Education Application – Episode 2: The Current “Culture Club”

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr

 

Originally published at the Whence Came You Podcast (link here) on August 29, 2023 for its  Education Application series. Adapted here for the Midnight Freemasons. 

Let’s dig in…

When I refer to culture, I’m speaking directly to the attitude of all those involved both from an operational sense, as well as its general membership. In other words – all its statutory officeholders all the way through the rank and file membership.

So with that, let’s now use an actual real-life example to give further context that’ll also help ease further understanding.

Ready? Here we go…

A meeting was about to begin and everyone was ready to start, then it became obvious one officer was missing.

As everyone looked around it became apparent one of the officers was either going to be late or was a no-show, but no one knew. Everyone began doing the “Do you know?” Did he call you?” Did he say anything to you?” and so forth. You’ve all witnessed scenes like this.

So now the obvious was to find out so a decision to delay or something other could be had.

A phone call went out where it was then learned – he had just finished a colonoscopy and was in no shape to attend and fulfill his role at the meeting.

The brothers, to a man, took sympathy with the situation and proceeded to make hurried arrangements to still conduct the meeting. As to “get it in the books.”

Luckily they were able to meet quorum because there just so happened to be one extra in attendance who just so happened to be the only one to return of many who participated in a recent one-day class.

Now let’s move into the true devil in the details in all of this and just to reiterate: Remember during the inaugural episode I made the point I will not sugarcoat issues? Well, we’re now going to enter that sugar-free zone. So here we go…

First and foremost…

Had this newly initiated brother not been there?

A quorum would not have been met – therefore – no meeting. Resulting in a complete waste of time for all involved. A true debacle right out of the gate.

Next…

How is it that a brother, who has now moved to the next level up in the line of chairs for higher office allows such a thing to happen regarding his nonattendance and the difficulty he surely knows that causes?

Another…

To simply not take the time nor even make the effort as to warn or notify anyone prior, even up to the day of the actual meeting is cause alone for stern rebuke in and of itself. Let’s be candid here: This type of procedure is one that’s scheduled in advance. This is not like some emergency that happens to everyone where making arrangements to the contrary is impossible. We’ve all had those, and they happen. It’s called life.

But it doesn’t stop there…

The handling by this brother is one thing but then everyone else’s reaction to it was not what should be thought as “acceptable” by any measure. As a matter of fact – it borders on pitiful if not downright so, trying to argue to the contrary, which many of you may now be contemplating with arguments such as…

“The missing brother may have a legit excuse that we just don’t know – and the attending brothers were just trying to work through what was just a bad situation the best they could therefore blah blah blah”

Sure, OK, but I’m sorry, it’s arguments like this that demonstrate why you yourself may be more of the problem than you fully understand. Why? Because it’s these sorts of responses, general nullifications, or excuses if you wish that de facto legitimize situations such as this to happen routinely, continually ad infinitum.

Again, If you think I’m being too harsh here? Let me lay it out this way…

To reiterate: A procedure such as this (the colonoscopy) is usually scheduled far in advance. At some point in time when adding it to his own calendar – mentally or otherwise. He must have become aware there was going to be an obvious conflict.

Again, for clarity, I ask you to answer for yourself: Does one simply not know or does one casually forget when their respective Lodge meets either day or time? Add to that: especially if it's a seasoned member?

Let’s move on to another…

He answered his phone. That’s how it was learned. They had to call him to find out, otherwise – squat. So what have we learned? Well, we are now fully aware he was not incapacitated enough to answer – therefore logic dictates – he was also not incapacitated enough to not call and let someone know. Or said differently…

By dint of his own actions, it demonstrated the decision in relation to commitment of obligation was not worth his effort. You may want to disagree, but the fact proves otherwise. Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s what I do.

Here’s the other in all this that needs to be part of this summation: The vast majority of the brothers attending this meeting were themselves all high officers in different bodies both in blue lodges as well as concordant. Why is this important to the overall thesis?

Because: as far as could be discerned, it was all just shaken off as “Oh well, another day in the life of Lodge.”

This is a snapshot of the culture permeating throughout Freemasonry today where the jokes write themselves. Think about it. A brother decided he would rather go through a colonoscopy and beg for forgiveness later than – attend a meeting that lasted little more than 40 minutes consisting of a discussion itself mere minutes on prior meeting plans, then a reading of the minutes from the prior meeting of plans discussed at the last meeting – then – adjourned.

The problem is – it’s no laughing matter. And It’s all true. How do I know?

Because I was there – I was that new initiate.

