There is an article written by a Texas Mason that went viral and is discussed, dismissed and “fought” in all the Masonic forums and groups in North America. While the author is very careful to not attach any emotional comment to his findings, and even stated clearly he wasn’t judging only presenting the fact about the dwindling numbers of Freemasonry in America – all hell broke loose.
His article presented visual graphs showing the changes in numbers of Freemasons across America since 1959. And finally, looking at the general trend, the article presented a ‘projection’ (an otherwise valid tool for analyzing data) according to which the membership will collapse; i.e. Freemasonry is dying – this was the title, by Brother Lance Kennedy1.
While the title may sound controversial and definitely touches a nerve with present-day Masons, the analysis presented is not far-fetched: based on a 50-60 years time period it is logical to conclude the continuation of the trend, provided nothing happens to stop it or reverse it.
Generally, the reactions on the world wide web and social media can be put in three main groups, and interestingly (or maybe not) the reactions didn’t differ much in the USA and Canada.
Group A – These Masons consider the whole article bullshit (BS), and putting their head in the sand, dismiss any findings. Lies, negativism, fake news – these are the charges brought against the author.
Group B – NIMBY. Which means Not in My Backyard. Admitting that such an issue of decreasing numbers might be of concern in other lodges, other districts or other jurisdictions… they bring anecdotal evidence that is not happening in their own “backyard”. We initiated last year X number of new Masons…
Group C – the tiny group that would like to face the facts and to have a meaningful discussion about the causes, the possible remedies, the outlook and the inevitable changes that come with the changing times. Unfortunately, they are the minority everywhere…
A. The first is the worst group – despite their conviction that they act to “defend” Masonry against the negative thinkers. They are the most dangerous as well, not just based on the sheer numbers (i.e. being the majority in any lodge and jurisdiction) but because they represent en bloc all the issues today’s Freemasonry is suffering from:
1) lack of education
2) fear of being called the elite of the society
3) lack of ‘freethinker traditions’
4) literal belief in legends from movies, fictional books, pseudo-history
5) keeping dues artificially low, too low in order to make it ‘affordable’ for everyone
While we pride ourselves by enlisting all the historical celebrities from prime ministers, governors, army commanders to philosophers, scientists and poets… we almost get offended, if someone wants to see the Craft as the gathering place of today’s elite. None of these members is and will ever be able to mentor and educate new members… and even worse, if we let them do it, they will perpetuate this sad state of the Craft.
B. This group is always looking at it from the narrowest perspective: if it doesn’t happen in my lodge, it doesn’t exist. We are initiating a lot of young men. Our lodge is thriving… Even if the Ontario Grand Lodge lost 2022 members in the past year, bringing it up one is considered a negativist. The Craft is doing fine…
While the lodge members are claiming that they have so many candidates they need even emergent meeting because the monthly one meeting is not enough to initiate all those at the West Gate – the same lodge is not able to present an officers line of MMs [without recycling PMs] for years.
C. The last tiny group doesn’t have much chance to be heard because it is small by numbers and it is not into violent word exchange but prefers the calm, rational dialogue and discussion.
Only a few commenters looked at the data itself. Without any comments, see it for yourself!
Yes, we can debate about the we way read and interpret the data. We can argue about the causes and historical influences on the changing membership numbers. We can do many things… Except pretending that it is not happening!
I am not even saying that the dwindling numbers are necessarily a bad thing. Who knows, maybe it is necessary to reshape Freemasonry in the 21st century’s context. Personally, I think it is the latter but ultimately it will be the Craft, the coming younger members that will define how to deal with these changes. I hope their wisdom will be up to the task!
Post your thoughts below!