🦌 🦌 🦌
June 26, 2018 3:13 PM   Subscribe

For the first time in 35 years, the Elks are growing. Average member age is down from 69 to 61. Membership is exploding in San Francisco, the Florida Keys, North Carolina, and dozens of other areas, including the bedroom communities of New Jersey, where Eli Manning was just voted to membership. Each of those lodges has a story of where that growth is coming from, yet the impulse remains constant: seeking connections, with people who are not necessarily like them, in dusty old buildings with $2 drafts and animal heads hanging over the doorway.
Anne Helen Petersen on the millennial resurgence of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
posted by Iridic (158 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
I noticed this in Ashland, Oregon of all places, as early as the 2000s. There is/was a nontrivial contingent of Gen X members doing it semi-ironically, while still obviously enjoying the enjoyable parts of membership. I've talked about this with spouse and friends, and have never acted on it, but I get why it could be appealing.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Will there still be punk shows in their halls? That's key.
posted by entropone at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2018 [39 favorites]


This is almost unbelievable to hear. My dad has been a member for decades, served in every role through Exalted Ruler of the lodge, and has won statewide competitions. He has often lamented the diminishing membership and interest from the community, to the point of not having key participation to help carry out important tasks around the lodge.

From my experience visiting (bingo nights, pool parties, potlucks, karaoke nights, etc.), the description of “dusty rooms” populated by mainly gray-haired white people is pretty apt. The organization totally seemed like a beast whose back had been broken in the 70s, and was just taking a few decades to die off.

So to hear they are experiencing a resurgence is amazing — in both senses of the word — and it’ll be great if its membership can begin to better represent the community.

The last time I visited Dad’s lodge, it was karaoke night. I sang “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and gave it all I got, right there in fronta gawd and everbody. The following day, I told Dad I was gay. So you could say my coming out party was at the Elks!
posted by darkstar at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2018 [92 favorites]


First of all, you should join a benevolent order simply as an insurance policy for your own funeral*. I can't tell you how wonderful it was for the Rotary Club to show up en masse to my father-in-law's funeral. Most of them only knew him slightly, but they learned about him at the Funeral (he was at the Battle-of-the-Bulge, and most of them didn't even know he had served, because he never talked about it). It made for good conversation and their presence made my mother-in-law very happy. Elks would be even better than the Rotary, because apparently they have headgear.

At work we had a party at an Oriole Nest, and we all had to take out a membership to do it. The clubhouse was wonderful, the food was good, cheap and plentiful, and the history of the Order very interesting.

*my other good advice is to get a 8x11 glossy right now for the memorial service, because you are only going to look older if you put it off.
posted by acrasis at 3:31 PM on June 26, 2018 [28 favorites]




if this happens for the Odd Fellows sign me the fuck up, I already have a bunch of their pins.
posted by nonasuch at 3:39 PM on June 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'd love to join an org like this or the Masons or some such, but they all have that pesky "believe in god" thing. :-|
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:44 PM on June 26, 2018 [39 favorites]


Parts of that sound super fun and cool and other parts don't. I'd love to join or create a Lodge/Fraternal Org/Secret Society only for poor people. Logistically it sounds infinitely more challenging than doing a club to attract rich whites and the middle class but that would also make it that much more rewarding. Forbidding anyone addmitance if they make more than, say, 60,000 a year, would be unusual but is the kind of discrimination I wouldn't mind seeing. Bonus if we could avoid the dues thing somehow, though I guess then it starts to become just people hanging out. I'm thinking for a name, something to do with the Needle's Eye or a Camel, referencing the ol' Bible quote talking about rich people trying to get into heaven. I'm not thinking the org would have any religious angle, it's just the best established "fuck the rich" quote I can think of, plus as a character, Jesus was a kickin rad sort. If you want to do good things for the community, are a good person, and aren't rich, you're a fit!
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:50 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


With the Masons, at least you can imagine that you are getting the Birchers in a lather.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:50 PM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


A thirty-something family member has become very active in the Shriners, and I see the appeal (although I was disappointed to learn that you don't get to drive the little cars until you've advanced up the ladder a bit).
posted by enn at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


Aww, this is such a wholesome and heartwarming article. With the awful news happening every day, it made me really happy to read about these young and old people joining together, crossing lines of gender, race, sexuality, income, class, and culture, to revitalize an old tradition with a modern, liberal spirit. Every time I hit "Page Down" on that website, I was pleased when there was more to the story, and sorry to see it end. Thank you very much for this FPP, Iridic!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


My son's cub scout pack is charted by the local Elks lodge. They've been nothing but outgoing and friendly people all the way.

They fire off a huge check to the kids once a year as part of their philanthropy. All they ask is that the kids respect the US Flag. They told me that was pretty much their primary mission. They host a flag disposal ceremony once a year and it's always a successful event.

I'm sure they'd let you host a punk show in their lodge no question. I've seen other interesting events happen in their hall.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:57 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


It took me far too long to realize this was not about a literal elk animal population booming.
posted by Fizz at 3:58 PM on June 26, 2018 [44 favorites]


I always thought it was just a place for my dad to go drink whiskey. My grandfather loved telling him that BPOE stood for Biggest Pricks On Earth
posted by middleclasstool at 4:03 PM on June 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


That's what happens when you eliminate their natural predators

But seriously, I didn't know much about the Elks so I looked them up. Apparently they started out as a club for minstrel show performers and were white-only until the mid-70's. I have no idea where they stand now on racial issues, but they're still only open to men, which seems pretty bullshit.
posted by aubilenon at 4:04 PM on June 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


Whites-only til 1976, atheists are still banned, fuck these assholes.
posted by w0mbat at 4:07 PM on June 26, 2018 [49 favorites]


I was going to ask: do any of these fraternal orders admit women?

No?

Well.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:08 PM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


they're still only open to men, which seems pretty bullshit.

From the article, the club was opened to women in 1996.
posted by linux at 4:10 PM on June 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


The opening paragraph of the article depicts a woman member of the Elks. So, yes.
posted by middleclasstool at 4:10 PM on June 26, 2018 [15 favorites]


This article is two years old. It's still a good article, it's still heartening, but it's not new.
posted by cgc373 at 4:11 PM on June 26, 2018


I stand corrected. In fact Wikipedia even says "Faced with losing their liquor licenses if they did not admit women, the Elks Lodges of Utah voted to become unisex in June 1993".
posted by aubilenon at 4:11 PM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


Freemasonry is also bringing in large numbers these days.
posted by slkinsey at 4:12 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


SNARK RETRACTED.

I am now googling about women’s organizations, anyway. Co-ed is nice but like...I’ve been to too many things where the is an obvious missing stair, and I just...

(The last one was literally a group about connection, and goddamn was that dude predatory AND THEY KNEW.)

I think I’ve hit my limit. Like I don’t know if I can do the vulnerability necessary for connection and community with dudes anymore. Which is really...kind of sad.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:13 PM on June 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


Anything that provides venues for indie pro wrestling is a good thing (especially since the alternative seems to be sports bars, which means I can’t take the kids).
posted by Etrigan at 4:14 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


A friend and her neighbors realized there was a failing Elk lodge in the neighborhood (club house, pool, etc.) and decided to, well, basically take it over. It has worked out very well and is now a a functioning, inclusive community resource.

Not sure about the inclusion of women thing, but the SF lodge has women among its officers and the Exalted Ruler is (was?) a PoC.

As for the religious thing, well, you can just suck it up and say something about numinous feelings.

So what I'm saying is, go claim your community center. Do it. (And make it awesome!)
posted by sjswitzer at 4:17 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


There are apparently para-Masonic groups that admit women, though maybe only women who are related to a dude Mason?

I just like the phrase "para-Masonic groups." Makes it sound like they ought to have special extra-bizarre conspiracies.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:21 PM on June 26, 2018 [13 favorites]


I would absolutely consider joining if it weren’t for the belief in god thing. How bizarre to see that in the Bay Area in 2018. It’s on the membership application and everything.
posted by greermahoney at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


As has been said earlier by others, I would join if it weren’t for the whole “believer” requirement.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


As an atheist who really missed church community, I've looked into a couple of the fraternal organizations active in my town, including the Elks & Eagles (and read this relevant Ask). I'm kinda with schadenfrau, though, in that I mostly feel like I'm just going to be signing myself up for, if not harassment, at least clueless-older-man-patronizing, and I don't know if that's how I want to spend my recreation time.

Though, on preview, maybe I should use this burst of manic summer energy and, as sjswitzer says, claim my community center.
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


This article is two years old.

Whoops! When I happened upon it I only glanced at the month and day. Hopefully this Elk News isn't past its sell-by date!
posted by Iridic at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Have any of you actually read this article???? The whole point is that Elks are totally different now, dominated by a younger crowd.

I'm getting really tired of angry, angry, angry people all the time. There are times a shout is necessary, but constant reflexive reactions of "Fuck You, ______!" aren't the way to social cohesion, civic health, and community comfort.

MetaFilter could learn a little from the Ballard Elks.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:24 PM on June 26, 2018 [93 favorites]


As I understand it, the Eastern Stars are widely thought of as the Women's Auxilliary of the Masons, though the Wikipedia article says it's open to both women and men.
posted by kalessin at 4:24 PM on June 26, 2018


Is this something I'd have to be heterosexual to understand? Cuz I gotta say, my general picture of fraternal lodges is not exactly socially progressive. I could believe it varies a lot by the group and location but as a gay man this is one of those things where my first reaction is "nope, I'm probably not welcome".
posted by Nelson at 4:36 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


As per the article, and familiarity with other fraternal groups, the requirement of a belief in god is not as specific as some here think. It is “belief in a higher power.” There’s lots of room to move within that statement. In most cases, when asked that question and you answer “yes” that ends the enquiry.


