The Cults of Frank Buchman 22

Playbill from an anticommunist MRA musical revue

One of the constants across the life of Frank Buchman and the many names of his cult was anticommunism. As mentioned earlier, Buchman was quoted in the New York World Telegram in 1936 saying, “Thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ  of Communism.” He didn’t just prefer capitalism: he claimed God did too.

This belief in the moral superiority of capitalism extended to antilabor actions. Moral Re-Armament portrayed itself as uniquely suited to mediate between labor and management, by eliciting confession and applying the Four Absolutes (Honesty, Purity, Love and Unselfishness). As MRA membership declined in the post war years and the Red Scare began, Buchman made this a greater focus of his message. Not everyone thought this wise.

I think the Buchmanites have made a cardinal error in turning their energies towards high-pressure politics in general and towards anti-Communist activities in particular.
Again, they may contend that they are merely exploiting human fears of another world war to lure people to Caux to listen to the “Message”. But even if that is their alibi, it still seems too drastic a departure from their registered aims of advancing the Christian religion.

Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson

They told many tales of supposed resolutions they had brokered thus. None of them appear to be true. Buchman would take credit for strikes ending, when he’d played no part in it. He claimed to have stopped a London dockworkers strike that was actually resolved by increased wages, and fabricated entirely a coalminers strike he’d ended. Discussion of these falsehoods contributed to the MRA draft dodgers being counted as lay ministers during WWII.

A Buchmanite woman mocks auto workers

The MRA held mock pickets on Labor Day, jesting that MRA was the best union, and making fun of laborers with real grievances. This kept Buchman’s ultra rich backers like Henry Ford very happy to continue funding Frank’s first class lifestyle of leisure. Indeed, they mocked the labor union United Auto Workers as “oughta workers”, a forced pun typical of the trite humor found in cults. They also produced plays and a movie depicting communism as a present threat.

Buchman targeted labor leaders and union representatives for conversion, and trotted out such trick ponies at all the big MRA events.  One of his favorite trophies was the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, John Riffe. Buchman was also quick to claim converts who merely attended an event, and to manipulate optics to suggest he’d negotiated terms between labor and management. Buchman loyalist and MRA photographer Arthur Strong explained the process.

The big time is when the meeting or revue is over. Then to battle stations. Bill Jaeger is like a fast bull dog. Sometimes he has a celebrity in tow like Admiral Sir Edward Cochrane, whom he’ll take round to be photographed with labor man after labor man. The remaining photographers cover the others as guided (by God). Quite often we have a youngster to every photographer, carrying flash bulbs and fresh slides. Of course there will be a few management with labor pictures…
Then one photographer goes over the labor pictures with Bill, writing on the back how many prints are needed — sometimes as many as 16 off one. Others of us go over with responsible people in the other sections. Management generally prefer 10 by 8. Bill uses as many as 150 in a week. They are used as calling cards for inviting people for the Sunday follow-up meeting. Bill maintains that it is the pictures that turn the scale in getting labor to make the 300 miles from Detroit to Mackinac.

Preview Of A New World; How Frank Buchman Helped his country Move from isolation To world responsibility, Arthur Strong

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