Tuesday, January 6, 2009

4th Response To Preventing Lodge Closures

Read the original post on The Beehive here.
Read the 1st Response here.
Read the 2nd Response here.
Read the 3rd Response here.

STOP. This is a series that builds on each new post. Make sure you have read past posts before proceeding.

As usual you can see in this back and forth debate the schism that divides Palmetto Bug and Squire Bentley. The former sees everything Grand Lodge does as the law, the final say and the righteous course. This view fails to take into consideration Masonic politics. The utopian picture painted by Palmetto Bug is just that, a scenario where majority rules and everything has been democratically decided. It is a rosy picture that has no relation to reality. I will remind you that Hitler was elected also.

The same reasoning has led many others to constantly say to me as I criticize Grand Lodge, “Fred if you don’t like the way things are being operated, run for office, work the system.” And my reply is as soon as those in power see that you are a reformer they will slam all doors in your face. You will never get appointed District Deputy or on any Grand Lodge Committee, necessary stepping stones to climb the Grand Lodge ladder.

Besides I shouldn’t have to become Grand Master to see my Grand Lodge do the right thing. If you look at Grand Lodges today with glasses on that show what is real not that which is theory, you will see that most Grand Lodges are ruled by a tight knit Oligarchy.

How is all this helping this poor Lodge that is in financial distress? Well the first thing you have to do is get by the premise that Grand Lodge can do no wrong. Gosh, I don’t even think the US government can do no wrong. You have to look at a problem and explore all possibilities. You have to lay all the cards on the table and say nothing is impossible.

My problem with the “Traditionalist” point of view as represented by Palmetto Bug is that it comes to the table with preconceived notions of how things must be done. Traditionalists are only willing to discuss solutions to a problem that match their view of how Freemasonry should operate. They come to a problem solving meeting with the “law” in their hands and foremost in their minds. They view every proposal to see if it fits into how Freemasonry has traditionally operated, thus they get the tag “Traditionalists.” Their approach to Masonic problem solving is always governed by what the by-laws, rules and regulations of their Grand Lodge say, which they carry with them as their Bible. They are the modern version of the Sadducees and Pharisees of Christ’s time.

This way of thinking automatically rules out any other course of action than narrowly prescribed in the “Book of C’ants”, which is what Grand Lodge by-laws, rules and regulations really are. But what about the can dos? In reality what is being said by the Traditionalists is that we can’t think outside the box (they have us boxed in). And if we do Traditionalists will tell us that we are heretical and unmasonic. But I maintain that we can’t solve problems this way. If we can’t consider all possibilities as possible then we are doomed before we start.

When we come together to try to fix what is broken we often are immersed in Conflict Resolution. If the Grand Master in question here was willing to sit down at the table and negotiate in good faith then perhaps all might come to some sort solution. But the problem is Grand Masters don’t negotiate and thereby lies the problem. There is no give and take, only the ax. Grand Masters refuse to make concessions. We wouldn’t allow such behavior in a labor-management dispute. And a ballplayer’s contract would never get signed if there was no true negotiation.

So what support are Grand Lodges offering to their chartered Lodges who are in serious trouble? Let me think. Now what Grand Lodge has had the vision in these tough economic times to see the need to plan ahead for a depression, a total economic meltdown? Besides marketing Masonry and trying to make Masons as fast as they can, what have USA Grand Lodges done to prepare for a disaster? Personally, if you were faced with the report of an oncoming hurricane would you not be making some preparations? I can’t think of one thing that any American Grand Lodge has publicized as guidelines, helping tools or a disaster preparation plan.

And this is one area Palmetto Bug and I see eye to eye on. We are in an economic recession. Personally I see us headed for a depression. I think that the stock market decline is only 50% of what it will end up bottoming out as. I see unemployment doubling and perhaps rising to 10%. I see American auto manufacturers either filing for bankruptcy or reducing their production and workforce by 2/3. I see many Masons not paying their dues or demiting.