So. Anyone up to proposing the birth of the MeFiMasons?
posted by njohnson23 at 4:42 PM on June 26, 2018 [13 favorites]


As to para-Masonic groups, I think these were women only with the full regalia and rituals of regular Masonry. They started up back in the 1800’s I think. And I assume they still exist.
posted by njohnson23 at 4:46 PM on June 26, 2018


Apparently they started out as a club for minstrel show performers and were white-only until the mid-70's.

And the Fraternal Order of Eagles was started by vaudeville theatre owners. Its earliest membership was also made up of performers. Inherent racism aside, it's interesting that they were both born of the performing arts.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:46 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


We have friends who joined the local members only club (unaffiliated with any national organization, just the local city club). It's in the basement of an event hall and is probably the only indoor space in town that allows smoking. They are the youngest members by 35 years, I would guess.

I think they have designs on taking over the place, which I have mixed feelings about. I went once and it seems very communal without the extra overhead of a "fraternal organization" so I hope it works out.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:48 PM on June 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


good article. reminds me of what's going on in and around some Legions up here in Canada. The one I'm aware of has excellent shuffleboard
posted by philip-random at 4:54 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Complaining about being excluded from a club and then upon discovering that one is not in fact excluded from the club deciding that one is not interested in joining the club because one wants to exclude the category of people who are in the club from one's life is peak MetaFilter. Added points for this misconception being refuted in the very first sentence of the article body.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:54 PM on June 26, 2018 [116 favorites]


So. Anyone up to proposing the birth of the MeFiMasons?

I am told there is no Cabal.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:56 PM on June 26, 2018 [19 favorites]


Have any of you actually read this article????

Betteridge's Law of MeFites.
posted by atoxyl at 4:56 PM on June 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


As per the article, and familiarity with other fraternal groups, the requirement of a belief in god is not as specific as some here think. It is “belief in a higher power.”

Clearly it varies by lodge. My town’s lodge application states one must believe in god. It does not mince words with belief in a “higher power.”


The whole point is that Elks are totally different now, dominated by a younger crowd.


The article says the median age has gone from 69 to 61. I don’t see that as “dominated by a younger crowd”, really.
posted by greermahoney at 4:58 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


I remember going to an event at the SF Elks, and briefly tried to talk my atheist partner at the time we could be flexible about our belief in a non-religious higher power. I also appreciate there's a term for the new-comers and the social difficulty in re-establishing community, even if Seattle freeze is location specific.

I recently joined a housing co-op that scratches that community itch. It was founded in '63 to guarantee racial diversity in San Francisco until quotas were found unconstitutional. I feel pangs of guilt that I'm not as socially active as many of the old-timers. But I'm also a single woman working full time, compared to all the retired women who cut their teeth inventing the second shift.
posted by politikitty at 5:03 PM on June 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


"All members are required to check off boxes on an application stating that they believe in a higher power and to pledge that they have never attempted to overthrow the government — a recent modification from the stipulation that members could not be Communists."

So an awful lot of activists and organisers wouldn't be welcome.
This really doesn't feel like a progressive organisation.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:04 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


None of these clubs are athiest friendly.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


I was a Moose once for about a year, a few years back. Elks are aight, but Moose Lodges are where the action is.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:07 PM on June 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


> and to pledge that they have never attempted to overthrow the government — a recent modification from the stipulation that members could not be Communists."

> So an awful lot of activists and organisers wouldn't be welcome.
This really doesn't feel like a progressive organisation.


Is my sarcasm meter faulty today, or am I just confused?
posted by philip-random at 5:08 PM on June 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


Moose lodges are where the punk shows are at.
posted by nikaspark at 5:14 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


No, it's "millennials kill X" damn it Peter Parker, go out and get me the story! Seriously was going to talk about taking over a local benevolent org and stripping it of it's lodge for use by a charity that's still a going concern. If there's been a reversal though I think that's actually good news.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:14 PM on June 26, 2018


None of these clubs are athiest friendly.

my grandfather was a Freemason Grand Master for a while in his small town. I never once remember him bringing up God in casual conversation. But he was big on Ian Fleming.
posted by philip-random at 5:16 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


My late, lamented neighbor Dick Mitchell, a stand-up guy whom I admired and enjoyed the company of, was a former GERBPOE and had his memorial service at his local clubhouse. He tried vaguely to interest me in membership a few times and I recall thinking well geez, I really admire this man and enjoy his company, but the baseline rule included belief in God.
posted by mwhybark at 5:19 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Parts of this remind me of the organization that has been the center of my social life for the past two years. We're a young professionals org, so we don't get that cross-generational socialization (though we do operate in an ethnic community that's pretty geriatric outside our group and the Cherry Blossom Queen program, so most of our volunteering has us interacting with older folks), and we don't do dues, but we do a lot of formalized socializing (game nights, holiday parties, camping trips, hikes) and volunteering in the community, and we're experimenting with civic engagement initiatives. (The "What's on your ballot?" event I organized for the California primary was a big success!) In particular, the bits about seeing your work have an impact close to home rang true. I'm actually missing the Keep Families Together protests this weekend to help organize and host our annual picnic, which I'm torn about, because really? A picnic? But it's one of our big events to draw in new members, and I truly believe that building community and social cohesion is one of the things that can turn this ship around in the long term. If one mid-twenties dude joins us instead of spiraling off into alt-right craziness, it is worth it.

Now I really wish we had a lodge though...
posted by sunset in snow country at 5:20 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


I knew a bi-curious man who thought intensely about joining the Masons in the 1990s. He grew to know the members of the local chapter well, and when I asked curious questions about it, he assured me that in California, Masons and other fraternal organizations were quite progressive, but not quite progressive enough for him. They were, he said, still quite capitalist, quite heterosexual/heternormative. And by the point that he wanted to join, he'd come to know these folks well enough that he'd either have to lie to join, or stay out to be honest, and he felt they deserved his honesty and honor. I understand that since then, the Masons have continued to get better on progressiveness/tolerance.

I also know a couple who live on Alameda in the SF Bay Area, who are super progressive, politically, and who recently joined the Alameda Elks. They seem quite happy with it. They've invited jenquat and me to join them as their guests at the lodge. And let me say that the volunteer bartenders there do a VERY HEAVY pour in a standard, functional gin and tonic.
posted by kalessin at 5:21 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'd love to join or create a Lodge/Fraternal Org/Secret Society only for poor people.

The lodge life seems like something DSA chapters could really kick ass at as a community builder on top of their other work.

Plus you could swipe a bunch of old Rosicrucian iconography for secret society window dressing.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:21 PM on June 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


Obviously, at least here on MeFi, there is an interest in a non-theistic, non-racist, non-sexist social club. Can anyone suggest any groups that fit that bill?
posted by fings at 5:22 PM on June 26, 2018 [23 favorites]


Kalessin that is the lodge I was looking into, and G&Ts are my jam, so damn. Now I’m depressed.
posted by greermahoney at 5:24 PM on June 26, 2018


I could believe it varies a lot by the group and location but as a gay man this is one of those things where my first reaction is "nope, I'm probably not welcome".


Yep, I’d be all over joining a well-knit community social organization that represents a good cross-section of the community and has a progressive attitude. The concern that I wouldn’t really be welcome in the Elks, or the Eagles, or the Masons, or whatever because I’m gay has been the major factor in not even trying to join.

Progressive political orgs aren’t much of a safe haven. They’re gay-affirming, yes, but the ones I’ve connected with are often GRAR POLITICS even at the best of times, and right now they’re in 100% hair-on-fire crisis-management mode.

Progressive church denominations that are truly gay-affirming that I’ve personally investigated often seem to have a love-hate relationship with their own spiritual tenets. As in, “we believe in Jesus, and are founded on belief in Jesus, buuuuuut...if that’s too constraining for you, then just believe whatever.” Which, okay, but the strange sense of...hypocrisy?...dissonance?...that I get from that kind of thing has made me uncomfortable in such groups.

And the LGBT-specific groups I’ve scoped out seem to be virtually all gay, all the time, with little or only token participation by straight people, when I’d really just rather be part of an inclusive, mutually supportive community group of all types, age ranges, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.

Anybody know of an organization like that?
posted by darkstar at 5:24 PM on June 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


Seriously was going to talk about taking over a local benevolent org and stripping it of it's lodge for use by a charity

This actually happened to the Seattle Capitol Hill Oddfellows Hall in the mid-nineties. It was super-double-plus uncool. The idiots who took the building over were proto-internet conspiratorialist metal-standard-currency wannabe militiamen. Their paranoid worldview led to the installation of a high-decibel alarm system on the building which would shout at earsplitting volume about the need to STEP AWAY FROM THE BUILDING whenever a tenant forgot their access code. I lived half a mile away and could hear it in my apartment.

The Odd Fellows put the chapter into administrative oversight and the chumps were prosecuted, I am sure to their exacerbated sense of aggreivement.
posted by mwhybark at 5:27 PM on June 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


I just read Bowling Alone, which talks a lot about the 70s-90s decline of civic and political participation. The collapse of groups like the Elks is definitely one of the many (M A N Y) data points Putnam goes through. As I was going through it, I kept thinking how much of it explained a lot of the problems we have.

