The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps

by A. Orange

Chapter 7:
My God How the Money Rolls In


Frank Buchman's habit of collecting rich and famous converts also meant that Buchman always had some wealthy people handy to tap for more large donations, to continue to support his organization and his first-class lifestyle. The problem of finance always seemed easy for Buchman. His followers did not even admit that there was such a problem. "He is doing God's work. Naturally, God will provide." "Where God Guides, God Provides" was the slogan.

But if some of Frank Buchman's "key people" were not prompt enough at sending money, Buchman did not hesitate to send a stiff letter of reminder. In one case, says Arthur James "A. J." Russell, the English newspaper reporter who was a true believer in Buchmanism and the first official Oxford Group archivist and the chief publicist, "Frank said their refusal to extend help where greatly needed might involve them in a crop of cares they did not foresee."4

One of the stiffest letters Frank permitted himself to write was to some persons who were refusing to support him in a certain courageous action for the help of someone in need. Frank said their refusal to extend the help where greatly needed might involve them in a crop of cares they did not foresee at the moment. But it was a friendly warning, nevertheless, free from pique and resentment. Never does Frank mince matters where his correspondents show blindness or compromise. If the man is living an undisciplined life, he tells him so in plain words. Fearless dealing with sin all the time. Honesty demands it. Spiritual growth is impossible without it.
      Fifty or sixty letters a day are nothing to Frank.   ...   After such a strenuous day, Frank admits to his mind being tired,   ...   but he is still a human dynamo.
For Sinners Only, A. J. Russell, page 200.

It would take a brave "up-and-outer" to risk such a curse from a "man of God" like Frank Buchman.
(That is again the propaganda and debating trick of "Argue from Adverse Consequences" — warn that terrible things will happen to someone if he doesn't do what you wish.)

The London newspaper reporter A. J. Russell sure had a way with words:

  • Frank Buchman brazenly committed spiritual extortion, issuing dire warnings about what bad things would happen to people if they did not comply with his wishes and send him money, and A. J. Russell called it "a friendly warning, nevertheless, free from pique and resentment."

  • Likewise, 'Frank' "permitted himself" to write a few "stiff" letters of extortion.

  • And then the money was supposedly required to "courageously" help someone who was in great need; but the Buchmanites were also notorious for never giving any charity to anyone, so who or what was the money really for? That sounds like Frank Buchman was using the propaganda trick of Hiding Behind Others — claiming that the money was needed to help some unnamed person, when Buchman was really going to use it to support his own lavish lifestyle.

Also notice the degree to which A. J. Russell was in complete denial, stubbornly refusing to see to what was clearly in front of his eyes:
  • When Russell saw Frank Buchman committing blatant extortion, using spiritual fear-mongering, Russell declared that 'Frank' was "friendly".

  • Then Russell switched to praising Frank's authoritarian manner of criticizing others, never showing compromise, "Fearless dealing with sin all the time." (How was refusing to give money to Frank Buchman a 'sin'?

  • Then Russell hypocritically declared that "Honesty demands it. Spiritual growth is impossible without it."

  • Then Russell switched to praising Frank for being so hard-working when he wrote 50 or 60 extortion and condemnation letters per day.

Ah, the mind of a true believer, never allowing hard evidence to change his "religious beliefs", never allowing his opinions to be swayed by mere facts.

Later, the Buchmanites would even declare that "they never made any appeals for money, public or private."


But usually such promptings and dire warnings were unnecessary, and the money rolled in with a freedom and timeliness that was considered "providential." Frank Buchman lived so comfortably that he declared, "Good food and good religion go together":12

He does not believe in traveling second class. One time, when some of his followers booked a second-class passage, he told them rather sharply that he had been guided that they should change to first class to form more significant contacts.
      He is guided to eat well. Most Pennsylvania Dutch folk know good food and eat it with gusto, and Dr. Buchman is no exception. "Good food and good religion go together," he says.
Buchman — Surgeon of Souls, B.W. Smith, Jr., American Magazine, 122:26-7+, November 1936, page 151.

Frank Buchman lived so well that when he returned to the U.S.A. in March 1939, he set up his headquarters in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, where Buchman and 100 of his closest followers lived in baronial splendor.


Henry P. van Dusen, in his analysis of Buchman's organization for Atlantic Monthly magazine, pointed out that there was an inherent contradiction in Buchman's pursuit of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.64 Buchman originally called his organization First Century Christian Fellowship, and claimed that he was recreating the spiritual life of the first Christians. But Jesus and his first followers were all very poor people. Jesus was born into poverty — as we all know, in a stable, and put to bed in a manger (a hay-filled cow feeding trough). Jesus was never rich with gold and silver. There was something just a little bit off-base about Frank Buchman living a life of extreme luxury and comfort in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, and in the first-class salons of palatial ocean-liners like the Queen Mary, and in the Mayfair Hotel in London, while claiming to be recreating early Christianity. It appears that Frank Buchman was doing a far better job of recreating the decadence of the Roman emperors.

