The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps

Chapter 11:
Invasion of Poland, WWII starts in Europe

German Army invades Poland, September 1, 1939.

When Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, World War Two started in Europe, in spite of Frank Buchman's best intentions. The Oxford Groupers and Moral Re-Armament believers were undaunted by the outbreak of war in Europe. They quietly put aside their "Guidance, Not Guns" slogan, but were still convinced of the adequacy of their diagnosis of the cause of the war: immoral selfishness.

Nazi treatment of Poles

A few weeks later, Frank Buchman declared,

We are fighters ever — in the battle for peace. We have war today because we have had war for the last twenty years — war in industry, war in homes. Those wars still remain to be stopped before we shall have permanent peace in the world. If you want to stop war in the world, stop war in the home. War is "Peace" continued by other means. America's greatest contribution to the world can be made right here in America. She can build such a picture of peace — peace and cooperation in every sphere of life — that all the nations will want it. The enemy right within our borders is our colossal selfishness. Agreements and policies are secondary to the motives in the hearts of men.95

95 Oxford Group newsletter, Sept. 28, 1939, p. 1.

Drawing-Room Conversion; A Sociological Account of the Oxford Group Movement, Allan W. Eister, Duke University Press, 1950, page 57.

There was not one word about Hitler being bad, or starting the war by invading Czechoslovakia and Poland, or murdering large numbers of innocent people. SS units rounded up and killed all of the leading Polish intellectuals, artists, nobility, political and religious leaders, as well as Jews, and Heinrich Himmler hid that program under the name "housecleaning". Hans Frank called the extermination of all of the Polish Intelligensia "Extraordinary Pacification Action". 142 Hitler wanted anybody who could act as any kind of a leader of Poland to be killed, and Hitler wanted Poland to be reduced to nothing more than a nation of obedient slaves for Germany. Frank Buchman had no criticism of that, either.

In 1939 he [Adolf Hitler] began liquidating what he termed the 'leading classes' in Poland — teachers, priests, intellectuals, entrepreneurs. About 70,000 Poles were killed in action, but by the end of the war about 6 million Poles were dead. Only half were Jewish.
Hitler and Geli, Ronald Hayman, page 216.

Frank Buchman declared that "agreements and policies are secondary", and that the only real problem in the world was "our colossal selfishness", particularly that of Americans. So Buchman continued his campaign to get "one hundred million people throughout the world listening to God."

Hundreds of billboards like this advertized MRA in California

A month later, Buchman made another radio speech (broadcast on KGEI, San Francisco, and WRUL, Boston) that was a good example of deceit and double-talk, a speech of which any politician would be proud:

      I am speaking today to the millions across the world who in these anxious days are increasingly looking to Moral Re-Armament as the one hope for the future. Especially, I am thinking of the men in the front-line trenches, the men faced with the hard realities, the men who know what war is.
      Yet where are the front-line trenches today? Today in many countries every civilian carries a gas mask, every garden has its air-raid shelter. It is a new phase in war, where everybody is responsible and every home is a front-line trench.
[Moral Re-Armament is the one hope for the future? Says who? Millions? That is the propaganda trick of Appeal to Numbers — claiming that you must be right because millions of people agree with you.
That is also the trick of Putting Words Into Other People's Mouths. Buchman spoke of "millions ... who ... are ... looking to Moral Re-Armament as the one hope for the future." It was Frank Buchman who was saying that MRA was the only hope, not those millions of other people.]
      The world is waiting an answer. War is the price of the selfishness of nations.   ...   Most people are selfish enough to want a peace that permits them to wage their own private wars and foster their own petty indulgences. An American housewife asks, "Who is responsible for the selfishness and greed in America today? It is business, or labor? Or is it Mr. and Mrs. America in a million homes all over the country?"
[Buchman used the propaganda trick of Sly Suggestions to assert that it was all the fault of Mr. and Mrs. America. No, the housewives in the USA did not bomb Poland and kill the Jews. Also notice how Frank Buchman kept hammering away at Cult Rule Number Two: You Are Always Wrong. No matter what happens, no matter whom Hitler murders next, by some twist of Frank Buchman's crazy logic, you are to blame and you should feel guilty.]
      The world must declare a moratorium on hate and fear, personally and nationally. We cannot make peace between the nations when the people in the nations are in a state of permanent personal warfare. Strikes, labor difficulties and war are inevitable until we change our whole thought and quality of living.
[Notice how neatly Buchman diverted attention and shifted the blame from Hitler to one of Buchman's favorite bogeymen — labor unions.]
      The new peace pact must have as its preamble that all contracting parties, all nations, live on the basis of no hate, no fear, no greed. Someone must always make peace. For peace is not an idea; it is people becoming different. Most of us want to make peace by repenting the other fellow's sins. That is how the world would like to do it. But we cannot permanently go on expecting other nations to repent first. The MRA way is to start by being different yourself.   ...
[Why didn't Buchman talk about Adolf Hitler getting religion and stopping the Blitzkrieg? What if Hitler would not listen to Guidance and obey God? Then what? Buchman had nothing to say about that, not a word. And how could Americans criticizing themselves cause Hitler to withdraw his armies from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria?]
      Children see these great truths. I quote from a letter sent me by two children who listen to God each morning with their father and mother. Kennie, aged eleven, says, "It is now our chance in America. I know how wars start. I used to fight with my sister. I began with arguing and disobeying God's orders and His four standards. Love from Kennie."
[Obviously, Buchman was grossly overgeneralizing (and using the propaganda technique The Fallacy of One Similarity). Sibling squabbling bears little similarity to the mega-death slaughter of World War II other than "Well, they're both fighting, aren't they?"
Also note how Frank Buchman used a couple of propaganda tricks here: Put Words Into Other People's Mouths and Cherry Picking. Buchman hand-picked a couple of letters that said just what he wanted to say, and asserted that it was really somebody else's opinion, rather than just some children of his followers who were parroting his own sermons.]

      Here is his sister's letter, "If we want to change the world, we will have to do what God tells us, or He won't give us power to do it. You must start obeying your parents when you are a child, and the four standards. Everybody ought to obey them, even children if they want to change their country. We ought to start now. If we don't, after the war everybody will want their own way. God is the only person who can give us power, and we can get it if we want to."
[Of course everybody will want his own way. That is human nature. But that is not at all the same thing as Hitler killing six million Jews. Also, ordinary people can be quite good even without being slaves of God, or slaves of Frank Buchman.
And again, Buchman demanded absolute obedience: "Everybody ought to obey them..." Buchman really was a fascist.]

      My only comment is, "A little child shall lead them."
Frank Buchman, 29 October 1939, Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, pages 151-154.
[Gee, that's cute. Spoken like a true politician. But those cute kids have nothing to do with Hitler breaking the promises of peace that he made at Munich, and invading Poland and murdering a lot of people and starting World War II.]
That same day, Frank Buchman also declared that:

      A word of gratitude must go to the men in every nation who have responded to MRA, for what has been accomplished, and for the far-reaching service they have been able to render. These people, far-visioned and sagacious, see that MRA is the highest patriotism.   ...
[What accomplishments? What service? Frank Buchman was bragging about the MRA "accomplishments" and "far-reaching service" just two months after Hitler ignored Frank, his Guidance, and his "God's Plan For World Peace", and went ahead and invaded Poland and started World War II. All that Frank Buchman accomplished with his promotion of a policy of appeasement was making Britain and the USA less ready for the coming war.]
      We must remake the world. The task is nothing less than that. Every man, woman and child must be enlisted, every home become a fort.
      Now is the time to enlist for the duration in this world war against selfishness. We must be fighters ever!
      We stand at the zero hour on the threshold of a new world order.
Frank Buchman in a world radio broadcast, 29 October 1939,
Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank Buchman, pages 155 and 159.

Again, Frank Buchman demanded that everyone must "enlist" and become one of his followers.
And as usual, Frank Buchman changed the goal from defeating Hitler and fascism to fighting "selfishness".

Daphne Du Maurier, authoress of Come Wind, Come Weather
In 1940, Daphne du Maurier, a popular novelist of the time who was also a believer in Buchmanism, wrote a book of short stories about Buchmanites coping with the early part of World War Two in Europe. She displayed the usual Oxford Grouper's grandiose exaggeration of the benefits of Buchman's teachings, along with minimization and denial of its total failure to prevent the war:

In the autumn of 1939 they were among the first families from Latvia to be taken by the Nazis into the new Poland. Once again they were uprooted, once again every earthly possession was torn from them. They were housed in the evacuated property of some ejected Pole. But this time Peter and Anna were not bitter, nor were they afraid. Wherever they go they will carry a message of hope, and faith, and love, a message which will encourage and inspire their fellow-sufferers, and which — if they had possessed it twenty years ago — might have turned the course of history.
Come Wind, Come Weather, Daphne du Maurier, August 1940, page 51.

Daphne du Maurier blithely overlooked the simple fact that Frank Buchman's cult did exist twenty years earlier, and it had not even slowed down Hitler's march to war, never mind "turned the course of history". Likewise, the news that some guy from Pennsylvania had started a strange church where everybody gets together and confesses their sins in group meetings isn't really much of "a message of hope, and faith, and love".

Many people still felt that MRA offered an alternative to war — both the "common" people, and influential leaders. An MRA radio broadcast on December 1, 1939 announced:

Over this weekend millions more have been hearing how this experiment works for the ordinary man and woman. The message of Moral Re-Armament with its simple code of absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love applied to everyday life, is spreading like wildfire the news that there is a cure for war.
Drawing-Room Conversion; A Sociological Account of the Oxford Group Movement, Allan W. Eister, Duke University Press, 1950, page 157.

Note the common cultish characteristic of "A simple, absolutely-true answer to complex problems." Ostensibly, Buchman's Four Absolutes were the simple answer to World War Two. Just practice Frank Buchman's "Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness, and Absolute Love" and you won't need to worry about Hitler or the war.

At the end of the year, a Morning Call newspaper reporter interviewed Buchman, and found:

Though Britain, France, and Germany had now been at war for nearly four months, and Poland as well as Czechoslovakia had been enslaved, Buchman's euphoria was undimmed. He reiterated the usual MRA clichés. He let fall a few important names, including Baldwin's. He reported 'a widespread response throughout Great Britain' to his lead. Queen Wilhelmina [of the Netherlands] 'had already proclaimed MRA as a national policy'; King Leopold [of Belgium] was following her example. (Both of them, in a few months' time, were to be victims of Nazism — the Queen as an exile, the King as a prisoner: the new 'national policy' would perhaps look a bit shop-soiled by then.)
The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, page 87.

"Buchman's euphoria was undimmed"? Again, that sounds like a manic-depressive or bipolar disorder. Even while Adolf Hitler was murdering innocent people by the thousands, Frank Buchman was just bubbling over with "giggly wonderfulness" and "incorrigible frivolity". Buchman showed few signs of being connected with reality.

A Belgian reader commented,

      It is quite funny that Buchman apparently thought that the monarch of either the Netherlands or Belgium could "proclaim" anything to be "national policy". He clearly suffered from an (even today still not uncommon) total American ignorance of the role of these constitutional monarchs, neither of whom had the power to make any political decisions, or was allowed to make any public statement about political matters (let alone religious matters), except when it was scripted by their prime ministers and in strictly controlled circumstances. The idea that either of them would have publicly endorsed some weird American cult is ludicrous.
== Tom Hens

Good point. The last European king who dictated his country's religion, that I can think of, was King Henry VIII of England. His coercive imposition of his choice of a state church caused such bitter divisions and strife that many heads rolled over it, including a couple of queens'.
== Orange

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Last updated 20 November 2014.
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