Just in time for the post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping season, too.
From The Telegraph (UK) comes the headline:
Its ‘secret’ handshakes and elaborate rituals have long been a mystery to outsiders, but the world of freemasonry is opening up by selling membership Gift Packs for people to give their loved ones for Christmas.
The Masonic Christmas Gift Pack costs £80 and includes a tour of the local Masonic Lodge, an invitation to meetings with masons, and – subject to approval by the local Lodge – a year’s membership to the group.
The British Federation of Co-Freemasonry described the pack, which is available until the end of December, as “truly a life-changing gift”.
Since I know that some brothers will be scandalized by the very idea, let me take a responsible opposing viewpoint on this.
Ignoring that this particular article is about Co-Masons in England (which we already know are not recognized by “mainstream” UGLE-recognized orders), maybe “holiday gift-packages” are just one more membership drive idea that we’ve been leading up to for the last few years.
Wait, “membership drive”? Freemasons don’t have membership drives; that’s almost as bad as recruiting… which we also don’t do.
In the US, there are already wide-spread and well-financed public relation campaigns to “raise awareness” about the fraternity. This includes things like the MasoniChip and various state-sponsored Child ID programs, advertising on radio, billboards, and producing very nice tie-in videos featuring Ben Franklin, Uncle George, etc., and sponsoring state-wide “open house” visiting hours, during which the lodge building is open to the public, with brothers on hand to act as tour guides.
We already have bumper stickers (and billboards) with “2B1, Ask1,” and various other slogans. We have taken very opportunity to reach out to the public, whether it’s through popular books (the Dummies and Idiot’s Guides are still popular selling items ), movies (From Hell, National Treasure, DaVinci Code), and television (History Channel, etc., specials on “Secrets of the Freemasons Exposed!”)
In many areas, the buildings are old, not well-maintained, and the membership can’t afford to renovate them. Once a month it seems that Chris Hodapp is bemoaning some beautiful old temple that is being sold or torn down because they can’t survive on the 38 active members that still show up. Shriners (who are now airing commercials looking for support for their excellent childrens hospitals) have long dropped the requirement that members need to be either a Knight Templar or a 32º Scottish Rite Mason, and are now open to Master Masons – and sometimes on the internet there surfaces rumors that they would like to open their doors to non-Masons.
We’ve seen 1-day degrees (“Mister to Master” or “Blue Lightning” festivals), and most of the Craft are exhorted to keep a few petitions with them in their car or briefcase so they always have one on hand to pass along.
So, a year’s gift membership to be a Freemason? I’ve had gift memberships to book clubs, wine clubs, record clubs, baked good clubs, and jelly of the month clubs. In light of what I’ve spelled out above (and other things that I might have missed), someone needs to explain just what’s so bad about a gift membership to one of the best “clubs” in the world.