Masonic Traveler has provided some interesting insight into Masonic membership during the last depression in 1929. Click here. What he has done is chart Masonic membership decline from 1959 to the present noting that for each decade there was an average of a 20% decline in membership. He also has shown an unusually large decline before this period in the 1929-1939 decade where membership dropped by 24%. I would think that decline might be attributed to America’s biggest and worse depression ever. So if terrible economic times does have an effect on membership then will we not experience the same today? If you couple a 24% economic depression effect with a 20% regular decline as evidenced in the last four decades, we could be looking at the Obama decade with a 44% loss of Masonic membership. Is not this possibility worth some planning ahead? Or are we just going to sit and wait for the tsunami to hit, because you see this is exactly what this fictional Lodge did. It just did nothing in the face of disaster. And if there is anything Palmetto Bug and I would like to do is to raise awareness of the seriousness of this issue.

So let’s get down to what can be done and what could have been done in our fictional Lodge’s case. Both Palmetto Bug and I along with Masonic Traveler would really like to see some sort of preparation and planning being made no matter what your point of view is or where you lie on the conservative/liberal Masonic spectrum.

I maintain that the fictional Lodge in question was backed into a corner with a lose/lose choice of action. No matter what they did at this point it was going to be a no win scenario. Palmetto Bug says the Lodge waited too long. And I say that that this is what Grand Lodges and Lodges across the USA are all doing right now. Freemasonry today should be in an emergency preparedness mode. Anybody see that anywhere? It’s human nature to be lazy and very easy to sit around and do nothing. And yes I agree a building is not a Lodge and a house of worship is not a church, but if you have a beautifully crafted building with much historical tradition who would want to practice their Masonry or worship elsewhere? In time a building becomes Holy ground and a historically protect treasure.

There is no reason that Masons across the country have to roll over and play dead. There is time to act and to pull our horns in as many businesses are doing also. There is time to hunker down and watch every penny and cut expenses as many, many families are doing right now. Why should Freemasonry be different? Here are some suggestions.

LODGES

1) Get together at your business meeting with this topic as your primary focus. Publicize the urgency and the necessity of having everybody on board in your Lodge Bulletin, Newsletter or Summons.
2) Pare down the budget. Eliminate luxurious expenditures immediately, especially Lodge supported social functions. Ask your membership for some special contributions now while they still have some money.
3) Consider a temporary District plan whereby only one Lodge in the District is used and all others are closed with heat/AC and all utilities shut off.
4) Cut out all charitable and community action programs immediately
5) Ask your Grand Lodge to forgive any Grand Lodge fees and payments until normalcy returns.
6) If you must stay open look for tenants who could pay you rent.
7) If your building is mortgage free consider taking out a loan via a short term mortgage. If you have a mortgage talk to the Bank or mortgage company about renegotiating your terms of payment.
8) Ask your city or town to relax any standards of outside upkeep so you can stop landscaping and snow removal services.
9) Renegotiate the insurance policy on your building, especially if it is temporarily closed.
10) If your Lodge is not on a tax exempt basis do what is necessary to institute that ASAP.

GRAND LODGES

1) Stop restricting local Lodges on who they can rent their building to. There is no harm in renting space to women’s Masonry, Co-Masonry, Prince Hall, GOUSA, Knights of Columbus, Sons of Italy, Franco-Americans, Knights of Pythias, churches, Temples, mosques, or most commercial enterprises.
2) Allow alcohol in the Masonic building to be a decision of each local Lodge as it sees fit. This Masonic Prohibition is really a corruption of Masonry whereby men’s personal religious belief has been codified by Masonry. The rest of the Masonic world has no problem with cocktails at the festive board.
3) Arrange for your whole jurisdiction to operate as a tax exempt organization
4) Negotiate a jurisdiction wide group insurance rate for all chartered Lodges.
5) Consider direct financial aid to those in most serious trouble and/or long term loans with Grand Lodge as the banker.
6) Instruct and send out your District Deputies with information and aid packets to all Districts. Call for District meetings to meet the problem head on.
7) Stop all Grand Lodge charities immediately. From now on your biggest charity is your chartered Lodges.
8) Limit Grand Lodge travel.

1 comment:

2 BOWL CAIN said...

"When any government, or any church(Grand Lodge or Grand Master) for that matter , undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives."
-- Robert Heinlein