We’ll tackle how this and more can change in subsequent articles. See you then.

Mark St.Cyr
Freemason

Seeds of Dissent The Origins of Anti-Masonry - Part 3 Revolution

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR


Anti-Masonry did not see a lot of growth during the era of the American Revolution. Colonists were, after all, preoccupied with other things. It is also a well-known fact that many Freemasons – George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and a nearly endless list of others – supported the cause. Not only that, the Revolution was fought for liberty and equality, ideals that were consistent with those of the fraternity. The perceived secrecy added to the mystique of the order and most saw membership as a desirable enhancement to one's status.


Still, the same objections to the Craft that had always been there – suspicion of its secrecy, objections by organized religion, the perception of elitism, and rumors of conspiracies – continued to plague the Masons.


A few years after the American Revolution, the French Revolution came along and with it a complex relationship with Freemasonry. A number of factors including social inequality, financial problems due to the monarchy's extravagance, taxes, and the King's weak leadership led to public dissatisfaction culminating with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.

The Enlightenment, with its ideas about reason and individual rights appealed to the populace and was also a factor leading to its discontent. These same ideals promulgated by the Enlightenment, were not at all inconsistent with progressive Masonic thinking, leading many prominent Freemasons to support the revolution. Among these were the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), Georges Danton (1759-1794), Jean Sylvain Bailly (1736-1793), Count Volney (1757-1820), and Comte de Mirabeau (1749-1791).


The end of the revolution became a tumultuous period now known as the French Reign of Terror, characterized by extreme repression. The Committee on Public Safety sprang up in order to deal with threats to the revolution and the newly-formed republic. Although formed to suppress counter-revolutionary forces and protect the revolution, the Reign of Terror soon devolved into a violent force using accusations of treason to settle personal conflicts. 


Not all Freemasons supported the revolution, but many of them supported it initially until the violence of the Reign of Terror emerged. As such some of those same Masons who were supporters of the revolution were later declared its enemies. Danton and Bailly were both declared traitors and guillotined when they became disenchanted with the Committee's violent tactics. Mirabeau and Lafayette changed their views but escaped the wrath of the Reign of Terror. Pierre Samuel DuPont de Nemours (1739-1817), who also fell into this group, escaped the guillotine only because the head of the Reign of Terror, Maximilian Robespierre, was executed beforehand.1


Without the existence of definitive data, it is probably safe to assume Freemasons, more than not, supported both revolutions. In the case of the French Revolution, it is probable Masonic support did not extend to the Reign of Terror. In both cases, anti-Masonry may have been aligned with those in opposition to the revolutions or, later, part of Robespierre's terrorism.


1 Denslow, William, 10.000 Famous Freemasons, Volume IV Q-Z and supplement, Transactions of the Missouri Lodge of Research, Volume No. 17, 1960, © 1961, William R. Denslow, pp. 388-389


~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

Why can't we convince Gen-Z to join Freemasonry? You won't like the answer.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I should have made about 1,500 copies of this meme and distributed them to every brother coming into our Grand Lodge sessions last week. Even though I knew pretty much what the outcome was going to be, I still left disappointed in my brethren. This session was no exception. There were several amendments to our Constitution and Bylaws which were up for a vote and were designed to codify the open and inclusive nature of Freemasonry.  One of which wanted to change our Code Section 280 here in Illinois.  The code currently reads: Masonry knows no distinction of race or color. It is the mental, moral, and physical qualifications of the man that are to be considered.  The amendment would have changed this to read:  Masonry knows no distinction of race, color, or sexual orientation. It is the mental, moral, and physical qualifications of the man that are to be considered.  

One would think that the vote would be affirmative.  I mean, isn't it implicit that Freemasonry shouldn't care about sexual orientation?  Even the Grand Lodge Committee on Legislation recommended the adoption of the legislation, which they stated was consistent with the open and inclusive nature of our fraternity.  Allow me to set the scene for what transpired. 

For each piece of legislation, the rules governing the order of business for our Grand Lodge sessions allow a total of six speakers to voice their support or dissent.  Each speaker has two minutes each.  There were arguments for and against, and then the last speaker (who had also spoken for or against all of the other amendments, most likely because it gave him a feeling of importance to hear his own voice through a microphone) began to speak against the amendment.  It was at this time, that things took a turn for the worse. 

