The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps
The Years Before the War:
Appeasing Hitler, and Apologizing for Hitler
Some critics blamed Frank Buchman for popularizing the appeasement policy towards
Adolf Hitler which caused Britain such great problems:
One American critic of the movement traced the British appeasement
policy to the influence of Frank Buchman's ideas upon British political
leaders; for proof he cited a pamphlet circulated by members of the
Oxford Group entitled Moral Rearmament: The Battle for Peace,
which contained letters of endorsement or signatures of approval
from Lord Baldwin, was well as from
twenty-five peers in important government positions, twelve baronets...
thirty-three M.P.'s, thirty-seven champion athletes, twenty-one
leading journalists, seventeen trade union heads, a number of
industrialists, and a few distinguished academicians — in short,
a fair section of the British ruling
65 Ernest S. Bates, "Buchmanism: Opiate for
the Classes," American Mercury, XLVII (June, 1939),
190. The pamphlet referred to was edited by H. W. "Bunny"
Austin. [The famous Davis Cup tennis player.] Drawing-Room Conversion; A Sociological Account
of the Oxford Group Movement,
Allan W. Eister, Duke University Press, 1950, page 48.
(Two famous names that the author did not mention were King Edward VIII and
Mrs. Simpson, who also admired Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
What influence Buchman's ideas may have had on them is unknown.)
Frank Buchman's Oxford Groups may have had a large influence on European
Both the British Prime Minister, Nevil Chamberlain, and his principle
foreign affairs advisor, Sir Horace Wilson, were members of the
When Buchman declared that we should all find a way to satisfy Hitler's demands,
to avoid war, they listened. They were actually so biased that when Germans
from the anti-Hitler faction approached Chamberlain to discuss the possibility
of covert British support for a plot to remove Hitler, Chamberlain refused to
hear of it. Their arguments got nowhere with
Adolf Hitler continued to demand more and more of Czechoslovakia, maintaining that
occupation of that territory was necessary to protect a small population with
German ancestry who were living there in a region called the Sudentenland.
In February of 1938, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden resigned in protest, opposed to
any further appeasement of Hitler by Prime Minister Chamberlain. He was replaced with
Prime Minister Chamberlain, Italian Dictator Mussolini, Lord Halifax, and Mussolini's
son-in-law Count Ciano, at the Opera in Rome, January 1939.
(Hitler would later have Count Ciano killed for negotiating peace with the Allies.)
On the 29th of September, 1938, the European leaders held a conference with Adolf Hitler
in Munich, Germany, seeking a way to keep the growing tensions between the
European countries from escalating into war. The leaders of France and
Great Britain made many concessions to Hitler, including essentially giving him
Austria and half of Czechoslovakia. Hitler took all of their offerings and
assured them that there was no need for war.
"For the second time in our history, a British prime minister
has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it
is peace for our time.
... Go home and get a nice sleep."
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain describing the Munich Pact
with Adolf Hitler, in his address from 10 Downing Street, September 30, 1938,
upon return to London after the Munich conference with Hitler,
Daladier, and Mussolini.
As reported in the New York Times, October 1, 1938.
Soon thereafter, Hitler broke all of the promises that he made at Munich,
and his armies occupied all of Czechoslovakia. Hitler then turned his eyes to Poland
as his next acquisition.
Chamberlain, who had believed in MRA, was disgraced. He had trusted Hitler too much.
They Have Found A Faith,
by Marcus Bach, The Bobs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis & New York, 1946, pages 154-155.
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
== Sir Winston Churchill
In 1939, Frank Buchman decided to sell Moral Re-Armament to America.
A new word began to creep into the group's vocabulary
Frank Buchman was suddenly very "patriotic".
"Moral Re-Armament is a message of the highest patriotism. It
gives every American the chance to play his part." Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the
Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament,
Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 153.
Frank Buchman often declared that he and his followers were very
"patriotic", but his definition of "patriotism" was
twisted into meaning that "patriots" should be Buchman's
obedient followers. Buchman declared that...
The true patriot gives his life to bring his nation under God's control.
Those who oppose that control are public enemies. ...
World peace will only come through nations which have achieved God-control.
Frank Buchman at Ollerup, Denmark, Easter 1936, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 60.
The true patriot gives his life to bring his country under God's control.
When God has control, a nation finds her true destiny. Only a God-controlled
nation can lead the world into sanity and peace.
Frank Buchman in a transatlantic radio broadcast, 4 June 1936, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 64.
The country must be governed by men under instructions from God,
as definitely given and understood as if they came by wire.
