The Cults of Frank Buchman 16

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Buchman with the cast of The Good Road

When WWII began in September 1939, Frank Buchman and several of his British followers relocated to the United States, a then neutral country, to avoid war service. They relaxed in the Florida sunshine at the DuPont family summer mansion and in the forests of Maine at their Tallwood retreat. A London Daily Mirror report from 1941 shows their disconnection from the typical British experience of the war.

Driving with my guide through Maine woodlands, twelve miles from Augusta, I suddenly came across this retreat, which is known as Tallwood and nestles bashfully on the beautiful shores of Lake Maranacook.

It consists of a mansion, several small houses, many acres of farmlands, bathing and boating beach, and accommodation for Moral Rearmament’s private fleets of canoes and motor-cars.

A  former Tallwood employee described it to me as a “Paradise where women do nearly all the work while men laze around and pass out tracts.” He told me, “Britons, some in their twenties, would sit in little groups receiving messages from God, sing, swim in the lake and go boating.”

They claimed they were doing important work for the war effort. In reality they were producing jingoistic morality plays endorsing their cult as the solution to global warfare. US Senator Harry S. Truman, a supporter of Buchmanism and likely a member, wrote letters to the British Home Office supporting this falsehood, which led to Buchman’s passport being renewed. MRA members spun this to claim Britain really didn’t care if they dodged the draft or not.

British newspapers did not agree that the 300,000 some Britons residing in the United States were universally exempt from military service. They along with the government issued repeated pleas for such people to visit their consulate for medical evaluation. Pleas specific to the Oxford Group were published as well.

But Buchman was quite content to spend the war years touring the United States with MRA plays that simplistically preached all conflict could be resolved with application of the Four Absolutes. These plays combined patriotism, appeals to religious authority, and anti labor sentiment in nearly equal doses.

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