|Pennsylvania Masonic Restoration|
So who are the Freemasons and why does Freemasonry exist? The answer is simple. We are a group of men who seek to elevate and ennoble our character so that we can be better citizens, workers and family members. Freemasonry exists as a structure of instruction and support to aid in accomplishing that great goal.
Freemasonry teaches a man to be charitable. Freemasonry teaches a man to be active in his community. Freemasonry teaches a man to provide and care for his family. Freemasonry helps a man to do these things and steps in with Brotherly aid when a member in unable to do these tasks on his own. Freemasonry does not do these things for a man or in place of his efforts. Freemasonry is not a charity. Freemasonry is not a social club. Freemasonry is not a day care center.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Freemasons working together within the fraternity to do charitable works, but those are secondary to Freemasonry's primary purpose. Anyone can give money to charity or volunteer to do charity work. There are scores of organizations based on doing charitable works and there would be no reason for a man to join Freemasonry simply to perform charity when he could do that more efficiently and at less cost by volunteering directly with a charitable organization.
The drive to redefine Freemasonry by its charity is a fool's errand. Requiring Lodges to turn themselves into the Kiwanis Club with aprons is pointless. Why take a man away from his job, family or community service he normally provides and force him to do a charity in the name of the Lodge simply for publicity? That contradicts the fundamental teachings of Freemasonry and places an unnecessary burden on the members. Charity is something a Freemason does by choice, not by mandate.
Opening our installations is also a poor attempt at publicity. The members have earned the right to be present at those events and it diminishes their membership by making it meaningless and equal to a stranger off the street. Further, it strips Freemasonry of its mystery and thereby eliminates one of its greatest draws. The installation of officers is a part of the workings of a Lodge, not a side show for public entertainment.
Reducing the dress requirements for Freemasons to make it look 'more hip' is also a pointless action. What does it say to the man who petitions a lodge that his new Brothers couldn't be bothered to dress nicely when he was admitted into the Craft? What does it tell him about the level of respect for Freemasonry those Brothers hold? What does it tell him about the level of respect those Brothers have for him? If wearing a tie is reason why a Brother stays away from meetings, then the problem is not the tie but rather that a Brother feels that the Lodge offers nothing worth even a minor inconvenience. You can't fix a Lodge that is held in that low regard by lowering it further.
Freemasonry has always been regarded as an organization of quality and class. Its rituals are mysterious and intriguing. Its lessons are deep and meaningful. Its symbols are recognized around the world. Those are the points which should be enhanced in public view, not gutted.
There is nothing wrong with making the public aware of what Freemasonry is and its purpose. The key is to know what it and its purpose is yourself. If the ritual is nothing more than "monotonous" pageantry to you, then you really don't understand Freemasonry no matter how long you have been a member. New ideas are great if they help promote who and what we are rather than try to make us into something else.
We are Freemasons.