The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps

Chapter 13:
Pearl Harbor, The USA Is In It Now;
You (Not Me) Can Defend America

Pearl Harbor, Sunday, December 7, 1941

USS West Virginia sunk in foreground; the badly-damaged USS Tennessee is visible in the background.

The USS Shaw explodes.

Battleship Row burns, and the USS Oklahoma lies capsized and sinking in the foreground.

The USS Arizona goes down. 1177 sailors died on the Arizona.

Once America got into the war, after Pearl Harbor, Frank Buchman and Moral Re-Armament were not opposed to the war. Quite the contrary, they were very "patriotic", and all for it, just as long as somebody else served in the military services. Many of the Moral Re-Armament leaders, the inner circle of disciples in both Great Britain and the USA, tried to dodge the draft, claiming that they were "lay evangelists" who were essential on the home front for such patriotic tasks as managing Moral Re-Armament and producing morality plays like "You Can Defend America."

[I love that — not "We Can Defend America", but "You Can Defend America." — "You do the slogging through the mud, and the fighting and the bleeding and the dying, and we will wave the flag and cheer you on. We are real patriots."]

Frank Buchman quickly, opportunistically, switched from praising Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler to waving the American flag and declaring that Moral Re-Armament was "the highest patriotism":

Cover of the Moral Re-Armament booklet, "You Can Defend America", published by Judd & Detweiler, Inc., Washington D.C., 1941.

Page 2, an endorsement by General John Pershing, who had been commander of the American armies in World War I

Pages 16 and 17 of "You Can Defend America".

Pages 18 and 19 of "You Can Defend America".

Before the war, Frank Buchman declared that the answer for world peace was:

  1. Everybody had to "change", and
  2. Confess that they were wrong, and
  3. Make an honest apology, and
  4. Join Frank Buchman's cult.
After that failed, and World War II started anyway, Frank Buchman's answer for the defense of America was:
  1. Everybody had to "change", and
  2. Confess that they were wrong, and
  3. Make an honest apology, and
  4. "Enlist" in Frank Buchman's cult.

Notice the myriad propaganda tricks in those two pages:

  1. Broken logic, non sequitur: Adolf Hitler started WW II by invading Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, and the Japanese started it in the Pacific by invading China and Korea and bombing Pearl Harbor. Therefore, Frank Buchman said, "America needs a change of heart."
    Say what?
    Buchman didn't say anything about Adolf Hitler and the Nazis needing to get a change of heart.

  2. Bait and Switch: First, Buchman said that the American people were good — "honest, unselfish, neighborly, clean, and free" — just to get people to start agreeing with him, and then Buchman suddenly switched sides and challenged that statement and implied that Americans were not so good after all.

  3. False assumptions, unsupported allegations, and assuming facts not in evidence:
    • God will guide your thoughts during your morning "Quiet Time", and give you work orders.
    • You must be governed by somebody else.
    • Human nature is bad and must be changed.
    • Only God can change human nature.
    • You will change for the better if you practice Buchmanism.
    • George Washington and Abraham Lincoln "listened to God" in Frank Buchman's occult manner.
    • "Our fathers looked to God for their direction. We've looked about everyplace else."
    • William Penn said, "Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants."

      William Penn may have said it, and it was one of Frank Buchman's favorite quotes, but was it true? William Penn was not quoting scripture. That was something that he made up, using the Either/Or Propaganda Technique.

      And wasn't William Penn actually such an obnoxious religious extremist and heretic that the English kicked him out? Remember the comments of the Bishop of Durham, Dr. Herbert Hensley Henson, while criticizing Buchman's Groups:

      "The early Quakers were carried to strange excesses by their persuasion that they were divinely inspired. They also faced their fellow Christians in the tone of men who had a unique and infallible assurance of truth, whose witness could only be rejected by those who were blinded by prejudice or enslaved by sin."

      That was just like Frank Buchman and his followers, who declared that people who dared to criticize them were "morally defeated".

  4. Wrapping himself in the flag. Frank was very "patriotic".

  5. Association — Frank Buchman cited George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and tried to imply that he had some kind of kinship with them.

  6. Citing Washington and Lincoln was also an Appeal to Authorities — trying to claim that honored gentlemen, like the nation's Founding Fathers, agreed with Frank Buchman's occult practices. And prominently displaying the endorsement by General Pershing was another appeal to authorities.

  7. False Equality. Abraham Lincoln said that God would communicate His desires in some manner or other — "He finds a way of letting me know it". Frank Buchman then implied that Lincoln's words supported Buchman's practice of "receiving Guidance" during morning "Quiet Times". But that was a false equality — Abraham Lincoln most assuredly did not say that God gave him marching orders during daily séances or spook sessions.

  8. Another False Equality: Joining Frank Buchman's cult was not the same as enlisting in the U.S. Army and fighting against the fascists.

  9. Either/Or Technique — EITHER you must be governed by something petty, like your wife, or greed, OR ELSE you must practice Buchmanism and be "governed by God".

  10. Guilt Induction — you aren't really very "honest, unselfish, neighborly, clean, and free", after all, are you?...

  11. Deceptive Language, and Bait And Switch: "Listening to God" really meant that after you had joined Frank Buchman's cult, you would be ordered around by Frank's lieutenants who would tell you what God really said.

Pages 20 and 21 of "You Can Defend America".

And these pages use more of the same propaganda techniques, especially False Assumptions and Unsupported Allegations:

  1. Since when is there a "secret of change"? Likewise, a "secret" of "getting direction from God"? Frank Buchman had been broadcasting his doctrines on the radio for years, so they couldn't have been very secret.
  2. — So that is also the trick of using Slanted Language. "Secret" sounds so much more exciting than "doctrine" or "technique"", like "Wow, we are really getting into the secret inner knowledge now, the Wisdom of the Ancients."
  3. Then, will you really be unable to "play your full part in a program of total defense" if you don't join Frank Buchman's group?
  4. Do you really have to confess all of your petty sins and moral shortcomings to other people, like your boss, in "a spirit of honest apology"?
  5. Will practicing Buchmanism really give you all kinds of abilities and powers, like overcoming disunity, being a rallying point, and becoming a recruiting center for Frank's religion?
  6. Who says that everybody needs to make an "honest apology"?
    Did Frank Buchman make an honest apology for his Nazi sympathizing and Hitler-praising ways? [No.]
  7. Who says that the children will say that "Gee, it's fun to be home now" if Mommy and Daddy join Frank Buchman's church? Where is the evidence for that?
  8. Who says that practicing Buchmanism will transform neighborhoods? "Backyard gossip changes to planning for the community." Where is the evidence for that?
    Frank Buchman declared that, "Thousands of families are making the experiment" (Appeal To Numbers), and then he made some sweeping generalizations about nice things happening, but he didn't actually supply any real evidence that the experiment had produced good results.

...And on and on. Most of the sentences on those two pages are deceptive and dishonest, half-truths at best, or childishly simple-minded thinking.

Pages 22 and 23 of "You Can Defend America".

Okay, I think you can find all of the propaganda tricks yourself, this time.

And once again, Frank Buchman refrained from criticizing Adolf Hitler or the Nazis. Buchman declared that our real enemy was the faults of the American people — "our softness, graft, laziness, extravagance, buckpassing, materialism". And, Buchman declared, "America has already been invaded"...

At the same time, MRA was publishing this jingoistic pamphlet in Great Britain. Notice the similarity to the USA version:

Frank Buchman's gang even managed to get their cult-religion propaganda printed up as Civil Defense posters:

"Be directed by God" through spiritual wires that can't be cut... "Listen to God and obey...." Yes, that's Buchmanism, all right.

And as usual, there wasn't a word of criticism of the Nazis or Adolf Hitler in any of that.

Also, the lines,

Don't weaken the home front by wangling something for yourself."
actually mean that unions should not demand higher wages for the workers. Frank Buchman was always a "spiritual strike-breaker", who used religious arguments to declare that the workers demanding good wages was "selfishness". Oddly, Frank Buchman never denounced the ultra-rich industrialists for raking in millions of dollars and living first-class lifestyles in glittering palaces.

During the war, troupes of Buchman's followers toured the country, performing melodramatic morality plays like You Can Defend America, The Good Road, and The Forgotten Factor. They encouraged workers not to strike, claiming that it would be "unpatriotic". The Buchmanites denounced "Divisive Materialism, Our Unseen Enemy", and equated demanding fair wages with giving aid to the enemy.38


A few years after the war, Geoffrey Williamson visited the MRA center in Caux, Switzerland, and saw The Good Road being made into a film:

A western farmyard setting, reminiscent in style of Oklahoma, served to introduce an incredible story of a feud between a farmer, Zeke, a crusty old bachelor, and his young neighbour, Rufe.
      Rufe's cattle have broken Zeke's fences, so Zeke gets his gun and announces his determination to shoot Rufe immediately he shows up. But Rufe appears with his young wife hanging on his arm and bearing a spice cake she has baked specially to placate their rough neighbor! When Rufe says, "Sorry," and his wife holds out the spice cake, Zeke lays aside his gun, which is the cue for everyone to start singing:
The whole world is my neighbor
When you and I get together...
      If this is a sample of the film that is going to change the world, I thought, the Buchmanites must be crazy. I couldn't believe that anyone could seriously advance such a preposterous story as offering a solution to world problems. By the same token the second world war could have been avoided if Chamberlain had taken a spice cake in his luggage when he went to meet Hitler.
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 56.

