Monday, January 26, 2015

How Awful and Repugnant it is...

I've been working in the digital quarries for a long time. It's been fun and rewarding at times and frustrating and infuriating as hell at times. We can all, each Mason from the early to mid 2000's, remember the controversies and crazy news of that era. Grand Orients being formed in the US, high profile embarrassing cases, and even crazier crazies on our Masonic forums. Then the crash hit and it was fairly obvious to me that a lot of the air was let out of the bag. Why focus on the troubles of Freemasonry when there was trouble in the home. Yet, in all difficult situations, there was a silver lining. The rancor and derision seemingly disappeared.

Well, I'm sad to report that the trolling is back. What's even stranger is that the new battleground is Facebook. I'm still not sure what to make of this. Ya see, ya young pups, back in the Masonic forum and blogging days, no one needed to have their name attached to their comments. We had more secret identities than the DC universe. People would create anonymous blogs, post their rantings, and then fly off into the night, creating nothing of any real value.

Now, we have Masonic Facebook groups, where brothers engage in discussions. Most of them are idiotic or inane: points in or out, eww... gurl Masons, why are you posting architectural pics on a Masonic Facebook group? Some get down right offensive, with racial slurs being used. And these guys are supposed to be Masons!

What shocks me even more is that these guys are using their Facebook name when making these statements. Literally, I have a face to go along with the guy complaining about having to sit in lodge with a brother who is black. 

We are supposed to be dispensers of light and truth but almost every Facebook forum, from All Things Masonic (one of the worst) to Masonic World Wide (Not as bad) has a huge number of trolls, unafraid to attach their reputation to vile statements. It's just strange to me.

Courtesy of Tom A.
Strangely enough, the best Masonic forum still remains /r/freemasonry. (Full disclosure I'm a mod there) What's strange about Reddit is that anonymity is part of the game. Reddit feels more like a community. We are there to share our lives and our interests in the Fraternity. If you want to attach where you're from, you add some flair stating that. If you have something to say that may get you in trouble but still needs to be said, create a throwaway account. Sure, things get heated at times but not really. So often, an argument will end with a bro hug and a well wish to come visit his lodge.

Tom A. makes the point that, since Reddit skews younger, we don't have the same set in cement attitudes as found in other places. I tend to agree. For young men, Masonry represents a community. It's not just a navel gazing endeavor of individual pursuit, where you get the secrets from someone else and lock them away. Masonry represents the working of everyone's stone. Reddit provides that experience.

If you haven't tried Reddit or have visited /r/freemasonry, you really ought to. And not only the main Freemasonry subreddit but also visit /r/yorkrite, /r/scottishrite, /r/afterlodge, /r/Masonicdadjokes, /r/shriners, and /r/Demolay. All of these sub offer a community with little rancor but lots of light (and a ton of memes... but only on Monday.)

What do you think? Has Facebook Masonry turned you off to e-Masonry? Leave a comment below.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Would This Pronouncement Still Be Acceptable Today?

Let me start by saying that I am not a Scottish Rite Mason. I've been interested in joining but I just have not found the time. However, I was fortunate to get my hands on a copy of the History of the Scottish Rite of Minnesota: 1856 to 2001, which can now be found on the Orient of Minnesota's website.

The History of the Scottish Rite of Minnesota has a lot of great information concerning not just Minnesota Scottish Rite but Minnesota Masonry. As I was reading the book, I arrived at this curious statement.

The Scottish Rite, between the two world wars, published the following policies of the Supreme Council (no longer in force). These were reprinted in the Oct. 1927 Scottish Rite Sun.

The Supreme Council has always favored free public education, the use of English as the language of instruction, the separation of church and state and the inculcation of patriotism in the schools. Additionally the Supreme Council favors:
  1. A federal department of education with a secretary in the President's cabinet.
  2. A national university at Washington, supported by the government.
  3. The compulsory use of English as the language of instruction in the grammar grades.
  4. Adequate provision for the education of the alien population, not only in cultural and vocational subjects, but especially in the principles of American institutions and popular sovereignty.
  5. The entire separation of church and state and opposition to every attempt to appropriate public moneys, directly or indirectly, for the support of sectarian institutions.
  6. The American public school, non-partisan, non-sectarian, efficient, democratic, for all the children of all the people; equal educational opportunities for all.
  7. The inculcation of patriotism, love of the flag, respect for law and order and underlying loyalty to constitutional government.
Obviously, this list is out of date but I find this list to be curious in our modern context. From my perspective, the list shows a desire by an organization to affect public life in a positive way. I sometimes wonder if we need a better enumerated, more concrete explanation of what we want to see in the world.

My question for all the Scottish Rite Masons, do you agree with most or all of this list? Leave a comment below.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Masonry Around the Dinner Table

I have been delving deeper into my faith lately. I have begun to attend church regularly. I've even done extensive research into the various different traditions found within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. During my meanderings online, I arrived at a very novel concept for a church, the Dinner Church. The church I am referring to is St. Lydia's in Brooklyn.

Each Sunday, at dinnertime, the congregants of St. Lydia's come together around a dinner table as the participate in a religious observance from the earliest days of Christianity, the agape feast. They sing songs and participate in Holy Communion as well as to share blessings and joy with each other. It is worship around the table.

Alright, usual disclaimer, Masonry is not a religion. Now that that is out of the way, I was thinking about this idea, Masonry around the dinner table. This isn't new. In fact, Masonry was performed in conjunction with food. We can read in old exposes the brothers rearranging the floor for degree work by moving tables out of the way, points in the expose when the stewards would refill tankards and places where the meal would be served. The first Grand Lodge was founded so that the Masons of London could get together to eat, drink, and be merry. Masonry and conviviality were nearly synonymous terms.

St. Lydia's approach, of sharing a meal and worshiping, is really intriguing to me, both as a Lutheran and as a Mason. My lodge, during my year, had two table lodge/Entered Apprentice degrees. It was incredible. The tl;dr, if you don't want to reread that post, was that we held a meal during the degree work. Here, in Minnesota, we have a program that allows for this. But why does it only need to be for degrees? Why can't we have a dinner in conjunction with every lodge meeting? Why do we separate the two?

Think about it for a second. Instead of stations and places, instead of a huge open space where everyone is a yards away from each other, we sit shoulder to shoulder, passing around food and drink, sharing in fraternalism in close proximity. The ritual can be done in this manner, was done in this manner, and, I'm gonna say it, should be done in this manner.

Too often, we see Masonry as this experience that is dry and boring. Minutes are read and business done. We may have a paper and we may even have a guest speaker. But all of these, every single one, is passive. We listen, we sit, we listen again, we close. We may as well have the lodge arranged as a high school classroom and issue hall passes. It doesn't have to be this way.

Imagine instead a lodge room, tables set out with food and refreshments. The officers arranged as we do now but at a table, on the same level. We open, we dine, we discuss, we close. Two hours of food and fun, enlightened discussions and fond farewells, as the Tyler's Toast is delivered and we all sing Auld Lang Syne. You like that, don't you? So do I.

We don't need to separate dining and lodge. We can do both simultaneously. This can be all one experience. Masonry is designed to bring us together. That's its stated purpose. We can bring our Craft back to its roots in a meaningful way, seeing each other as brothers, sharing our food, and sharing our time. Let's shake off the mundane and bring on the new; lodge as an experience instead of a lodge as drudgery. This can happen. This is possible. And this can be fun. Let's continue to build Masonry up, and have fun along the way. Let's eat, drink, and be merry, just like our speculative brothers did more than 300 years ago.

What do you think? Should the meal and the meeting be combined? Leave a comment below.