Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Dan Brown Effect Part II: What Next?

After posting my editorial from The Journal of the Masonic Society last month on the coming Dan Brown Effect, the next question is, "Be prepared, HOW?"

The next step is to make a plan of action. Start by figuring out your elevator speech about what Freemasonry is. Here's mine:

"Freemasonry is the world’s largest, oldest, and best-known gentleman’s fraternal organization. Mythically descended from the builders of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, Freemasonry is believed to have developed from the craft guilds of European stonemasons who built castles and cathedrals during the Middle Ages. Modern Masonry uses the tools, symbols and terminology of the medieval masons as an allegory for building temples in the hearts of men."



Next, start getting your lodge ready.
  • Read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol quickly after it is released. Be armed with the knowledge of what's in it.
  • Know what to say when someone asks you who and what the Freemasons are. Remember that YOU are someone's image of Freemasonry. And for heaven's sake, as my friend John Liley has said, "Don't tell them what a Shriner is when they ask you who the Masons are."
  • Begin now to paint, clean, repair and redecorate your lodge. If it is a tumbledown disgrace, no one will knock on your door.
  • Make sure your lodge has a website, and that it is up to date. Announcing your 1998 bean supper and euchre night will have exactly the opposite effect of what you are probably hoping for.
  • Likewise, make sure there is signage on your lodge building directing people either to your website or to a phone contact, along with stating the nights and times of your regular meetings. How can a man ask to join if he doesn't know who to ask?
  • Be sure to have someone in your lodge who can communicate well designated as your lodge spokesman, should the press come calling. It doesn't HAVE to be your WM or Secretary. He will be the public face of your lodge, so make sure he can speak well, think on their feet, and communicate accurate information. Newspapers and local TV stations will be calling lodges looking for their comments on The Lost Symbol, Freemasonry in general, and possibly on anti-Masonic topics. If your lodge doesn't have someone to fit the bill, tell the press to contact grand lodge.
  • Avoid cute answers like, "We have no secrets except a few funny handshakes." We DO have secrets, that can only be discovered by each individual as they progress through the degrees. We DO have secrets involving methods of recognition that allow one brother to recognize another in the darkness as well as the light. It's okay to keep the Craft mysterious. It is not a bad thing to say "I can't tell you that."
  • Men of all ages will be seeking truthful information, and in many cases will know more about the fraternity than many of our own members. Direct them to factual books and most important, tell them the truth, within the bounds of your obligation.
  • Avoid canned sloganeering like "We make good men better ones" or "2B1ASK1." Avoid canned statistics like "Freemasons give $3 million a day to charity." No we don't. (The bulk of that figure, $2.5 million a day, is income generated for the Shrine by its existing foundation, in case you ever wondered.) We are not a charity or a religion—we encourage men to be charitable and true to their own faith. We are not a community service group—we encourage men to be better servants to their communities. We're not a business network—we are a band of brothers.

Every single lodge is going to have an increase in petitioners as a result of "The Lost Symbol." Be aware of the ramifications of this increase.

  • Investigate each and every petitioner thoroughly. That does not mean asking "Does he have a pulse?" or "Did his check cash?" It DOES mean asking serious questions as to why he wants to join. The investigation committee is his first contact with your lodge. Handle it professionally. Be sure you know why he's joining, what he expects, and answer his questions as well. Do not let him be misled as to what Freemasonry is.
  • There is no rule that says every man who knocks on the door of your lodge should become a Mason, or a Mason at your lodge. If he's not suitable, turn him away. However, if he just isn't a good fit for your lodge, make it your job to find a lodge he would be happy in. Giving a man a bad experience before he joins or after he's a member creates a man who will badmouth the fraternity the rest of his life.
  • Haven't had much degree work lately? You will now! Start making sure NOW that your lodge is capable of putting on the very best ritual work possible. Don't like the idea of sending candidates to one day classes? NOBODY DOES. There's only one way to end one day classes. Find a way to put on the degrees PROPERLY in your own lodge. If you can't, band together with lodges in your area and create a degree team. HELP EACH OTHER. Visit back and forth, and form strong bonds with other lodges. It's a part of that brotherhood thing.

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