The following comment, from an anonymous brother in Florida, pretty well hit the proverbial nail on the head about the problems of Masonry and perhaps outlines the remedies, too.
Tradition, especially in Freemasonry, is a double edged sword. No one can argue the value of our time honored traditions as the keystones of our Brotherhood. Our ritual work and common practices are the foundation of our Fraternity and have stood the test of time by generations of Freemasons everywhere. The reason for having done so is that they are right. But not all things rooted in tradition that we embrace are so right that they can't stand some introspective from time to time. Our new members are attracted to us because of our long standing traditions but once inside the Lodge they see things that have become problematic to the craft in the name of tradition and are confused by our inability as a body to address them. The arguments against the necessary changes seem weak , especially when those presenting them cloak themselves in the righteous shroud of traditionalism. We would all still be driving a horse and buggy if we had accepted that kind of reasoning a hundred years ago but wiser, more progressive ideas prevailed. This is not to say we should throw out the baby with the bath water and abandon any of our worthwhile ideals. But much of our approach to solving problems has become our inability to think outside of the box because of our fear of defying tradition, even outdated and useless tradition.
If we are on the decline it is because we discourage enterprise and imagination. No one wants to be a part of something these days that is stagnant. This isn't the 17th, 18th, 19th or even the 20th century anymore. Computers and modern communications allow us all to exchange ideas without restriction and explore avenues we never imagined. The old restrictions against color and gender are gone in the digital world of the 21st century. E-mails and text messaging have no race or creed. Yet we embrace a policy of discrimination against many prospective members in the name of tradition. We refuse to embrace the social changes that have come about because they were morally right and cling to arguments that seem simply outdated when presented as tradition.
Despite our outdated prejudices, we are getting both quality and quantity through our doors as new Masons these days. Many of those new members to our fraternity are eager to bring progressive ideas to us and help fix the things that are destroying us from within. But they become confused about what they have become a part of when they meet those who denounce their ideas because they defy their concept of traditionalism. After a while the new members become discouraged and find another outlet for their energies. Unlike years ago, there are many organizations today who will allow them to exercise their imagination and welcome them as a useful part of a growing entity.
We are declining because of what we have let ourselves become. It isn't the fault of those who come to seek us out; it is the fault of those who would not unlock the traditional door and allow them all the way in.
— A Brother in Riverview, Florida
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