I am proud to be a Mason, a member of this ancient Fraternity. I was never in a Fraternity in college and I am fairly certain that I would not have joined one even if I had had the opportunity. The reason I bring up this topic is that I heard a very interesting statement about College Fraternities and Sororities. I was listening to old shows of the "In the Stream" with T.D. Mischke. The reporter that Mischke calls in the middle of show said something rather profound. The statement paraphrased was, “No, I didn’t join a Sorority because I didn’t think that I needed to pay to make friends; I can do that on my own.”
I had never heard fraternities or sororities explained this way. When we join Freemasonry, are we really just paying dues to make friends? What are we offering to our brethren except a chance to wear a square and compass ring?
In college, I never joined a fraternity for two reasons. One, there were no fraternities on campus but also, two, I never wanted to join one in the first place. I enjoyed dorm life in all my years in college. I’m not trying to insult college Fraternities as I think they serve a need on campus but they were never for me.
When I first joined Freemasonry, I really knew nothing of the Fraternity. Frankly, all that I knew was that I had Masonic roots extending from both my grandfathers. I already had my group of friends that was not connected to Masonry in any way, shape, or form. I was looking for something different, a new experience to help me grow as a person.
Masonry is a lifelong study in self-improvement, a place to meet men of different points of view or belief systems, and a time for reflection on the duty to serve. If we are to be a great society, we must understand that we are not buying into friendship. Sure, we make new friends while in Lodge but that is only one aspect of Masonry, we also learn to improve ourselves and our world around us. I would say that Masonry is one part college fraternity and one part college course.
In terms of making friends, Freemasonry is very good at bring men of very different views together to do great works. Frankly, I would have never met many of the brothers of my Lodge because I do not share a particular political belief or a certain religious faith. Yet, we can all come together, put all of those differences aside, and be friends, nay more, brothers, dedicated to helping each others’ families. This transformation from unknown person to related brother is beautiful. Masonry is not just about one’s self but it is also not only about making friends and living a communal existence; it is about forming each one of us into a better man through the lessons imparted in our ritual and teachings.
Sadly, I think some Lodges have begun to view their members as merely dues payers, like a hungry cartoon character on a deserted island imagining his friend’s head is a hamburger. Instead, we should be asking members why they’re not coming to meeting and what we need to do for them. Only then can we be more than just a group of guys paying to be friends.