On January 8th, the Grand Master of North Carolina issued a statement speaking against (in his words) the “domestic terror attack on the United States Capitol building”. The full text of that statement can be found here. On January 10th, the Grand Master of Wisconsin issued a similar statement.
The specifics of the Capitol insurrection have been talked to death in other forums, including on the Winding Stairs on Facebook, I won’t go into that again; Bro. Hodapp’s overview in the North Carolina article was quite well done.
The events of last year were not so much an isolated package of trouble, but a part of an era we’re going through. We’ve covered previously on this blog the social divisiveness problem, the “fake news” phenomenon, the possible future of Freemasonry, and the BLM movement.
In times of upheaval, what I’ve seen in past history is that existing trends simply tend to accelerate. At all times, society has various contradictions and frictions inside of it, whether economic inequality, political strife, or even war. And at all times, society is changing and transforming towards what it will be in the future. When acute crises come about like pandemics and insurrections, this tends to act as an accelerant for the existing changes already happening.
Crises are similar in dynamic to an earthquake. Tectonic pressure builds up between earth plates, storing up energy. The way the energy is released is through the earthquake. The quaking is when people take notice of what’s been happening, and the quake does not change the direction of the plates, it hastens them, all at a moment.
What’s Next for Freemasonry
I have no crystal ball, this is just one man’s opinion. But we are living in a time period with generational attrition from the fraternity, at the same time as a renewed focus on education and meaning by younger masons. Large bodies such as the Scottish Rite increasingly find themselves in a challenging position. Older lodges are consolidating, and buildings are being sold and demolished as the structure of the craft no longer supports so many of them. This is not all bad, and it is not the doom of the fraternity, but it is a profound transformation.
Here’s how you know it’s getting really bad. A Grand Master writes this, without naming individual organizations:
Masons who believe in the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth cannot in clear conscience belong to any organization that teaches hate and supremacy of one person over another because of color, nationality, and religious beliefs. These organizations are in direct conflict with what we as Masons hold dear. It cannot be possible to hold membership in one of those subversive organizations and still be a Mason.
In the context of that picture, Bro. Hodapp writes the following (emphasis added by me):
It’s probably irrational to believe that Freemasonry as a philosophy can successfully calm and subdue the passions of all of her members during this time of upheaval and 24-hour rage-making stoked by opportunistic activists, basement revolutionaries, keyboard warriors, politicians and media figures. Enforced isolation from the COVID shutdowns has prevented us from meeting face to face, Brother to Brother, for nine months now. But it certainly has no possible hope of succeeding with Masons who would rather quit than learn to coexist with their Brethren over politics. The COVID aftermath will certainly exact a dramatic toll on the fraternity from Masons who decide to drop their membership out of ennui caused by the shutdowns. Let’s all hope that political strife and disagreements between Masons over transitory elections don’t do even worse.Freemasons for Dummies Blog
My best guess is that Bro. Hodapp is right. Successive crises will tend to accelerate those trends in the paragraph above. Demits, lodge consolidation, dis-engagement, cynicism. Pandemic separation and increasing COVID rates will tend to keep lodge members away from one another temporarily. So a lot of things are defining in the sense that they won’t happen. Social unity, lots of time spent together — those things won’t happen. So then, the future fraternity will be defined by what actually does happen, and my bet is the emergence of a more focused and much smaller fraternity.
I hope to devote a good part of my 2021 to creating the things I want to see in Freemasonry: education, meaningful relationships, my lodge’s growth, and personal growth. For as much doom and gloom is out there, the path to doing these things in my local context is quite clear and open, so that’s where I’ll place my focus. That’s what will happen, at least in my local context and it can in yours too.
As a final thought, when engaging with other Masons online about divisive topics, try to simply bear in mind that we have all been trapped in the same washing machine during 2020. We all reacted differently to the events, but whether we like it or not they affected us. I find that when I read the worst of the comments between brothers online and think about them more in the context of a person making sense of a world that doesn’t make sense, it’s easier to engage in a brotherly way.
UPDATE: January 14th, 2021: Kevin Homan’s post on this topic is also a worthwhile read if you would like to get another perspective.