Sunday, November 25, 2012

Motorcycle Riding Clubs and Freemasonry -- A Bad Image?

So before I start really writing this article, let me give an honest disclosure.  I am not a Motorcycle guy, I have never been attracted to them, don't care for them, and I find their culture somewhat silly.  I know that middle age men across the country find motorcycles to bring a sense of freedom, unparalleled.

The Grand Lodge of Texas has denied one Motorcycle club, Widows Sons Masonic Riders Association from being recognized as a Masonic body within the state of Texas.  I will explain this story (to the best of my abilities in a minute), but there are others including the Freemasons Riding Club and Ruffians Masonic Motorcycle Group.  These groups are ardent in their belief that they are nothing more than Master Masons that like to get together, and ride.  Some have charitable goals, others are much less formal.  Still the question that is asked is, do these groups cast a disparaging image on Freemasons?  Or are they the 21st century recruiting tool the fraternity has been searching for long and hard?

A good Masonic friend of mine referred to these groups as "Doublewide Masonry", and while the term is inflammatory it makes a point.  Masonic riding groups aren't really doing too much to spread further light in Masonry and working on the internal temple.  Rather using images among our fraternity to exploit the tough guy image of motorcycle riders and doing little more then developing cliches within an already shrinking organization.  Before you give me "its the internal not the external", I am sure you wear those vests not thinking of the image you are projecting, like Larry David said to the lady wearing a skimpy outfit "I am sure you are wearing that so people will look at your shoes."  Realize that dressing like a biker, people are going to judge you like a biker.  It is foolhardy to think you can dress that way, project a certain image, than claim that people are being "judgmental".

Still, the argument of these clubs and attracting men to Masonry has been made, and somewhat convincingly.  A member of the 3-5-7 Brotherhood a chapter of the Widows Sons wrote the following:

The Widows Sons Masonic Motorcycle Association is still a very new organization by Masonic standards being less than 15 years old. We have seen incredible growth; approximately 38 states in the US plus most territories in Canada, and countries ranging from England, Scotland, and Germany to S. Korea, Japan, and Australia, and more.

On top of it the Widows Sons claim on their website:

The Widows Sons serve as a Masonic Booster Club by helping to raise Masonic Awareness while we attend public motorcycling events, and by supporting our Blue Lodges in whatever capacity we are able. Widows Sons chapters have helped to increase Masonic membership through our presence and visibility during public motorcycle events and rallies.

While growth is a relative term here, the point still cannot be denied that these organizations, not just the Widows Sons have gained popularity in their recent past and seem to be providing an outlet to those men who wish to merge their world of motorcycles with their Freemasonry.  The question that these clubs are attracting members seems somewhat deluded.  If men are wanting to join the fraternity, to better their internal temples, than I completely endorse it, if they are joining to join this specific Riding Club, than I discourage it.

Criticisms of the Shrine include that it has little Masonic meaning or truth and deters from the Masonic principles and foundation of the blue lodge.  No one can make the argument that these Riding Clubs are somehow better than that, and every time I hear from a member "We are motorcycle enthusiasts, who happen to be Master Masons," I role my eyes.  The Shrine philanthropy is undeniable  these organizations, not so much. All I get from their "news" is new chapters opening, or new members, nothing about their charitable activities.

In Texas the Widows Sons were banned as a Masonic organization.  Really, this is hardly news, Masonic politics are nasty, we (Texas Masons) also cannot be members of the Philalethes Society, or the CBCS, so really the Widows Sons are just another organization that doesn't meet the approval of the Grand Lodge brain trust.

Reasons given for this include that the organization never provided information on whether members had to be Master Masons in good standing.  Also the patches and general image did not reflect well on Freemasonry to the general public.

The Freemasons Riding Club is legal as far as I know and the Ruffins are trying to get recognized this year.

So how do I feel about these groups?  If they are an addition to your Masonic journey, than I don't see any harm in it.  If they have become the focus of your Masonic journey, then you need to reevaluate your priorities, both in Masonry and in life.

S&F,
-Bro Vick

11 comments:

Adrian said...

Aside from the "it is internal and not the external", I would say that a large percentage of motorcycle riders are law abiding citizens who enjoy riding motorcycles. It is not the position of the FMRC to recruit outlaws into the fraternity but to approach the good men on motorcycles and show them what we are about. That being said, I would say many people riding motorcycles are trying to find their inner Rebel, but during the normal work week are the doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, and other professionals.

Adrian said...

Aside from the "it is internal and not the external", I would say that a large percentage of motorcycle riders are law abiding citizens who enjoy riding motorcycles. It is not the position of the FMRC to recruit outlaws into the fraternity but to approach the good men on motorcycles and show them what we are about. That being said, I would say many people riding motorcycles are trying to find their inner Rebel, but during the normal work week are the doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, and other professionals.

FD2L said...

Aside from the "it is internal and not the external"

Seriously? You are going to put up this argument? The line "it is the internal not the external" is meant that a man should not be judged as to his qualifications because of his stature in society. Meaning, that if a janitor should not be judged on his vocation, but rather his merits. I don't think that the founders of our great fraternity meant for this phrase to extend to grown men who like to play dress up as criminals or common thugs. Again, you make the active choice to dress this way regardless of your vocation, than I will judge you as such.

That being said, I would say many people riding motorcycles are trying to find their inner Rebel

And Freemasonry needs to be integrated into this culture, why?

Jonathan Manuella said...

This is a very interesting article. I belong to a masonic motorcycle riding club.in order to be a member u must be a master mason in good standing and also make lodge meetings. Our club puts masonry 1st. Giving and or helping masonic and non masonic charity's is of the up most importance. We were established in 2012 we participated in many rides that helped the less fortunate. For example autism,first responders,child abuse,and the masonic learning centers for dyslexic children to name a few. Our members are active in lodge at meetings and degree work.most of our members can confer,guide,and hold chairs in our degree work. I will say this,for me and my brothers motorcycling opened up a new world in masonry that I'm happy to be apart of. Not only am I enjoying a ride with my brothers we also get to share the most gratifying moments of giving together.well I hope this shed some light on what I believe is a great way of shining the light on our great fraternity.

Gurnz Lgaira said...

" grown men who like to play dress up as criminals or common thugs"
"Again, you make the active choice to dress this way regardless of your vocation, than I will judge you as such."
Not arguing but..
I think it is sad that you are judging people by the way they look and dress..
Most of our brothers that ride now rode way before they became Masons.
We find common interest inside our fraternity. Some play sports, some hunt, some ride bicycles, some ride motorcycles and so on.. We enjoy each others company. Although we ride for fun because we love riding, we also ride for different charities.

Gurnz Lgaira said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stanley hubbard said...

I respect your opinion but I will leave it at that since you are obviously not well educated on all of the states activities. I can only speak for Virginia when I state that we are dedicated to the support of our Masonic Retirement Home of Virginia and together have raised well over $5000 / year for their activities fund. We also volunteer and aid in our blue lodges throughout the district with high praises from the grand master of Va. Do not judge me, I have already been tried and never denied!

FD2L said...

"I think it is sad that you are judging people by the way they look and dress.."

I know, you want to project an image of a biker. You want to wear leather, and patches, and look the look to fit into that subculture. You then don't want another subculture (Freemasonry) to judge you on your appearance, though you are changing your appearance to fit that other culture's image.

You want your cake and eat it too.

Biker culture at its core is a culture of addiction, excess, violence and all those great things that have been portrayed by media, and has become manifest destiny. It allows professionals to dress up on weekends and live out teenage fantasies of being outlaws, this is by peoples own confession.

So you want your biker culture to judge you as a biker, because of what you ride, and what you wear. You don't want your Masonic culture to judge you on your appearance as a biker.

Get it?

I am judging you as a biker, because you want to be judged as a biker, if you don't, then why play the part?

You do have an active part in this matter...

Rodney Haupt said...

I am a member of the Widows Sons in Missouri Our patch and most Widow Sons patches have transfered to the pyramid, wings, and working tools patch.So that is very masonic. As for us wanting to portray ourselves as bikers, We are bikers. What we are not is 1%ers. There is a reason they are called that. They make up 1% of the biker community. Do some of us have past that we want to leave in the past, yes. But we are all Master Masons in good standing with our lodges. That is a requirement. In our mission statement we state that we gather to support Shrine Hospital St. Louis, Missouri Masonic Home, and MoChip. Through out the years I have been involved with WS, We have raised tens of thousands of dollars for these organizations and others. Back to our demeanor.... Some of us are rough around the edges. But we as mason are always trying to improve ourselves. No where in our obligation says we are to be perfect. If it did we would not have had member like Benjamin Franklin, most of our presidents and founding fathers as masons. Reality, most of us are people you might not have want to be around at some point. But we are Masons now and that makes us brothers. As a brother we embrace our differences, learn from each other, support each other, and quietly aid in another masons reformation when we fail.

Rodney Haupt said...

Being a biker and a mason are not exclusively separate.

KEV LANDRY said...

Bro, Riding is all about brotherhood and sticking to your word. Here in Korea it is mostly military fellows and we ride orderly and help each other out on the road. It is much like a brother in need. We look out for one another and treat other masons with respect too. I hope you get a better impression of some riders down the road.