The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps

Chapter 28: Frank Buchman's New York World Telegram Interview

Here is the entire text of the famous World Telegram interview where Frank Buchman declared, "I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler..."


By William A. H. Birnie,
World-Telegram Staff Writer

      To Dr Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman, vigorous, outspoken, 58-year-old leader of the revivalist Oxford Group, the Fascist dictatorships of Europe suggest infinite possibilities for remaking the world and putting it under "God Control".
      "I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism, " he said today in his book-lined office in the annexe of Calvary Church, Fourth Ave and 21st St.
      "My barber in London told me Hitler saved Europe from Communism. That's how he felt. Of course, I don't condone everything the Nazis do. Anti-Semitism? Bad, naturally. I suppose Hitler sees a Karl Marx in every Jew.
      "But think what it would mean to the world if Hitler surrendered to the control of God. Or Mussolini. Or any dictator. Through such a man God could control a nation overnight and solve every last, bewildering problem."
      Dr Buchman, who is directing an Oxford house-party tonight at the Lenox, Mass. estate of Mrs Harriet Pullman Schermerhorn, returned from Europe aboard the Queen Mary, after attending Oxford meetings in England and the Olympic Games in Berlin.
      A small, portly man, who doesn't smoke or drink and listens quietly to "God's plans" for a half hour or so every day, usually before breakfast, Dr Buchman talked easily about world affairs while eight or nine Oxfordites — good-looking young fellows in tweeds — sat on the floor and listened.
      "The world needs the dictatorship of the living spirit of God," he said and smiled, adjusting his rimless glasses and smoothing the graying hair on the back of his head. "I like to put it this way. God is a perpetual broadcasting station and all you need to do is tune in. What we need is a supernatural network of live wires across the world to every last man, in every last place, in every last situation...
      "The world won't listen to God but God has a plan for every person, for every nation. Human ingenuity is not enough. That is why the isms are pitted against each other and blood falls.
      "Spain has taught us what godless Communism will bring. Who would have dreamed that nuns would be running naked in the streets? Human problems aren't economic. They're moral and they can't be solved by immoral measures. They could be solved within a God-controlled democracy, or perhaps I should say a theocracy, and they could be solved through a God-controlled Fascist dictatorship."
      He looked around the room at the eight or nine young men drinking in his words, and straightened the crimson rose in his button hole.
      "Suppose we here were all God-controlled and we became the Cabinet," he said. "You" — pointing at the reporter, who seldom ventures off the pavements of Manhattan — "You would take over agriculture. You" — a Princeton graduate beamed — "would be Mr Hull. Eric here, who has been playing around with a prominent Canadian who's Cabinet material1, would be something else, and this young lawyer would run the Post Office.
      "Then in a God-controlled nation, capital and labour would discuss their problems peacefully and reach God-controlled solutions. Yes, business would be owned by individuals, not by the State, but the owners would be God-controlled."
      The Oxford Group has no official membership lists, no centralised organisation, but Dr Buchman estimated that "literally millions" listened in to his recent world broadcast from the meeting in England attended by 15,000 persons. Finances?
      "God runs them," he smiled. "Don't you say every day, Give us this day our daily bread? And don't you receive?"
      The group is built on the simple thesis that there is a divine plan for the world and that human beings, with faith and devotion, can receive God-given guidance in a "quiet time" of communion. Most Oxfordites write down their guidance and then check it against the "four absolutes" — absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, absolute love.
      "Those are Christ's standards," Dr Buchman explained. "We believe that human nature itself can be changed by them. We believe in answering revolution by more revolution — but revolution within the individual, and through the individual, revolution in the nation, and, through the nation, revolution in the world. It's as simple as that — Christian simplicity. And it's fun, too. We call each other by our first names and our meetings are always informal.
      "I held meetings at the Republican and Democratic conventions. What Washington needs is God-control. Landon talks about divine guidance. Why doesn't he apply it? And the finest thing Roosevelt ever said was this — 'I doubt if there exists any problem, political or economic, which would not melt before the fire of spiritual awakening'.
      "Oxford is not a one-way ticket to heaven, although that's a splendid thing and lots of people need it. It's a national ticket, too. That's the ticket we should vote in this coming election — God's ticket."
      Dr Buchman is unmarried, a graduate of Muhlenberg College, which awarded him a doctorate of divinity in 1926. He said he was "changed" — Oxfordites use the word to mean complete surrender to God control — by a gradual process.
      "I was in England and I began to realise I was a sinner and there was an abyss between Christ and me," he said. "I was resenting my lost power and I was confessing others' sins when the real problem was mine. Then I went to church.
      "A vision of the Cross. Of Christ on the Cross. An actual vision. I was changed then, but I've been changing ever since. A little even today, I suppose."
      "And when was the vision, Dr Buchman?"
      "Let's see," he said, and rustled some pamphlets in his hand. "Let's see — what year was the vision?"
      He looked around at the faces turned toward him. "What year was the vision?" he repeated. One of the young men spoke up. "1908, wasn't it, Dr Buchman?"
      Dr Buchman smiled at him.
      "Of course," he said. "That was it. 1908."

1 Sic. There may be an error in the transcription, or a misprint, here. Elsewhere in the interview a few obvious misprints have been corrected. [Tom Driberg's words]

The New York World Telegram, August 26, 1936, quoted in
The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, pages 68-71.

Buchman was slick. Look at how he tantalized his young followers with hints that they would end up running the country, being Members of the Cabinet, in his "God-controlled" world.

But notice which important position was not available to Buchman's gullible young followers: Frank Buchman's job. Those young people may be fit for Cabinet positions without any education or training, but they were not qualified to replace Frank Buchman in his "God-controlled" world.

Also note how Buchman used the propaganda and debating trick of Argueing From Adverse Consequences: "nuns running naked through the streets". Buchman implied that we must have a strong fascist leader running our country, or else "the godless Communists" will make nuns run naked through the streets. Frank Buchman certainly knew how to use propaganda tricks.

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Last updated 18 July 2014.
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