The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps

Chapter 6:
Hobnobbing with the Nabobs

In May 1928, the Oxford University undergraduate newspaper Isis carried an editorial demanding that "student leaders of the semi-religious cult known as 'Buchmanism' be suspended from the University."28 Frank Buchman switched the emphasis of his "house parties" from the students to their parents, preferably very wealthy parents, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Frank Buchman had a habit of seeking rich, famous, and powerful people for his converts and followers. Buchman called such people "big sinners", "keymen", and "up-and-outers" (as opposed to down-and-outers), men who could aid his cause by the influence of their names as well as by the contents of their wallets.6 Buchman's critics called his behavior "hobnobbing with the nabobs".92

Henry P. Van Dusen, of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, wrote, "All his life, Dr. Buchman has paid an uncritical, almost childish deference to people of birth or social position, especially royalty or titled nobility."3 Some people asked whether Frank Buchman was another Rasputin, trying to insinuate himself into the royal courts of Europe. The loyal Oxford Groupers defended Buchman's behavior, arguing that changing one "big sinner" would influence hundreds or thousands of little sinners. Again, Frank Buchman believed that society could be transformed from the top down — convert the leaders, and the followers would follow.

Frank Buchman (center), with Prince Richard of Hesse (left), and an unidentified African dignitary (right).
The heavy-set man who is standing immediately behind the African dignitary is Ray Foote Purdy. The tall fellow (with his head half cut off) who is standing immediately behind the Prince appears to be Peter Howard. The man who is standing behind Buchman is unidentified.

Notice how giddy Frank Buchman was in so many of these photographs. He was just deliriously happy much of the time, (or at least while posing for publicity photographs,) showing the pagans how much fun religion was — unless someone dared to displease him by disobeying his orders, or by criticizing him or his "movement", at which time Buchman would explode in a screaming rage.

Frank Buchman with the segregationist Governor Eugene Talmadge of Georgia and his family at the theater, Atlanta, April 1942.

A few paragraphs from Frank Buchman's biography are revealing. This happened very early in his career:

...   in the manner of many young men who have newly left home, he was giving his parents a glimpse of his ambitions. They were grandiose in the style of an America saturated with the log-cabin-to-the-White-House philosophy of Horatio Alger, 200 million copies of whose books had been sold in the previous twenty-five years. 'A man in order to be great must do extraordinary things, not ordinary,' Buchman wrote to his parents. 'By the grace of God, I intend to make the name of Buchman shine forth. By earnest toil and labour I can accomplish it.' Dr Luther, he remarked, had not written hymns until he was forty; and his own ambition was to be a famous author and hymn-writer. 'Never before', he concluded, 'have I revealed my mind to you like this but often I have laid awake and thought of all these things.'1

Not only did he take himself seriously, he also expected others to follow suit. For example, he not infrequently chided his mother for the stationery she used when writing to him. 'I hate to receive letters on such poor paper,' he told her briskly. 'It looks so careless and I want to keep them. So please do me the favour to use better paper in the future. Every woman ought to have good paper.'2 'Don't feel hurt about the stationery question,' he added in another letter, 'I meant it in all kindness.'3
Almost immediately he was invited to attend the wedding of Florence Thayer's sister in Woonsocket, and he started to lay careful siege to his father's pocket-book. It would, he told his parents, be a great education 'to see the beautiful decorations, the people and the like', the chance of a life-time, in fact. He didn't expect ever again to get an invitation to such a fine wedding because he had but one millionaire family on his acquaintance list. The only other wedding he could expect to attend was his own — 'that is if I ever marry a girl like Miss Thayer, who can afford such a wedding'.

...   So, having asked her to send him his 'nose-pinchers'* — 'because they are more becoming' — and having suggested that she might care to let the Allentown Chronicle know of his visit to Woonsocket,9 which she did, he set off for Rhode Island.
(* Pince-nez.)

The occasion turned out to be all he could have hoped for. There was, he wrote his parents, such a crowd watching that 'it took four policemen to keep the mob in subjection'. The luncheon was excellent, with salads and oysters 'in every style', words were inadequate to describe the pretty dresses; there were jewels and laces galore; and a butler in full livery gave each of the departing guests a piece of wedding-cake.10
Frank Buchman, A Life, by Garth Lean, pages 14 — 15.
(Note that this book is now a free read on the Internet.)

