Numerous slogans and thought-stopping language is a standard feature of many cults.
Dr. Robert J. Lifton,
who wrote a classic study of the Chinese Communist brainwashing techniques
that were used on the American and British prisoners of war in North Korea
during the Korean War, found that loaded language and thought-stopping
clichés were an integral part of an effective program of thought
control and coercive persuasion techniques. Such distorted language,
slogans and mind-deadening clichés constrict thought, rather than
enhance it, and make comprehension and communication more difficult by
restricting what people can think, which makes slogans extremely useful
for converting newcomers into unthinking cult members.
A properly-indoctrinated cult member simply parrots slogans without
having any real, original, intelligent, conscious thought behind his words.
Frank Buchman's slogans functioned in just such a manner. He had a great
number of them, good for stopping intelligent thought in most any situation.
Some of Buchman's slogans were pretty contrived,
Bill Pittman noted that,
"Such ready-made formulae for personal and social ills were very acceptable
to many bewildered people who liked simple answers to problems they faced in
Note that Buchman's simple-minded answer to the Nazis burning Jewish synagogues
was merely to exhort people to religious fervor:
"The answer to burning churches is the church aflame!"
And while Frank Buchman declared that "People are more important than things",
his actions didn't show it.
How about the Jewish people being more important than "things" like the Nazi Party?
When a clear-headed (not "changed")
visitor heard Buchman repeat the slogan,
"It's the banana that leaves the bunch that gets skinned"
(declaring that people should not quit the Oxford Group),
the still-thinking visitor answered,
"But Frank, that's the whole purpose of a banana."
Frank Buchman just laughed off the remark with a knowing
Such slogans, which he repeated again and again at House-parties,
are probably a reasonably good indication of Buchman's intellectual
stature. Yet one detects in them the shrewd sense of an advertiser
of no mean ability. They suggest the popular evangelist, not
the theologian. If one studies them, he will see how succinctly
each one expresses special features of Group philosophy and
Some may be inclined to look upon Buchman's theological simplicity
as a weakness. In a sense that is true, for this lack of
intellectual emphasis has resulted in many persons failing
to find ultimate satisfaction within the group... Furthermore,
it is a source of danger. Yet on the other hand, it has also
been a source of strength in directing attention to action, not
thought. It has turned energies to changing people, not to
explanations, and has given the movement a drive which might
otherwise not have been possible. To the extent that this drive
can be traced to Buchman's simple theology, we can say that the
success of the movement owes something to it. The Oxford Group; Its History and Significance,
Walter Houston Clark, pages 110-112.
Several times Mr. Buchman has confessed
that the word of God which he heard in his quiet hour
was the slogan: 'An international network over spiritual live-wires,'
whatever that may mean. In other words, the world is to be saved
by a vulgar advertising slogan rather than by a genuine priestly
and prophetic mediation of the judgement and the mercy of God
upon a sinful world. Christianity and Power Politics, Reinhold Niebuhr,
in the chapter
"Hitler and Buchman".
Such simple-minded slogan-slinging pervaded all of Buchman's social policies.
Tom Driberg observed:
He [Buchman] was once asked to state in specific terms his 'programme' for
India: his programme, not his hopes and aspirations, which no doubt
most people would share. He replied:
'Empty hands will be filled with work, empty stomachs with food, and empty
hearts with an idea that really satisfies. That is Moral Re-Armament for
East and West.' It may be Moral Re-Armament for North and South, too, but it
is not a programme, it is an incantation. The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 124.