But Bowling Alone came out in 2000, and a lot of his research was done in the 1990s. I think the need for community hasn't gone away among my peers, but few of us had it modeled growing up, and my unhappiest millennial peers seem to be those who are very disconnected from larger community infrastructure. This is part of why I think DSA has really taken off because it feeds that void. At least around here DSA is not just socialist organizing but is also like, Bread and Roses potlucks and marching in Pride, etc etc.
posted by mostly vowels at 5:27 PM on June 26, 2018 [11 favorites]


oops, sorry about the fave
posted by mwhybark at 5:33 PM on June 26, 2018


I'm not trying to be sarcastic.
It depends how they choose to define "overthrow the government", but the activists and organisers I know are hardly supporters of the existing system. I'm not American, so I can't join anyway, but I'm pretty sure I'd be prohibited from joining.
The whole "social capital" thing reeks of entrenched privilege and 'old boys' clubs as well.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:33 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Harvey, Dick was in the Shoreline chapter. But don't you maybe mean the Eagles? Or is there an Elks clubhouse in Ballard too? Or am I confused? It's happened once in this thread already.
posted by mwhybark at 5:38 PM on June 26, 2018


A similar effort is (slowly) underway at the VFW. From the WSJ last September: "The American Legion: Hollywood’s Hottest Private Club: Younger veterans took control of Post 43 and lured a cool crowd with Art Deco bar and movie house—plus free parking."

Yeah, if you want to capture people in LA, just say "free parking." It's like needles and haystacks finding free parking, but the haystack is 4,000 square miles.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:42 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think the onus is on the fraternal organizations to make potential members feel welcomed, rather than for potential members to bend their sense of self to fit their entrance requirements. It's nice that they're getting more progressive, I suppose, but the fact that the organization is among those that dragged its feet on inclusivity towards PoC and women means that I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt on this.

"Did you even read the article" feels a little patronizing here.
posted by Aleyn at 5:44 PM on June 26, 2018 [19 favorites]


So I've been feeling a little bad about my question about whether the Elks, etc would be LGBT accepting. Because you know, maybe they could be! That'd be great! Like DarkStar I'd love a community I could join and hang out with. It doesn't need to be gay, just gay friendly. When I wrote my question I was kind of hoping someone would share an encouraging inclusive story for me.

Anyway I realized a perfect way for an Elks Lodge or whatever to signal being gay positive. March in the gay pride parade! Or at least sponsor pride events. Doesn't need to be much; a banner, a few folks walking, a few hundred bucks to buy a little exposure. SF Pride is pretty enormous and inclusive, I mean 50,000 people marched this year. I can't recall ever seeing any fraternal organization there.

(And yeah buddy, I read the article.)
posted by Nelson at 5:47 PM on June 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


depends how they choose to define "overthrow the government", but the activists and organisers I know are hardly supporters of the existing system.

Judging by my security clearance, they usually mean more “with bombs and dynamite” rather than “through the democratic processes.” I think most activists will be fine.
posted by corb at 5:48 PM on June 26, 2018 [16 favorites]


So I checked out the local Elks club and it's... basically a country club? Except that you have to believe in God and be a US citizen to be a member? Which seems like kind of shitty requirements for a golf course and country club? And they don't really seem to be hurting for members: there are lots of families with kids in the pictures. I guess there are a lot of young parents in my town who want to make sure their kids don't go swimming or play golf with any atheists or foreigners.

I dunno. I appreciate the appeal of fraternal organizations, but the local Elks Club seems like the kind of place where you'd get in a lot of awkward conversations with people who think that Steve King should stop being so crass, but you've got to admit that he has a lot of good ideas. I'm thinking that the phenomenon that Petersen discusses may be limited to cities like Seattle.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:49 PM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


Don't know about the Elks, but as a person with a long Masonic heritage on both sides of my family (Masons and Eastern Star), the purpose of Freemasonry is to build a stronger community by strengthening character, developing a strong moral and spritual outlook, and a broad worldview of its members. Emphasis is placed on personal responsibility, and improving their communities through service.

Prince Hall Freemasonry is a branch of North American Freemasonry founded in the 1700s and comprised predominately of African Americans.

There are tons of misconceptions about Freemasonry out there, no thanks to the media and Dan Brown. Masons don't talk about themselves, or the work they do.

To be one, ask one.
posted by socrateaser at 5:52 PM on June 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


It seems like the way to make this work is to live in a city that's already kind of progressive and that has tons of lonely alienated young progressive people. At that point, you have pretty good odds that there will be, you know, at least half a dozen people of approximately your age and politics there even if the main membership is older, and then, boom, you've made friends and you can hang around with the older folks a bit but mostly you've got your circle, and then as more young people arrive that's great. Not a bad idea to go look at one, but also not a good idea to stick around if you seem to be the only younger person there (especially if you're the only younger person who isn't, say, a married white guy) unless you've got some idea that there really is a big local untapped population from whom a handful will self-select into your new social group.

So it doesn't seem like a terrible idea to do in Seattle or some other huge coastal city, but I will not be attempting it in Nebraska without already knowing multiple people in the org who I trust. But it's also, then, a strategy that could work for other things: churches, hiking groups, sewing circles, SCA, go out and try a few meetings of something because why not.
posted by Sequence at 5:54 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Eagles club in my previous town was my favorite place to drink.
posted by Grandysaur at 5:54 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I had no idea the Elks were coed, now. (Also, I think maybe wikipedia is saying "unisex" when they should say "coed"?)

I'm still sad that the Somerville, MA Elks chapter closed (I assume they closed rather than moved?) because they had a function space and the parking lot across the street had a statue of an elk in it. Nice local art and a convenient navigation marker!

I sort of assume that any civic organization with an average age of my age or higher is probably gay-unfriendly, which is perhaps uncharitable, but unless you mark yourselves as at least welcoming, that's the default I'm going with for my own safety.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:56 PM on June 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


when Dick was pitching me, I think it was hard for him to understand why his pitch was offbase. He was in his early eighties when he died a few years ago and I was his neighbor for about a decade. He framed the membership requirements as very simple: "you have to beleive in God, and you have to believe that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman." I laughed and told him that let me off the hook on both counts. He seemed perplexed! We really did enjoy one another's company and I miss him every day.

The Eagles are the only national fraternal organization founded in Seattle, iirc. However, my understanding is that they have a long history of affilliation with anti-progressive views and that their creation here was in oart a response to concerns over the ascendancy of progressive, socialist, communist, and anarchist politics in the Pacific Northwest (cf. our General Strike, Mayor Bertha Landes, the wartime militarization of the foresty industry as a tactic to defeat the IWW in the mountains, and of course the postwar labor struggles in the forestry industry).
posted by mwhybark at 5:57 PM on June 26, 2018 [13 favorites]


I knew a lesbian couple who are part of an Elks Club somewhere in SE Portland. They said the basement bowling alley is awesome.
posted by gucci mane at 5:57 PM on June 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


These communal societies have always fascinated me. My grandfather was an active Civitan and as I'm hitting that age where it's impossible for men to make new friends without there being an excuse to socialize, joining a group like this might be the way for me to actually have an excuse to get out of the house and socialize.

I'd love to join an org like this or the Masons or some such, but they all have that pesky "believe in god" thing. :-|

I toured an active Mason Lodge here in Toronto (they participated in the city's Doors Open!!!) and I was almost ready to sign up right then and there.

After doing some research, it looks like North American masons descend from the British branch and still have a (rather loose) requirement to believe in a creator. The European branch made it through the French Revolution with that particular tenant loped off but as far as I know that sort of Mason never made it to NA.
posted by thecjm at 5:58 PM on June 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I don't do it anymore, but since I was an Municipal Liaison for a few years when I was younger and had more free time: NaNoWriMo, also a nice way to meet people in town if you have a creative wordy bent.
posted by Sequence at 6:00 PM on June 26, 2018


"I am now googling about women’s organizations, anyway. "

Junior League. You'd enjoy it. You get to tell everyone how Eleanor Roosevelt was an early member. They marched as suffragettes, founded many of the earliest domestic violence shelters in the US, promoted STD education in a time when it wasn't polite to speak of it in the 30s (because if the wives of the town's leading citizens are hosting syphilis educational seminars, it might be okay to talk about), advocated for universal prenatal care (even for unwed mothers), universal dental care for school children, universal hearing and vision screenings for school children, and when those weren't available, trained to become dental hygienists and so on to provide them. (States have generally taken over these programs and provide them through Medicaid and school health.) You think it's a bunch of ladies in white gloves having teas and to a certain extent it is ... but it's chock full of secret radicals determined to serve women and children in local and effective ways. My active years we created a program to provide necessity packs for every woman and child in every homeless shelter in the tri-county area (on an ongoing basis forever, spun off and self-supporting), including sleeping bags, handmade quilts, lovies for the kids, pajamas, underwear, toiletries, backpacks, school supplies; we created a Ronald McDonald House-type program for our local hospital (spun off and self-supporting); and we built a children's museum (spun off and self-supporting).

(Lots of lesbians. I don't know if there's a national policy requiring trans inclusion, but most local Leagues I've dealt with welcome trans women. There are definitely Leagues in parts of the US that are less-accepting and less-inclusive, but if you live in a generally relatively inclusive place, your League will probably be inclusive.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:01 PM on June 26, 2018 [25 favorites]


I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the dialed-up-to-eleven Elks National Memorial in Chicago yet. I used to walk by this place often.

My family was very involved for a while in Masons/Eastern Star/Demolay/Scottish Rite but I never got into it. I went to a lot of Eastern Star dinners, though, when I was a kid.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:06 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, I have a friend who is involved with Junior League, and they do good stuff. Their big project is supporting kids who are aging out of foster care, which seems like a thing that is worth doing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:07 PM on June 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


My friends dad was an Elk and their lodge had an awesome swimming pool and honestly if you want families to join, that's a big one here in Texas. Didn't know they allowed women, now I'm intrigued. I'm an agnostic so my actual answer to the God questions is "it depends" anyway. But respect to my atheist friends who just can't with that. Maybe if I joined my local chapter i could change that rule, unless it's a national thing....hmm.
posted by emjaybee at 6:09 PM on June 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Let's see... I'm an Elk, a Mason, a Communist... I'm the President of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance for some reason... h, here it is, the Stonecutters!"
posted by SansPoint at 6:09 PM on June 26, 2018 [15 favorites]


re: Freemasonry -- does it help if their particular "God" is incompatible with Christianity?
posted by philip-random at 6:18 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


The article was great. I'm sure local chapters vary a fair bit by region/members but damn does it seem about a bazillion times more open than my (admittedly ignorant and southern) raising expected it to be.