  • First, Buchman declared that he was going to succeed in life and make his name big. It's all fine and well to succeed in the style of Horatio Alger, but Buchman "succeeded" by mooching money off of other people all of his life. Notice how he expected his imagined future fiancé's rich family to pay for a lavish wedding for him. (Buchman never married.)
  • Then Buchman had the nerve to criticize his mother for not using the best paper when writing letters to him. Buchman felt that he rated first-class stationary, although he masked his snobbish attitudes by declaring that a fine lady should use better paper.
  • Then Buchman worried about his appearance and chose the eyeglasses that he thought would be most flattering.
  • Then Buchman "suggested" to his mother that she call the newspaper and report his activities. Buchman was such a publicity hound.
  • Then Buchman went to a millionaire's wedding party where he enjoyed the excellent food, pretty dresses, jewels and laces, and liveried butlers serving wedding cake. That was hardly the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. But that's the lifestyle to which Frank Buchman aspired, and that's the lifestyle that Frank Buchman pursued all of his life. Frank Buchman was like the original Robin Leech, always inserting himself into the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Haakon Receives Dr. Buchman.

OSLO, Nov. 6. — King Haakon today received in audience Dr. Frank Buchman, founder of the Oxford Group Movement, who has been heading a team of fifty here for a fortnight. The group held a "house party," which 1,000 persons attended.
New York Times, November 8, 1934, page 16.

Queen Marie of Romania
When the Leviathan sailed to New York in early October 1926 with Queen Marie of Romania on board, Frank Buchman just happened to be on board, and...

      Passengers on the vessel were all equally delighted with their royal traveling companion.
      "She is a lovely and charming woman," said Senator Walter E. Edge, who dined with her, accompanied by Mrs. Edge.
      "I lunched with her once by command," said Mrs. Reginald Vanderbilt. "All that I can say of her is that she is the most delightful person you could possibly meet. She is very informal and a brilliant conversationalist."
      ...At 8:30 she [Queen Marie] had breakfast in her suite, but she lunched at the Captain's table in the main dining saloon. Each day one or two quests were present. At her suggestion, they were invited by Captain Hartley.
      Among them were Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and her brother, Richard W. Bolling; Senator and Mrs. Edge, Frederick Gimbel, Mrs. Vanderbilt, Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Chase, Frank Buchman, R. M. S. Bircham, the Hon. S. S. Dickson and Miss Mary Lasker.
The New York Times, October 19, 1926, page 4.

What is amusing is that immediately under that article in The New York Times, another article with a slightly different attitude appeared:

      National and local officials, including Secretary of State Kellogg, Governor Smith and Mayor Walker, were censured yesterday by Municipal Court Justice Jacob Panken, Socialist candidate for Governor, for what he termed "undue zest in grovelling before the Queen of the most corruptly governed country of Europe."
The New York Times, October 19, 1926, page 4.

Sometimes Frank Buchman's social climbing nerve was outrageous:

Frank N. D. Buchman, "Soul Surgeon" and "Anti-Auto-erotist" invited 150 persons to his Manhattan residence, last week, to meet Queen Marie, to whom he was presented on the Leviathan a fortnight ago (TIME, Oct. 18). The Queen did not appear. Mr. Buchman wrote "Ambassador Hotel, to meet Queen Marie" with a red pencil on 150 blank white cards. Then he and his guests trooped to Her Majesty's apartments in the Hotel Ambassador, presented their cards, were presented to the Queen.
TIME magazine, June 27, 1932

Whenever Buchman got a rich and famous adherent, he would publicize and exploit that person's name for all it was worth, in order to attract more rich and famous people. In this way, Buchman habitually exaggerated the scope and importance of his movement.

      For a time, when in New York, he lived in considerable comfort in a house in West 53rd Street belonging to John D. Rockefeller, jnr (but leased to a Changed lady). Here, in 1926, he entertained Queen Marie of Romania to tea; he invited two hundred other guests, including eleven prominent citizens of Allentown [Frank Buchman's home town], to meet her. Though this function secured gratifying publicity, it does not seem to have been an unqualified success: the Queen had a cold and did not stay long, and when (presumably not within earshot of the two hundred other guests) she asked Buchman to read her sins in her face, he promptly replied 'Pride and self-satisfaction'. (This dashing remark offsets, rather endearingly, some of the perennial accusations of snobbery; or perhaps Buchman had ascertained, before tea, that his guest was not really a top queen.)
      The lists of those attending Group functions in this period read like a digest of the Social Register, Debrett, and the Almanach de Gotha. Some of the richest American families were usually represented; from the House of Lords would come Lord Addington, Lord Noel-Buxton, or Lord Rochester; from Holland, Count John Bentinck; from all over Northern Europe, an assortment of baronesses, including such splendidly Firbankian figures as the Baroness de Watteville Berckheim, who was thought to be of Latvian origin; from Austria, Baron Franckenstein; from Germany, Frau Katherine von Hanfstaengl, mother of Hitler's favourite, 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl.
      It cannot be assumed that all of these were Changed and dedicated Groupers, but at least they had been induced to attend a Buchmanite house-party or assembly or soirée; and theirs is the kind of name that predominates in the Buchmanite guest-lists of the inter-war years...
The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, pages 55-56.

