Ask the Elk

No, silly, not the big antlered quadruped, but a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE).

I was asked over in the “Ask the Freemason” thread to do this, so here it is.

I am currently the “Exalted Ruler” (roughly equal to President) of my local Lodge. My term ends next week, and my replacement is being sworn in then. The BPOE is a (roughly) 150-year-old American fraternal/charitable organization, and I’ll answer pretty much anything I can.

Well, how did the Elks get started? (For some reason I thought they were older)

Are you guys into the handshakes and ceremonies like the masons, or not?

What do the Elks mainly do? (Yes, I know that will probably vary from Lodge to Lodge at least somewhat)

I was an Antler (the junior version of the Elks) when I was a kid. Not because I wanted to belong to something (I actually avoid all fraternal organizations), but because everybody else had joined. My stepfather was a lifetime member of the Elks and used to like going to the hall to play poker and have a few “snorts”. Do the Antlers still exist for kids, or was that a local thing?

Do you have to be a free-born, God-fearing male to join? :stuck_out_tongue:

A group of entertainers formed the “Jolly Corks” in 1867, and they renamed it and turned it into a fraternal organization the next year.

We don’t have a handshake, but there is definitely ritual during the meetings. I don’t know what Masonic ritual is like, but ours is pretty tame. No hoods or skulls or naked spankings or anything. :wink:

Each Lodge has its own focus, and each state has its own special project. The parent organization (Grand Lodge) does a wide variety of charity work, but most of it focuses around patriotic work (mostly taking care of veterans) and supporting kids (mostly through scholarships, but we have a very active drug awareness program and a big national hoop shoot competition).

My Lodge gives out 15-18 scholarships each year, as well as things like distributing safety helmets to skiers. We do “behind the scenes” stuff, too. We have an endowment we use to help families that have high medical costs due to accidents or illnesses. Frankly, that’s the most secretive thing about us–members are strictly forbidden to reveal the names of anyone asking or receiving aid from the Elks.

I don’t know. We don’t have an Antlers program here, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist elsewhere. We do still have poker and snorts. :smiley:

Two requirements: you must be an American citizen (there is no foreign branch of the Elks) 18 years or older, and you must affirm that you believe in God. There is no requirement to be Christian (we’re fine with Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, etc.), but the organization doesn’t accept atheists.

Once upon a time, you had to be male to join, but that restriction was lifted quite a while ago. The auxiliary organization for women (called the DOES, not the cows) still exists, but it’s become rather pointless since women can be Elks now.

What is a snort?

Darn. There aren’t any secret ritualistic fraternities for the atheists. :stuck_out_tongue:

A drink. Most Elks clubs have bars.

What, Scientology doesn’t count?

They believe in a higher power alright.

Do you have many young members? Not kids, I mean young adults. My impression of fraternal organizations is that they’re mostly older folks.

That was an issue in my Lodge when I took over. The average age was over 70. We did a huge membership drive among the younger folks, and we’ve pulled in a bunch of 20-somethings and 30-somethings. As an experiment, we did a punk rock concert there a few weeks ago (since we’re a private club rather than a bar, we could make it an “all-ages” show), and that’s got the younger crowd even more interested. We also redecorated, switched out the Bud and Bud Light on the beer taps for local microbrews and brought in bartenders in their 30s.

Probably the biggest thing we’ve done to attract younger folks is to actively court women as members. Most couples these days would rather go out somewhere together, and the woman often picks where they go.

Are the Loyal Order of Moose y’all’s bitter rivals? Do you have gang fights with them, maybe involving fake antlers strapped to your heads?

How about NeoPagans?

Frankly, I’ve never met a Moose. I’ve met a bunch of moose, though. They come right into the back yard.

To the best of my knowledge, NeoPagans do not accept the concept of a God as such, so I’d guess no.

(I stated my personal opinion on this in the other thread, by the way. It bothers me that the Elks do so much good work, but won’t allow people to help just because they are atheists, or Buddhists, or pagans, or whatever. The Elks aren’t affiliated with any particular church, so I don’t see the logic behind it. Oh, well. Not my call.)

Is the objection that many of us believe in a goddess rather than a god, or that we believe in multiple gods rather than a singular one? (I realize that is a bit of a tangent, but I am curious.)

We certainly believe in a higher power(s) - or is this something that tends to be settled on a local level?

Wikipedia has it wrong and lists the minimum age of 21.

You mentioned that a lot of your members were 70 or older. Is there any residual resentment about allowing African Americans to join? Or is that history at this point?

What would it take for you to accept atheists as members?

This made me laugh. Quite a few years back, my husband was interviewing for a job in a shithole town in New Mexico (possibly Carlsbad, but not necessarily). They insisted on us going on a tour of the area with a real estate agent. The aforementioned real estate agent made it a special point to note that the local Elks Club had a new pool. As individuals who have had their own home swimming pools for the past 30 years, this wasn’t necessarily a selling point for us. I was unable to restrain myself for stating to the real estate agent–“my husband is not an Elk–he’s a Mystic Knight of the Sea. In fact, he’s the Kingfish.” She was like, “Oh, well I’m sure they would welcome him in.”

Multiple gods is the issue, as I understand it.

It is typically settled at a local and individual level. Certain Lodges, certain towns, certain communities, are more open than others. At a national level, the requirement is that you affirm you believe in God. It is up to you whether you’d be comfortable saying that, and whether you’d be comfortable with prayers opening and closing the meetings.

No, that was my mistake. It’s 21.

If there is any such resentment, I’m unaware of it. Again, it probably varies from place to place.

Me? Nothing at all. I’d welcome atheists. The Elks organization? I have no idea. It would probably require a concerted effort by a group of highly-placed members.

Sure there are. However, unlike the other so-called “secret” fraternities, ours are truly secret.