I didn't know women were allowed. In fact I assumed they weren't. I assumed it was very much, universally an 'good ole boys club' and, while I'm sure it is, the stories they're posting about Austin and the Pacific NW branches puts that to shame. I assumed PoC would be few and far between and it showed an image of a PoC Grand High Poohbah from the 1970s (???). I assumed you'd have to swear far, far more than a checkbox saying they believe in a higher power which, I get that hardcore atheists and maybe even a fair bit of agnostics can't get down with, still seems not all that onerous nor hard to flag and move on. I figure folks could take/leave the "never tried to overthrow the government" thing and just not, ya'know, attempt to mobilize members during the next weekly meeting, shit, my dad's an old hippy who rode with Hell's Angels and could probably check that box off with a clear conscience. I assumed LGBT members would be anathema but this very comment thread has had a few people mention lesbian basement bowling alley membership usage which, yay! I never knew punk shows at the Elk's lodge was a thing, but I was never into the Punk scene so go figure.

But most importantly of all, I assumed the beers would be far more than 2 bucks at the bar.

The only thing that's kinda unavoidable is the US Citizen requirement, which, yea, that sucks. I mean, I get that various, maybe even many, local chapters might suck but... well, I'm oddly happy for them. Thanks for the post.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:21 PM on June 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Interesting! I wish somebody would write one of these for the Lions Club. They had their 100 year anniversary celebration in Chicago last summer, which included an awesome giant parade downtown. It had almost no news coverage--I only found out about it because I happened to take the el through the loop that day, and had to stop and see what this big event was that was celebrating...Nepal? And/or Japan? And/or India? I only ever knew of the Lions as that local group in every (American) small town that sells mints to raise money for charity. But it turns out they're also an international organization with chapters in >200 countries. I still don't know what to think of the Lions overall, but it's not what I used to think.
posted by gueneverey at 6:27 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd love to join an org like this or the Masons or some such, but they all have that pesky "believe in god" thing. :-|

The supreme being you have to swear to believe in can be yourself.
posted by Damienmce at 7:07 PM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


My college roommate was a Rainbow Girl; there were a lot of supervised ‘co-ed’ activities (dancing, volunteering) with the DeMolay boys. Both are Masonic youth groups. As I recall, there was a pretty rigid hierarchy, with a highly-specialized vocabulary for everything. Rainbow Girls called advisors who had aged out of the program Mom Surname, so my 19-year-old friend had a few treasured “Mom” mentors who were in their 20s and childless.

She attended many Masonic Order ceremonies, which always involved gowns and tiaras, but never mentioned religion or religious beliefs.

There was a weeks-long tumult concerning a secret-signal handshake of some kind a DeMolay guy gave to someone not even in the organization/was just witnessed by a non-initiate (accounts varied), and it was all so overwrought that I initially thought ‘handshake’ was yet another special Masonic term for some other transgression entirely.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:26 PM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


I assumed the beers would be far more than 2 bucks at the bar.

My first job was in an Elk's bar (busser). If I recall correctly, the prices were set by the board, so you'd wind up with their favorite beverages being unusually cheap.

One of the weird things was seeing so many of my teachers (elementary through highschool) getting completely hammered on New Year's.

Also, the Does' meetings: they usually ordered 2-3 drinks at the start. And it's not like we halted service for hours, it was a pretty short window when they were getting stuff done. But they didn't want to run dry, so they stocked up.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:35 PM on June 26, 2018


gueneverey, the Lions do a lot of low-vision work in the US and some abroad as their volunteer focus. I didn't realize they did more than collect old glasses until I had a young nearly blind patient who had a screen reader and other equipment from them.

As a former Scout, and someone who studied these groups back when I was an anthropologist, I looked into joining something. Of all of the old fraternal orgs, they seemed the least exclusive but I still wasn't sure about committing to the time and drive.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:40 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Seems like the Rotary club is not religious. Does anyone know much about them?
posted by medusa at 7:40 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm an Elk, Lodge 410. Our Exalted Ruler at the time I was nominated asked if I believed in "a god."
Lower case.
I asked.
She smiled and replied " lower case works. "
We can't talk politics in the lodge, (I think that's a national rule) have several openly gay members, a few members of color and are actively recruiting more. A large percentage of our local membership identify as women and hold leadership positions. I was a Wobbly when I was nominated and that didn't count against me. When I joined the median age of the Lodge was 72. We've managed to get that down to 58.
We support a respite camp for people with severe disabilities, provide TVs and cable service for the local VA hospital, support the homeless centers in town with volunteers and money, provide thousands of dollars in scholarships to college bound kids, provide backpacks full of school supplies to young students every fall, and throw a great party in our gorgeous space right on the lake. These organizations are membership driven and many are struggling. If you want to make a difference in your community joining the Elks Lodge in your town would be one way to multiply your efforts while having a good time. Our lodge is always recruiting, and we welcome anyone. Period. (Unless you've been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. There's a local disgraced politician who keeps getting nominated, but that whole "malfeasance in office" thing has kept him out.)
Oh, and dues are less than $20 a month.
posted by Floydd at 7:43 PM on June 26, 2018 [37 favorites]


I wish somebody would write one of these for the Lions Club.

The Lions recycle eyeglass both locally and internationally. The chapter in my hometown of 500 built and maintained the park. It also had a trailer they would bring out for the fair or comunity days and cook the best hamburger I have ever had in my life.

On preview: colbaltnine has more on their vision work.
posted by Uncle at 7:49 PM on June 26, 2018


I’d be all over joining a well-knit community social organization that represents a good cross-section of the community and has a progressive attitude.

Crone Island Displaced Settlers; call the various groups Island Camps instead of lodges, and make people take an oath to treat all others with compassion and decency.

You have to swear that you reject laws or cultural standards that discriminate against people based on their identity, that you support the right of consenting adults to manage their own private lives, and that you are in favor of science-based medicine and engineering.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:51 PM on June 26, 2018 [13 favorites]


The supreme being you have to swear to believe in can be yourself.

Tried to join the International Order of Solipsist, but even I wouldn’t have me.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 7:53 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


A lot of my friends are Elks, some quite young and most not the kind of person you'd expect. Banjo Night at the Elks is like the best thing ever.
posted by octothorpe at 7:59 PM on June 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


The Modern Woodmen are friendly to all beliefs— including atheism— but really they’re just a fraternal insurance and bank company, now.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:12 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ya'll, these things can be a force for good. They all have the shared history of, well, all of us (so, you know fraught). But they are getting better and with your effort they can be better still. And many are quite inclusive.

Some organizations I am familiar with:

Somewhat locally: E Clampus Vitus, a mostly Gold Country thing that I've discovered on my excursions.

Internationally: Hash House Harriers, a drinking club with a running problem (which in my experience is amazingly inclusive, even including people who don't drink or run, but, to reiterate, amazingly inclusive). There's a bit of a fratty vibe, which ain't my thang, but this is a great group of peeps.

And then I want to say something about the IOOF, but I just don't have enough information. I love the name though and it is amazing that every small town here (west coast) seems to have an IOOF hall somewhere.

Anyway, what I am saying is that there are some existing institutions in your communities that can be a force for good (or at least community building) and the only thing that is keeping them from being awesome is that you are not participating. You don't have to create your infrastructures from scratch, there are some sitting around and waiting to be woke. (Also, some of them are already woke.)
posted by sjswitzer at 8:22 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


Er, TFA features a gay couple who have positions in the Elks:

Across the table, John — somewhere in his forties, with a sprawling smile — brings up his initiation, back in 2012. “The guy who did the interview, Bronco, he told us, 'Do not join anything. Go to events, see what we do, and find one that appeals to you — or create one. We’re getting a lot of new blood, but we have to sustain it.’” John and his partner, Jake, chose bingo, helping run the Memorial Day events and eating monthly steak.

Jake has the round Norwegian face you see all over Ballard, and he first joined the Elks “a lifetime ago.” When he moved to Alaska, he became an “Elk in Bad Standing,” but when he started attending bingo with John, he paid a simple $25 fee and returned to the fold. The couple recently sold their sprawling home in the suburbs and downsized to a condo on the waterfront, where they walk to work and compete for the most steps on their Fitbits.

posted by oneirodynia at 8:34 PM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


True — my trepidation is mainly coming from my own red-state experiences, which are thankfully not universal.
posted by darkstar at 8:46 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I’m partial to the Women’s Institutes myself; the great Canadian feminist (and founder) Adelaide Hoodless, has always been a hero of mine. Begun in 1895, they were never about being polite:

One of their features was an independence from political parties or institutions, or church or chapel, which encouraged activism by non-establishment women, which helps to explain why the WI has been extremely reluctant to support anything that can be construed as war work
posted by saucysault at 8:47 PM on June 26, 2018


Ya'll, these things can be a force for good. They all have the shared history of, well, all of us (so, you know fraught). But they are getting better and with your effort they can be better still. And many are quite inclusive

This sounds fascinating & there's something in me that yearns for something in these lines, but every group someone has mentioned so far has still been too intolerant as to permit me, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Maybe some day
posted by CrystalDave at 9:31 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


My mom was a Rainbow Girl, she keeps wondering what happened to those.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:36 PM on June 26, 2018


I dated a Rainbow Girl back in the day, in Chicago. Jenfullmoon, if your mom was a Rainbow Girl in Chicago around 1989 and her first name starts with "R", tell her I said hi.
posted by davejay at 11:14 PM on June 26, 2018


So. Anyone up to proposing the birth of the MeFiMasons?

