Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Be Prepared, Not Afraid

Okay, so I have to confess something, I'm a little intrigued by the new Dan Brown book about the Fraternity. Okay, I feel a whole lot better now. Obviously, I read many comments from brothers in newspapers, forums, and other fora who are not so happy nor appreciative of his book. Rumors and fearmongering seem to be the name of the game concerning our Craft's reaction to this book. I'd like to say just one, teensy-weensy little word, "STOP." Okay maybe a few more, "you're not helping."

This book is going to be huge, like five-million-copies-on-its-first-run huge. Obviously, if this book has any relation in topic or reference to Freemasonry, we are going to be affected for years. We won't know its actual impact until the novel hits the local mega-bookstore. Angered rhetoric might makes us feel better but it really doesn't matter in the aggregate, and here's why: we can complain about or fear the coming of this novel, but it's coming out, plain and simple.

Let's be frank: "The Lost Symbol" is being published, it's being published soon, and we're going to have to live with it. There will be a post-Dan Brown world and we, as Lodges and Masons, are going to have to live in that world. Sorry, we don't get to control the printing press, despite some Anti-Masonic belief to the contrary so we need to understand its impact and be ready for the deluge.

When I see or hear the annoyed comments from brothers, I feel like I've joined a tribe of sun-worshipers who are about to experience their first eclipse. There will be a sun once the excitement dies down and a new day will dawn. I can understand the frustration; we don't know what the story is about and we don't know how it will affect the Craft. Whether brothers want to accept it or not, it's coming.

For years, the numbers of brothers and relative interest in the Craft declined precipitously. We became irrelevant, a fixture of the past to be forgotten. Grand Lodges attempted anything to keep the numbers at a sustainable level through One-Day classes and simplified catechism but still the numbers dropped as Lodges were unable to find their groove. Then, through some miracle, the media began to take a second look at Freemasonry and we were once again in the spotlight.

Sadly, I think our collective response has been less than stellar. Interest was peeked but many Masons remained unable or unwilling to speak about the Craft leaving a hole to be filled by everyone else. This book offers us a second chance to be recognized and I'd like to not see us fail at this again. We need to be prepared for that day, and I believe we can, it's just going to take every Mason to do it.

My advice for everyone is that we plan for both the bad as well as the good press but most importantly, we need to prepare. Each brother needs to know how to explain what Masonry is, what Masonry means to them and what Masonry should mean to the general public. Each Master should be ready to have their local paper ask them a few questions. Each Lodge should be educating their members on what may and may not be discussed about Freemasonry. It won't matter how big or small the town is, this novel will affect everyone.

To sum up my advice, be prepared. We can all do this but we are going to need guidance and aforethought to give an effective and most importantly, coherent and cohesive answer to the questions and attention that we'll most likely endure because of this novel. If we play our cards correctly, Freemasonry may once again climb back to prominence.


A.C. said...

I definitely agree that we should all be prepared to explain what Freemasonry is, and speak rationally and intelligently to criticisms and misperceptions that may (or may not) arise because of this book and the sensationalist drek put out by the Discovery channel et al. The exposure could be good... but only if we're willing to step up and firmly reject any ridiculous fictions that people may be inclined to accept as fact (which they certainly will, based on the aftermath of The Da Vinci Code.)

But I won't apologize for being among the irked... it's less to do with a perceived injury to the fraternity than it is to overall weariness of our shallow, too-lazy-to-fact-check culture. It's the same visceral reaction I get when I try to watch TV news; I feel like I'm losing brain cells.

Anonymous said...

Personally I'm optimistic. Things that don't grow or change are dead or dying. While the landmarks of Masonry may remain the same, outer change is a must for survival.

We don't know how Dan Brown's book will impact the Craft, but intelligently benefiting from it seems best.

The mysteries of Freemasonry fascinate people, but only when they hear something of them--even hearsay.

Masonry must learn a lesson from the symbol of water. Though it is completely flexible it cannot be broken. Being the weakest thing it still can wear down a mountain able to fit in any shape it finds itself in.

Let us look for the good and respond with optimism, flexibility and intelligence!

David Wells said...

I think we should have someone in the media who is a brother mason to propose questions that local lodges could be called by local media to answer after the book comes out. Help our lodge leaders be prepared for the questions that will or could come. Questions like:

So they say Freemasonry is a secret organization are you?
Like many groups we have organizational secrets, modes of recognition such as our handshakes, words so we may recognize another brother Mason as we say in the light as in the darkness, literally. These were not developed just for the fun of it, they were developed over time for reasons. Early operative Masons (those who practiced the trade of building the great building of Europe) were had learned the building trade skills used in the construction of cathedral and castles were given special or secret words only known to other tradesman so they could travel throughout the land to practice their trade freely, therefore the name Freemasons. During earlier wartimes in other countries many lodges and brethren had their lodges destroyed and property confiscated and destroyed as Freemasons are viewed as a threat to totalitarian and dictatorial regimes. Today we use words and signs and handshakes to identify one another and to remind ourselves we can once again become the targets of those who oppose a free government and a free people.

Do you prohibit those of different faiths from joining?
No we have members in our lodges locally, regionally or statewide who are Christian, Jewish & Catholic just to name a few. Our fraternity only requires a belief in God. I am a member of my lodge for fraternal fellowship & brotherhood; to explore how to make myself and others a better man by studying our Masonic ritual and exploring from an educational perspective what our symbols represent. I attend my church, temple or synagogue for a greater understand and search for my personal salvation. My salvation and grace come from my personal relationship I work on with God, my fraternal fellowship with brother Masons.

Do you allow only white males to join your lodge?
Most all Grand Lodges (Each state has its own Grand Lodge and governs it own jurisdiction) no longer discriminate based on race and culture. Like many organizations, both fraternal and otherwise in the past have discriminated against individuals for reasons that today we find blatantly wrong. Was it right then, we leave to antiquity but we continue to education ourselves and membership. Just like life we as individuals and organizations change and grow. That is what makes us human, at the same time always searching our past to take good men and make them better. That is what we do. Have we always been right, no, are we always searching for ways to make ourselves better, YES!

Who are your members? Are their any members of local government who are members of your lodge?

Our lodges consist of your neighbors, co-workers, and family members both present and past. We have everyone from governmental leaders in our ranks, to labors. That is what makes us unique, all men meet on the same level when we are in lodge and how we treat one another in our community and our life. No matter your occupation, your age you are no better than the next brother.

These are just a sample of some of the questions. Ask the hard questions; help formulate replies to these questions using bridging techniques of communication. You do not have to answer each question direct, although most of the above you can without any problem. How do you reframe the question? How to expand the question to inform the audience of what we do, not just what the interviewer has asked.

What are your questions? What do you think will be asked by your local media? Help us all be prepared to help our communities understand who we are, what we stand for in our towns, cities, shires and states.

Fearless said...

I think certain over-zealous brothers do not help by denying virtually everything possible about their past. For instance, the question of the possible Masonic geometry of the centre of Washington DC, which according to some reports may be big in "The Lost Symbol".

Now, Robert Cooper (Librarian & Curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland)is not only one of the most stalwart defenders of Freemasonry today, he probably knows more about the Craft than anyone else alive. Yet that brother not only acknowledges but proudly confirms the Masonic geography of the centre of Edinburgh, which was built just before Washington DC by the very same stonemason Scottish rite Freemasons who then built the White House!

Similarly, the new book The Lion and the Covenant makes a very good case for a Masonic geography of the old centre of Sydney, Australia,(on pages 266-268 and elsewhere). Sydney was founded in 1788.

Join the dots,worshipful brothers! Why be cute with the truth and deny the obvious, because of being fearful that "they" will think Freemasons were "all-powerful" in the past and therefore must be some kind of ongoing conspiracy. This kind of mealy-mouthed misrepresentation can only do harm to the Craft, because if "they" think you are lying over one issue they will assume you are lying in general. Remember that it says somewhere important that the truth shall set you free.