(Remember that name 'Hanfstaengl'. It becomes important later.)

Concluding a six-week visit to the U. S. (TIME, May 2), Dr. Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman, "soul surgeon," set sail for England with 15 members of his "First Century Christian Fellowship." In Washington, said he, Herbert Hoover received his party. To one meeting went Supreme Court Justice Harlan Fiske Stone — Present at a meeting in Dearborn, Mich, were Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ford. Soul Surgeon Buchman said that his movement had also interested Mrs. Thomas Alva Edison and Harvey Firestone.
TIME magazine, June 27, 1932

In the summer of 1936, the first national assembly of the Oxford Group Movement in Stockbridge, Massachusetts had in the guest registers names like Mrs. Henry Ford, Mrs. Harry Guggenheim, Emily Newell Blair, Cleveland Dodge, Baroness de Watteville Berckheim, Carl Vrooman, Sir Philip Dundas, Mrs. Henry Noble McCracken, and Lord Addington.26

At the Stockbridge, Massachusetts, assembly in 1936, "the International Team" included Baroness de Watteville Berckheim, Lord Addington at her right, Dr. Frank Buchman at her left, and Dr. Duys, "the brilliant Hollander", at the extreme right.

In addition, Buchman boasted that his ideas were endorsed by Senator Harry S Truman, Harry H. Woodring, Henry Ford, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Joe DiMaggio, and New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.27

One historian dryly commented that it was unclear whether the rich and famous also had to confess all of their sins to Frank Buchman. Perhaps they, being rich and famous, got a special dispensation.

On a journey in the Middle East: Frank Buchman (left), with Lady Minto (formerly Vicereine of India) and Cuthbert Bardsley (later Bishop of Coventry).

Queen Marie of Romania
But when Buchman lost a royal admirer, he took it very hard. (Narcissists just can't stand being made to look bad.)

The withdrawal of Queen Marie from his New York tea was a public embarrassment and a personal hurt for Buchman. His notes at the time reveal how disconcerted he was and how much in need of inner reassurance: 'Regain your poise ... There is much to suffer ... Cheer up, go strong, all is well. Forget it.'   ...
      Buchman drafted an immediate letter warning her against endangering 'the moral and spiritual development of her children'.
On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, page 129.

Sometimes Frank Buchman's arrogance and narcissistic grossly-inflated sense of self-importance bordered on the unbelievable. Frank Buchman actually had the shameless audacity to tell Queen Marie that she was endangering her children's spiritual welfare by not attending any more of his tea parties. (That's the propaganda trick of "Argue from Adverse Consequences" — warn that something terrible will happen if people don't do what you wish.)

But Queen Marie got the last word on the subject. Many years later, Beverly Nichols interviewed her, and she said,

"I have met Buchman. I did not like him. He seemed to me to be a snob. He spoke of God as if He were the oldest title in the Almanach de Gotha. And all that business about telling one's sins in public — He wanted me ... me ... to get up before my children and confess everything I had ever done! It is spiritual nudism! Ça se ne fait pas."
All I Could Never Be, Beverly Nichols, pages 255-256.

In his analysis of Buchmanism for Atlantic Monthly magazine, Henry P. van Dusen wrote:

      No feature of the Oxford Group Movement so strikes the casual observer or furnishes such innocent merriment to friendly critics as its studious attention to position, title, and social prestige. No meeting is properly launched without its quota of patrons of rank and social standing. No reference to the work is typical without its listing of the important personages who have lately given their allegiance to it (or have expressed some friendly interest in it) — generals and bishops and M.P.'s and counts and baronets; or, failing these, sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, cousins and aunts, or friends of generals, bishops, M.P.'s, counts, and baronets. It is probable that no socially exclusive church ever made such habitual and unblushing employment of the names of the great, the near-great, the would-be-great, or the thought-to-be-great as the Oxford Group Movement.
      Let it be said at once that this characteristic, likewise, proceeds directly from Mr. Buchman. All his life long he has paid an uncritical, almost childlike, deference to people of birth or social position, especially royalty or titled nobility. I suspect this is partly due to his own background; it is characteristic of many of humble but sterling birth to hold the socially elite in quite false reverence — a mistake not so easy for those more intimately acquainted with them. Partly it is the typical attitude of conservative German Lutheranism.
      Closely related is the association of the work with comfortable, even luxurious living. It has long been Mr. Buchman's principle to stop only at the most fashionable hotels, and usually to travel in first-cabin accomodations on the most expensive liners.
Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman: Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, pages 10-11.