The frontier wife mollifies Zeke with a spice cake

Frank Buchman with the cast of The Good Road

Geoffrey Williamson also saw the show live:

      In strict fairness I must set down the fact that the live show made a more favourable impression than the film "rushes" had done. It was brightly dressed, well staged, and played with such tremendous zest by a youthful cast, that it would have been churlish not to have shown appreciation. It certainly "got across" with the audience, whose applause for every item was almost prodigal.
      But many of the songs, though tuneful enough, were naïve attempts to put over uplift in the vein of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. I don't know what visiting statesmen and politicians made of them all, but the Buchmanites, at any rate, seemed to be whipped into ecstasy by such items as Sorry is a Magic Little Word or If You Harnessed All the Heart-power in the World.
      I found it impossible to revise my estimate of the film. Much of it was sorry stuff, strung together in a haphazard sort of way, with the MRA propaganda laid on crudely. This puzzled me considerably, for I had studied enough examples of Buchmanite propaganda to know that they can be subtle enough when they choose.
      Once more I yawned over the incredible sob-story of the tough feudist whose thoughts were diverted from neighborcide by the gift of a spice cake; but there were other sketches just as callow. There was an American family scene, for instance, which opened with glimpses of father, mother, sister, brother, and grandma all preoccupied with their own selfish pursuits, constantly bickering.
      The curtain fell, to rise again on a "changed" family, though how they had all become transformed we were not told. Now, of course, everyone was polite and kindly and the family was united. So united that they insisted on singing two songs together — Families Can Be Fun and Sorry is a Magic Little Word. The last song was supposed, apparently, to provide a key to the whole sketch and a message of world importance. Learn to say "sorry," and harmony flies into the home! And if that works in families, why not in the great family of nations?

The Good Road depicts a modern Pilgrim's Progress, and here, "Madame Lust" whispers blandishments in the ear of "Mr. Anyman" in an effort to seduce him from the straight and narrow path. "Greed", "Fear", "Confusion", and "Hate" look on, hoping for his downfall.

      Then came an industrial scene devised to show Moral Re-Armament as a bridge between Management and Labour. A stylized setting of giant cog-wheels, reminiscent of Chaplin's Modern Times, formed the background against which Management and Labour faced each other from opposite sides of the stage.
      As the curtains rose on this scene the wheels of industry were turning smoothly, with groups of workers in American style overalls swaying in the background to simulate the rhythmic beat of pistons. Production was booming and both Management and Labour announced to the press their intention of playing their full part in saving Democracy.
      Then, for no apparent reason, a young minx named "Miss Trust" tripped in and gaily distributed little packets all around. She was sowing seeds of dissension between Management and Labour! At this point my erstwhile strike-leader friend nudged me in the ribs and whispered: "Do you suppose it's a coincidence that she's dressed like that?"
      For Miss Trust, "essense of subversion," was dressed wholly in red — a red hat, a red costume, and she carried a red handbag and a red umbrella.

Marion Clayton Anderson plays Miss Trust, whispering doubts and seeds of dissension into the ears of labor leaders played by Vic Kitchen (left) and Norman Schwab (right).

Vic Kitchen was another long-time Oxford Group member, and author of the O.G. testimonial "I Was A Pagan" (1934), where he declared that he was an ex-drunkard who was now "receiving supernatural aid ... through God-consciousness — through direct personal contact with the third environment — the spiritual environment I had so long been seeking."140

      Slowly the wheels of industry came to a stop, but just as Miss Trust began to wave her umbrella aloft and to laugh in triumph, a stranger strode onto the stage. A fine, upright fellow known, apparently as "Change." Holding the centre of the stage, he proceeded to give both Management and Labour a verbal injection of Moral Re-Armament ideology. So they united to throw "Miss Trust" out (having found her seed packets to be empty!), and the curtain fell on the wheels of industry turning once more. Oh! I had almost forgotten it! Everybody singing: "There's enough in the world for everybody's need; but not for everyone's greed."
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 62-65.

Finally, Garth Lean gave us this very revealing description of Frank Buchman's treatment of his acting ensemble:

[Frank Buchman] ended [the day] with a scolding to his team, busy performing You Can Defend America, for 'selling a show instead of the philosophy' and consequently not speaking convincingly from the platform or selling books to the audience afterwards.
Garth Lean, On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, page 309.

The actors didn't sell enough books to the audience after the show?
This is sounding just like the cults that nag you in the airports, always trying to sell you a book. They all have to make their quotas or else the cult leader really comes down on them.

Frank Buchman talking with the cast of The Good Road after a show

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Last updated 12 October 2013.
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