Rather hard to show who's qualified for such a membership no?

Electronic meetings have been skipped to date for a reason.

My mom was a Rainbow Girl, she keeps wondering what happened to those.

Still exist - just not as many people participating. Takes time for MANY people to be the sponsors and most people claim to lack the time.

belief in god

Mouth to ear tales exist of some Lodges feature the works of Alister Crowley so one's mileage may vary on what's being believed.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:24 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


if this happens for the Odd Fellows sign me the fuck up, I already have a bunch of their pins.

From memory - visit Tomah WI and the only stiill-running Odd Fellows hospital. If anyone can hook ya up they can. Or could - if they have survived the M and A in medicine.

posted by rough ashlar at 11:41 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have it on good authority that Seymour Skinner is an Odd Fellow, but he sure could steam a good ham.*



*It’s an Albany expression.
posted by darkstar at 12:46 AM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


a non-theistic, non-racist, non-sexist social club

Community makerspaces come pretty close.

the purpose of Freemasonry is

Where I'm from, it's also got some unfortunate links to the sectarian Orange movement.

———

This is timely, as Toronto is full of Rotarians for their world shindig. My grandpa was a long-term Rotarian, and my gran a stalwart of Inner Wheel. I kind-of wanted to join a few years back, but a) they never got back to me, and b) I found out that DoFo's a Rotarian, so nope to the nope.

Guess I'll have to settle for being a Radiolarian.
posted by scruss at 4:44 AM on June 27, 2018


I was going to ask: do any of these fraternal orders admit women?

No?

Well.


Apparently, the Elks do admit women as mentioned upthread.

But that raises the question: what is actually wrong for a social club for men only?

Is there something inappropriate about men wanting to spend some of their time in a male-only space?

It feels like we've lost something when everything has to be all co-ed, all the time (e.g. Boy Scouts -> co-ed BSA, even with the excellent, all-female Girl Scouts).
posted by theorique at 5:42 AM on June 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I am a Freemason, so perhaps I can address some of the questions and issues raised here. I should hasten to add, however, that I do not speak on behalf of all Freemasonry or any Masonic body or organization. My thoughts and opinions are mine alone. Some Masons might disagree with some of them.

So...

Just like any membership-based volunteer organization, customs will differ from place to place. Indeed, this is a central tenet of the way Freemasonry is organized. Many of the decisions come down to the individual Lodge (more on this later).

Because young people during counterculture years did not join fraternal organizations (that's what the old man did) there is a significant trough in the membership demographic of American Freemasonry. There are a lot of Freemasons in their 70s and 80s but not so many in their 40s and 50s. What's interesting is that there are increasing numbers of Freemasons in their 20s and 30s. The fact that Freemasonry was effectively dominated by the generations born in the 30s and 40s for so long (and in some areas, it still is) has meant that the Craft has lagged behind the times. That is changing now at a fairly rapid pace with the influx of younger members and the dawning realization by the older generations that things had better change if they want Freemasonry to survive. What we are finding today is that Freemasonry has something to offer that seems to be attractive to those in their 20s and 30s.

Yes, it's true that most (more on this later) streams of Freemasonry require a belief in "God" and "the immortality of the soul." This is to say that, if you are asked these questions, you have to be able to answer "yes" in good conscience. But! It is a central tenet of Freemasonry that your religious/spiritual beliefs are yours alone. Not only can your religious beliefs not be questioned or interrogated, but it is prohibited to discuss religion while meeting as Freemasons. In other words, the meanings of "god," "immortality" and "soul" are 100% up to the person answering those questions. This is a discussion I have frequently had with people who might have an interest in joining my (admittedly, extremely religiously/spiritually diverse Lodge), because not so many people these days believe in an omniscient immortal being who looks down on us from a separate plane of existence and decides whether or not to interfere or intervene in our lives. If you feel that "there is something more" or a "higher purpose to being" and are comfortable calling that feeling "god," no one can question that. Similarly, when my father passed away I got an email from one of his scientific colleagues saying something like, "I am reminded that in the constant interchange of atomic material, there are particles in my body that were once in your father's. And, to me, that is life everlasting." If someone is comfortable calling that "immortality of the soul," in my book they qualify. Now, it is true that many of the allegories and emblems of Freemasonry are created within a framework of stories, characters and saying that derive from Biblical sources, but it is presented in an entirely nonreligious context and might as well be poetry. A Mason does have to be comfortable with a certain amount of "god talk" and filter that through his personal understanding. It's true that someone who would not be comfortable answering "yes" to those questions under any interpretation or belief would not qualify in my stream of Masonry. It's also true that some Lodges in some areas might not take as wide a view of these things as my Lodge and many others do. Some Lodges probably wouldn't accept someone with my beliefs, for example. They will either evolve with the times or eventually die.

It is definitely the case that some Masonic jurisdictions, Lodges and/or members are not welcoming to gay men. Again, I believe this is due to the greying of the Craft and is going away with the influx of young members. I don't think I know very many Lodges here in NYC that don't have a gay member or wouldn't be perfectly happy to admit one. My own Lodge has many gay members, including a few married couples, and I am aware of at least a half-dozen married couples who are both Freemasons. A few years ago there was a controversy in American Masonry about a southern Grand Lodge that was acting badly towards its gay members, and it was universally condemned in the broader Masonic community including by literally every Freemason I know. Most of the young Masons I know who resided in that state quit their Lodges and joined new Lodges in an adjoining state. There are political reasons having to do with the way voting power accrues in that Grand Lodge that I believe make it more regressive than the membership actually is on a whole. Again, they will change or die.

As I alluded to above, there are many "streams" and traditions of Freemasonry. The tradition to which I belong is the oldest and largest mutually-recognizing tradition of Freemasonry. It accepts men only, and you have to express belief in a supreme power, etc. There are others, however. One of the oldest traditions of Freemasonry derives from the Grand Orient of France which, for historical reasons, does not require belief in a supreme power. Those in my tradition acknowledge the the GOF is legitimate Freemasonry, but we don't play reindeer games with them because they violate one of our "landmarks." Similarly, there are Masonic traditions that are only open to women and there are Masonic traditions that are open to both men and women. I have friends in all of these traditions, and they are widely held to practice rigorous Masonry. We just don't gather together in the same Lodge meetings. We can and do, however, occasionally gather together in restaurants and pubs to discuss the philosophies and teachings of Freemasonry. We can do this so long as we don't discuss the few items that our various traditions deem "secret" or "private." There are also any number of spurious and bogus organizations claiming to be Masonic Grand Lodges. These were often formed by people who had been expelled from legitimate Grand Lodges for various wrongdoings, and many of them exploit those who are educationally and/or economically disadvantaged.


I'm not sure what bearing any of the foregoing has on the Elks, Moose, Oddfellows, etc. These are effectively "copycat" organizations that arose during the "great age of fraternalism" (not that there's anything wrong with that). Whether they have the same focus as Freemasonry on encouraging intellectual development, spiritual growth and moral improvement through contemplation of emblems and allegories taught through ritual practices, I couldn't say.
posted by slkinsey at 5:48 AM on June 27, 2018 [16 favorites]


Seems like the Rotary club is not religious. Does anyone know much about them?

My grandfather was a Rotarian, and when I was in high school I got sent on a Rotary-sponsored program called "Adventures in Energy" (lol) which involved spending a week in Edmonton and a day trip to Fort McMurray to learn about the oil industry. Much later, I was at a social function with Jack Layton and mentioned this trip when Fort Mac came up in conversation, and he told me that he was a Rotarian, too.

I didn't actually know anything about the organization until I looked at their Wikipedia page today. It actually seems like they have pretty progressive goals: their "stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. It is a non-political and non-sectarian organization open to all people regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference."

"It is the duty of all Rotarians," states their Manual of Procedure, "outside their clubs, to be active as individuals in as many legally constituted groups and organizations as possible to promote, not only in words but through exemplary dedication, awareness of the dignity of all people and the respect of the consequent human rights of the individual."

Seems like an ethos many MeFites could get behind.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:29 AM on June 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


There is a Rotary club in my town that has a breakfast meeting every week in a nearby restaurant. I hear the meetings are packed. It is during my work hours, but I have sometimes considered trying to find a way to join, anyway. Sevenyearlurk, you have added to my interest by letting me know their goals are progressive.
posted by elizilla at 6:46 AM on June 27, 2018


"bring together business and professional leaders"
I don't and can't trust any organisation that wants to be apolitical. I believe no such thing is possible. I'm very surprised that Wobblies are permitted in the Elks, that was one way I'd thought of framing my questions, but the general idea that you can have a good organisation that disavows politics is anathema to me.

Many of people's desires for a sense of community and organisation could be met by joining a party. If you want to be part of an apolitical organisation, I feel that's a privileged position that ignores the real need for political change. If you call sibling those who would betray your political ideas because you share some other membership, I find that suspect. That doesn't mean you have to recruit during meetings, it means you shouldn't form bonds with those who would oppose you in other arenas.

A party offers great bonds of friendship and shared experience, socialising and cameradie. It also certainly fullfills people's desire to contribute to the community, IMO far more than any donations or volunteerist contributions.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:51 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I mean, I'm glad that it seems to be the minority view, but I'm surprised at the number of MeFites here saying "Just lie about who you are so that you can spend time with a group of people who wouldn't like the real you!" vis-à-vis the whole atheism restriction in these groups.
posted by haileris23 at 7:05 AM on June 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


My dad was an Elk, for some reason. He used to take me to their Christmas party and the occasional "horse racing" night where you bet on horses in races in 16mm movies. I even bowled in their kids bowling league for a number of years. Then at some point he just stopped going.
posted by tommasz at 7:21 AM on June 27, 2018


Many of people's desires for a sense of community and organisation could be met by joining a party. If you want to be part of an apolitical organisation, I feel that's a privileged position that ignores the real need for political change. If you call sibling those who would betray your political ideas because you share some other membership, I find that suspect.

