Monday, March 9, 2015

Defending Shrine

So, this is going to get a little weird but that's cool. I'm going to defend Shrine. I know, I know, Hipster Mason Nick should be all, "nah, man, Shrine is like so not cool. Yeah." I am not a member of Shrine but I may join them one day. In fact, I donate to the hospitals every year. Why is there so much animosity towards Shrine? Here is my theory: they are the single biggest men's only organization within our Craft. They are the behemoth, the leviathan.

The Shrine does serve a purpose, not only through its charitable endeavors but also, and this is my frank opinion, they serve as the fraternal aspect that so many Lodges seem unable or worse yet, unwilling to take part. Freemasonry is, first and foremost, a fraternity. Yes, it's true that we teach our brothers lessons that are good to improve their moral character but without the brethren, a Mason can never truly be made.

Freemasonry can, at times, be quite dour with many brothers having a rather navel gazing view of our Craft, seeking to make Freemasonry only about its spiritual lessons. Could you imagine how boring that would be, how skull-crushingly dull that is (maybe some of you could after reading the minutes for the second time in two hours). We have to remember that our Craft was developed and formalized in taverns and pubs. Let's have some fun once in a while.

Sadly, our Lodge rooms filled with the stodginess and boredom, looking to drive any sense of fun from the practice of speculative Masonry. Even today, we see the effects of community pressure and internal "dullification" from more than a century still within our Fraternity, such as our outdated policies on alcohol and doing business only on the third degree (thankfully, not a Minnesota thing anymore). We needed an organization that sought to bring back some of that fraternal spirit that had been wrung dry from Freemasonry.

Frankly, Shrine has done more things to move forward into the new century than any of the other organizations, save the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. The Shrine is on Twitter, it's on Facebook. It is highly engaged with its community.

So, what lessons can we pull from this? The most important one to me is that we, Freemasonry, need to allow for more festiveness within our Craft. Table lodges aren't enough. Some lodges get this. BBQs and the like. But so many lodges just come together, call the meeting open, blah, blah, blah for a couple of minutes, and then close and jump into cars to drive home. How about, instead, we actually enjoy each other's company?

We also need to be more engaging on social media. It's not that difficult. Start a Facebook page, start a Twitter. Become engaging.

I know that some of you will see this as a cop out. I see it as finding ways to improve our Craft using other examples within it. Get engaged and have some fun. I can't see anything wrong with that.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a demitted Shriner, I think that the Shrine would be better served if it a) opened membership to non-masons, and b) opened membership to women.

There's nothing remotely Masonic about crossing the Hot Sands (or crossing the Cold Sands). The philanthropy is overwhelmingly sponsored outside of Shrine dues (my annual dues were nearly $100, $5 of which went to support the Shrine Hospitals).

My Shrine Temple was overwhelmingly geared towards retired men, and barely knew how to accommodate younger men. Wives were present and most of the events I went to, and they were very active, so why not allow them to be Shriners? The surest way to alienate younger wives is to tell them that they have to volunteer to support a group they can't join.

Within the Shrine, the Royal Order of Jesters stays in the news with numerous drugs and prostitution scandals, some involving underage trafficked women. The Fraternity as a whole is tarred with that brush.

The Shrine's membership is plummeting, and soon they will not be able to afford to keep their Temples without radically re-thinking membership.

50-75 years ago, men wanted to be Shriners so badly that they were willing to become 32nd degree Masons or Knights Templar in order to join, as per the requirement at the time. When that enthusiasm lagged, the Scottish Rite started creating one-day classes, and took all the rigor and depth out of the Scottish Rite in order to make men Shriners, knowing that they'd keep paying dues as long as they wanted to remain Shriners. When the Shrine dropped the requirement, nobody in the Scottish Rite could remember what things were like before one-day classes, and tragically, many Scottish Rite Valleys have become, in effect, little more than humorless Shriners.

The damage to Freemasonry is done. I've always felt that the Shrine served the useful function of luring away from Blue Lodge attendance those who might not be suited to it anyway. I'm not sure that's going to give the Shrine a future it wouldn't already have.

Anonymous said...

To Bro. Anonymous above, I agree with you. I will say, however, that some SR Valleys, my own specifically, are holding strong to integrity as best we can, and making moves to improve even more so, for the sake of our mysteries, and the quality of our brethren. But, you pretty much nailed it…now let's make the changes that need to be made.


Anonymous said...

Randy Clark said...

While I appreciate the insight, look elsewhere than the Shrine. I joined the Shrine after 20+ years as a Mason (and an active one ait that). And now, after paying two years of dues, I am going to be suspended this year NPD. The Shrine purports to be what you write here - and perhaps in some places is - but I find nothing there for me. And it has little interest in me I have found...

Arius said...

I think it is well-accepted, at least in MN, that the Shrine is one thing on paper and another in practice. The first comment nails it. A social media presence and engaging the community are elements of Shrine, no doubt. But you fail to connect why we should all redirect hours of our time away from our Lodges to the Shrine to find what you claim is missing in Craft Masonry.

Perhaps put your money where your mouth is and join the Shrine, vs. providing your blessings based on anecdotes and generalizations about both the Shrine and the Craft.

Not one of your better posts-- just a shallow endorsement of the Shrine and some well-worn criticisms of the Lodge as "not social enough."

Millennial Freemason said...

I get that. I do think that lodges still suffer from a temperance movement worldview. Personally, I'd like to see more feasting and maybe the best step would be to shutter Shrine or split it so that, as you say, we can avoid "redirect[ing] hours of our time away from our Lodges." I think that is a fair point.


Matt Johnson said...

Good post. I am one of those "Harry Potter" Masons as one fellow called me once. I know the Masons word and I have second sight,etc. It is BECAUSE of my in depth search for truth that I believe the Shrine is fantastic. The laughing Buddha. The Jesus whose first miracle was to make really good wine. The Shrine is good times and helping children. The end result of contemplating one's navel should result in profound love for one's fellow humans and a light heartedness. The Shrine is THAT. I will continue with my esoteric pursuits, but I too may someday join the Shrine. A Chamber of Reflection is good, but eventually you should leave it and go DO SOMETHING. And enjoy this beautiful world. My two cents.