This is the true dictatorship of the living God, and the answer to all
dictators. This is the true patriotism, for the true patriot gives his life
for his country's resurrection.
Frank Buchman in an NBC radio broadcast from Philadelphia, 19 June 1936, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 71.
The true dictatorship of the living God???
Frank Buchman also claimed that he was bringing
people "true democracy",
where nobody voted, and everybody followed his orders without question.
Then Buchman went on to explain how the coming war was not Adolf Hitler's fault.
Even after Hitler had invaded and occupied both Austria and Czechoslovakia,
even just four days before Hitler invaded Poland, Frank Buchman was still insisting
that Hitler and Nazi Germany were not responsible for the international crisis
— that it was really everybody's fault:
Every nation and every individual is responsible for the existing situation.
The failure lies not with one nation, but with all. We are all to blame.
For in every nation those forces are at work which create bitterness, disunity
and destruction. ...
Above every other loyalty is loyalty to God. In obedience to the God of all
peoples every nation will find its true destiny. This is the truest patriotism.
It requires the highest courage. It gives the greatest strength.
Frank Buchman in a world radio broadcast, 27 August 1939, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman,
It was as "Moral Re-Armament" that Buchman's "movement"
reached its peak. War jitters drove many to join who had shown no
interest in the Oxford Group.
The crisis in Munich in the fall of 1938 gave impetus to the movement,
and many important and influential people either joined the movement,
or endorsed it.
The idea that another World War could be prevented by a simple program of
confession, prayer and seeking guidance had its appeal, and,
ever the opportunist, Frank Buchman was quite good at taking advantage of the situation.
Buchman's slogan was "Guidance, Not Guns."
"Our choice is clear," said a young man, then recently
graduated from college and active in MRA; "we cannot drift;
we will continue to be fodder for war, or we will become the fabric
of a new world. We will be drafted to die for an older order of
things, or we will enlist to live for a new one... Drawing-Room Conversion; A Sociological Account
of the Oxford Group Movement,
Allan W. Eister, Duke University Press, 1950, page 157.
EITHER join MRA, OR ELSE
you will become cannon fodder.
in MRA, OR ELSE
you will be drafted into the army and die.
Later, many members of Frank Buchman's inner circle
would take the choice quite literally, and
try to dodge the draft
by arguing that they were "lay evangelists" of
Moral Re-Armament, and, as such, shouldn't be drafted.
At the San Francisco International Exposition in August of 1939, Buchman declared
that the purpose of MRA was:
"...to create a world force adequate to make peace permanent,
adequate to banish war, adequate for any crisis."
"The choice is guidance or guns; we must listen to guidance
or we will listen to guns," he said.
"The choice is
between a vortex of fear and a pageant of triumph.
It is clearer
now than ever before that MRA is the essential foundation for any
world settlement. ...
"The need of the hour is for MRA — the next step is for men
and women in every station to enlist in this world war for peace." The New York Times, August 23, 1939, page 26.
Again and again, Buchman used the
"Either/Or Propaganda Technique":
"The choice is guidance or guns; we must listen to guidance or we will listen to guns," he said.
"Guidance or Guns" became one of Buchman's favorite slogans.
One of Buchman's followers, the so-called "London labor leader"
(who was also alleged to be "a leader of London's unemployed"
because that was all that he was — an unemployed man), added,
"How can we be honest about the problems of the other nation
when we haven't that honesty within ourselves?"
"In every conflict," he proceeded, "people say there
are two sides to the argument — my side and his.
When we are honest with God we find there is a third side to the
argument and that is truth." The New York Times, August 23, 1939, page 26.
Notice how such a philosophy made moral cripples of people. They could
not criticize Adolf Hitler or the Nazis because they were too busy finding faults
in themselves and assuming that they failed to see God's
"third side to the argument" which would exonerate the
Nazis and bring world peace.
And, as usual, the Buchmanites just had to mention all of the
rich, famous, and powerful people who attended their rally:
Among others taking part in the program were Lady Wakehurst,
wife of the Governor of New South Wales; T. S. Mitsui of Japan,
here with a contingent of Japanese workers for MRA; Baron and
Baroness de Watteville-Berckheim of Paris;
William Rowell, London labor leader;
Ma Nyein Tha of Burma; John Jukes, president of
the Vancouver Stock Exchange, and General C. R. P. Winser of Oxford,
Also General George Beeman of Toronto; George L. Eastman, past
president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce; the Rev. Logan
H. Roots, Bishop of Hangkow; Stephen Nakata of Japan, James Tong
of Shanghai and Baron Robert Van Heeckeren Van Kell of the
Netherlands. The New York Times, August 23, 1939, page 26.
