The Cults of Frank Buchman 24

image
"Mountain House" (Grand Hotel) in Caux, Switzerland

Frank Buchman’s wealthy Swiss patrons bought three resort hotels in the mountains of Caux , Switzerland and had them renovated for the new Moral Re-Armament headquarters. As discussed previously, Buchman had lost his US headquarters when Rev. Sam Shoemaker left the group and stopped letting them use his church facilities. The property was gorgeous, with breathtaking mountain views and intricately detailed architecture.

image
Summer view from Mountain House

The glittering splendor helped conceal the fact that Moral Re-Armament was a dying cult. Buchman and his cult had made too many questionable decisions over the years, from Nazi appeasement to draft dodging, and the group’s biggest draw – fear of an upcoming war with Hiller – had been and gone.

While they had once been able to draw crowds of 10,000 or more at their largest public spectacles, the opening of the Caux headquarters in 1946, dubbed the first World Ceremony, was attended by only about 2,500 people. By the 1961 World Assembly the year Buchman died, that number would be down to only 1,000.

The façade of the World Assembly is tremendously impressive; but behind it one finds glorified YMCA meetings and juvenile amateur theatricals putting over the uplift. Born in college close and cultivated on the campus, Buchmanism has never quite grown up. An aura of adolescence pervades many of its activities. One gets the impression that, for all their sincerity, the Buchmanites are playing at evangelism and dabbling in world politics.
     
[The World Assembly at] Caux [Switzerland] is held up as a microcosm of what life could be if everybody changed. But it seems to me fallacious. Carried to a logical conclusion the system would be unworkable. If everyone threw up his normal occupation, feeling an urge to live life as it is lived at Mountain House, there would be chaos.
     
Who, then, is to decide which citizens shall keep on working in the mines, in industry, or on the high seas?

Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, c1954

image
Interior room at Mountain House

Inside Mountain House it was Buchman who decided which members should work and which should leisure, on primarily gendered criteria. One unnamed Buchmanite described it as “Paradise where women do nearly all the work while men laze around and pass out tracts.” One infers from this description the speaker was probably not a woman. Being a woman in Buchman’s palace meant cooking, cleaning, and waiting upon the men.

To Frank a man’s love of God and his fellow man should be reflected in the perfection of all he did; and he used the facilities of Globin’s chalet to train the women in the preparation, cooking and serving of meals. If everything was not done perfectly, Frank set out to discover the reason. One day the soup was burned. Investigation revealed that one cook had been jealous of another.
     
One day a woman came to tea. The tea was served luke warm. Frank gathered together those responsible for serving the tea. Tea less than piping hot was never served again.
     
The meals were hand-served by the women. This had to be done with efficiency, speed and grace. No plates were allowed to be stacked.

Frank Buchman As I Knew Him, H.W. “Bunny” Austin

Paradise for some but not for all.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s