How Freemasonry Is Missing The Boat
again in Masonic circles of discussion we hear the debate searching for the
answers as to why the decline in Masonic membership continues. All sorts of
hypotheses have been advanced. The ones I hear most often are the greater
number of choices available in today’s world, the limits of time in a what has
become a very high strung, stressed out overworked society and the rise of
women to equal status in American society thus restructuring the male/female
role which often results in couples doing everything together rather than each
going their separate way.
explanations are all well and good and certainly have some merit in the scheme
of things. Often times when no explanation reaches out and knocks you in the
head it is because there are multiple causes for the resulting effect. But I
believe that most are overlooking certainly the largest explanation for the
continuing decline of American Freemasonry.
precisely Freemasonry’s interaction with civil society, its sympathetic
response to what is troubling the nation that brings it into the focus of the
uninitiated individual. When Freemasonry leads society into nobleness and
righteousness, when it is society’s conscience it becomes a highly regarded
institution upon which many will look with favor if not join.
not, however, to promote what American Grand Lodge’s of today have done to
Freemasonry by turning the Craft into a giant Service Club where Freemasonry
tries to use society for its own advantage and gain, where it tries to buy and
bribe friends and recognition. There is a big difference between interacting
with a nation and serving a nation.
often said that no one knows who we are as Freemasons. That’s because we are
not interacting with society with the best interests of society at heart but
rather merely concerned with ourselves and what’s in it for us.
Freemasonry was never meant to be or destined to be a secretive monastic
society, totally withdrawn from civil society and all its goings on. When
Freemasonry actually rolled up its sleeves and became immersed in the “big
play”, the overwhelming issue of the day, it was noticed, it garnered
membership and it had influence.
Freemasonry was concerned with civil society’s concerns it was able to LEAD
society. As a leader involved with the well being of society, it was an
accepted institution. When Freemasonry hid in its own shadow and pushed
toleration to the extreme of being “politically correct”, then “Masonically
correct” Freemasonry started to whither and die.
today talks about Freemasonry staying out of religion and politics. Most,
however, are neglecting to clarify that it is partisan politics and
sectarian religion that Freemasonry prohibits. There is a big difference
between broad moral and social issues that define the structure of civil
society and specific policies advocated as a remedy.
Freemasonry was always at its height when it chose to lead society. As a
product of the Enlightenment it championed religious freedom, democratic
government, public school education and separation of church and state.
American colonial Freemasonry provided a system of networking in a society
with no communication systems. It played a vital role in the formation of this
nation. While one can point to the midnight ride of Paul Revere let’s not
forget his and his Lodge’s possible involvement in the dumping of tea into
Boston Harbor. Nor should we overlook the fact that at least 42% of the
Generals commissioned by the Continental Congress were Masons. It was the
values of Freemasonry that were drafted into the Constitution of the United
States. Freemasons set up the government of this nation, authored the “noble
As a new
nation American Freemasonry was instrumental in the formation of public
schools and universities. Men of letters came to Freemasonry not for the arts
and sciences taught in Lodge but because Freemasonry was a learning promoter.
“Brothers officially sponsored educational endeavors that reached beyond the
fraternity. This encouragement of broader education seemed to link the
fraternity to the post-Revolutionary vision of an enlightened society built
around equality and openness, values that brothers came to see expressed even
in their order’s structure. By supporting learning and by teaching and
embodying republican relationships, Masonry seemed to be upholding and
advancing the Revolutionary experiment itself.”(1)
the civil War Freemasonry was the only organization, society or institution
that did not split in two. Even churches became promoters of either the Union
or the Confederacy. Freemasonry, as in the Revolutionary War, contained many
military Lodges that had a great influence on holding the armies together.
But its greatest Civil War influence was ameliorating the harshness of the
fighting and acting as a healer of society.
Civil War saw American Freemasonry usher in an age of great Masonic authorship
and great Masonic building. Its ability to grow right along with the
industrialization of the United States was a great asset to its continued
into the 20th century Freemasonry lost its leadership role. Oh it
wasn’t evident right away. The nation was consumed with fighting two world
wars and the post war push of returning soldiers who wished to continue the
exhilarating uplift of camaraderie kept the numbers high and the coffers full.
But by 1960 American Freemasonry was living on past laurels and fresh blood
was nowhere to be seen. The plain fact is that American Freemasonry became
Freemasonry had remained socially relevant it could have lead the nation into
breaking the color barrier and busting Black discrimination in society.
William Upton was the Jackie Robinson of Freemasonry. As Grand Master of
Washington State in 1898 he recognized Prince Hall and black/white
fraternization. If we had built on this start, even if ever so slowly,
Freemasonry could have led the nation into integration thereby avoiding the
confrontation of Rosa Parks and the marches of Martin Luther King.
As one of
the only institutions worldwide to actually live peaceful, cooperative
brotherhood among people of different races, religions, cultures and economic
circumstances, American Freemasonry was in a unique position to encourage and
promote world peace. People today looking back 50 years ago could have pointed
out that the “peace movement” was Freemasonry. The fact that Freemasonry
refused to do so out of fear of offending and being politically incorrect
caused it to lose esteem in the eyes of the general public.
Freemasonry had led the nation in the 50s, if it had been the conscience and
the moral compass of the nation in the area of Civil Rights and the peace
movement then it would not have lost a whole generation to Masonic membership.
Freemasonry would have been respected and revered and consequently
flourished. But instead we turned a blind eye to black lynching and the evil
of the KKK and watched in silence from the sidelines while the Vietnam War
tore this nation apart. And then we have the audacity to ask why the
generation of the day refused to join Freemasonry. Who was fighting for the
soul of the American nation? It sure wasn’t Freemasonry and we paid the
are faced with a worldwide HOLY WAR. Who better to promote ecumenicalism and
religious tolerance in the world than Freemasonry? Who better to pave the way
for a better understanding among different religious traditions than the
institution that has actually accomplished that for centuries? This is not
partisan politics or sectarian religion. This is being the moral leader in a
time of crisis. This is spreading the values of Freemasonry just as our
Masonic forefathers did in the formation of this nation.
American Freemasonry would rather withdraw within itself than risk the path of
greatness. The result will be continued Masonic stagnation and a general
misunderstanding of Freemasonry’s role and purpose by the general public.
Brotherhood” by Steven C. Bullock, pg.145