The speaker started out with a coherent response until he didn't.  He saw it as an opportunity to launch into a transphobic rant.  Looking around in disbelief, and not seeing any action being taken, I had to yell at the top of my lungs at our Grandmaster to attempt to get him to take action  Yes, in complete disregard for Masonic etiquette, which I greatly regret.  I stood up from my seat towards the back of the large ballroom we occupied and yelled at the top of my lungs: "Grandmaster, this is political.  This is political!"   To which the brother at the microphone yelled back: "It is not political!"  To which I replied: "Yes, it is!"  At this point, the brother left the microphone, shaking his head in disbelief.  However, when it was all said and done, the vote failed. 


In fact, an amendment to give a Worshipful Master latitude to use the appropriate term for someone's Volume of Sacred Law instead of the Bible failed.  Another amendment would have added a section of code that stated that any Mason who was a member of or espouses the cause of any organization advocating the overthrow of the government of the United States by force of other illegal means shall, upon Masonic Trial and conviction thereof, be expelled. The code also added that such would be a disqualification for initiation in or affiliation with a lodge of Master Masons.  This amendment was specifically designed because of a particular incident where a police officer in Chicago was publically identified as a member of the Proud Boys and was shown wearing a Square and Compass on his shirt in pictures disseminated throughout the media.  He is still, to my knowledge, a member of a constituent lodge or lodges under the Grand Lodge of Illinois.           

Now given the amendments above, and my reaction to the brother, you might be asking why I didn't yell that they were also "Political".  My definition of the discussion being political is where a brother is incapable of stating his own opinion and instead regurgitates the opinions of others. Usually, this is either the talking heads of whatever news they subscribe to or the ideology of their political party.  Yet while I agree with and support amendments and language in an attempt to make Freemasonry more inclusive, I realize that to many brethren (which is not pronounced as "brothern", my brothers) these amendments are considered “woke”.  

My good friend, brother, and one of the hosts of the Masonic podcast, Meet, Act, and Part (shameless plug), Bill Hosler, wrote what I consider to be the definitive one on this subject. Bill and I are ideologically opposed politically, though we agree on the idea that “woke” is a made-up term.  We are both against the influence of religion and politics inside of Freemasonry. However, I want to share a quote from the article which is: What many of these young people are calling “being woke” here in the last few years.  We collectively have been calling it “Freemasonry.” In any case, I urge you to click on the link above to read the article in its entirety.

Why do I bring this up? Because it relates directly to my point. I'm going to address only Gen-Z in this article. Allow me to answer. Both of my sons are Gen-Z. I'm Gen-X. Neither of my sons has any interest in Freemasonry. When I ask them why, the answers are sometimes varied, but it's mostly due to a perception that Freemasonry is archaic. They are also at the age in their early twenties where they do not want to be like their father. I can accept that rebellious spirit. They also brought up how we claim to be inclusive, but yet we have Grand Lodges that are homophobic and racist in their views. They don't understand Masonic Jurisdictions, and in their mind, if one Grand Lodge is doing something, then that is the whole of Freemasonry. Of course, I don't pressure them to join. If they at some point decide to come of their own free will and accord, then I will be ecstatic, but if not, I understand that as well. Freemasonry is not for everyone, and every man doesn't deserve to be a Freemason. This being said, we still need to look at our future and try to market Freemasonry to Gen-Z. Why is Gen-Z important in terms of Freemasonry's survival?

We have an aging membership. In most Grand Lodges, we are losing more members than we are bringing in. My Grand Lodge likes to show their pride and state that they are currently the 4th largest Grand Lodge in the United States. Now, I have no idea how we count our membership numbers, but our Grand Lodge website states that we have 45,000 members. I tend to believe that these numbers are inflated. For example, I belong to 2 lodges and I hold honorary membership in two others. I'm most likely being counted 4 times instead of one time. There are men I know who hold honorary memberships in multiple lodges. Given this, I would tend to believe that we're closer to 20,000 members. We might be below, or maybe we're above. Again, I don't know if I'm correct in my assumption. I'm just stating that there's no transparency on how these numbers are counted. But for the sake of consistency, I will use the 45000 member number. According to the number of members reported in March of 2017 on the George Washington Memorial website, we had over 65000 members. But to simplify the math, we will say we had exactly 65000 members. In the span of Five and a half years, Illinois has lost 20,000 members, which comes out to 3636 members per year. Assuming negative net growth, if the decline remains constant at 3636 members per year, membership in Illinois will be 0 in Twelve and a half years.

Now, of course, we know that the decline isn't going to remain constant. In twelve and a half years I will be sixty-two years old. Barring my suspension or expulsion, I will still be a Freemason at that time. However, what the numbers do illustrate is that we're going to see the landscape of Freemasonry change. We may be down to a handful of lodges in the state. Using another Fraternal organization that I'm a member of as a basis, the Grand Lodge of Illinois for the International Order of Odd Fellows has 48 lodges in the state of Illinois. If I had to guess, the membership is below 5000 members (again, a guess). In any case, if we want to have Freemasonry continue to survive, we will need to find a way to market Freemasonry to the Gen-Z generation and those coming after them.

Generation Z, is the youngest, most ethnically-diverse, and largest generation in American history, comprising 27% of the US population. Pew Research recently defined Gen Z as anyone born 1997 onwards. Gen Z grew up with technology, the internet, and social media, which sometimes causes them to be stereotyped as tech-addicted, anti-social, or “social justice warriors.”1  Millennials and Gen Z are far less likely than older generations to identify with any organized religion and far more likely (especially in Gen Z) to identify as LGBTQ.2  

The average Gen Z got their first smartphone just before their 12th birthday. They communicate primarily through social media and texts, and spend as much time on their phones as older generations do watching television.  The majority of Gen Zs prefer streaming services to traditional cable, as well as getting snackable content they can get on their phones and computers. In terms of US population by generation, Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse and largest generation in American history, and eclipses all other generations before it in embracing diversity and inclusion.3

From a marketing perspective, A 2022 survey by Morning Consult found that 54% of Gen Zers said they spend at least four hours daily on social media, and 38% spend even more time than that. Their most used social platforms are YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.  They are saving more, thrifting, and decidedly not purchasing from companies that don’t reflect their values. Furthermore, The vast majority of Gen Z respondents reported that authenticity is more important than any other personal value tested, including spending time on things that will help their futures, independence, changing the world, and being rich or famous.  More than half of Gen Zs are more worried about others being treated badly than nearly every other topic surveyed, including getting a good job, paying for college, discrimination toward themselves, or their own relationships with significant others.5

Now let's discuss what's been called the loneliness epidemic in America.  It has become so important that the US Surgeon General released a report on it earlier this year. The main takeaways of the report are: 

Humans are wired for social connection, but we’ve become more isolated over time

Social connection significantly improves the health and well-being of all individuals

Social connection is vital to community health and success

Together, we can advance social connection and improve our nation’s public health

The study states that lacking social connection is as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day from a health standpoint.  Furthermore, Gen-Z seems to be hit the hardest by this epidemic based on multiple pre and post-pandemic surveys.  Many of them are spending money to join various clubs to meet friends according to a recent article.6 They also seem to be looking for mentors.7

Given all of the above, you might reason that Gen-Z should be knocking our doors down.  As an organization, we claim to be one where men of all faiths, color, and backgrounds are welcome.  This should appeal to their embrace of diversity and inclusion, right?  Not to mention all of the older men that could be mentors for them.  Also, since we don't require a specific religious belief to join, only a belief in a higher power, Freemasonry should be attractive to them as they don't identify with organized religion, and we are not a religion.  We are not supposed to discuss politics or religion in the lodge which should aid the attraction. However, this is not going to be the case unless we make wholesale changes to how we act as individual members of Freemasonry, how we act as an organization, and how we market ourselves to this generation.

It goes without saying that Freemasonry is resistant to change.  As mentioned above, we as an organization need to make wholesale changes to how we portray Freemasonry and how we act as individuals and an organization.  As stated above, authenticity is more important to Gen-Z than any other value. 

When we claim to promote values (Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth) as an organization but we have a majority of our membership that isn't living by these values, do you think we are authentic as an organization?  One thing that I didn't mention but is alluded to above is who Gen-Z turns to when they need to research something.  It should not be any surprise that they turn to the internet.  Now if I'm super internet-savvy like this Gen-Z,  I'm going to go to the internet and search for Freemasonry in the state I'm in.  This should inevitably bring me to that particular state's Grand Lodge webpage or a local lodge webpage.  Listed on the webpage will be the names of the Grand Lodge Officers or the Local Lodge officers.  Another search of the names of each individual and the addition of (insert your social media choice here) as a search term might lead me to their individual social media pages, assuming they're not concerned about privacy and don't have them locked down.  Now, all it takes is one social media post that is contrary to any of the values that Freemasonry promotes, and you can kiss that potential member goodbye.  

But let's say on the off chance, we still manage to have a Gen-Z potential candidate visit the lodge.  We invite him to dinner before lodge in the lodge building.  No one makes an effort to talk to him, or when they do, they do so to try to engage him in a political or religious discussion they're having.  Yes, those two things we aren't supposed to discuss in Lodge.  I know what you're thinking, you're not in Lodge if you're at Dinner.  You're right, but maybe we shouldn't discuss these things at Dinner?  I can't imagine how a potential Gen-Z candidate, who has had to endure multiple active shooter drills from elementary school up through High School, is going to react to a bunch of older men bemoaning gun control.  I'm being kind with using this as an example of discussions I've heard.  Let's just say that I've lost a lot of respect for some members of the fraternity, over their complete inability to keep their mouths shut about things that shouldn't be discussed in a Lodge building and prejudices that absolutely have no place in Freemasonry.

Our degree obligations are full of references to swearing not to give away any of the secret arts, parts, or points of a particular degree.  Brethren seem to be able to be quiet when it comes to the modes of recognition, but we can't hold our tongues about those things we are not supposed to be discussing?  I mean if you can't find anything else to talk about with your brethren, then can you at least wait until the meeting or degree is over so you can go out to the parking lot and have these discussions?  

How about we engage in discussions about what we can be doing to help the community we're in or we spend the time calling brethren that we've not seen at a stated meeting or degree to see how they're doing?  Maybe if we actually practice Freemasonry authentically then we might have a chance to win Gen-Z over?  Heck, this is stuff we should be doing anyway. It's certainly a better use of our time than getting angry over things that we don't have control over, but that the news tells us we should be angry about and ranting about it at dinner. Let's actually live our tenets for a change.  Let's practice what we preach.  Let's practice Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth in our daily lives as individual members of Freemasonry, or as I like to say, practice empathy, be compassionate towards others, and remember that truth without compassion is cruelty.  

This leads me to how we act as an organization.  Fundamentally, as an organization we are the sum of how our membership acts. It always saddens me at every Grand Lodge session when they publish the felonies that the now-expelled former members have committed.  It just goes to further the idea that we need to guard the West Gate strongly.  It also means that we have to understand that the quality of our membership is more important to our survival than a massive quantity of members. Most importantly, Grand Lodges must adopt this philosophy.     
As for our Constitution and Bylaws, we wouldn't need to add inclusive language to them if the membership adhered to what I laid out above. Because we don't seem to, or at least our individual Grand Lodges don't seem to hold their own lodges and other Masonic jurisdictions accountable for not doing so, we are guilty by our association.  Grand Lodges withhold recognition from Foreign Jurisdictions all of the time that are judged to be irregular in their practice.  We have domestic jurisdictions that continue to withhold recognition of Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasonry, and others that have codified language that bans men who are openly homosexual from joining, as well as suspending or expelling members who are. Grand Lodges should be withholding recognition of these domestic Grand Lodges as irregular in their practice as well.  If we want to claim authenticity, then our Grand Lodges must have their public actions and statements back them up.

Lastly, we need to discuss how we market the Craft to Gen-Z.  First of all, we can't rely on old surveys to determine what these young men are looking for.  Case in point, my Grand Lodge jurisdiction finally hired a marketing firm.   However, when our membership chairman presented an overview of the new marketing program, a few things stood out to me.   

Our Grand Lodge is basing its strategy for its marketing campaign on the NMJ survey from 2016 to market to men today.  At this point, assuming Gen-Z starts in 1997, the youngest members of Gen-Z would have been 18 or 19.  This survey was only given to men who were ages (21-65).I would state that we should give the survey again, but we should give it to men who are going to be the future of Freemasonry.  Instead of ages (21-65), we should be giving it to Demolay-aged boys to the age (12 to 21) up to Gen-Z and Millenial-aged men (up to the age of 42).  These men are the future of Freemasonry.  These are the men we should be marketing the Craft to, and these are the men whose opinions should be shaping strategies for marketing.

We need to tailor our marketing to this target audience! Facebook is for OLD PEOPLE.  One of the goals that our membership chairman laid out was getting, if I recall correctly, 10k followers on Facebook and 5k on Linkedin.  I'm not sure if these are metrics given by the marketing firm that we hired, or arbitrary numbers that were decided upon, but Facebook likes are not a true indicator of the popularity of something.  In fact, I'd personally question the qualifications of a marketing firm that would suggest these social media platforms.  If we're looking to try to land more Gen-X and Boomer members, then sure.  However, any marketing firm worth its value is going to tell you that those demographics are not who you should be targeting.

The Gen-Z and Millenial crowd (with the exception of the older millennials) are not using Facebook or Linkedin (for that matter) all that often, if at all.  If we want to market Freemasonry to Gen-Z, then we need to be looking at YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.Grand Lodges need to get with the times and hire (yes I said hire), social media managers and identify our membership in the Gen-Z demographic that they should approach to work with these social media managers to produce authentic social media content for the platforms listed above.   Or better yet, hire one of these younger Master Masons to be the social media manager.  Again, Gen-Z can smell insincerity a mile away, so we need to be on point with our social media marketing.  We need to create Masonic influencers in the Gen-Z demographic who can best exemplify our inclusivity as an organization. 

Influencer marketing is prominent across social media platforms, and the data shows that Gen Z is much more likely to be influenced by social media. Gen Z adults are 10 percentage points more likely than Millennials to say they’ve purchased a product in the past six months because an influencer/blogger recommended it on social media (29% vs. 19%). A possible reason for this distinction is that Gen Z is more likely to say they trust social media influencers and are much more likely to follow content creators online.10  

Currently, TikTok has a few "prominent" (I use this term very loosely) content providers, but the problem is that they're probably doing more harm to the craft than being helpful.  They are giving their own flavor of Freemasonry, and quite frankly many of them are completely uneducated about Freemasonry's origins, history, customs, and rituals, and give incorrect or incomplete information when asked questions about Freemasonry when they go "Live".  There is a strong need for professionally curated content on this platform, and I believe that the Grand Lodges harness the power of popular social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Reels, Instagram, etc to advertise and promote Freemasonry to Gen-Z will begin to see an increase in membership in this demographic.

If we want to market to men of the Gen-Z generation, then Grand Lodges need to highlight their members of that demographic.  We must empower them.  To be honest, a perfect thing to do from a marketing perspective in my jurisdiction would be to highlight the young men who opened this year's Grand Lodge in Illinois.  These young men are all from Gen Z and they are both members of DeMolay and are Master Masons.  While we can't show them actively opening the session, we can highlight each of them by interviewing them and asking them to tell their own authentic stories about their Masonic experiences.  These young men need to be our spokesmen to their generation.  They are the ones best equipped to communicate with other young men.  Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millenials need not apply.

We must curate and vet all of the materials we are using in our Marketing campaigns.  Case in point, asking a potential Gen-Z candidate to read a short talk bulletin from 1954 that calls men of the Islamic Faith "Mohemmedans" is probably not going to have the desired outcome that we want it to have.  It's an insulting term to people of the Islamic Faith. This same short talk bulletin makes several completely false historical facts, especially when it comes to Freemasonry and its influence on the Revolutionary War, but I find its pride in how the Vigilantes of Montana being formed in a Masonic Lodge especially troubling.  Twenty-One people were murdered by these vigilantes in what is described as "a terroristic orgy that bypassed anything and everything resembling due process — no trials, no judges, no juries, and not even death in the usual manner, hanging, but, so as to get the maximum deterrent effect from each murder, by strangulation."11  This is hardly something that our Masonic Fraternity should be proud of, even if they accomplished securing Gold for the Union Cause.  If we want to portray our history, we should be authentic.  I'm not advocating hiding Masonic History from a Gen-Z candidate. I'm stating that we need to make sure that the materials we're using to market Freemasonry are not offensive and are viewing Masonic History from our current perspective, not from a 1954 viewpoint.

We can no longer be afraid of change as an organization and we must have Leadership that is not afraid to make changes.  We need to engage our youth and empower them to have a voice in our lodges and in our Grand Lodges and get their insight on what appeals to men of their age.  We need to have membership that is not afraid to vote for changes that will make our inclusivity codified in our rules, and leadership that is not afraid to voice support for such measures.  We must hold our membership accountable when they fail to live by our philosophies, either by whispering that wise counsel, or in extreme cases, having membership of constituent lodges be brave enough to bring their brothers up on Masonic Charges when they hold membership in organizations that hold philosophies directly counter to those that Freemasonry espouses.  We must be authentic, and we must at every level adopt the principles of an agile organization.   

If we continue to fail in doing this, we will continue to be judged as my Gen-Z children tell me, as archaic.  In my next article, I will discuss what we must do to make Freemasonry an agile organization, at the lodge level and Grand Lodge Level, and how in doing so, we might have a chance at retaining Gen-Z members once they join.   

1 https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/generation-z-facts/
2 https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/06/gen-z-millennials-vote-republican/674328/
https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/generation-z-facts/
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-media-gen-z/485152/
5 https://www.ey.com/en_us/consulting/is-gen-z-the-spark-we-need-to-see-the-light-report/gen-z-finding-meaning
6 https://www.businessinsider.com/gen-z-loneliness-spends-money-to-make-friends-2023-9 
7 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2023/01/26/mentoring-has-become-more-popular-so-why-gen-z-getting-less-it/11120823002/
8 https://scottishritenmj.org/path-forward
9 https://civicscience.com/3-key-social-media-trends-among-gen-z-and-millennials/
10 ibid
11 https://www.clevelandcivilwarroundtable.com/the-vigilantes-of-montana/

~DL

Darin Lahners is our Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast as well as a co-host of an all-things-paranormal podcast, "Beyond the 4th Veil." He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as a member of the Committee on Masonic Education He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021.

Education Application – Episode 1: The True Existential Crisis Facing Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr

Originally published on the Whence Came You Podcast (link here) on August 7, 2023. Adapted here for the Midnight Freemasons.

Before we delve into this topic, it is important to clarify a few points. First and foremost, this series does not reflect any endorsement or should be inferred as such from any Grand Lodge or Concordant body. Please refer to your jurisdiction’s rules for governance before considering any application of the ideas presented here.

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter. This is not a cookie-cutter recital of methodologies borrowed from management guru books. Instead, we will address the hard issues that need to be addressed within the Craft. For decades, the Craft has grappled with these issues, and the results speak for themselves – actually, they’re screaming.

What you can expect from this series are real-world solutions presented in quick and easy-to-understand scenarios. These solutions will be delivered by me, off the cuff, and in an extemporaneous manner. I must clarify that I’m not here to make friends; I’m here to provoke thought. The former takes place in the Lodge room, while the latter will take place here.

Now, you may be wondering, “Why should I listen, and who is this guy anyway?” Allow me to answer that question.

I have spent the last two decades at the forefront of thought leadership in the world of business and financial insight. While I understand that some of you may try to find fault with my arguments or give knee-jerk reactions of “But that won’t work here!” and more, I ask you to keep an open mind and consider whether I may make some points worth considering and applying.

To give you a metric to judge my credibility, let me share a story. A few years ago, one of the top business and financial news outlets sought perspectives on the prospects of the US economy and Apple, the largest company at the time. They asked Warren Buffet for his thoughts and quoted him in their article. When they wanted a viewpoint on Buffet’s thoughts, they quoted me. This is not to brag but to emphasize that I may possess some knowledge in this domain.

Ultimately, what you take away from this series is up to you. But at the very least, you now have a metric to judge my credibility.

Now, let’s address the true existential crisis facing Freemasonry today: Nobody wants it to be just a hobby. This argument (e.g., just some hobby) undermines the Craft itself, as well as attempts to shore up membership and keep those remaining engaged. Unfortunately, many cannot see this issue or, even if they do, refuse to come to grips with it. The numbers prove that this problem will continue to worsen, no matter the remedies the Craft employs.

To understand why this issue is so significant, we must recognize that any organization or structure faces a dozen core issues that can cripple it. While each issue alone could be self-sufficient in causing substantial damage, they usually work in combination. In severe cases, all of these issues are present simultaneously.

Identifying and remedying these core issues is challenging, which is why many once heralded institutions crumble into oblivion once the so-called “management guru consultant class” leaves, declaring “Problems solved.” These methodology presentations often fail because they apply the latest buzz phrase from some generic best-selling book. The decision to bring in these consultants is often based on a desire to fulfill a requirement rather than prioritizing efficacy.

Don’t just take my word for it – look at all the companies and institutions that were once market leaders but have now vanished after consultants left the building. Sears serves as one such example.

Returning to the dozen core issues I mentioned earlier, the first step in remedying them is to identify the most dramatic issue affecting all aspects of the organization, from the public to the customer base and even the people within it. Without addressing this singular issue as a priority, all other attempts to fix the organization will be futile. They will only mask the problems temporarily before they resurface in a magnified form.

We have all witnessed organizations that appeared to be getting their act together, only to crumble shortly thereafter. These brands, once respected and possessing unshakable customer loyalty, are now disappearing. Craftsman, once a renowned brand, serves as a prime example.

So, what does this argument about the Craft being treated as a hobby actually mean? It means everything.

The culture within the Craft must realign with its original purpose and raison d’ĂȘtre. No amount of strategy sessions or tactical measures will lead to lasting change unless the underlying culture shifts. This is why committee meetings and well-intentioned programs only work temporarily and at the surface level. They eventually succumb to the stagnation and entropy of the past.

Why does culture play such a vital role? Because culture eats strategy and tactics for breakfast. Implementing new ideas or management principles will not fundamentally change an organization. It may create an illusion of progress, but it will not have a lasting impact in the larger context.

The existing culture within the organization will do everything in its power to resist change. Deep down, it prefers to complain rather than embrace change. It clings to what is familiar and resists anything new, regardless of how much it argues otherwise. Even in the face of oblivion, the culture will argue that “things have to change” but will not actively participate in that change unless their own employment is at stake. And if that happens, they will complain, claiming that their insights went unheard.

This phenomenon is far too common.

Within the Craft, the culture today often treats obligations to the craft as a hobby rather than a transformative way of life. It fails to recognize that the Craft is sacred in its institution, instructions, and commitment. Instead, more people treat the Craft as “their thing,” similar to how they approach their hobbies of choice.

Before I delve into specific examples, I’d like to leave you with a thought experiment. Imagine your boss asks you, a week in advance, to pick them up from the airport at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday. They explicitly state that you are the only person they trust with this responsibility. You agree to fulfill the task. However, on that Thursday, you suddenly realize you have a prior engagement or appointment. What do you do?

Do you cancel your commitment and make arrangements for your forgotten task, regardless of the consequences, in order to fulfill your obligation to your boss? Or do you fulfill your forgotten task and beg your boss for forgiveness as they are left stranded at the airport, having to find their own way home?

Most of you likely agree that canceling your prior engagement to fulfill your boss’s request is the obvious correct path.

The problem lies in how we apply our resolve to the Craft. In practice, we often choose the latter path, neglecting our obligations and seeking forgiveness later.

In subsequent articles, I will provide specific examples to illustrate this further. Until then.

Mark St.Cyr
Freemason

John Skene: First Known Mason in America

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton


New Jersey holds the special honor of being home to the first known Freemason in America - Brother John Skene. He was a member of Aberdeen Lodge No. 1, of Aberdeen, Scotland. As a Quaker, he was imprisoned and fined in England in the 1670s due to his religious activities. In 1682, Skene sailed to the New World and settled in Burlington, NJ, the capital of the West Jersey Province. John Skene purchased a 300-acre property in the late 1600s and named it Peachfield. This was an ideal area for a merchant to get established. There were fertile farmlands and it was in close proximity to Philadelphia. The area also had the benefit of having a large Quaker population. In addition to being a merchant, Skene also had a successful political career. He was elected to the West Jersey assembly and later appointed to the council. In 1685, he was appointed Deputy Governor of the Province of West Jersey. He served in that role until 1687.


A conference was recently held to help shed light on Brother Skene’s unique role in American Masonic history. The first annual John Skene Masonic Conference was held on August 19, 2023, in Westhampton, NJ. This novel conference celebrated the life of Skene and the Scottish origins and influences of Freemasonry in America. The day began with a memorial service at Peachfield, where The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The State of New Jersey maintains a museum. There is a gravestone for Brother John Skene located on the property. The conference continued in the afternoon at the nearby Crescent Shrine building. Speakers included well-respected scholars - Robert W. Howard, Jr., Erich Morgan Huhn, Steven C. Bullock, and Robert Cooper. Topics covered during the presentations included Freemasonry Before 1717, Freemasonry from Skene to Anderson, The Revolutionary Transformation of Early American Freemasonry, and Tracking Scottish Freemasonry in America. The event concluded in the evening with a festive board that featured a presentation on Freemasonry in America and Its Colonial Tavern Beginnings by Robert H. Johnson of Whence Came You?, The Masonic Roundtable, and The Midnight Freemasons fame. 


Kudos are in order for the conference committee that developed the outstanding program - Christian Stebbins, Robert W. Howard, Jr, and Erich Morgan Huhn. A great deal of knowledge was shared at the conference, but it is clear that there is so much more to uncover about early Freemasonry in New Jersey. Hopefully, this will spark more research on the topic and this conference will become an annual event for years to come!


Lurie, Maxine N., and Marc Mappen. 2004. Encyclopedia of New Jersey. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. https://search-ebscohost-com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e900xww&AN=124913&site=ehost-live. p 747.


History of Freemasonry in New Jersey / Commemorating the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Organization of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of New Jersey, 1787-1987. First ed. New Jersey: Grand Lodge, 1987. p 9.

“About.” Peachfield, June 23, 2022. https://peachfield.org/about/. Accessed September, 23, 2023.


~JS

Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.