Frank Buchman greets Gopal Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, when he arrives in London.

Frank Buchman (right), with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany (left), in Los Angeles, January 1960.

This photograph and the one below, Buchman with Adenauer and Buchman with Schuman, were really worked to death by the Moral Re-Armament propagandists. Those two photographs were reprinted in one MRA book after another, always with comments about how much Schuman and Adenauer admired Buchman, and what close friends they were. If they were such great close friends, why did MRA seem to have so few photographs of them together?
See, among others:
Moral Re-Armament: What Is It?, Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, pub. 1967, page 201.

Robert Schuman, Foreign Affairs Minister of France, with Frank Buchman, at a conference at Caux, Switzerland, September 1953.
That one conference seems to have been the only time that they ever met. Notice their neckties in these pictures.

When Frank Buchman later set up his headquarters at Mackinac Island, he even had a large fresco painted there, which showed Frank Buchman surrounded by his "personal friends": Louisa Lady Antrim ("lady in waiting to three Queens of England"), Lord Athlone (Governor General of Canada), General John Pershing (Commander of American armies in World War One), Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford, and Dr. Konrad Adenauer (Chancellor of Germany after WWII). The need to collect and be seen with many such famous, ultra-rich, powerful, or noble 'personal friends' reveals a weak, insecure ego that tries to compensate for its feelings of inferiority by basking in reflected glory — in other words, somebody suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder.81

Mackinac Island Mural

(Click on the image for a larger version.)

Notice the arrogance that was present even in the description of the mural. All of those people, even a medieval cleric (who looks like Martin Luther) and Mahatma Gandhi all supposedly "joined with Frank Buchman in the battle to put right what's wrong". Not that they might have inspired Frank Buchman, since they came before him. No, Frank had to be the leader, and they "joined with Frank" in his "battle to put right what's wrong all over the world".

By the way, Tod Sloan was described there as a "leader of the unemployed in East London". What the heck is that? Do unemployed people have leaders? Do they usually get together and form organizations and elect leaders? Or was Tod Sloan at that point just another unemployed guy?
At one point, Tod Sloan was a militant activist in labor causes, and he campaigned for poor children to get meals and boots, but he quit doing that when he was "changed" by the Oxford Group recruiters.

The MRA propagandists also awarded those goofy "leader of London's unemployed" and "London labor leader" titles to William Rowell, even though he was just an unemployed man who never led any union.

The Buchmanites' habit of applying superlative labels to all of their followers was another aspect of Frank Buchman's compulsion to associate with the rich, famous, and powerful. Buchman apparently didn't like to see himself as associating with, or attracting, the common rabble. Frank Buchman's followers had to be the biggest, the brightest, and the best at everything, which would again bolster Frank's weak ego. "If the smartest and richest and best people in the world follow me, then I must be right, right? And if you are smart, you will follow me too, right?"

Geoffrey Williamson, a London journalist who visited the MRA center in Caux, Switzerland, to investigate Frank Buchman and his organization, noticed the same thing. Everybody there was introduced with a superlative label, even him. He was promoted to "one of the leading journalists of London." He said that while he found it very flattering, he felt that the title was inaccurate and an exaggeration.117

I disliked the ceaseless barrage of flattery which poured from the lips of most of the Buchmanites with about the same glibness as their sloganese.
      Everyone and everything was always given an enthusiastic "build up." I became accustomed to being introduced in grandiose terms. "This is Mr Geoffrey Williamson — a writer from London whose words go out to many millions of people," was one flowery introduction, but this was eclipsed by a Finnish Buchmanite who greeted me with: "I hear you are a king among journalists."
      These high-flights of imagination were embarrassing at first, but I grew used to them and began to wonder how I should hear myself described next. The lowest rank ascribed to me was "Leading Features Editor for a very powerful group." Never once was I presented as a modest observer seeking facts. So much, I thought, for the Buchmanite's code of "Absolute Honesty." I could overlook this, but most of the "guides" had a manner that was much too hearty. They were like a brisk games mistress greeting her girls as they came off the hockey field. In a phrase of O. Henry's, they were "too anxious to please, to please."
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 88.

(Click on the image for a larger version.)
Another Mackinac Island mural showing Frank Buchman surrounded by famous people.
They tried to associate Frank Buchman with everything from Army generals to foreign leaders to the flag and the dead Presidents on Mount Rushmore.

The fawning follower (and British draft dodger) Arthur Strong described the mural this way:

      "The Mackinac Mural" — Frank N. D. Buchman — his heritage and life commitment, by Erling Roberts. It shows his fighting heritage and some of the men and women who took their stand with him to restore the authority of God to men and nations. Dr. Buchman was decorated by eight governments. His ancestors left Switzerland in 1740 to settle in Pennsylvania where seven generations of Buchmans were buried. Two of his relatives fought with Washington at Valley Forge.
      Towering in the background is the massive Mt. Rushmore Memorial with the historic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, symbolizing the men who founded and maintained the U.S. on the principles which Frank Buchman brought to life in our time.
Preview Of A New World; How Frank Buchman Helped his country Move from isolation To world responsibility; USA 1939-1946, Arthur Strong, page 315.

By the way, notice the language trick of speaking about "men and women who took their stand with him to restore the authority of God to men and nations." Restore? When was the previous time? When did God ever have such authority over the world? When was there ever a perfect theocracy on Earth? That is the propaganda trick of The Glittering Generality, citing some imaginary wonderful time in the past.

At the time when the Roman Catholic Church was the strongest in Europe, they had three Popes waging wars for the leadership of the Church, and they burned millions of women as witches. And they burned astronomers for saying that the Earth revolved around the Sun. And they burned Jews for being Jews. God sure wasn't in authority then. So just what wonderful time is Arthur Stong really talking about?

Speaking of name-dropping, Frank Buchman also had a habit of collecting trophies — that is, big name converts who were former atheists, labor union members, socialists, Communists, or something like that. Buchman loved to show off his trophies — every house party was another Show And Tell. Among the converts Frank routinely showed off were:

  • Tod Sloan, former East London labor activist
  • Bill Pickle, former bootlegger at Pennsylvania State University
  • Bunny Austin, former Davis Cup tennis player
  • Mme. Irene Laure, former French socialist
  • John Riffe, Executive Vice President of the CIO labor union

Todd Sloan, the former labor activist, and Frank Buchman

Todd Sloan was the Oxford Group convert who declared that he had made a mistake when he campaigned to help the poor and homeless, and to get schoolchildren meals and boots, because he had "made materialists out of them."

Irene and Victor Laure, French socialists whom Buchman "changed"

John Riffe, the union labor leader whom Buchman "changed", with Mrs. Thomas A. Edison, the inventor's widow.

And then Buchman also showed off some more people who weren't quite committed converts, but who had somehow, at some time or other, expressed some sympathy for Frank's movement:

  • Senator Harry S Truman
  • Admiral Richard E. Byrd, polar explorer
  • General John Pershing
  • Former President Herbert Hoover
  • Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford
  • Mrs. Thomas Edison
  • Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany
  • Robert Schuman, Foreign Affairs Minister of France

Frank Buchman also had a habit of collecting endorsements. Whenever anybody said something nice about Frank or his Group, his followers reprinted it and broadcast it far and wide, often exaggerating it in the process, to make "the movement" look better. When the London newspaper reporter A. J. Russell wrote a flattering article about Frank Buchman and his Oxford Group "house parties", Buchman mailed copies of it to nearly 10,000 people.129 Frank Buchman and his followers even collected endorsements from people who had not praised Buchman or his Groups — like when, in 1938, Cardinal Hinsley, the leader of all of the English Roman Catholics, discovered that Frank Buchman's organization was making propaganda use of a letter of praise of Buchmanism that was allegedly written by Cardinal Hinsley, but which Cardinal Hinsley could not remember having written.130

Narcissists are experts at showing off. Everything they do is calculated to make the right impression. Conspicuous consumption is for them what religion is for other people. Narcissists pursue the symbols of wealth, status, and power with a fervor that is almost spiritual. They can talk for hours about objects they own, the great things they've done or are going to do, and the famous people they hang out with. Often, they exaggerate shamelessly...
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 130.

Frank Buchman liked to count Mahatma Gandhi as another one of his many famous friends and admirers. The Buchmanites declared that Frank Buchman met Mahatma Gandhi in India in 1915, way back in the early days when they were both young men, and that Gandhi had (supposedly) said that Frank Buchman brought very high spirituality to India. They claimed that Gandhi said, "MRA is the best thing that ever came from the West to the East". (Who knows when Gandhi allegedly said that. It couldn't have been in 1915, because Frank Buchman didn't start using that name — "Moral Re-Armament", "MRA" — until 1939.) Was that really true — did Gandhi really say any such thing, or was that just another one of Frank Buchman's self-aggrandizing lies?

This is the photograph that the Buchmanites claimed showed Frank Buchman and Mahatma Gandhi walking together on the beach in 1915.

I sincerely doubt that Mahatma Gandhi would have been all that enthusiastic about Frank Buchman's flavor of religion. That alleged praise from Gandhi sounds to me like just another Buchmanite fabrication. I have found absolutely nothing to verify that Buchmanite claim — I have never found anything about Frank Buchman or his philosophy in any biography of Gandhi, or in any of Gandhi's writings, and I've looked. If Gandhi really rated Frank Buchman's "spirituality" as the greatest thing to come from the West, then Frank Buchman should have at least gotten a few small mentions somewhere.

In addition, Gandhi was very clearly opposed to Frank Buchman's style of cultish authoritarianism and emphasis on converting others to his own beliefs:

I am not interested in freeing India merely from the English yoke. I am bent upon freeing India from any yoke whatsoever. I have no desire to exchange 'king log for king stork.'
== Mahatma Gandhi, June 12, 1924
All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 129.

That sounds like Gandhi wouldn't have really wanted the Indian people to be brought under the yoke of Frank Buchman's "true dictatorship of the living God", with Frank at the top of the power pyramid...

I disbelieve in the conversion of one person by another.
== Mahatma Gandhi
All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 162.

I do not believe in people telling others of their faith, especially with a view to conversion. Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating.
== Mahatma Gandhi, October 20, 1927.
All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 55.

Well, that certainly rules out Frank Buchman's Oxford Group meetings with the "sharing" of group confessions, and Soul Surgeons insistently proselytizing and demanding confessions and converting the vulnerable, and The Five C's: Confidence, Confession, Conviction, Conversion, and Conservation.

I know of no greater sin than to oppress the innocent in the name of God.
== Mahatma Gandhi, April 1947.
All Men Are Brothers, Mahatma Gandhi, page 73.

Obviously, Gandhi had a very low opinion of oppressive cult religions — "no greater sin". So did Gandhi really praise Frank Buchman's fascist version of "spirituality" as the best thing to come out of the West?

I don't think so.

In September of 1927, Frank Buchman wrote to Mrs. "Mother" Tjader, another enthusiastic supporter, asking whether she could arrange to have his name put into the New York Social Register. "I feel for the work's sake this ought to be done," he told her.85 Buchman also managed to get himself inserted into Who's Who, where his autobiographies left something to be desired in the way of Absolute Honesty. For example, in the 1931 through 1938 editions of Who's Who, when Buchman was on a patriotic jag in the days before World War Two, he described his World War One activities as "Served European War with a flying squadron, looking after war prisoners", but he also claimed that he had "made a tour of India, Korea, and Japan, 1915-16; toured in the Far East, 1917-19", which left little time for participation in World War One.86

  • And did "flying squadrons" in World War One even take or keep prisoners of war? How could they? When one biplane shot down another, the victorious pilot could not and did not capture the enemy pilot. Often, the defeated pilot was shot up and died in the crash. If he was lucky, he jumped out with a parachute. If he was very lucky, he was over his own territory, and landed safely. If he was over enemy territory, he was captured by the enemy army below. --By the "ground-pounders", the infantry, not by the "flying squadron".
  • How could Buchman "Serve European war, looking after war prisoners"? Did he enlist in the Army? (No.) So what happened? Did he just wander onto some airfield at the front and announce, "Hi. I'm a German-speaking Lutheran minister from Pennsylvania, and I want to give aid and comfort to your German prisoners of war for a few weeks"?
  • And remember that Frank Buchman also claimed that in 1915, he was in India talking with Mahatma Gandhi, who allegedly said that Frank Buchman brought a very high spirituality to India.

In the 1931 edition of Who's Who, Frank Buchman claimed that he had served in World War I in Europe. But he also claimed that he was in India, Korea, Japan, and the Far East at the same time.

In 1939, with another world war imminent, that claim disappeared.

Likewise, in one of his radio speeches before World War II, Frank Buchman declared:

MRA is the great central revolutionary force. I was personally at war. An experience of the Cross made me a new type of revolutionary.
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 N. D. Buchman, page 157.

Um, just which war was that, Frank?

And remember that another Buchmanite wrote:

During the First World War he [Frank Buchman] got to know Sun-Yat-Sen, a great man whose name is today respected both in Communist and Nationalist China. Frank said to him: "The greatest evils in China are squeeze, concubinage and gambling. You must build your new nation on firm moral foundations." Sun-Yat-Sen said of this conversation: "Buchman told me the truth about my country and myself."
Fresh Hope for the World: Moral Re-Armament in Action, edited and introduced by Gabriel Marcel, 1960, translated from the French by Helen Hardinge, page 159.

So Frank Buchman was in China, allegedly teaching morality to Sun-Yat-Sen, at a time when he said he was serving in the European War? They couldn't even keep their stories straight.

