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Thursday, February 27, 2020

SRRS Plumbline: The Future of Freemasonry

The Winter 2019 issue of The Plumbline arrived today from the Scottish Rite Research Society, and if you're a member and you missed opening it up, I highly recommend rescuing this one from under your stack of window replacement ads, political PAC begging letters and sweater catalogues. The latest issue features a long essay by Brother Angel Millar: The Future of Freemasonry: Who We Are and What We Have To Offer.

In six pages, Brother Millar encapsulates a whole raft of topics and articles I've been posting about for three years now concerning the current social, economic and emotional issues facing men in American (and Western) society, and the generational changes over the last decades that are all having a transformative effect on our fraternity. 

We don't exist in a vacuum, and what happens in the world around us has good and bad transformational effects on our lodges and the men in them. The longstanding bonds that passed the traditions of Freemasonry from one generation to the next have almost all been shattered in the last 50 years. Diminishing male role models, single mother households, fewer (if any) siblings, the decline of religious worship and its related group activities, and the rise of the nebulous "I'm spiritual, not religious" mindset are all having measurable repercussions for us. Angel covers a lot of ground in this essay, and especially cites recent, vital survey results by Jon Ruark about attitudes of our members.

For two decades I've been weary with Masons who only want to proclaim, "Ya know what's WRONG with this fraternity...?" Those types of articles and speeches have little more value than the average barstool philosopher. That's not what this is. Angel is not trying to do an autopsy on a dead organization. The rest of the article discusses the new wave of bottom-up changes being made in local lodges that are reinvigorating — and redefining — Masonic education, and driving the evolution of the fraternity at the grassroots level. He spends time especially discussing the MasoniCon concept pioneered by Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and notes its growing numbers of imitators. He also discusses a New York program, 'Brothers For Brothers,' that teaches the basic life skills to new generations who haven't otherwise had the opportunity to learn them before: communication, public speaking, personal grooming and sartorial care, professional development — all are confidence-building skills that used to be passed from father to son, but rarely are anymore. 

Freemasonry started out as a fraternity of gentleman with the aim of educating and improving a growing class of rough and rugged middle-class men - making those good men into better ones by example and education. We have that very same mission today, and society needs us just as much as it did in London in 1717, or western Kentucky in 1800, or California in 1849.

If you are a lodge officer, a grand lodge officer, or are on a grand lodge committee in your jurisdiction, this article needs to be at the top of your reading list. In fact, I highly recommend that all SRRS members make copies of the entire issue and circulate it to every grand lodge officer you can find.  You might even consider asking permission to reprint it in your state's Masonic magazine.

Yes, it's that important.

If you're not a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, the Plumbline is their excellent quarterly publication of papers and articles, edited by Adam Kendall. This is in addition to the annual collection of Heredom, AND their annual bonus book or publication. It's truly the greatest value in the entire Masonic research world.

Additional reading from this site on these topics:

Robert Putnam's seminal study of the decline in social capital since the 1950s that is cited in countless articles, Bowling Alone, was released twenty years ago, yet it seems that frustrated Masonic leaders just keep freshly discovering it year after year. 

Putnam is releasing a new, updated edition of the book in June of this year: Bowling Alone: Revised and Updated: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. 

It is available for pre-order now.

Two good starting references for recent examinations of the post-Bowling Alone era breakdown in social capital and the current results on U.S. society are Charles Murray's Coming Apart, and Timothy Carney's Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse. There are many more, but these are good beginnings.

And every Masonic leader needs to be conversant with the General Social Survey, taken since 1972, which is the baseline study for almost anyone with an interest in studying the attitudes and activities of Americans.


1 comment:

  1. It's important to acknowledge that there is no single reason for the decline. However, there are so many ways to support charities, and so many social outlets, that emphasis on them as an answer is an unlikely way forward.Nor is the notion that as a restorer of manly values are we likely to attract the numbers needed to even sustain our diminished presence.


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