’t be worked out within the lodge because the lodge (or Grand Lodge) culture itself is the problem.
When a brother does not believe that he can have his problems or issues redressed through the normal channels, he can choose to just shut up and stew, leave the fraternity, or or look for recourse in a more public venue. I see this less of a failing of that brother, and more a failure of the system in general.
I have personally witnessed a GL protect someone who is no more than a thug, an openly racist bigot (who happens to be a Right Worshipful) and oust someone who is the very embodiment of what a mason should be. The lodge involved tried, through proper means, to address the situation by 1) talking to the brother 2) talking to the DDGM 3) talking to the Past Masters and finally 4) bringing charges. The brother charged solicited the help of his cronies and packed the lodge with “brothers” I had never seen. The charges could not be brought. Of course, this only emboldened the individual who is now on tour openly slandering everyone who tried to stop him. He has accosted several people and thier families in public.
I would like to hear any ideas on how to handle this. When the GL doesn’t care enough to do what is right, what is left? To leave the Craft? This is how thugs attain gold collars and desecrate the Temple.
Hello to all
I think everyone is missing the point of what is the purpose of joining this organization in the first place. Most people know that the Masons work very hard, raising money for, The Crippled Children’s Hospital, free dentisry for children, the Masonic Home for the aged etc., so point being, it is not cheap, nor a full time party to belong to the Masons, and you are in essence giving of your time and your “hard earned money” to help take care of the “community” around you. I was raised in the Job’s Daughters, and later became an Eastern Star lady, and am a charter member of the ACCABA–LOS–Ladies of Shriners, and believe me when I tell you that, with all formed organizations, where there is a sitting counsil, there are disagreements, different personalities, but a vote is taken, and the majority rules. Yes someone can be “blackballed” so to speak, but isn’t that true of, all the way back to fraternaties, honor societies, cheer leaders, yacht clubs, and every other club I can think of, so I think the Masons are picked on because they try not to publish openly their minor disputes, but try to resolve them within the immediate counsil. There usually are more reasons why the person didn’t get in than is mentioned, but they as a group, make a point of knowing what kind of a person and his (MORALS) are before they say yea, and yes, some become demoralized after they are in, but again, that is in all organizations, and they will handle that within as well, even kicking you out, because all of us want the Masonic order to be the Pillar of society, and don’t want questionable behavior brought to what we stand for. It is a very religous organization as well and therefore must maintain a “responsibility” for a brother’s actions.
Although the public only sees the events and partying that goes on from the fund raising side of the branch arms of the Masons, and you must be a thirty second degree Mason, and go through a long learned biblical training, in order to join the branches.
So I as most all who belong to this organization, “respect”, what it means to be a Mason and am proud to be a part of this worldwide fellowship.
good luck on your decisions