Such Falsification of History is another bad habit that Bill Wilson may have learned from Frank Buchman. Bill's autobiographical stories also left a lot to be desired in the Absolute Honesty department, like
  • How in the second edition of the Big Book, Bill promoted himself from "Wall Street hustler" to "New York stockbroker",
  • And how Bill denied in the Big Book that he had ever been unfaithful to his wife when he was really such an obnoxious philanderer, 13th-stepping every pretty young thing in A.A., that some people, like Tom Powers, who was the co-author with Bill of Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions, quit A.A. in disgust over Bill's behavior,
  • And how Bill claimed to have been an icy intellectual, a conservative atheist, and a skeptical scientist who was trained at a modern engineering school, when he was really just a superstitious flunk-out,
  • And how Bill wrote in the Big Book that his new "spiritual" cure for alcoholism had a seventy-five percent success rate, with "hundreds recovered", when he really had only between 40 and 70 sober A.A. members in the whole world (even after two years of intense full-time recruiting, which included using deceptive recruiting and coercive recruiting techniques), and a failure rate with alcoholics worse than 95 percent. (See pages 17 and XX in the foreword to the second edition.)

But sometimes Frank Buchman's social climbing habits backfired:

In one year he might be the host or guest of millionaires and royal personages, and able to use their names or their money to advance his cause — and then, in the same year, might come a sharp setback or humiliating snub, such as that delivered in July, 1937, at a Foyle literary luncheon in London, by Miss Margaret Rawlings, the actress. She had been invited as the 'guest of honour' without realising that the luncheon was in honour, too, of Buchman; and, despite intense advance counter-pressure and the numbing impact of a floodlit para-military parade of young Groupers, carrying banners, singing choruses and shouting slogans, she had the courage to say, in front of 2,000 other guests — many of them Buchmanites — that, to her, 'this public exposure of the soul, this psychic exhibitionism, with its natural accompaniment of sensual satisfaction', was 'as shocking, indecent and indelicate as it would be if a man took all his clothes off in Piccadilly Circus'.
The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 55.

(Many years later, Margaret Rawlings played "Countess Vereberg" in the movie Roman Holiday, where a cute unknown starlet named Audrey Hepburn suddenly became a very famous Academy Award winner.)

And the wiley old politician President Franklin D. Roosevelt was far too smart to get sucked into being used as a publicity tool by Dr. Frank Buchman. Buchman and his followers were forever chasing after President Roosevelt, trying to get endorsements or receptions or speeches from him, but Roosevelt always kept his distance.18 The Buchmanites even succeeded in talking a certain Senator Harry S Truman into asking President Roosevelt to take part in a Buchmanite "world radio" broadcast in December, 1939. Roosevelt politely replied to Truman that he felt that it was not the time to be pushing Buchman's plan for world peace.19 (Indeed. Buchman's plan would have left Hitler the overlord of most of central Europe, including Germany, the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and half of Poland.)

President Roosevelt did send one public relations message to one of Buchman's Moral Re-Armament get-togethers, and the Buchmanites distorted its meaning and claimed that Roosevelt had endorsed Buchman's organization:

Message to Capital Meeting
Says Movement Cannot Fail
to Lessen Peril of War


Lehman, Pershing, Eden Among
Those Sending Endorsement
— Buchman Chief Speaker


      WASHINGTON, June 4. — President Roosevelt, in a message tonight to a National Meeting for Moral Rearmament held in Constitution Hall here, called for worldwide support of the movement.
      Distinguished persons from many parts of this country and the world, gathered to give their aid to the drive to mobilize world opinion against war, heard the reading of messages also from 206 members of the British House of Commons, among them former Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden; twenty-three senior members of the House of Lords, representatives of eight other Parliaments, other American public officials...
Message From President
      President Roosevelt's message, which was read by Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri, said:
      "The underlying strength of the world must consist in the moral fiber of her citizens. A program of moral rearmament cannot fail, therefore, to lessen the danger of armed conflict. Such moral rearmament, to be most highly effective, must receive support on a world-wide basis."
The New York Times, June 5, 1939, page 1.

The second headline and the first sentence of the article were incorrect. President Roosevelt did not call for "worldwide support of the movement." In a neutral, carefully-worded piece of public relations fluff, President Roosevelt merely endorsed the general idea of "moral re-armament" (lower case), not Frank Buchman's organization "Moral Re-Armament" or "the movement". Roosevelt's choice of those words was very careful and very deliberate. He wished to endorse morality in general without endorsing Frank Buchman's Moral Re-Armament in particular. Roosevelt re-wrote that message several times, carefully choosing every word, seeking just the right neutral tone. Nevertheless, the Buchmanites immediately claimed that President Roosevelt was also one of their supporters.

