And now Children it is time for Larry to do a rant on the Subject of Freemasony. In particular the rather foolish idea that we should be more like European Freemasonry. I will say that European Freemasonry has many things I’d consider positive adaptation to some or all of the American Masonic Experience but the #1 thing to challenge this new clarion call by very knowledgeable Brothers out there in TV land is this simple line. AMERICA IS NOT EUROPE. What made Freemasonry work in the US did not make it work in Europe.
*cough* Ok let me go and add in a full disclosure segment here. Doing a more European model is usually code for “pay more money in dues” and this being my first year where I have to pay my dues late….I have m’self a tad of a problem in regards to paying more.
So here is the thing. In Europe Masonry was largely a model of “elitism”. Europe by and large has more of a system of people being born into privilege vs. the kind of upward social mobility that we have had in the US arguably since our inception. While Masonry has attracted men of the caliber as U.S President Teddy Roosevelt we also attracted men of the caliber of Teddy Roosevelt’s gardener who was the Worshipful Master of his home lodge one of the years he was President.
While we will see some brothers throw the “adjusted for inflation” dollars argument at you that argument is rather bogus. As technology shifts some things become much less expensive, new things are created that is vastly more expensive, areas of property are changed and thus the value shoots up rapidly. Dollars are now fiat vs. semi-fiat or hard currency based…Comparing dollars 50 years ago isn’t realistic, nor is comparing dollars 100 years ago or more. Comparing the impact on the pocket of the man entering the door of the lodge is however a more realistic comparison. Will it make the average man who walks in the door have trouble paying his bills, feeding himself, having a family, paying his taxes, being able to gain property, etc. The focus should not be on the price of dues in inflation adjusted 1920 dollars but on having the same kind of impact on a man who knocks on the door of the lodge.
And while keeping that as a value marker I believe the lodge should be a more inviting place then the social mores of 1920 would have it be. So if the price out of the pocket of the man isn’t a good measure of the dues should be what is?
#1) paying to keep your lodge open and operational.
#2) paying to care for sick, elderly, or indigent brother masons or their kith and kin.
#3) paying to keep all the regalia and other features needed for the degrees of freemasonry.
I do not feel of course these three things should be the end all be all of what we do as masons, but I feel it should be the minimum yearly commitment. Now after that point if you want to set up and ensure endowments are running to provide those the needs are taken care of so the cost to the new and continuing brother is less so much the better.
If the Lodge sets yearly projects and gets the membership to pay for them in a yearly assessment again so much the better.
I think making dues more like “user fee” where you pay for the level of involvement in the fraternity you choose is better and makes the positives of Freemasonry far more universal.
Instead of trying to make Masonry more exclusivist and elite (following of the European model) I think we need to ask ourselves as American Freemasons some important questions.
#1 –What are we as a Fraternity doing right now at the Grand Lodge, Regional, District, and lodge level?-
#2-What would we like to do as a Masonic Community?-
#3-What does our Masonic family need us to do? (And by family I mean both individual brothers at a familial level, and our family of Masonic organizations)-
#4-What does our Masonic family want us to do?-
#5-How can we make an impact in the lives of every man who kneels at the Alter so that when he dies he wants the last honor a Lodge can give a man?-
#6-How are we failing in that regard today?-
#7-How can we make Freemasonry an institution that unites the families of our membership into a larger sense of community and community identity?-
I think if we can answer those 7 questions we will do more then we would by raising all the dues in the world, doing all sorts of table lodges, or having more and more lodges follow the European model.