I have a friend who is now a candidate, scheduled to receive his first degree in my lodge. While he was looking into the fraternity and the other brothers were getting to know him a bit before receiving his petition he had an interesting encounter.
While at the grocery store, somewhat unprompted, the cashier started talking about the grand masonic conspiracy — about how the Freemasons control politics, the economy, the media, etc., and about the nefarious things they get up to in their meetings.
To this, my friend listened patiently, then asked, “What it’s it’s just a group of dudes?” and clarified his question to mean: what if it’s just a group of guys getting together to hang out, and help each other and their community?
The cashier doubled down and replied that “oh no,” they’re definitely in control of things and up to no good (paraphrasing).
This came at a critical time in my friend’s investigation into masonry and led him to go looking on YouTube for information about Freemasonry — which is often misleading, to say the least. There are mainstream TV segments about the history and workings of Freemasonry (with varying degrees of accuracy, rarely very accurate), exposés of heinous Masonic rituals (that aren’t real or are unrelated), and crazy conspiracy videos based on works of fiction or outright malice. After seeing some of this, my friend brought the conversation and subsequent YouTube investigation up to me at a lodge dinner (to which he was our guest). Luckily, the information he found was contradicted by what he knew from me, what he had been reading in Freemasons for Dummies (an excellent introduction for those interested, by the way), and from the Masonic podcasts I had directed him to (The Masonic Roundtable, The Winding Stairs, Whence Came You, and others) and his concerns were quickly abated.
I did find his response to the cashier interesting though — “What if it’s just a group of dudes?”
The answer I would give is that it is a group of dudes. It’s a group of dudes who the fraternity has observed to have good moral character and who wish to improve themselves, who choose to affiliate themselves with others of the same qualifications. It’s a group of dudes who have pledged to help one another become better through the work of the craft and to support and serve one another. It’s a group of dudes who hold each other accountable to a higher standard of conduct. It’s a group of dudes that believe in a higher power and a responsibility to that higher power, their communities, their families, and themselves. It’s a group of dudes that like learning about history and try to apply the lessons of history for the betterment of society and themselves. It’s a group of dudes who like hanging out with guys of other religions, political affiliations, ages, socio-economic positions, professions, and interests to broaden their understanding of the world and themselves and make lifelong friends they would have otherwise never met.
Yes, it is a group of dudes, but not just a group of dudes.