I have to say that, for me personally, I would never want my primary extracurricular membership to be in a political organization. Spending most of my free time associating primarily with people who share my political beliefs, discussing politics, pursuing direct action, attempting to influence others to assume my political beliefs, and receiving disapprobation should I interfere with the moral imperative of political activism by giving some of my time and energy to other extracurricular activities or maintaining friendships with those occupying other areas of the political spectrum? I'm glad many of these things are done, I belong to some political organizations and I do many of these things. But I'd rather eat a bowl of road gravel than have this be the main leisure-time activity in my life. But to each his own.
posted by slkinsey at 7:31 AM on June 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


Since we're on the topic, there's a Grange house in my city (from I guess before it was a city) and Wikipedia says they're a fraternal organization too. But looking at their web page, they seem more like a political advocacy group for farmers. I'm not a farmer and I only know about them from US history, but are they similar to Masons and Elks or are they different?
posted by FJT at 8:18 AM on June 27, 2018


But that raises the question: what is actually wrong for a social club for men only?

I'm leery of reinforcing the social division between men and women because in my opinion it's already too extreme; we're not as different as people like to make out, and unfamiliarity makes it harder to build empathy. Many men have no female friends - and only know women as family or coworkers. And when men primarily socialize with other men, it also seems like they easily amplify each other's toxic attitudes toward women.

Quite frankly, I don't trust most men-only social groups to be a positive influence on the men in them.

But a bigger problem is that social clubs for men only are one of the ways that women have been shut out of networking and the opportunities that come along with it. That's the foundation of many legal battles against influential male-only clubs.

It still goes on - a social outing or club doesn't have to explicitly ban women to be unwelcoming. The same problem is true for race.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:39 AM on June 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


My wife and I have been debating joining the Fraternal Order of Eagles(FOE) for a while now. I expressed my discomfort with the "belief in a higher power" requirement for membership. I expressed that I'm not a deist but I do believe that laws of physics govern the universe and to me those represent a higher power than I currently understand. I was told that they allow atheists to make their own definition and they are fine with it.

Also my local lodge has full membership for men and women and a woman is currently the president much to the surprise of visitors who are used to women having a separate auxiliary group.
posted by ShakeyJake at 8:44 AM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


If you call sibling those who would betray your political ideas because you share some other membership, I find that suspect. That doesn't mean you have to recruit during meetings, it means you shouldn't form bonds with those who would oppose you in other arenas.

Nobody's ever done more direct personal harm to me or my reputation than folks who seemed to share my politics. Maybe if I was a churchgoer, I'd be saying the same thing about folks who seemed to share my faith. But either way, I'm well into my sixth decade on this planet and if I've learned anything, it's that you've got to find a way to actually meet and interact with and find some sort of commonality with people who don't consciously share your values, because otherwise we're all gonna die in some sort of holocaust, and soon.

So yeah, here's to Groucho Marx and joining some club that wouldn't have me a member. Necessary change oft comes from the oddest of actions.
posted by philip-random at 8:48 AM on June 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


There are many reasons why fraternal organizations are a little intimidating/off-putting to me -- the history of exclusion (race, gender, class), that they're traditionally very male-centered, the socially (and probably politically) conservative ethos (that I fear would influence me for the worse). Fundamentally, I just don't feel like I'm the kind of member that those organizations want, and so it makes me uncomfortable to join a club where I don't think I would belong.

But at the same time, I would love a community organization that is meant to be a social club. I am active in politics and in volunteering/community-building orgs -- but a place to play pool or bowl and drink cheap beer and put together 4th of July BBQs and just generally create a community solely for the fun of it sounds fantastic. So I'm torn.
posted by rue72 at 8:53 AM on June 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't and can't trust any organisation that wants to be apolitical. I believe no such thing is possible. I'm very surprised that Wobblies are permitted in the Elks, that was one way I'd thought of framing my questions, but the general idea that you can have a good organisation that disavows politics is anathema to me.

It sounds like maybe The Benevolent and Protective Order of The Elks isn't the best place for you, then.
posted by Floydd at 9:01 AM on June 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


I believe in a higher power. I see streetlights every day.
posted by benzenedream at 9:56 AM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


For people inquiring about Rotary, my uncle and his husband (who is also my uncle, as these things go) have been super active Rotary members for decades, and do tons of traveling around to Rotary events all over the place, so they seem to be pretty chill about (white, cis) gays.
posted by ITheCosmos at 10:15 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


But a bigger problem is that social clubs for men only are one of the ways that women have been shut out of networking and the opportunities that come along with it. That's the foundation of many legal battles against influential male-only clubs.

Yeah, that's the most on target argument that I've seen. Even if it's intended to be a purely social club, people are inevitably going to talk a bit of business, do some networking, make some referrals.

I'm not sure how one would get the positive benefits of "homosocial interaction" without also having those exclusive networking and professional benefits come along for the ride.
posted by theorique at 10:35 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, I'm glad that it seems to be the minority view, but I'm surprised at the number of MeFites here saying "Just lie about who you are so that you can spend time with a group of people who wouldn't like the real you!" vis-à-vis the whole atheism restriction in these groups.

It seems like one of the fundamental divisions in this thread is between people who see the resurgence of such organizations and think "well, probably still not for people like me" versus people who think "that sounds like an opportunity to rebuild these organizations to include more people like me."

(The article contains some discussion of how this has and has not worked out to date.)
posted by atoxyl at 11:30 AM on June 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


"that sounds like an opportunity to rebuild these organizations to include more people like me."
In my case, I see it as an opportunity to help rebuild these organizations to actively include people who are decidedly NOT like me.
posted by Floydd at 11:54 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


that sounds like an opportunity to rebuild these organizations to include more people like me.

I think there's a distinction between "they might not be welcoming, but I can change that" and "this is a straight up or down question on intake, which I would have to lie about to myself & others to get in long enough to try to change it"

I'm not sure how I'd go about changing that from the outside, or if that'd be anything but unwelcome
posted by CrystalDave at 11:56 AM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Who am I to walk in and start "transforming" these organizations? Is this some kind of gentrification *ahem* I mean "development" scheme, but for old farts' cliques? :P

A clubhouse to hang out in and shoot the shit sounds incredibly fun, but trying to find belonging and camaraderie in a clubhouse already inhabited by people who don't particularly want you there and who already are tight with each other seems like more trouble than it's worth.

And I don't think there's any altruistic reason to nurture and nurse these organizations back into relevance. They're social clubs, they don't have value for their own sake aside from their value for socializing.

I DO like socializing, though. This is reminding me how much fun it would be to join a band.
posted by rue72 at 12:26 PM on June 27, 2018


A clubhouse to hang out in and shoot the shit sounds incredibly fun, but trying to find belonging and camaraderie in a clubhouse already inhabited by people who don't particularly want you there and who already are tight with each other seems like more trouble than it's worth.

That's not really how it works, though. You get nominated, you get initiated and you are IN. In the case of the Elks, you're an Elk. You can now walk into any Elk Lodge in the country and be welcomed as a fellow Elk. You can take an active role in your home Lodge and effect real change.
The belonging is inherent in membership, the camaraderie is, of course, up to you.
As for value aside from value for socializing, I'd refer you to my comment upthread. Of course, the primary reason for the hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time we give to our community is merely a feeble attempt to provide validation for what's ultimately a social club.
But it is kinda fun.
Or, you know, you could join a band.
posted by Floydd at 12:59 PM on June 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Maybe this is just me being a newish parent, but I have no idea when people find the time for this sort of thing. I’m interested in social organizations like this and have even attended a few events of similar organizations and had fun getting to know the old guys, but I’m just shocked that so many of us have the time to go out somewhere several times per month, much less find time to do the volunteering that really ought to be part of all of this.

Sounds great in theory, but I’m afraid I’d join then never show up again.
posted by Tehhund at 1:34 PM on June 27, 2018


Maybe this is just me being a newish parent,

As a parent of a 4 year old and a 2 year old:

0) We did this to ourselves.
1) You're right.
2) Get used to it.
3) It's ok.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


I joined the Elks maybe five years ago (after posting the AskMe linked above) and while it was pleasant enough, it was mostly like drinking with some friendly, middle-and working class drunk aunts and uncles. And aunts and uncles you had to try hard not to let talk about politics, at that. It was nice, but was not what I had hoped.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:04 PM on June 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


I feel like it might be worthwhile to start new explicity inclusive social organizations rather than try to take over existing ones from the inside. Ones that have the same networking opportunities but are dedicated to progressive values, run fundraisers for progressive causes, organize protests, and have $2 beers and facilities for members' families to enjoy.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:15 PM on June 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


I felt a tremendous sense of belonging, of unconditional support from a community (even those that were strangers), and of accountability to that community during my time in a sorority* in college. I wish I still had that (this article and discussion definitely has me inspired) and I wish everyone could experience that. Maybe a formally recognized community isn't for everyone, but it definitely worked for me - for one thing, my membership helped so much to ameliorate anxiety around "I don't know if they actually want me there/want to talk to me/want that help from me/etc" that I often feel with weaker or newer acquaintances. In post-college adulthood, I have struggled so much more with transitioning from "good conversation" to "actual friend."

*for the record, nope, it wasn't nearly the toxic and sexist organization many people assume it was, but I'm not really here to argue that right now.
posted by mosst at 2:28 PM on June 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I feel like it might be worthwhile to start new explicity inclusive social organizations rather than try to take over existing ones from the inside. Ones that have the same networking opportunities but are dedicated to progressive values, run fundraisers for progressive causes, organize protests, and have $2 beers and facilities for members' families to enjoy.

