Frank Buchman’s support for fascism and the Nazi Party became increasingly unpopular as it looked like Britain was going to war with Hitler. By the early months of 1938, Cardinal Hinsley of Oxford had reached the limit of his tolerance and he banned the Group from campus. Buchman urged his student followers to move house parties and meetings off campus to their parents’ homes, and he rebranded the cult.
The Oxford Group, formerly First Century Christian Fellowship, became Moral Re-Armament, which I will be calling MRA throughout the remainder of this series. (The cult is still active today and we’re only up to the 1930s, so we have a lot of ground left to cover.) Buchman announced the new name in a speech he gave before a crowd in London, on his 60th birthday. From that speech:
Is there a remedy that will cure the individual and the nation and give the hope of a speedy and satisfactory recovery?
The remedy may lie in a return to those simple home truths that some of us learned at our mother’s knee, and which many of us have forgotten and neglected – honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.
The crisis is fundamentally a moral one. The nations must re-arm morally. Moral recovery is essentially the forerunner of economic recovery. Imagine a rising tide of absolute honesty and absolute unselfishness sweeping across every country! What would be the effect? What about taxes? Debts? Savings? A wave of absolute unselfishness throughout the nations would be the end of war.
Moral recovery creates not crisis but confidence and unity in every phase of life. How can we precipitate this moral recovery throughout the nations? We need a power strong enough to change human nature and build bridges between man and man, faction and faction. This starts when everyone admits his own faults instead of spotlighting the other fellow’s.
God alone can change human nature.
Buchman preached that, rather than rearming Britain and other future Allied powers to take on the Nazis with guns, nations should instead focus on moral rearmament. In other words, it was more important to him that people joined his cult than address genocide. The entire speech was devoid of a single condemnation of antisemitism, genocide, or Hitler, but instead pointed the finger at the moral sins of everyday Britons.
Buchman, who had attended Nazi rallies and was Heinrich Himmler’s guest at the Berlin Olympics, was a Nazi appeaser. If his cult had targeted the disenfranchised and disaffected like so many others, this position might not have caused much harm. But Buchman sought and obtained power and influence. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his principle foreign affairs advisor Sir Horace Wilson were both members of the Oxford Group. When Buchman advised giving Hitler whatever he wanted to prevent war, they listened.