Notice the mixture of both Japanese and Chinese leaders. Japan
and China were at war because Japan had invaded China.
It was a very brutal and bloody war where many millions of people died.
And yet both the Chinese leader
Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese Prime Minister wired
Frank Buchman telling him that they admired
Buchman's philosophy because it told them that their side was
right. (That's what can happen when everyone listens to his own
Mr. Tong stressed the significance of the support of the movement
by Generalissimo and Mme. Chiang Kai-shek.
"They believe," he declared, "that the movement
for MRA may eventually override the influence of power politics
by harnessing the innate goodness and good-will of every nation
and thinking individual." The New York Times, August 23, 1939, page 26.
The fourth Marquess of Salisbury, speaking to the House of Lords, declared:
What you want are God-guided personalities, which make God-guided nationalities,
to make a new world. All other ideas of economic adjustment are too
small really to touch the centre of the evil. Britain and the Beast, Peter Howard, 1963, page 110.
The Earl of Athlone (Governor General of Canada) and several other nobles and public figures jointly published
a letter in The Times (of London) on Armistice Day, 1938, which
read in part:
Moral Re-Armament must be the foundation of national life, as it must
be of any world settlement. The miracle of God's Living Spirit can
break the power of pride and selfishness, of lust and fear and hatred;
for spiritual power is the greatest force in the world.
Throughout her long history this country never failed, and has not failed
now, to meet the recurrent crises with the courage which each demanded.
But the spiritual crisis remains, and calls for action.
Nation and Empire must stand or fall by our response to that call. The
choice is moral re-armament or national decay. That choice will decide
whether ours is ultimately to go the way of other dead kingdoms and
empires, or whether our Commonwealth, led by God, may become a leader
of the world towards sanity and peace. Britain and the Beast, Peter Howard, 1963, page 110.
(Notice the use of
the standard "Either/Or" propaganda technique — the only choices that you get are:
"The choice is moral re-armament or national decay." Either join Lord Athlone's favorite
religious cult, or else the country will decay.)
Speaking in a BBC radio broadcast a little later, the Earl of Athlone declared:
The call for Moral Re-Armament has encircled the world, and become a source of
fresh hope to millions of men and women. Heads of States, national, civic
and industrial leaders of all classes, creeds and parties have welcomed
it as the cure for that disease of the spirit from which civilization is suffering.
Moral Re-Armament stands for a change of heart, for the new spirit which
must animate all human relationships. It calls on us to make the will of God
the guiding force, as for individuals, so for homes and nations. Moral Re-Armament — The Foundation of National Life, B.B.C. broadcast
by the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Athlone, K.G., 1 December 1939, quoted in Britain and the Beast, Peter Howard, 1963, pages 110-111.
Frank Buchman continued to insist that he (and only he) had the answer that would prevent
a terrible war, and he again used the
Either/Or propaganda technique
to force a poor choice on his listeners:
The world is at the crossroads.
The choice is guidance or guns. We must listen
to guidance or we shall listen to guns. ...
Every man in every land should listen to guidance.
For every home, in every land, the natural and normal thing should be to
get their program from God. In industry, in the workshop, in the nation's life,
in Parliament, the normal thing is to listen to God. ...
It is a forgotten factor in world politics today — listening to guidance. ...
Think what God can do through the influence of the millions who are being
reached through this message of God-control. Spiritual power is still the
greatest force in the world.
Frank Buchman at Interlaken, Switzerland, 6 September 1938, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 104.
Is there no common enemy against which all the nations must fight shoulder to
shoulder? There is. The common foes of fear, greed and resentment have worked
with deadly accuracy to bring nations to the brink of catastrophe. ...
Only Moral Re-Armament can bind the nations together.
Frank Buchman at Interlaken, Switzerland, 10 September 1938, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 108.
A new national spirit would soon be born, a new co-operative relationship
between the nations, if in every country there would arise a new leadership,
free from the bondage of fear, rising above personal and national
ambition and responsive to the direction of God's will.
Frank Buchman, speaking in a radio broadcast from KGEI San Francisco and WRUL Boston,
29 October 1939, quoted in Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 156.
Well, yeh, duh... Of course if Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin
had been replaced with peaceful God-loving men, Europe would have been
a lot more peaceful in the years from 1939 to 1945. But those murdering dictators didn't feel
like giving up their positions of power, did they? So it was absurd to be talking
about how wonderful everything would be if a new leadership would arise through
everybody joining Frank Buchman's religious organization.