When Frank Buchman was criticized for his outrageous self-indulgence, he answered with another question, "Why shouldn't we stay in 'posh' hotels? Isn't God a millionaire?"

For there are the charlatans — torturing old writings to use on the gullible and unfortunate; inventing weird and wonderful concepts to lure the lonely, twisting Christianity in their avarice for power, riches or fame.
      Opportunists, bunco artists, racketeers, confidence men and glib psychotics are also riding today's religious ground swell, leaving chaos and tragedy in their wake.

== by Richard Mathison, from the book about cults titled God Is A Millionaire, page 15.
Also see the critique of Amway called Fake It Til You Make It, by Phil Kerns, page 44.


Frank Buchman was not the only Oxford Grouper living high on the hog through religion. Geoffrey Williamson reported in his book, Inside Buchmanism: an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, that any Oxford Group recruiter could "change" a wealthy man and then live off of him indefinitely. It was common for the inner circle of highest-ranking Oxford Groupers to receive gifts of cars, expensive suits, and stipends that supported them for years. Williamson queried the leadership of The Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament, specifically asking about the official policy regarding such gifts and donations. The answer was that the organization did not concern itself with such matters at all. It regarded any such donations as merely gifts between two private parties. Members did not report their income to the group, nor were the more prosperous recruiters, "Life Changers", and "Soul Surgeons" required to share their wealth with their less fortunate brethren.35

There are men who, though they have thrown up their normal occupations, nevertheless appear to be living in comfort. Some have the use of mansions in Mayfair, are always well dressed, and often have smart cars at their disposal.
      How, if they receive no salaries from Group funds, are they able to do it? The answer I was given is that they are "helped" by private supporters. This is explained and justified as follows: A young man receives a call to devote himself to Buchmanism to the exclusion of everything else. Some friend or sponsor, it seems, is always forthcoming and ready to send the worker gifts in cash and kind. All those I met appeared to lack nothing.
      The system is recognized by those in power. It is thus always open to any full-time worker to do the best he can for himself. If he can "change" some wealthy sponsor, and if in gratitude that sponsor chooses to make him a regular allowance and present him with a motor-car to further his work, that is entirely his own affair. Some, I was told, enter into a legal arrangement with their sponsors, who covenant to support them for a number of years.
      However successful they may be in this respect, they are not required to pool any cash they receive, and, of course, items like this never appear in Group accounts. The men themselves have no compunction about solving their economic problems in this fashion. To them it is the most natural thing in the world. "Where God guides, He provides," they say, justifying themselves with this familiar Buchman slogan.
      Thinking this system wide open to abuse and calculated to undermine any man's moral fibre, I tackled a member of the Council of Management about it. He professed surprise that I should think it desirable that full-time workers should be required to account for any money they might collect individually from well-wishers or others. Here are his actual words:
      "Personal gifts from one person to another are a private matter, and are no more subject to inquiry than private gifts to private persons anywhere." He added that it was quite true that motor-cars are given, "but it has only happened in a few cases, and in each case the car is given for an essential job for which it is needed rather than to the person for his own use and pleasure....
      "The real point of the personal economic system of the Group is that we aim at a system where, as Dr Buchman says, everybody cares enough and everybody shares enough and so everybody has enough. This means that on the personal side we would not, of course, attempt to control or know about all the gifts from one individual to another."
      So, you see, the "personal economic" system is firmly established and fully recognized in Group circles as "the done thing."
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, pages 190-191.

The temptations of such a system are obvious. In fact, R. H. S. Crossman of Oxford University quoted one young Oxford Group evangelist as saying, "I always wanted this kind of life: big hotels, comfort, powerful cars, and the best people — and as soon as I get changed, God gives them all to me!"54

The whole organization was so rich and well-dressed that Prof. A. Haire Forster of Western Theological Seminary satirized them with this limerick:

There was a young man from Peorier
Whose sins grew gorier and gorier.
He found that by prayer
And slight savoir faire
He could live at the Waldorf Astorier.
News Week, March 4, 1933, page 30.

So how do you get in on the gravy train?

      I asked [Garth] Lean what was the routine for becoming a full-time worker, and what happened when someone came along who felt an urge to throw up a regular job in order to remake the world.
      He said that before any decision could be taken the applicant's suitability for the work would have to be carefully considered by the Council of Management. If they were then satisfied that he had a true "call," he would be accepted gladly, whether he had funds of his own or not.
      But, he added, newcomers were always carefully watched. No one would be put on important work without adequate training, and there would be a fairly long period of probation.
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, pages 164-165.