My lottery victory plan has always been to do exactly this by starting the Loyal Order of the Loon or LOL Lodge, which would have it written into its charter that it was to be conscientiously and explicitly inclusive, would host progressive fundraisers, and would also raise ongoing operating income offering itself for rental as an LGBTQ/non-traditional/atheist and non-Judeo-Christian friendly event venue.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:48 PM on June 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


Our Most Grand, Reverent Order of Fraternal Loons: We Teach Friendship
posted by a halcyon day at 3:20 PM on June 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Is there another word for “fraternal” that kinda means the same thing, but doesn’t have the gendered connotation/denotation? Is comradely too Marxist? Is friendly too bland? Is familial too assuming? Neighborly? Cordial?

I feel like there is a better word, but my brain is fried from volunteering today doing science demos for middle schoolers, and it’s not coming to me.

Because I think we’d need a better word than fraternal, that conveys the close-knit bond of mutual affection and support, but doesn’t carry all that gender baggage...
posted by darkstar at 3:45 PM on June 27, 2018


There's "sodality," from the Latin sodalis, "companion." (It does have some Christian connotations, if that's a deal breaker.)
posted by Iridic at 4:09 PM on June 27, 2018


According to Wikipedia, "The Elks had modest beginnings in 1868 as a social club for minstrel show performers, called the 'Jolly Corks'." It then grew into freemasons with the serial numbers filed off, and then dropped the secret society stuff because it was dumb.

So I think the Loyal Order of the Loon doesn't need any lottery plans, just people (preferably people who live near each other) willing to go in on it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:27 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hmm...if we interpose any word like fraternity in the name, we lose the estimable LOL abbreviation. The Loyal Order of Loons may just be the simpler, better approach.

Alternately, the collective nouns for loons include a cry, a water dance, and an asylum. The Grand, Majestic Asylum of the Loyal Order of Loons. The Ancient and Benevolent Water Dance of the Loyal Order of Loons. The Noble Cry of the Loyal Order of Loons.

Well, as our official garb, maybe at least we could wear feathers in our jaunty caps...


Beautiful plumage!
posted by darkstar at 4:39 PM on June 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


As someone who has previously weighed in on the side of "own these community centers" I will admit that the very idea of a club can be inherently exclusionary. So, despite that join these clubs and make them better (the whole is the sum of the parts). And at the same time support and expand your actual public community resources: parks, arts centers, etc.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:39 PM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


The idea of an "inclusive club" sounds like an oxymoron, but I figure a well-designed progressive club will self-select members who are interested in a supportive, inclusive environment. Bigots wouldn't want to join a club that celebrates its non-straight, non-white, non-christian members. Sure, a progressive club would still be exclusionary, but I don't know how many people would be opposed to that sort of exclusion.

I was thinking "Nest" would be a good alternative to "Lodge" for the The Loyal Order of Loons, and I support the idea of feathers featuring prominently in official garb. I was researching the local Elk lodge and noted they had several women in the leadership, but everyone man and woman alike was wearing a tuxedo in their official pictures. So that, but instead of fancy male dinnerwear it's everyone in feather boas and/or jaunty feathered caps. I also like those collective nouns, they'd make good names for weekly/monthly/yearly offical meetings.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:11 PM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Is there another word for “fraternal” that kinda means the same thing, but doesn’t have the gendered connotation/denotation? Is comradely too Marxist? Is friendly too bland? Is familial too assuming? Neighborly? Cordial?

it is easy and normal to say sororal. if you feel generous you can even clarify, when asked, that your sororal organization admits sisters who aren't female, too. all the people who think it's natural to assume a "fraternal" organization admits women will have no objections.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:12 PM on June 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


I am legit polling my local peers about this and am weirdly close to starting Nest 001 of the Loyal Order of the Loon, assuming DirtyOldTown consents to my use of the name.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:29 PM on June 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


Think of the Boy Scouts. Once the ultra-cons figured out they could game the leadership role, especially those affiliated with the Mormon Church, and then they could use this role to indoctrinate a whole new generation of ultra-cons with strict leadership from atop the Scouting hierarchy! Everything went wrong.

Well, for one, the Scout Troops (you will notice in the Year of Our Lord 2018, I have elided the word "Boy") who were partnered with fringe cults like the Episcopalians and Unitarians (UUA, if you want to be coy) could, you know, just ignore all that.

So they did. As did other secular and religious sponsors who weren't cruel and hateful. Game on.

I remember a conversation I had with my Dad back when I was a Scout facing down college, and it was controversial to let an atheist be as Scout as there was a court case.

"If they let an Atheist be a Scout, they can let a Satanist be a Scout! What's the cut-off line?"
"Dad, there aren't enough Satanists to worry about, and if one showed up in our troop, wouldn't you want a Satanist abiding by the Scout Oath and live by Scout Law rather than all dark-spell-casting stuff?"

(I also wound up being an Altar Boy at a Catholic service at Scout Camp while being Episcopal, major scandal, and set off another major scandal by attending the Friday Night Jewish service as an observer after being invited by a friend I made at Scout camp. My adult leaders stood their ground for me. One of them was a paratrooper on D-Day.)

Game Won.

Game Over.

MY DAUGHTER'S GONNA BE A CUB SCOUT! LIKE I WAS!

Gonna see if the local Masons or Grangers will have me. I have ideas for a Pride Parade float! I like this trend.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:49 PM on June 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'd be glad to MeMail anyone thinking about my Loon-y lodge idea. I've been thinking on it for years. Some of the ideas I've most enjoyed are cribbed from the artificial extended family structures in Kurt Vonnegut's Slapstick.

In particular, I've always wanted the secret code phrase to be "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the moooooooon?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:55 PM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


In case you're also in the market for a Vonnegut motto - "We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is."
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:27 PM on June 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


Maybe this is just me being a newish parent, but I have no idea when people find the time for this sort of thing.

This is exactly why so many of the "fraternal orders" didn't allow women for a long time, and that didn't raise public outcry the way that "this restaurant doesn't allow women" would have - the women were assigned to childcare and housecare roles. Men's orders were for men to socialize while their wives worked.

A more inclusive order would need to deal with the fact that many of its members would have full-time jobs and childcare responsibilities. That means building childcare features into the meeting locations, planning activities that can be done by people who're frazzled from long workdays, and having a schedule that's compatible with jobs, school, and public transit restrictions.

I think it's do-able, but the resulting group would look more like a makerspace/hackerspace meetup than a traditional fraternal order.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:37 PM on June 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


There was a Boston Herald article from 2008 about punk rockers joining Masonic lodges, partly for the practicality of having Masonic lodges wherever your band tours. (The article does not appear to be available online, either on the site or in archive.org (thanks to their paywall), though the blogpost I wrote is still up.)
posted by acb at 5:29 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think it's do-able, but the resulting group would look more like a makerspace/hackerspace meetup than a traditional fraternal order.

Might a church be a useful model, too? I don't attend one, but my understanding is that things like childcare are often much better provisioned there than in other community spaces.
posted by mosst at 5:37 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


There is a Masonic Temple that became a Truc Lac Buddhist Temple on the north side of Chicago for sale recently. It has a lovely space inside that would be great for small performances and events. There are a couple photos in this PDF brochure. Unfortunately it's being torn down and turned into condos.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:57 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


In re parenting, my observation in the Masons is that those who come in at a young age tend to be quite active up to the arrival of children, then their participation drops while the children are very young, and then it usually resumes at a sometimes-greater/sometimes-lesser level once the kids don't require quite so much care/supervision. It's also worthwhile bearing in mind that most Masonic Lodges in the United States* meet only once or twice a month, so this is not a huge time commitment for a member who is not an officer or otherwise part of the Lodge leadership. Even a parent of young children can usually find the time to attend four or five meetings a year, which is enough to maintain a sense of connection to the Lodge until the kids are a bit older. It's far less a time and energy commitment than, say, singing in a church choir that has a weekly rehearsal, Meanwhile, plenty of parents continue singing in choir unabated throughout their childrens' early years.

* In English/Irish/Scottish Lodges it's very common to meet only four or five times a year in extended meetings that usually include one of the Masonic rituals followed by a lavish formal dinner with special toasts, etc. French and French-influenced "continental" Lodges, on the other hand, might meet as frequently as weekly, with the relatively brief meetings consisting of philosophical discussion kicked off by brief thesis presentation on a predetermined topic followed by (or including) a dinner.
posted by slkinsey at 7:04 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


acb's article "Frat boys: Masons drum up members among Hub rockers": on Wayback Machine, also a copy of the text on Google Groups.
posted by Nelson at 8:23 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Mr. Encyclopedia: am weirdly close to starting Nest 001 of the Loyal Order of the Loon

Nest 000, surely.
posted by golwengaud at 8:59 AM on June 28, 2018 [7 favorites]


I don't know much about Elks or Shriners, except what I learned on the Flintstones, as I don't think we have them here in Australia, but as a recently joined Rotarian, some of the comments here are profoundly disappointing.
I read Bowling Alone more than a decade ago, and have since sought to build social capital and community.
Now I'm chair of one community environmental group, secretary at the high school PTA equivalent and a new Rotarian.

I joined because I want to do good things for my community.
Almost everyone I met in these community organisations wants exactly the same. We can get more done by doing it together, and there are enjoyable benefits of fellowship.

Some of the people I have met have had varying political views, and have ranged greatly in age. Some have held old fashioned views about women or gays. Those people are vastly more receptive to me saying we should make sure an event doesn't exclude (for example) same sex couples because we have worked on fundraising together, shared meals together, and listened to each other.

