As interesting as it may be to fantasize about Orwellian ideas of government becoming a tyrant seeking to complete the elimination of Freemasonry, as Nazi Germany failed to; this is not what I am referring to with “The Masonic Tax”. It also isn’t a different form of dues to the Grand Lodge. No, that is expected to be paid and is paid by your lodge with the money you pay to your lodge. Actually, “The Masonic Tax” is both something I made up to arouse your feelings, and something a little more than that. I can see your face now; screaming at your computer, tablet, or cell phone (whatever form of media you use to read this website), “Just tell me already!”
Fine, I will. It's something we pay on a regular basis. A lot of the time we don’t even think about what we're doing when we pay it. It's an open event to anybody who wants to attend, Freemason or not. I'm talking of course about Masonic dinners. Originally, it's was a form of fundraising to help support the lodge and its functions. However, it doesn’t do that. Instead it takes the money out of hardworking Freemasons who are dedicated to the craft and won’t even flinch when asked to help a cause. These Freemasons are what help make the lodges successful in their endeavors and this article is not intended to humiliate or discourage Freemasons from attending events such as these. My lodge has one every month known as the Swiss Steak Dinner. Most lodges have different things they do, I actually just heard of a local lodge that sells Pasties (a delicious meat pie), which I intend to go buy a dozen of at once. If your lodge does one of these fundraisers, I would like you yo look and see what you see.
The first thing I would like you to notice is how much it costs to put on one of these events. If your lodge is anything like my lodge, there is a lot of time and effort put forth by some of the lodge brethren. In today’s society time is equal to money. So how much does it cost for a brother to take time out of his day to come, prepare food, serve food, and clean up afterwards? I understand there are a lot of brethren who are retired and they have time to do things like this, which is awesome. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with every brother in the lodge. Some of us have jobs, families and other obligations that take precedence over our labors in lodge. When we first entered the fraternity we were paid a promise by the Worshipful Master and the lodge brethren that our labors and endeavors in Freemasonry will never get in the way of our God (whichever religion you practice), our nation, our families, or our occupations. We should take this promise seriously when making it to incoming brethren.
Secondly, I would like you to take note of how much money is spent on the event and take into account the money being made by the event. If the money being made is less than how much is spent, it is a failed project and should be considered for revising. It is a fundraiser after all, and a fundraiser that is losing money isn’t what your or my lodge needs. Sure, the events can be fun to attend and work, however, if it doesn’t bring in the mullah, it isn’t worth the time or money spent.
Next, who attends these functions? From my experience, it isn’t non-masons. Just last month I attended my lodge’s Swiss Steak Dinner and it was packed. I have never seen that many cars in the parking lot at once, even on installation night. However, as I looked around the crowd, I could pinpoint every person and knew they were affiliated with Freemasonry in some form. Either they were Masons themselves, or they were wives of Masons. Each paying a portion of their monthly income to dine with each other, at a fairly reasonable price. This is fine, as it is expected for a brother to help support another lodge’s functions, but we must consider what Freemasonry is. It’s a business. We are a business, in the business of making Freemasons. The event is a supposed to be a fundraiser to raise money for the lodge’s charity events. Who really needs to be there? The members of the community who are not affiliated with Freemasonry, that's who.
By establishing events that the community supports, you will have people there that aren't Freemasons. You will be taking donations and money from people that are not affiliated with the Craft and support your endeavors within the community. The lodge’s functions should be community oriented because it is the community that supports you. Without the community, there is no lodge. There will be an article about “Community Freemasonry” at a different time, so I won't go into the details here. If only Freemasons attend these events, what are we doing them for? We are taking money from fellow Freemasons to help support our lodge, we have only Freemasons to talk to at the event; and even though the event is well attended, it is a failed success. We successfully raised money to support our lodge, but we took it from brothers who already support our lodge through their dues, their time, and their commitment. Is that the success we want? If it is, why not just raise dues and save the money, time and effort cooking a meal?
As I mentioned previously, we are in the business of making Freemasons. By only having Freemasons around at our lodge functions, we aren’t doing ourselves any good. Not only are taking a brother’s money, we aren’t talking to people outside the craft about Freemasonry, showing them what we do and showing how much we care. If you intend to have events like this, advertise them. Not just on a billboard sign in front of the lodge, spend money to advertise. Put the events in the local newspapers or the town’s calendar. Put the event all over the Internet. A lot of the reason our craft is losing great members to death and not having great members to replace them, is because we don’t advertise any of these events to the younger generation. Perhaps that is because of a generational gap between current members and non-members. It is true that some younger Freemasons join the Craft and feel dissatisfied with it because of this gap. But we need to get on the level of the younger generations to interest them. Take a look at where they get their information—"Mybooktwitgram", or whatever they call it these days. If we take videos of events going on, things we do, we need to put it all over social media. Take pictures, and show them what we are doing and how they can join us on any of these events. Whether it's just having dinner with us or cleaning up the river view park.
Millennials just want to feel like they are a part of something, like they can make a difference in the world. Let’s show them how we do make a difference, invite them to these dinners or events which our lodges are having, then perform the community outreach. If we just talk about enlightenment, they won’t show; if we light the torch, they will come. Show them how they can make a difference. That is what we are here for—not to tax our fellow brethren, but to raise Master Masons… To inspire… To put our mark on the world… To make a difference.
Aaron Gardner - Emeritus Contributor