How can the Odd Fellows avoid the distraction of politics?

How can the Odd Fellows avoid the distraction of politics?

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

As we enter the “political season” approaching November, the Odd Fellows of California have to be very careful to avoid political discussions within the Lodge. As I noted in a Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) Newsletter published on July 31, 2020, Odd Fellow Lodges should be a peaceful and tranquil place where we avoid the distractions of the outside world. Politics is one of those major distractions – hardly anything can be more divisive than political discussions. And there is plenty of time and place to discuss politics outside of the Lodge Hall.

But as I also noted in that column, what is “political” may not always be easy for everyone to discern. What is “political” to one person may not be considered “political” by another person. Heck, even making a Lodge donation to the scouts might be considered political by some.

I have received many comments on the issue of “what is political”, and I thought I would share a few of those comments with you. In the following comments, I have deleted the name of the Odd Fellow and any identification of his/her Lodge. Here are some of the comments, I have received:

* * * * * * *

The Odd Fellow mission is to serve, not opine. It’s right there in black and white at the bottom of page 9 of the “red book” as recited at each meeting by the Noble Grand. Cross that line and risk losing many, many members. People can just as easily decide to post “Trump 2020” signs as “Black Lives Matter” banners. In spite of my limited connections, I already know of at least one person who has recently dropped out of Odd Fellows because of a political matter. We have a charge to use our resources for social and service activities which unify our members. Political debates are very divisive and counter to our basic principles. There are countless opportunities outside of Odd Fellows for expressing political views and taking action. There will never be agreement in the lodges on politics and we should not even go there.

* * * * * * *

Yes this is a common problem for the lodge. It is easy to avoid the obvious “who should you vote for” kind of discussions but not so much when it comes to taking action.

Does having the lodge members march in parades (Gay Pride, St. Patrick’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day?) as Odd Fellows send a political message? Some say yes, others say no. The Girl Scouts (another group where we are supposed to speak up about injustice and advocate for our values but not be political) got around this by declaring parades cultural events rather than political actions. However, some members did leave Scouting when Girl Scouts marched in the last presidential inauguration parade as they have done since Calvin Coolidge; because they did not agree with the current president.

What about participating in Good Works Projects with faith based organizations (for example, our Pie Baking project for St. Anthony’s Dining Room? ) Truth be told, all of the large consistently operated meal programs for the homeless in San Francisco are faith based! They don’t ask their guests or donors what they believe, although I think that like the Odd Fellows, there is usually a blessing offered before the meal. We may not share that that religious belief but I don’t mind supporting the food programs run by organizations like St. Anthony’s (catholic), Glide Memorial or Salvation Army (protestant) because they step up to serve those most needy.

* * * * * * *

I think that Bernard Malamud said it best in The Fixer: Life Is Politics!!!

* * * * * * *

Wow. People forget that the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s was driven by churches and other community groups. It resulted in simple legislation that defended the right to vote, but the message was about the need for equality and bringing to light unequal treatment of people. Likewise, the current effort – Black Lives Matter (BLM) – is being driven by non-political groups and individuals. It doesn’t belong to any political party, because it is advocacy that mirrors core beliefs of many organizations, including Odd Fellows. It is not a political platform or a campaign that is new or foreign. It seems like anything controversial is equated as political. Part of the problem is silence on these issues.

* * * * * * *

If you can identify it as more likely to be endorsed by one political party than another, yes it’s political. If it is very controversial, yes it’s political. If it would cause division within the lodge, yes it’s political. “l know it when I see it.”

* * * * * * *

These questions are too political and should not be mentioned in a lodge. Lets leave these matters to the outside world, how we react is a personal issue and I for one want to stay neutral.

* * * * * * *

When I asked another Odd Fellow about wearing masks as a minimal precaution for safety if they insisted on continuing to hold meetings, I was told that it was the right of Americans to ignore local health orders to exercise their free will…as Americans. That Americans have a choice. No politics there.

* * * * * * *

Again, I think that Lodges should be allowed to develop their own cultures and there should be respect for the culture and traditions of Lodges. For Odd Fellows to be relevant, the words in the rituals cannot be hollow recitations. They could really come alive.

* * * * * * *

And so it goes. The purpose of my July 31 article was to stimulate some thinking on the subject. In the words of a former President, “Mission accomplished.” (Whoops. Was that too political?)

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California Odd Fellows

 
« Tell me about the Odd Fellows of California Odd Fellows in California and Nationwide: Our Members are Precious »

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This