An MRA pamphlet declared in June of 1939 that...
MRA points the way. It is God's answer for this generation. Moral Re-Armament: What Is It?, Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, pub. 1967,
And Frank Buchman wrote in 1939 that...
Whatever happens in Europe, Moral Re-Armament remains the only answer to recurrent crisis
and the one foundation for reconciliation and permanent peace. Moral Re-Armament: What Is It?, Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, pub. 1967,
Frank Buchman even went so far as to declare that those who would not
join his cult and follow his "Guidance" were actually helping the enemy:
When you and I are not one hundred per cent God-guided and God-controlled,
we are really helping chaos. All luke-warm people are really helping chaos.
The fate of nations depends upon whether you and I are God-controlled.
Frank Buchman speaking in a CBS radio broadcast, 9 August 1936, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 77.
Helping chaos? That is another example of a clever sleight-of-hand diversion —
another standard propaganda trick.
"Chaos" was not the enemy; Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were.
Frank Buchman was also using the Excluded Middle propaganda technique,
another variation of
the Either/Or technique:
"All luke-warm people are really helping chaos."
"You can't be neutral or moderate.
If you aren't as extreme and fanatical as we are, then you are
helping the enemy".
(Like the Communist revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin said, "Those
who aren't with us are against us.")
Frank Buchman's policy of appeasement, "moral re-armament",
and "God-control" was a failure,
of course. Hitler grabbed more territory at will. But Buchman was still sure that
his plan would work, if only everybody in the world would do what he said:
Some superhuman power is needed to change the thinking of the ordinary man
and of those who lead. We need to call into being a whole new philosophy of
living — that quality of life that is above party, above class, above faction,
above nations — God-control.
It is one thing to say that
God-control is the only true policy.
It is another thing to make it a reality in the life of a nation.
A whole new fabric needs to be woven.
Any of us can recall a succession of conferences which started with high
hopes but ended with failure. Yet conferences, God-controlled, would surprise
everyone, because they would be successful and accomplish what they set out
Individuals and nations need to have a sense of repentance. ...
The only thing that can swing the balance between defeat and victory is the
decisive voice of God — statesmen and their people united under God's control.
Statesmen of the world must have the courage to inaugurate a new day and a
new way — to be the peacemakers of the new world.
Frank Buchman at Geneva, Switzerland, 15 September 1938, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman,
Then, two decades later, Frank Buchman and his followers had the gall
to declare that they had accomplished great things for the free world
before World War Two:
Buchman's efforts in the 1930s led in many European countries to a similar
awakening to the realities of the aims of both Hitler and Stalin, and
during World War II to a toughening of men's moral fiber in defiance of
the Nazi tyranny.
This is worthy of record since the lie is still circulated that Buchman
was pro-Hitler and the Oxford Group soft on Nazism. ...
By the spring of 1938, when the Japanese were deep in China, Hitler was threatening
Czechoslovakia and Poland and the storm clouds were thickening over Europe, Frank Buchman
had laid the foundations of his work in thousands of men and women across the world whose
committment was to God and the remaking of the world.
When Buchman voiced the challenge of Moral Re-Armament that spring, the world was ready
and eager for it. Millions in the free world welcomed the idea that military re-armament,
at last accepted as essential to check totalitarianism, must also be accompanied by a
re-armament of the spirits, hearts, minds and wills of men, if freedom was to survive. Moral Re-Armament: What Is It?, Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, pub. 1967,
By the way, the authors of that propaganda,
Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, were
two life-long members
of Frank Buchman's cult, and Basil Entwistle was
one of several British draft-dodgers
who avoided military service in the British Army during World War II by staying
in the USA with Frank Buchman's Moral Re-Armament group.
Is there some unwritten rule that says that draft-dodgers have to
always turn into
later on, dogmatic nut-cases who constantly yammer about
"freedom" and "democracy" and "patriotism"
while they enthusiastically wave the flag and send younger men off to war?
Are they trying to vicariously relive the brave youthful adventures that
they never had in the first place because they were too chicken to live
their lives for real the first time around?
Reinhold Niebuhr was the theologian and Union Theological Seminary teacher who
wrote the Serenity Prayer that is so famous in Alcoholics Anonymous and
Narcotics Anonymous groups.
strongly criticized Frank Buchman for his fascist, pro-Nazi, and
Hitler-praising attitudes. Reinhold Niebuhr's daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, wrote
a biography of Niebuhr in which she described Niebuhr's attitude towards
another contemporary isolationist preacher:
CLAYTON MORRISON — he of the pious do-nothing school and the beautiful
linens — had frowned up on the political engagement of young pastors like
Myles Horton, for he found it distastefully upsetting, unpleasantly radical.
