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.4 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
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.