Frank Buchman decided to bring his cult, then called Moral Re-Armament (MRA), to the United States in 1939. To appeal to Americans, he made patriotism a feature. While he had never particularly valued it before, and it conflicted with his own teachings about rising above national boundaries to work together, it was an effective marketing strategy.
“Moral Re-Armament is a message of the highest patriotism. It gives every American the chance to play his part.”
– Frank Buchman, quoted in Inside Buchmanism: an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament
“The true patriot gives his life to bring his nation under God’s control. Those who oppose that control are public enemies. … World peace will only come through nations which have achieved God-control.”
– Frank Buchman, from his speech at Ollerup, Denmark on Easter Sunday, 1936, quoted in Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman
In keeping with his permissiveness toward Nazis, Buchman again blamed the problems on innocent outsiders with no say in how Germany was governed.
“Every nation and every individual is responsible for the existing situation.
The failure lies not with one nation, but with all. We are all to blame. For in every nation those forces are at work which create bitterness, disunity and destruction. …
Above every other loyalty is loyalty to God. In obedience to the God of all peoples every nation will find its true destiny. This is the truest patriotism. It requires the highest courage. It gives the greatest strength.”
– Frank Buchman in a world radio broadcast, August 27, 1939, quoted in Remaking the World: The Speeches of Frank Buchman
Every individual is responsible? Even the victims in concentration camps? Even the brave people who resisted Nazi rule, who hid Jews in their attics, who fled to England only to immediately enlist in the war against the Nazis? Somehow Buchman saw such innocent victims and brave opponents to Nazism as more responsible than his friend Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Holocaust, a man with furnishings made from the skin and bones of imprisoned and murdered Jews, and who Buchman once described as “a great lad”.
Consider the guilt and shame this message might induce in a young person not yet sure of themselves. Imagine being told, and believing, that you are partly responsible for the worst atrocities, and that only joining the MRA can absolve your guilt! Buchman’s messages were always double edged swords, inflicting harm then promising to soothe it, holding salvation and damnation in his grasp.
It worked. Wartime anxieties and the continued economic hardship of the Great Depression meant Americans were looking for something to believe in. In the United Kingdom as well, many who had shown no interest in the Oxford Group, with its conspicuous consumption and upper class university setting, joined MRA.
Next up: How Buchman and his British followers dodged the draft