He and others like him did not want to acknowledge that oppression and
loss of freedom threatened everywhere — not just in far-off countries
with dangerous governments and difficult conflicts, but in the United
States itself. "Always the enemy is the foe at home."
He lingered, in a hand-wringing posture of anguished Christian uncertainty,
a distance away from the trouble, decrying the use of force against evil,
drawing back from active commitment to a curriculum of true social
justice. As for the Jews, they ought, surely, to be more clearly
whatever it was they wanted to be, less "hyphenated," more assimilationist,
frankly, or else one could not be sure of their loyalty?
This cheap bigotry was lousy theology and ridiculous politics, Pa thought.
Such insensitivity about Jews was not only deeply repugnant in itself but
a sign of general moral sloth. "The Christian Church in America has never
been upon a lower level of spiritual insight and moral sensitivity than
in this tragic age of world conflict," my father wrote in 1934. Well,
he was right, but things can get worse. Fifty years later,
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson
and those who greeted the new
millenium with cheers of New Age self-congratulation plumbed even
deeper reservoirs of vain inanity. High-decibel religiosity, with its
excellent profit margins and growing political clout in the new
century, is drowning out true religion all over the country, and
the voices of the genuinely devout cannot be heard. The Serenity Prayer; Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War,
Elisabeth Sifton, 2003, pages 152-153.
There is another connection between Reinhold Niebuhr and Nazi Germany:
While Niebuhr was a teacher at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City,
one of his favorite students was a young German minister by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was one of those courageous clergymen who dared to speak out against
the evils of the Nazis. Heinrich Himmler's Gestapo arrested Bonhoeffer and
put him in prison, and then in the Buchenwald concentration camp, and Hitler
later ordered Bonhoeffer killed before the advancing Allied troops could rescue him.
Hitler also killed Bonhoeffer's brother Klauss, and many of their friends,
along with all of the other Protestant and Catholic clergy who dared to oppose
Reinhold Niebuhr tried, for many years, everything he could do to rescue
Bonhoeffer, to get him out of prison and out of Germany, but nothing
worked and finally Bonhoeffer was murdered when Hitler gave the
With that in mind, it's easy to understand why Niebuhr had
such a harsh attitude towards Nazi apologists like Frank Buchman and
do-nothing isolationists like Clayton Morrison.
Tom Driberg, a London newspaper reporter who was later elected to
Parliament, wrote a revealing book about Frank Buchman and his cult. At this point in time,
In March, 1939, Buchman went back to America, after an absence of
more than two years, with a large party of followers... ...
Interviewers found him as ebullient as ever and full of bombastic
verbiage: 'The MRA slogan has caught on like wildfire in these
troublesome days in England... We are the repair crew for a disabled
world... Mankind will survive because mankind will respond to MRA.'
In May he stated that he believed the European situation to be
'much better': an Allentown Chronicle reporter, quoting him on
God's (i.e., Buchman's) 'Plan' for the world, wrote: "He speaks
of The Plan's followers in terms of "millions" and leaves
you under the impression that The Plan is partially responsible
for the improvement in the European outlook.'
This was two months after Hitler, breaking his own Munich pledges,
had occupied the whole of Czechoslovakia. Everyone in the European
democracies, including Neville Chamberlain, Daladier, and the
other appeasers, now knew that Munich had been a disastrous failure
and that war could hardly be averted. To say at this moment, as
Buchman did, that things in Europe were 'much better' showed either
a sinister and unconcealed devotion to the cause of Nazism or
(more probably) crass ignorance, an infinite capacity for self-deception,
and incorrigible frivolity. The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 86.
'Incorrigible frivolity' indeed.
(Narcissistic Personality Disorder.)
Frank Buchman did not seem to be at all disturbed
by the Nazis' refusal to be "changed" and get down on their
knees and confess their sins. Buchman was happy just to associate
with them enough to be able to drop their names in his conversations.
So Buchman continued his campaign
against American and British sin, and proclaimed that "God's Plan For
World Peace" would work (anyway), and Buchman simply ignored the fact that the
Nazis were not playing along.
In May of 1939 Frank Buchman declared "MRA Week" in New York City, and held a big
rally in Madison Square Garden. TIME magazine described the event this way:
MRA Week "Moral Re-Armament is magnificent and magnetic. It must be universal and unanimous."
— Richards Vidmer, New York Herald Tribune.
