[Note: As always, please leave the yells and screams for later, because it may not end how you think. Then - do as you will.]
Like many of you, as we enter the wonderful seasonality of the year, another “seasonality” aspect arrived: Dues payment.
What I did this year was far more different than I did last…
Now, after five years since being raised: I contemplated both solemnly and earnestly about demitting.
There, I said it.
The reaction to the above will fall into two camps, more or less.
The first will be initial recoil and condemnation for publicly stating it.
Then, the other: initial agreement. And far too many dare not contemplate just how large this cohort may be. But need to.
And yet, that’s not the real problem - that’s just a symptom.
The glaring issue with the above is that the latter far outweighs in size, scope, and dollars of the former. Or said differently…
If we are “Making Masons,” then why are so many leaving (or at the least, considering) in droves within such compacted time frames? e.g., myself ending my fifth year, most others - by their third.
I have an answer, many are not going to like it, but here it is…
We are not making Masons - we are creating churn and calling it the former.
Most readers will immediately understand the term “churn.” For those that don’t, it’s not derogatory or pejorative. It’s the term used for subscribers that come then go, needing to be replaced just as quickly, or the business dies in unison.
We’ve all been part of the “churn” in our lives in one form or another. A quick example would be any subscription you had to some service. e.g., Netflix or others. You signed up, barely used it, then canceled. Welcome to your turn - as churn.
Our current state as a fraternity is acting much like this, only calling it something different. e.g., “Making Masons.”
Sorry, but no we are not. We are creating churn.
Sticking with the Netflix example for poignancy:
What we’re now pushing is a forum (aka Lodge) for continual subscriber churn that is sold as offering something far greater than it does.
Let me explain it this way…
“Masonic values and fraternity.” Really? In most environments here’s what is prevalent:
Masonic parlance and theater signify a dues acceptance. Then - a poor excuse for a social club.
That’s about it, and I’m being kind.
Another point is, as I have interacted with differing aspects pertaining to the fraternity. I am continually and constantly
amazed at just how many complete and utter dysfunctional aspects I have been exposed to. It’s been horrifically consistent.
I have been left completely dumbstruck, far too often than not, at the complete disregard or understanding concerning professionalism and more. It’s been sheer bewildering to someone like myself that had such high regard going in.
Let me not be coy here: Far too many within the fraternity are still pointing to “the high water mark” of decades ago as a point of reference and reverence as if the seas are about to rise at any moment. All while simultaneously, incoherently unaware that the ship has run aground long ago and rusting into oblivion. i.e., water is the last thing that’s going to help for it might actually just hasten the rust.
I know of a Lodge, quite close to me, which is about to suspend over 50 members for N.P.D. I also know that this is around 20% of their current membership.
Here’s what I also know - I believe I know why. i.e., They’re not “making Masons.” They’ve been continually creating churn. I know because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. e.g., It’s a wanna-be social club parading as a masonic one. And it’s doing both horribly.
Personally, if I wanted to join a “social club,” I’ve had my pick of all of them over the years. Being fortunate to hold the positions I have, more often than not, I was sought and chased but never joined. (Some were very exclusive with very high bars just to be considered. Not bragging, it’s just what it is.)
But here? I sought, joined, and now seem to be inferring at every turn - I’m not wanted (i.e., Doesn’t care about fish frys so obviously doesn’t care about the lodge, so forget him!) because I dare want what the fraternity offered prior: True Light.
Again, said differently: Wants more than a Short Talk reading at a meeting.
“We don’t need ‘his’ kind here! We’re doing fine without that stuff, thank you very much. Oh, by the way, do we have a quorum to open? Has anyone counted? Hello? Anyone?”
So now the obvious question you’re asking is: “Then why did (or are) you staying if this is the case?”
(I would also assume many more might also be saying “Don’t let the door hit you…” And that’s fine also.)
But again, it’s a great question, and here it is…
I am a big believer in both serendipity and synchronicity. And I believe I had a moment of both precisely when I was contemplating (via contemplative masonic practices) my then predicament, recalling a line by Joe Strummer of The Clash “Should I stay or Should I go?”
The words that came to me during this process (or thought, if you will) were this: “You need to stay because you’re a keeper of the Light, which is the All, important.”
So that was my “serendipity” moment if you will and with that, I renewed.
(Believe what you wish, call it full of sh#t also, if you prefer, I don’t care either way. Now back to the story…)
However, as all well and good as that was. In a way, I was still left with a bit of “Was I really doing the right thing, or was I just acting on some internal dialogue of my own creation that was really nothing more than an echo chamber within my own mind of what I hoped rather than what I was discerning as direction?”
That’s when I had my synchronistic moment…
I received out-of-the-blue a link to a discussion held at William O. Ware Lodge of Research, now posted at the Rubicon Masonic Society’s YouTube page. It featured WB Robert G. Davis presenting a keynote at their private dinner event.
I was riveted by the content and the straight-shooting style he delivered it with. It was both precisely what I needed to hear and when. Hence, the synchronistic aspect. (There’s a link to it here on the MF’s site posted earlier in November 2022.)
