"Masonic" Youth Groups - Are they "Masonic"?
I see, from time to time, comments on social media about Youth Groups associated with Masonic bodies or Appendant bodies; also known as (gasp!) Masonic Youth Groups. This includes groups such as the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, Job's Daughters International, and DeMolay International.
The Rainbow Girls, or International Order of Rainbow for Girls, was started in 1922 in Oklahoma by Freemason and Reverend W. Mark Sexson; DeMolay International was founded in 1919 in Missouri by Freemason Frank Land; and Job's Daughters was founded in Nebraska in 1920 by Ethel Wick (member of Eastern Star) with support from the Grand Master of Masons. All these groups started in an attempt to impart brother-(or sister) hood in young men and women, and link them to the ideals of Freemasonry as a whole.
Oftentimes, I see Masons get offended when these groups are referred to as "Masonic" youth groups. They start complaining about the fact that children (especially girls) are not "Masonic" in nature, and by that virtue, should not fall under the umbrella of "Masonry." A touchy subject for some, and one that I think strikes at the very core of what one should consider "Masonic".
So what is "Masonic"? Is it the ritual and lectures of the three degrees in recognized Freemasonry? Is it the festive boards and nights of revelry? Is it preparing a candidate with catechisms and memorization for his future membership? Is the camaraderie and brotherhood before and after stale business meetings? Is it the green beans?!? Is it all of these things, or even none of these things?
I think (and again, this is my opinion), that it is a combination of the above in different ways to different people (minus the green beans, I hate those damned things). To me, what makes Masonry "Masonic" is the symbolism that we proffer to candidates as they travel through the degrees in Freemasonry, and the teachings we impart throughout that journey.
Or at least, that is what is supposed to happen. Much of that is lost in dreary meetings, copious amounts of green beans, and shuffling candidates through degrees as fast as humanly possible; to fill seats that, once filled, are now vacant. Losing our implied mandate to make men better, no scratch that, humanity better, has been subverted by a numbers game to keep the traditional Grand Lodge system solvent and sustainable. But that my friends, is a topic for another day.
Back to the youth groups, and why it bothers SO MANY people to label them as Masonic. Guess what folks, they ARE Masonic. I have sat in many Rainbow Meetings, have seen the DeMolay degree conferred, and attended Jobie installations. And let me tell you firsthand, there IS a sense of Masonic knowledge and teaching in each and every one of these groups.
I have watched Rainbow initiations that are more eloquent, better performed, and deliver more beautiful symbolism than many Blue Lodge degrees I have witnessed. I have seen the DeMolay degree (not the Initiatory degree) performed in interesting locales, which had such gravitas and deep meaning in their execution as the drama of Jacques DeMolay unfolded before our eyes. I have been to a Job's Daughter's Installation and witnessed firsthand a level of dedication and commitment to memorization that would put some Masonic Lodges to utter shame.
Are they the same as Blue Lodge Masonry? No, they aren't. Do they take initiates (both boys and girls) through our particular legend? Nope. Do they impart symbols, then teach the candidates how to use those symbols in their daily lives, making them better people and citizens? My God, yes they do. I feel that some of the Masonic Youth Groups (that's what I will call them from now) do a service to the Craft in general. They teach youths that there is more to the world than trivial, material existence; they teach them that care for a fellow Brother or Sister rises above traditional relationships, and that these bonds should not be taken lightly; and it teaches these young men and women to strive for something greater than themselves. What could be better than that? And why is it so wrong to call them "Masonic" in nature.
I'm proud of what these groups accomplish, how they are run, and the commitment each member I have met holds to their respective organization. If only some Freemasons gave as much of a sh** as these youths do, the wonders we could accomplish. It's inspiring and depressing all at the same time.
So stop quibbling about what to call them; instead, attend a meeting, go to an initiation, or lend your support. A lot of these boys and girls "do" Masonry better than some Masons I have met. The real secrets of Masonry are not our ritual, our grips and words, or the contents of our long meeting minutes. Instead our secrets are the use of symbols which teach mankind the fundamental truths of the universe, the meaning behind spirituality, and our place in world. Most importantly: It teaches us how to be better stewards of Creation, and I can tell you that the DeMolay, Rainbow Girls, and Jobies, do that also.
~~ FDTL ~~