Thus read a blurb on a leaflet distributed last week in Manhattan.
The leaflet was designed to publicize MRA Week, which ended on Sunday with a big
Citizen's Meeting in Madison Square Garden. On its face, the blurb looked like an
endorsement of the doctrines of Dr. Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman, which in Europe
have borne the label of MRA since last summer (TIME, Sept. 19).
Actually, "Dick" Vidmer, Herald Tribune sportswriter, had
reported how 34 U. S. sportsmen* signed a statement:
"Moral Re-Armament is a battle for peace where sportsmen must take the lead.
... Sportsmen morally re-armed can unite the world."
They signed at the urging of handsome Henry Wilfred ("Bunny") Austin,
British Davis Cup tennis player, now Dr. Buchman's chief MRA-sayer.
Sportswriter Vidmer thereupon remarked that, before preaching such
doctrines, U. S. sportsmen might well clean up U. S. sport.
He concluded: "Moral rearmament, as it is described by the disciples who
have brought it to these shores, is magnificent and magnetic, but it also
is a mammoth undertaking. It must be universal and unanimous."
* Among them: Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Grantland Rice, Gene Tunney,
Bobby Jones, Glenn Cunningham, Devereux Milburn. Polo-player Milburn
was unaware that the document had anything to do with religion.
Another sportsman-signer who inquired: "Is this an out-growth of
Buchmanism?" was told by "Bunny" Austin: "No."
The sportsmen's statement, and the Buchmanites' editing of Sportswriter
Vidmer's comment, were egregious examples
of an Oxford Group technique which has slowly matured during the years
Dr. Buchman has been at work. For Buchmanites it has not been enough
to propagate among "key people" the doctrine of God's direct and
special "guidance" of his favorites, and the advantages of living
according to the four Buchmanite standards of Absolute Honesty,
Love, Purity, and Unselfishness. The not-quite-absolutely-honest
technique has also been to involve newsworthy non-Buchmanites
simply by getting them to agree publicly that the world is in
a bad way, that something needs to be done.
The Oxford Group has been engaged, for more than a decade, in
"doing something" about the lives of its members. The Group's
principle: if men are changed, nations will change, the world
will change. To many Protestant churchmen — but to few Catholics
(most of whom deny the reality of Buchmanite "change") — this
is a praiseworthy and exciting aim. Hence many a Protestant,
conscious of the unhappy shortcomings of his church, gives his
support to the happy shortcuts of the Oxford Group, rather
than hinder something which may do some good. Buchmanism's brisk
conversions (drunks into teetotal testifiers, golfing brokers
into junior wardens, black sheep into white sheep) appeal to
many an earnest, evangelical modern; its vague theology does not
offend his beliefs. This attitude was brilliantly exemplified in last
week's Manhattan Citizen's Meeting.
In none of Dr. Buchman's earlier assaults on his native land — to
which he has returned periodically after successes in England,
in small Nordic countries, and in the League of Nations when it
looked like a going concern — had so many people of importance lent
their names to a Group meeting. New York's Governor Lehman, New York City
Mayor LaGuardia, Alfred E. Smith, a clutch of socialites, theatrical
folk, two bishops, lesser clergy — altogether 131 people let their names
be used as sponsors.
Before the Citizen's Meeting, Buchmanites arranged a CBS broadcast at
which they induced Mrs. Sara Delano Roosevelt to give a Mothers' Day
message to the U. S. In a one-and-a-half-minute speech the 84-year-old
author of My Boy Franklin deftly lifted MRA from Dr. Buchman's lap,
tossed it into U. S. motherhood's.
Said she: "Only by a return to the truths — honesty, purity, unselfishness
and love — which we learned at our mother's knee, can we restore unity to
America and sanity to the world."
Twelve thousand people polite and friendly, filled about two-thirds of the
seats in the Garden. Around Dr. Buchman on the platform were grouped
Buchmanites from overseas, and many of the sponsors of the meeting
(Socialite Mrs. John Henry Hammond, Dancer Ruth St. Denis, pious
Copperman Cleveland Dodge). There was some attempt at color — flags
borne by marching Groupers, numerous Scotsmen in kilts, a band
of Canadian bagpipers, a song by a Grouper who claimed to be a cowboy.
A good part of the proceedings were wire-lessed from London — speeches
by the aged Marquess of Salisbury, other Britons, earnest, British, dull.
Cordell Hull, Secretary of War Woodring, Senator Wagner, Frank Murphy, Herbert
Hoover — but not President Roosevelt — sent messages, which were read by one
Grouper after another. Gist: "What the world needs... our hope lies... the need
is urgent... answer to the problems. ..."
