You're lodge's most important committee you didn't even know you had, is the Underplay Committee. Maybe you've even been on this committee and didn't even realize it!
Let me paint a quick picture--a petition comes into your lodge, the Master assigns the Investigation Committee. Assuming everything else went the correct and prescribed way, e.g. the man came into the lodge, met the brothers several times, then petitioned with his fees, it's now time for the Investigation Committee to vet this potential man.
This committee is so very important. The committee is charged with investigating the character of a man to determine whether or not he will be a good fit for Freemasonry and his local lodge. Questions the committee will often ask as primers are; "Do you believe in a supreme power?" "Do you have any felonies?" "Does your significant other understand and are they okay with you joining?"
Of course these are good questions to get started, and this my Brothers, is when the Investigation Committee much like a caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly, does the opposite and devolves. Instead of rising to the occasion and asking the hard questions of a man to see if they meet the standards, we most often do something else.
We change into the Underplay Committee. The candidate will ask, "How much is this?" The committee chuckles and tells the prospective how cheap it is. When the prospective asks about the time commitment, the committee informs the man that he just has to get through the degrees and after that, it doesn't really matter how much he shows up. "It's okay, you don't *have* to be there." Challenging him to, "Put into it what he wants to get out of it." This puts the onus squarely on him.
We begin to throw everything of substance out the window, completely underplaying any responsibility or commitments we would ever hold to the perspective member.
While I was chatting the other night with a great friend and Brother, RWB:. Hamann, we got on this topic. It dawned on me that this practice is really no different than getting an American Express card. Except that maybe, the Amex folks run a better check on you before you're allowed to get the card than we do when allowing you to join. Think about it. You apply. You pay a yearly fee, (The original fee based Amex is likely more expensive than your dues, by the way.), and you can use the card when you want to. It sits in your wallet, just like your dues card, only used when you feel like employing its aid.
Why are we underplaying the commitments of being a Mason? Are we so scared to lose someone that we alter what should be and has historically been, the foundation of this organization? Are we scared that a man has shown interest and that we've invested some significant time in meeting the prospective, that it would be wasted if he were to shy away now? What are we scared of?
We have nothing to lose from doing our jobs. What we have to gain from proper investigation and having standards, is EVERYTHING.
RWB, Robert Johnson 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 is also a Past 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 the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.