Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shriner Hospital Potential Closings Hit the News

A story, reported April 1 on Chris Hodapp's "Freemasons for Dummies" blog, has now hit the national news. The Associated Press reports today that the Shrine may have to close 6 of its hospitals, one-quarter of its hospitals nationwide, due to various causes associated with the current economic crisis (such as declining endowments due to the stock market fall, and declining donations).

All of this is very sad news. My personal hope is that the recent rally in the stock market over the last couple of weeks will help bring up the hospital endowments, and that the economy changes--and quickly enough--to bring in more donations. The Shriner Hospitals are an important way in which the Shrine and its members give service to the general public.

Having said this, I find it interesting to consider the AP press release in terms of what it says, and does not say, regarding Freemasonry in general. Two things in particular stand out.

First, the AP press release says nothing whatsoever regarding the relationship of Freemasonry to the Shrine. For those members of the general public who follow this blog, it is important to note that, for a man to become a Shriner, he must already be a Master Mason in a local lodge of Freemasons. Every hospital supported by Shriners is supported by Freemasons.

In our era, so much conspiratorial nonsense is written about Freemasonry. Some people actually think we worship the devil; others, that we are engaged in plots with the Illuminati to rule the world; one prominent author states that we are lackeys for reptilian aliens from space. It would do some good to have a good word put in for Freemasonry now and again. I hope it would not be thought amiss if I (though not a Shriner myself) suggest that the Shrine ought to make it a point to emphasize to the press that every Shriner is a Freemason. At the risk of mentioning the obvious: No more Masons, no more Shriners.

Second, the AP press release gives no hint of the interest of younger men in Freemasonry and the Shrine; rather, it implies that the membership is static. A source associated with an academic research center on philanthropy is quoted as saying that the drop in donations reflects "a generational shift," presumably away from involvement in fraternal organizations.

This suggests to me that the entire Fraternity needs to do more to get out the news that Freemasonry continues to attract new members. Yes, as I document in a recent post, we do face a significant membership problem. However, at the same time, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that, in recent years, a significant number of younger men have entered the fraternitity. The point is not recruitment; rather, it is to let people know that Freemasonry still exists. As I have mentioned in another previous post, Freemasonry is largely invisible in our society. Men cannot petition a fraternity that they think is extinct.

(Thanks to the "Public Art in LA" site for this image of the Shriners' famous "Editorial Without Words.")


  1. the truth is freemasonry is of the devil the hat being red came from a point and time christians were killed the hat dipped in their blood then worn by the arabs the moon stands for a moon good which arabs worship google it to expose freemasonry for what it really is!

  2. There seems little point to addressing myself to Anonymous directly, as Anon sounds like s/he has made up his/her mind and is beyond concern with matters like historical evidence and accuracy. However, for the sake of innocent people who might wander by:

    --The Shriners are a "fun group" to which between one-quarter and one-third of American Masons belong. It is not recognized at all, for example, in the United Kingdom. The Shriners were established in 1872 in New York City, about 155 years after Grand Lodge Freemasonry was established in London (1717). So, the Shrine can hardly stand in for Freemasonry in general, which Anon seems to imply.

    --The fez is not that widespread in the Muslim world in general, nor the Arab world in particular. The fez is named for Fez, Morocco, where the headpiece was first made. At one time it was the mandatory headdress for citizens of the Ottoman Empire (ruled by Turks), but it has been outlawed in Turkey for generations.

    --That business about the fez being red because once Muslims killed Christians and dipped the fez in Christian blood is so much nonsense. If anyone can cite a legitimate historical source stating this particular bit of gore, they are welcome to post it in a comment here. Failing that, I call this the sort of prejudiced anti-Muslim comment that one hears, unfortunately, with greater frequency these days. Ditto the "moon god" business. Muslims observe a very pure form of monotheism; they do not worship the moon.

    --Freemasonry is not in the least an anti-Christian organization. By far the majority of American Masons are Christians of one church or another. They are not going to be celebrating the murder of Christians, contrary to Anon's comment. One branch of Freemasonry, the Chivalric Order of the York Rite, specifically commemorates the medieval Knights Templar as defenders of Christendom. The example of the Christ is also celebrated in, for example, the 18th degree (Knight of the Rose Croix) in the Scottish Rite in both the Southern and Northern Masonic Jurisdictions, and in the 26th degree (Prince of Mercy) in the Southern Juridiction.

    --Learning about Freemasonry on the Internet has its advantages, but it puts brilliant work on the same level as paranoid fantasy. I would suggest that interested parties read books written by contemporary practicing Freemasons, like, d'uh, my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction (see the ad in the right-hand margin near the top of the page).

    Although I only touch on the Shriners lightly in my book, you can read about them in more detail in Christopher Hodapp's Freemasons for Dummies (Chapter 12, pp. 229-237) and in S. Brent Morris' The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry (pp. 139-144).


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