Taking the view that service clubs need to prove themselves ideologically pure before you will deign to join them because they have a dubious history of exclusion or include an affirmation of belief (I am an atheist, but not an asshole about it) is thinking that results in destroying social capital.

Take a look in the political threads on this site for how poisonous discourse is getting in the USA because there is so little common ground between people. Participating in your community, even if some of the people might hold views with which you disagree, helps build common ground and directly influence people.

My Rotary president (who is a woman) mentioned in a newsletter that a 3rd of members are women, and that the membership is more culturally diverse than our largely white local area, and this is something she is proud of and hopes to improve. But it was an aside. We aren't there for the purpose of demonstrating diversity and inclusivity, we are there to raise money to eradicate polio, fund scholarships, send kids on student exchange programs and cure sick kids.

So go join Lions or the Masons or Rotary or your local stonecutters or whoever is doing good, and make yourself heard, rather than staying in. Found a new club if necessary, though it is easy to join an existing one.
posted by bystander at 2:25 PM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]


And for those with kids, if you can make a meeting once a month, and ideally an afternoon to help out, that is enough. There are also other ways to help out online or at home.
And remember, your kids are growing, and you'll have more time in just a few years. It's easy to get into a rut of not doing things because little kids leave you exhausted (he says smugly, now that my youngest is 9yro). You also gain a wider range of friends to help your family.
I like being friends with the school principal when one of the boys needs extra help, it is good to know a local business owner looking for junior staff when your teenager wants an after school job, it is helpful to know the Mayor when you don't know who in the local government to talk to about a problem.
posted by bystander at 2:27 PM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


before you will deign to join them because they have a dubious history of exclusion or include an affirmation of belief

I think that this is unnecessarily dismissive of the concerns people have about it.

From an outside perspective, I don't know if a club that now allows women is actually welcoming to women. I don't know if the entire club made this change with enthusiasm, or if it was contentious. I don't know if I'll run into people who don't want me there, or if I'll be the only woman in a room full of men complaining about their wives and talking about how hot the waitress is.

It's 100% reasonable for me to be wary. If the club is actually welcoming, that's something they can address - they can try to make who they are more visible to outsiders. But "now allows women" is not in itself enough, I'm under no obligation to take that to mean "now welcomes women" and in fact I'd be pretty naive to. This would be even more of a problem if I was visibly more queer and didn't have a choice of how much to reveal before I got out of there.

Your euphemistic "old fashioned views about women or gays" aren't exactly pleasant to be around. They can be dangerous to be around. And while I understand the value of friendship in helping to overcome those views, that sound like it would be a nice, supportive environment for me - it kind of knocks out one of the main reasons to join such a club.

Clubs that still require an affirmation of belief are an even stickier point for me. I'm willing to give a new group a shot based on someone's recommendation, but I'm not willing to lie to get in. This doesn't make me an asshole. I respect religious people, and don't think I'm better or smarter than them for being non-religious. I simply don't think that "not being an asshole" means lying about what I believe. I think that the people expecting me to lie are the assholes.

It is also impossible to tell from the outside what kind of weight these affirmations have within the group. The Boy Scouts are a great example of the problem. There are troops where it's just a formality and no one really cares. It still keeps out atheists who won't lie, but they're not going to put any effort into making sure no one lied. But then there are troops that take it really seriously. I've even been told by a boy scout leader, straight to my face, that if you don't believe in a higher power you can't be moral because your moral code doesn't come from anywhere. The same boy scout leader talked big game about how welcoming his troop was, because kids of all different religions were allowed - but not a non-religious kid.

If you don't take it seriously, then just get rid of it. It's an explicit ban on the non-religious and even if it's not enforced (like those silly, outdated laws) it sends a message that you don't want to send.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:05 AM on July 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


That’s a great insight, Kutsuwamushi.

Over the past decade, I’ve been trying to find a church that fits my particular theology (which I won’t go into here). When the church website isn’t clear on its attitude toward LGBT folks, I have sent emails asking for elaboration.

Some of them don’t respond at all. Others respond with the standard, conservative attitudes.

Some, however, respond with rather anodyne statements that represent how their church “allows” or “accepts” gays. But while this superficially might be encouraging, it is sometimes in dramatic contrast to the responses I get back expressing how the church truly “affirms” and embraces LGBT congregants.

One is a sort of mealy-mouthed tolerance, where LGBT are acknowledged as being technically allowed, but which may hide a residual bigotry among the congregants, whereas the other is an effusive embrace of LGBT as equals and celebrates their participation in the spiritual body.

Then there is the truly insidious type of church that, at least up front, “welcomes” LGBT in the same way it “welcomes all sinners”, which is to say that it officially views being gay a sin to be suppressed, but that such sinners are most welcome to come and join the church where they will be held accountable for turning away from being gay.

On several occasions, I’ve not been able to determine the church’s actual views on LGBT members until I’ve attended once or twice, despite what they say on their web site or in emails.

As Kutsuwamushi said, it’s often really hard to determine by an outsider just how welcoming or affirming an organization really is when they say they “allow” a particular demographic to join.
posted by darkstar at 2:30 PM on July 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Sorry to reply late.
I recognise we are talking about a broad range of clubs/organisations, and I can agree it does none of them credit to include a need for religiousity or to behave in an exclusionary way.
I also agree that the old fashioned ideas I mentioned are undesirable, but I am pragmatic enough to recognise they remain widely held, despite both the law, and the general community consensus having moved forward.

I guess I am of the mind that putting the onus to change and demonstrate their changes, on a group like boy scouts or elks (from what I have read) where the change is driven by disinterested outsiders, is likely to get lip service at best. But when participants in the group are seeking change they are more likely to achieve it.
I'm suggesting that you are no doubt right that there are clubs who are forced to tolerate diversity, and an evening with them might be boorish, but there are also many groups who are open to diversity - though haven't made it their priority. Most of these organisations have a purpose that isn't prioiritising diversity, and I can see that a group with 15 or 20 members might think a better use of their time is staffing the soup kitchen than marching in a pride parade.
If they include a cross section of the community, it will include people with varying backgrounds and beliefs, and while you have every right to choose not to associate with people who tell sexist jokes, they will keep doing so if you aren't there to ask them to cool it. In my experience, this is how change actually happens, as the cultural equivalent of the Overton window shifts so it is no longer acceptable to behave in inconsiderate ways that were previously still inconsiderate, but unquestioned.
The people who attend PTA meetings, or Rotary, or local environmental groups aren't people who are uncaring, but can often need reminding about inclusivity. These are the kind of people who are open to being allies to diverse groups, and I think it is a mistake to dismiss joining them by putting the onus on them to demonstrate their inclusivity as a precondition.

In any case, I am really saddened to hear that you met discrimination from Scouts, and the scout leaders I know would be disgusted at that. I would have included scouts as a group like the PTA and Rotary as open minded to inclusivity, so I am thinking there might be some underlying cultural differences between countries that make what I am saying harder elsewhere.

When I say I am not an asshole about atheism, I mean I don't require people to make accommodations in their religious observations for my lack of faith, and I don't find the need to advise them of their mistaken beliefs. I am sure you have encountered atheists that do obnoxiously require that.
When I go to a friend's church wedding I remain silent during the prayers. To my surprise, at a Rotary dinner they both toasted queen and country (I have previously never toasted the queen in my life, and have no intention to start participating in this anachronism) and said a pre-dinner grace that mentioned God. If people wish to toast foreign royalty or thank an imaginary being for the dinner they purchased, they are welcome to, but I neither join in, nor make a fuss about my unwillingness to participate. Nobody cares about this 4 seconds out of a 3 hour evening, and I gather from some Googling that these things are hold outs of tradition that I think fall into the "nobody has sought to change it'" school, rather than being lynch pins of conservatism upon which they seek to imperil progressives.

So I take back the comment that people should deign to join, and replace it with a more nuanced, don't tar a bunch of organisations with the same brush because some others are full of dicks.
It is hard to organise a group to do useful things, and it is rare to find a group that can be precisely aligned in their beliefs so nobody is challenged. So I think it would be a shame if useful things don't get done because people didn't take the risk that they could get along with others who are not precisely on the same page about beliefs or priorities, rather than joining in and adding extra viewpoints to the mix.
posted by bystander at 2:41 PM on July 5, 2018


I can see that a group with 15 or 20 members might think a better use of their time is staffing the soup kitchen than marching in a pride parade.

Actually valuing diversity, instead of paying it lip service, isn't "marching in a pride parade." That's a weird contrast to make.

In my experience, this is how change actually happens, as the cultural equivalent of the Overton window shifts so it is no longer acceptable to behave in inconsiderate ways that were previously still inconsiderate, but unquestioned.

I acknowledged this explicitly in my comment and don't need to be told this. Yes, building relationships with people is one of the most effective ways to build empathy. But it can also be hard or risky, and not everyone is up to that. It's not snobby to say that I'm not up to that.

I think it is a mistake to dismiss joining them by putting the onus on them to demonstrate their inclusivity as a precondition.

It's not my job to educate them. If I'm looking for a social club, I'm looking for someplace where I can be comfortable - I'm not looking for someplace where I have to be on my guard and where others' prejudices against me are somehow considered my responsibility to fix. Others might not be up to that work and I respect them for it. But I'm not going to react well to being treated as if I'm snobby for not wanting to do it myself.

When I go to a friend's church wedding I remain silent during the prayers.

So what? I'm not sure why you're bringing up personal examples of times you were silent during others' devotions. There's a difference between being silent during others devotions and affirming a belief that you don't hold. We're discussing a social club that has an affirmation of belief - and you objected to people having a problem with this, characterizing them as asshole atheists. Now you're bringing up an unrelated example.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2018


« Older Getting men off ledges   |   No other employee was named in the contract. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments