The Elks Club (the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks or BPOE) is a civic group, and an Elks Lodge is the building where a local chapter meets.
The information in the following three paragraphs is from the Elks Clubs’ official website, Elks.org:
The Elks are
• A fraternal order with nearly a million members and a 141-year history.
• A network of nearly 2,000 lodges in communities all over the country.
• A charitable foundation that each year gives millions in scholarships and aids veterans and others.
The Elks was founded in New York City in 1868 under the name “Jolly Corks” by 15 actors and others involved in the entertainment industry. Membership was soon opened to those in other professions. The Elks’ mission statement is as follows: “To inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to recognize a belief in God; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; to cultivate good fellowship; to perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization, and to provide for its government, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America will serve the people and communities through benevolent programs, demonstrating that Elks Care and Elks Share.” Unofficially, the Elks Club is “a quiet network of good deeds.” The Elks sponsor drug awareness and prevention programs, raise money for schools and recreational facilities, award college scholarships, help the poor through various charities, and honor veterans.
The Elks Club is a “non-political, non-sectarian and strictly American fraternity. Proposal for membership in the Order is only by invitation of a member in good standing. To be accepted as a member, one must be an American citizen, believe in God, be of good moral character and be at least 21 years old.”
At one time fraternal civic groups like the Elks, Moose, Optimists, Rotary, etc., played a significant role in American society. Not only did these groups promote a lot of good projects, but the lodges provided a place for friendship and social interaction. However, membership in these groups is waning as the culture changes.
Should a Christian be a member of a fraternal civic organization like the Elks Club?
The Elks Club is not a secret society like the Masons, so membership does not present the same difficulties for the Christian. Certainly, the goals and activities of the Elks are noble. The primary problem is that the Christian is already supposed to be part of an organization that is committed to charity, justice, brotherly love, and fidelity—the local church! While the Elks do require a belief in God, which is good as a starting point, even the demons believe in God (James 2:19). The Elks and other civic organizations often function as a secular (or mildly religious) “church” that does not embrace the gospel but provides many of the other services and benefits. Therefore, to some extent, these types of civic groups could be seen as competing with the local church. There should be no need for a Christian to join a civic group for the purpose of finding an outlet for good deeds or for finding friendship and social interaction. If the local church is functioning as designed, Christians will have ample opportunity to serve their communities. The best reason for a Christian to join an Elks Club would be for the purpose of getting to know unbelievers in the community so that he could introduce them to Jesus Christ and be “salt and light” in the world.