Many more messages came from the bigwigs the world over. One of them, from
the Netherlands Foreign Minister, had been distributed in mimeograph to the press;
Dr. Buchman read it as if it were very special, said it had "just come."
Dr. Buchman made no attempt to move the Citizen's Meeting to tears or cheers.
He seemed content, in Grouper fashion, to rest his case on the messages,
the personal testimonials of the willowy young son-of-a-lord, the Buchmanite
baroness, the reformed agitator, the Scottish-burred dockyard worker,
the other veteran testifiers. Static, almost apathetic so far as outsiders
could see, the meeting ended with a Lord's Prayer. Once more Dr. Buchman had
demonstrated what most good men know, that the world needs God's help.
Moral Re-Armament Week was over. The next day it was Monday morning.
TIME magazine, May 22, 1939, pages 62-64.
Notice how TIME described,
"Buchmanism's brisk conversions (drunks into teetotal testifiers..."
Bill Wilson merely copied that from the Oxford Group too.
After the New York rally, Frank Buchman and team headed for Los Angeles where they held an
even larger rally in the Hollywood Bowl.
Frank Buchman greets his true-believer follower, the Davis Cup tennis player
"Bunny" Austin, and his wife Phyllis,
when they arrive in Los Angeles for the 1939 Hollywood Bowl Moral Re-Armament rally.
It is clearer now than ever before that Moral Re-Armament is the essential
foundation for any world settlement.
The next step is for men and women in every nation to enlist in MRA for the
We are waging the greatest battle of history in this world war against
Frank Buchman at the Second World Assembly for Moral Re-Armament, 22 July 1939, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, page 144.
Also notice how Frank Buchman kept changing the subject. When everybody
from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to American President
Franklin D. Roosevelt Roosevelt declared that they were fighting a war
against Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, and fascism, Frank Buchman declared
that he was fighting a world war against selfishness and materialism,
and everybody in every nation must enlist in his great cause.
In July of 1939, 30,000 people attended a Hollywood Bowl rally of
Moral Re-Armament. It was one of the high points of "the movement".
Ever the optimist, Buchman even booked the Olympic stadium
at the 1940 Olympics in Finland, a year in advance:
DEL MONTE, Calif., July 30. — As the second World Assembly for
Moral Rearmament neared its close today announcement was made
that the movement would be promoted at the 1940 Olympic Games
at Helsingfors, Finland. ...
At today's meeting Glenn Morris, California's Olympic
decathlon champion, stated that the Olympic Stadium had
already been taken for one night.
Dr. Frank Buchman, who presided, declared that people who
thought religion and politics did not mix were wrong.
"Moral rearmament has nothing to do with politics, and yet
it has everything to do with politics, because it means a
revolution in all politics," he said. The New York Times, July 31, 1939, page 3.
(Both the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled because of World War II.)
Then Buchman went on to advocate something that he called a
"group mind" as a panacea:
For Better "Group Mind"
America's greatest need in politics and in every other field
was to have a group mind, Dr. Buchman stated.
"A lot of people find it difficult even in their own homes
to live with other people," he went on. "They don't
like dictatorships across the sea, but they dictate in their own
"Get a group mind in your community. Get a group mind
in your State and in your nation, God-directed and God-controlled,
and you'll have a new era. We'll never have an economic recovery
in America until we have a moral recovery."
The New York Times, July 31, 1939, page 3.
is a common cult characteristic. So is the attitude that
"You are always wrong." —
"A lot of people find it difficult to live with other people —
they dictate in their own homes."
"We'll never have an economic recovery
in America until we have a moral recovery."
Oh? So what was wrong with America's morals?
And Frank Buchman was once again using the propaganda tricks of
Minimization and Trivialization
when he tried to imply that Hitler's dictatorship in Germany was
just like somebody "dictating" in a household.
(Not true — the body count wasn't quite the same.)
After the Los Angeles rally, the Buchmanites went north to San Francisco,
where an International Exposition was in progress.
Above: A Moral Re-Armament parade at the 1939 San Francisco International Exposition
Below: Mrs. Adeline Wykes of New York City sells MRA literature on the streets of San Francisco
Tom Driberg wrote about Buchman:
On 27th August — just a week before the outbreak of war in Europe
— he felt Guided to say, in a broadcast from San Francisco, that
'every nation and every individual' was 'responsible' for the
international crisis: the Nazi war criminals might have quoted
this exculpation at Nuremberg. The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 87.
In that radio speech which was broadcast from San Francisco and WRUL in Boston
on the 27th of August, Buchman again declared that all of us
were responsible for the coming war:
Crisis shows our failure. Before crisis ends in catastrophe, have we the courage
to face its real cause?
We ourselves are the cause. It is the way every nation
and every one of us has been living that has brought us where we are.
Every nation and every individual is responsible for the existing situation.
The failure lies not with one nation, but with all. We are all to blame.
For in every nation those forces are at work which create bitterness,
disunity and destruction. Nations, like individuals, have turned a blind eye
to their own faults while pointing the finger at each other. Selfish men
and women make front line trenches necessary. A wave of unselfishness
sweeping through our nation and every other nation would be the permanent
answer to war. ...
The menace of war makes us re-think all our values. Personal and national
surrender to God is a world necessity. Civilization is at stake.
The future lies with the men and nations who listen to God and obey.
Frank Buchman, 27 August 1939, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman,
Buchman's remarks are the "Preacher's We" taken to the
extreme. That is, preachers routinely say, "We are sinners; may
God have mercy on us," when they really mean "You are sinners;
may God have mercy on you." Here, Buchman declared that 'we
are all sinners, and everybody is guilty of starting the war.' That means,
of course, that ultimately nobody was guilty or responsible for it.
(Certainly not Hitler or the Nazis...)
Hundreds of billboards like this advertized MRA in California
The New York Times reported on that same August 27th
MRA radio broadcast:
SACRIFICE IN CRISIS
Every Nation and Individual
Must Ban Selfishness, He
Says in World Plea
ASSAILS VERSAILLES PACT
Broadcast From Coast Fair
Calls for Adoption of Tenets
of Moral Rearmament
Special to The New York Times.
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 27. — Dr.
Frank Buchman declared in a world
broadcast today that "a hundred million people
listening to God will form a world opinion that
will make war unnecessary."
The speech, urging moral rearmament, was sent out
by short wave from the San Francisco Fair and
relayed by world-wide short wave station W1XAL of Boston.
It was translated and broadcast in French, German, Chinese
Dr. Buchman said that he spoke "on behalf of those
millions, known and unknown, in every country who
have found in moral rearmament a common life transcending
all the barriers that separate man from man and nation
from nation, and who are convinced that moral rearmament
in the only permanent cure for crisis."
"Crisis shows our failure," he went on.
"Before crisis ends in catastrophe have we the courage
to face its real cause?
We ourselves are the cause.
It is the way every nation and every one of us have been
living that has brought us where we are.
"In every nation those forces are at work which create
bitterness, disunity and destruction.
individuals, have turned a blind eye to their own faults
while pointing the finger at each other. Selfish men and selfish
women make front line trenches necessary. A wave of
unselfishness sweeping through our nation and every other
nation would be the permanent answer to war.
"We have all wanted peace. We have sought it in pacts,
in leagues, in alliances, in changes of systems, in
economic and disarmament conferences, and we have sought
in vain. We have wanted peace, but we have never yet paid the
price of peace — the price of facing with God where we and
our nations have been wrong, and how we and our nations, as
God directs, can put wrong right.
"A new spirit comes when we make an honest apology for our
own mistakes instead of spot-lighting the mistakes of the
other nations. There is a common meeting ground in the
fact that we all need to change — nations as well as men.
In a crisis of this kind, if leaders change, they can change
their people. If people change, they can change their leaders.
"The sacrifice necessary for lasting peace is nothing
compared with the useless sacrifice of war.
"There is still time for a selfish, fear-driven world to
listen to the living God. The forgotten factor in diplomacy
is that God has an inspired plan for peace.
"During these days we must develop the framers of the just
peace — the peace that will be permanent. If this
thinking had dominated Versailles we would not now again
be in the throes of crisis and twenty years of tragedy
would have been averted.
"The menace of war makes us rethink all our values.
Personal and national surrender to God is a world necessity.
Civilization is at stake.
"The future lies with the men and nations who listen to God and obey." The New York Times, August 28, 1939, page 9.
Notice how carefully Buchman avoided criticizing Hitler's selfishness
or Hitler's dishonesty,
or Hitler's unfortunate habit of stealing neighboring countries.
In fact, Buchman blamed the Versailles Treaty, not Adolf Hitler,
for the current crisis (which was also the official Nazi position).
The problem, in Buchman's view, was always "our selfishness"
and "our nation". It was Buchman's British
and American followers who needed to change and surrender and make
an honest apology and become "God-controlled" and obey orders....
A week later, Hitler launched a Blitzkrieg attack on Poland and started World War II.