As the Oxford Group/Moral Re-Armament became more political, it became less Christian in every sense. Frank Buchman’s original focus on “winning souls for Christ” and adopting “First Century Christian” principles gave way to anti union, anti communist, and anti war propaganda and a pan religious appeal. As Buchman tried to export his cult to India, he packaged it as a philosophy or lifestyle rather than part of the Christian faith. This created tension between the MRA and its clergy members.
[I]n MRA propaganda designed for the oriental market there is practically no mention of Christianity: Christ, if named at all, is sandwiched unobtrusively between Gautama the Buddha and Mahatma Ghandhi; the suggestion is that, whatever your faith, you will be the better — a better Hindu or Buddhist or Moslem — for accepting MRA’s rule of life; and this rule of life, so far as it is theistic at all, is consistent … with a relatively undogmatic pantheism.
– The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965
Then there was the matter of Buchman’s words, “Thank Heaven for a man like Hitler!” While he was able to downplay its significance in the pre-war years, as Hitler’s vile immorality and list for power became inescapably clear, these words came back to haunt him. High profile and politically connected members who were not antisemitic, or at least not eager to be publicly identified as such, moved away from the group.
It was a race to remake the world, and Buchman lost. Wherever MRA was strong, war’s threat was stronger. Before December first, peace was broken in England where MRA had been a morale-builder, a fostering mother in the years of crisis. MRA’s idealistic dream of “bridges between nations” was being swept away. The strategist for souls saw Europe breaking in his hands, while vicious rumors arose to taunt him. Chamberlain, who had believed in MRA, was disgraced. He had trusted Hitler too much. Out of the failure of the tragicomic Munich appeasement, Buchman’s words bounced back. What did he mean when he said, “I thank God for a man like Hitler”? Secessions from the group reached landslide proportions. Was he a Nazi sympathizer?
– They Have Found a Faith, Marcus Bach
In England the Group’s reputation suffered greatly for its draft dodging, resulting in the loss of most Group members serving in Parliament. (There were 172 members in Parliament at the Group’s zenith.) In the United States, Senator Harry S. Truman, who had once aided the efforts of MRA draft dodgers, turned from the group when he became a possible vice-presidential candidate.
“A member of the Grandview (Mo.) Baptist Church since his youth, Candidate Truman was once interested enough in Buchmanism to speak twice at Oxford Group meetings. He now disclaims any interest in the Oxford Group, has never met Founder Frank Buchman.”
– TIME magazine, Monday, August 14, 1944