Tom Driberg reported that the lower-case "moral re-armament" wording was very deliberate. President Roosevelt rewrote his message several times, carefully adjusting the wording, until it projected just the right image while refraining from actually endorsing Buchman or his organization. (And some of the original drafts, in Roosevelt's handwriting, still exist in his papers in his Presidential library, so historians can see how President Roosevelt was thinking as he changed and reworded his message, seeking just the right neutral tone.) And then, when the Buchmanites nagged President Roosevelt for another endorsement, and yet another, Roosevelt just kept sending them the same message for every occasion.90

Also notice how President Roosevelt said that, "Such moral rearmament, to be most highly effective, must receive support on a world-wide basis." In other words, one-sided peacefulness, like further appeasement of Hitler and acquiescence to his demands, would not be effective. Frank Buchman's simplistic self-criticizing "morality" works only when both sides practice it, which Adolf Hitler did not do.

Such exaggerations of praise and endorsements were commonplace. When former President Herbert Hoover spoke briefly and informally at an MRA luncheon in December of 1938, saying that he believed in "ethics and morality", the Buchmanites implied that Herbert Hoover had also endorsed their movement.48

As Henry P. van Dusen reported:

In brief, a good word for the work, in the face of cruel slander, is represented as convinced support. Attendance at a meeting as a curious inquirer may forthwith be widely circulated so as to convey the impression of full membership. The vaguest expression of sympathy is quoted as though it were a declaration of complete approval.
Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman: Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, page 15.

And Tom Driberg reported:

...Cardinal Cushing, of Boston, 'befriended' (it is his word) an MRA team that he met in South America — probably in Brazil, where MRA has been active for some years, with the aid of local ex-Communists. He was to regret his friendliness. Too much was made of it in MRA propaganda, and he was even quoted as saying that he would welcome the setting-up of MRA centres in his own archdiocese. 'That's silly', he said, repudiating the report and reiterating the official Roman Catholic warning against MRA.
The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 86.

Dr. Frank Buchman and Mae West
Even the famous actress Mae West was used in that manner. When she seemed to have been bitten by the "get religion" bug, she met with Frank Buchman and endorsed MRA. The Buchmanites exploited her name for all it was worth, and widely reprinted a picture of her posing with Frank Buchman while holding a Moral Re-Armament book, and quoted her praising MRA or Frank Buchman. But the New York Times writer B. R. Crisler came up with one of the best lines when, in his spoof of Hollywood foolishness, he awarded the title:

Profoundest Philosophical Reflection: Mae West's statement to Dr. Frank Buchman, head of the Oxford Movement, on the occasion of their historical meeting: "I owe all my success to the kind of thinking Moral Rearmament is."
New York Times, "CIRCUS OF SUPERLATIVES", B. R. Crisler, January 7, 1940, page 135.

(A less charitable person might have been tempted to comment that the sexy, amply-endowed Miss Mae West's successful film career was definitely not due to men thinking religious thoughts...)

Mae West

  • "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
  • "It's not the men in my life that counts — it's the life in my men."
  • "I used to be Snow White... but I drifted."
  • "Good sex is like good Bridge... If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand."
  • "Why don't you come on up and see me sometime... when I've got nothin' on but the radio."
  • "He who hesitates is a damned fool."
  • "When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before."
One of Mae West's biographers had a very different take on the encounter. He wrote that Mae West was using Frank Buchman in a publicity stunt:

Universal's publicity department, remembering all the attention Mae and Billy Sunday had reaped from their meeting, persuaded a famous but naïve religious leader to come up and see her. Even a bemused B. R. Chrisler of The New York Times devoted considerable space to this manipulation, commenting, "As startling in its way as the Nazi-Soviet pact was the unexpected interview between Mae West and Dr. Frank Buchman, the English theologue, who is the leader of the so-called Moral-Rearmament Movement on the Pacific Coast."
      Maneuvering Dr. Buchman onto a sofa beneath a nude painting of herself for the benefit of photographers, Mae, effulgent in a sheer pink negligee, assured him that she owed all her success to the kind of Moral Rearmament he represented. The guileless Buchman replied: "You are a splendid character, Miss West. You have done wonderful work, too, in pleasing and entertaining millions with your charming personality." Dr. Buchman apologized that he was an amateur at this kind of thing, but Mae told him he was doing fine and inquired whether he had met W. C. Fields. Buchman hadn't, and Mae regretted this, telling him, "Moral Rearmament is just what Bill needs. Give it to him in a bottle and he'll go for it." Having scored all her points, Mae allowed the press agents to escort Dr. Buchman back to a world in which he was more experienced.
MAE WEST, a biography, George Eells and Stanley Musgrove, page 193.

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