Everything he pointed out and addressed I had inherently felt and been pondering. The difference for me going in was, I felt I was possibly falling more into isolation with it (i.e., this aspect of the issues) by overanalyzing and/or hoping for too much.
This talk helped clarify many of these incongruences. In other words, “It’s not you - it’s me. Well, maybe it is you.”
I am truly sick and tired of the so-called “reverence” and “importance” regarding the fraternity mouthed by members who are far more concerned about ending meetings early as to get to somewhere else (cough) bar (cough) for a few before disbanding. Or, have nothing more to offer than “Hey, let’s plan a _________ (fill in your own fish fry, pancake, golf, etc. here) to raise money for another scholarship or charity. Again, it’s all just maddeningly mundane on so many levels to anyone “who’s been around” if you will.
Recently in one jurisdiction, there’s been much fanfare about recent membership numbers and their affiliation to “One Day” classes. Personally, I can be swung to either side of the argument about why these can be either good or bad. I get it.
However, what I firmly oppose is the idea that “one day” Masons aren’t being robbed of the initial experience that true initiation practice (when done properly) provides. And the fervor to create more “Masons” via this method is doing nothing (in my estimation) more than creating churn.
Sure, some numbers may indicate things are going up. But are they really? Especially since “the backdoor” is also quite busy with N.P.D.s.
Let me use another example…
In a jurisdiction, there was an impending issue where thousands of members were about to be suspended for N.P.D. that year. However, emergency action was taken to align the dues payment requirement for the suspension to align with one of the other concordant bodies (i.e., Blue Lodge with the others).
If this had not happened - thousands (yes, not a typo) of members would have been suspended N.P.D. So, the reasoning was, this would be tragic so, if we align our rules so that the dues payments and suspension protocols align with each other - crisis solved!
I’m going to ask you as you’re sitting here reading this just one question, but before you answer, a caveat. Ready?
The jurisdiction that did this (changed, as in pushed back, the dates for suspension) was also the same one that was celebrating recent membership numbers.
Now, what do you think?
I’ll tell you what I was: You read it at the opening.
Becoming a Mason is not some right of passage that’s available to any and all “wonderful guys.” It’s an initiatory practice that enables the route for great guy’s to become meaningful men.
When I heard WB Davis discuss that very point, it was in that moment I knew precisely why I not only joined - but will now remain. i.e., I now know where I probably fit in best and needed the most: Preserving the Light that is, and what Freemasonry stands for, and will always remain.
The social club aspect and its followers of this model are destined for the dustbin regardless if they know it or not. Sure, there are positively good and great men within it. However…
Unless they are practicing Freemasonry with the reverence and dignity it requires - then they are Masons in name only. Sorry, but that’s the cold hard truth, period. And I’m unapologetic in both my saying it, as well as believing it. Again, period, full stop.
What I have now come to realize, with renewed vigor and focus, is just how important the now ever-growing assortment of research lodges, masonic societies, podcasts, blogs, cons, and more are to the stability and well-being of the Craft going forward.
They are where “The Light” is both being preserved, as well as allowed to show brightly with no apology. As a matter of fact, with a bit of a healthy attitude.
This is where I now find myself most comfortable.
I will at some time return back to a Lodge with all the zeal and fortitude that I had when I first petitioned. But only when I feel I’m entering what is considered a Masonic Temple…
Not a social club.
As WB Davis argued in his speech - I’m ready for the Rubicon.
My dues payment allows me to stay in the fight. A fight that is worthy of any and all that truly call and live their lives: as a Mason.
What say you?
Amidst the debates on whether or not stores and businesses should close for the Thanksgiving holiday, there are those underlying thoughts about the day after Thanksgiving -- Black Friday. Black Friday is a day for retailers nation wide, to throw open their doors and deliver savings so big, so amazing, so insane, that the public will be motivated to get up and go to those retailers at 12:01 am.
The days following Black Friday seemed to echo the sombre and sickening pathos normally attributed to that shroud, that color we typify with the color Black. We watch news clips on television, YouTube and cell phone videos of human beings, reverting to ferocious animal states as they battle one another over monetary savings.
Kids trampled to death, men and women alike suffocating in the thick of herds of what can now only be some distant cousin, some untamed, ungoverned, rapacious beast. But alas, it is us. It is human, although unrecognizable.
This year, stores did close and then decided to stave of some of the anarchy by opening later in the evening on Thanksgiving. I decided that for the first time since the last and only other time I had gone Black Friday Shopping, to go out to see what I could see.
What I saw did not disappoint. I don't mean that in any way to suggest I was looking for disorder, rather, I was hoping to see people being people. People caring and being courteous. Amid the sea of winter coats and red Starbucks cups, were the voices of happy people, saying "Excuse me", and complementing each other and of course, complaining about the long lines.
The moral fabric of humanity is a weave of altruistic principals, something we practice as Freemasons. It is something we are charged to do. To be courteous, kind, friendly, humble, to be the example. In the coming weeks we will be tried, Brethren. We will be taken to the edge and back again. Our patience, our affability will be put in the spot light. Use the stresses of the season to exercise our art of Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love.
I know it can be hard, but the stakes are as high as they've ever been, and the world is watching. Be Freemasons.
Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He also serves as the District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.