Ah, so you can't devote your life to the Oxford Group or Moral Re-Armament and start making money off of other people's faith without the approval of the cult leaders? Once again, we see that the allegedly loose, democratic, amorphous "group that is merely an organism" — the group that has "no definite membership" — turns out to have very authoritarian leaders who decide precisely who may be an approved member and who may get near the money supply.

Walter Houston Clark wrote:

Living on Faith. A small minority of the specially dedicated among the Group, led by the example of Buchman himself, "live on faith," by which is meant that they rely on God to guide others to take care of their material needs. There has been some criticism of the Group on account of this, and there is even occasionally heard the suggestion that it is a kind of money-making racket.   ...   Also there are some evangelists who could not travel in the sumptuous fashion that characterizes the trips of Dr. Buchman without a twinge of conscience. However, that gentleman apparently never questions the propriety of lavish expenditures when the money is there and the cause is a good one. Living on faith has not always been an easy adventure, and he has known what it means not to know from whence his next meal was coming; but he has always been sure that "where God guides, He provides," and that "good Christians and good living go together."
The Oxford Group; Its History and Significance, Walter Houston Clark, pages 33-34.

Frank Buchman

Reinhold Niebuhr, the eminent theologian whose Serenity Prayer would become famous in A.A. circles years later, criticized Buchman's behavior by writing:

The idea is that if the man of power can be converted, God will be able to control a larger area of human life through his power than if a little man were converted. This is the logic which has filled the Buchmanites with touching solicitude for the souls of such men as Henry Ford or Harvey Firestone and prompted them to whisper confidentially from time to time that these men were on the very threshold of the kingdom of God. It is this strategy which prompts or justifies the first-class travel of all the Oxford teams. They hope to make contact with big men in the luxurious first-class quarters of ocean liners.
Christianity and Power Politics, Reinhold Niebuhr, in the chapter "Hitler and Buchman".

That strategy also explains how Buchman could live the high life while preaching "Absolute Unselfishness" for everybody else. Happily for Frank Buchman and his inner circle of followers, they were not being selfish when they demanded first-class everything for themselves; they were doing "God's will", making contact with the rich and powerful men who rule the world by going where such men were to be found. After all, Buchman could argue, you won't find world leaders in second class, now will you?

Narcissists are experts at showing off.   ...   Conspicuous consumption is for them what religion is for other people. Narcissists pursue the symbols of wealth, status, and power with a fervor that is almost spiritual...
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 130.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, an interesting book about con artists tells us that:

      First-class accommodations on railways and steamships are necessary if con men are to meet well-to-do people. Many of them travel in their own chauffeured cars. Their hotels are always the best and their suites imposing. Their work takes them into swank clubs and resorts. Naturally, their personalities and their manners must not betray them. Consequently, they have cultivated the social side more than any other criminal group. They are able to fit in unobtrusively on any social level.
The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man, David W. Maurer, pages 185-186.


But such a social policy effectively excludes the common rabble from Salvation:

No one who has not at least some spare money and leisure can take part in the Group's real activities. House Parties cost participants between eleven and fifteen shillings a day. The Headquarters of the Group in London are at the Metropole Hotel. Those anxious to learn what they have to teach are invited to call there. Would anyone poverty-stricken to the extent of threadbare or shabby clothes be likely to face a West End hotel? Dr. Buchman has evolved a technique of evangelism that is acceptable to Mayfair.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 30.

In New York, one pastor criticized Buchman's behavior this way:

Oxford Group Praised and Chided by Holmes;
Aloofness to Social Problems Condemned

      John Haynes Holmes, pastor of the Community Church, characterized the Oxford Group Movement yesterday as "revivalism for the rich and respectable."
      He praised its leader, Dr. Frank Buchman, for "discovering that lost souls are quite as common among the upper as among the lower classes of society." But in commenting on one of the Oxford group meetings "in the glittering splendor of the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel," in contrast with social misery elsewhere, he said: "I count it blasphemy for Dr. Buchman, or anybody else, to pretend to testify to what God has done for him while humanity is at this moment perishing."
      "Dr. Buchman, let me say, has done us all a priceless service in reminding this generation there is such a thing as sin and that the wages of sin are death," Mr. Holmes continued. "But sin today is not individual, but social. The Oxford movement seems oblivious to the fact that our spiritual problems in this terrific age are fundamentally social problems and that the sin of the individual almost invariably carries back to the evils and injustices of our economic and political society. There can be no saving of the individual until society is saved.
      "Almost incredible is Dr. Buchman's statement that 'to change lives on a colossal scale is the one solution to every world problem.' To save souls in this fashion is like setting up fallen bricks or broken timbers as a means of stopping a flood."
The New York Times, July 16, 1934, page 9.


Marjorie Harrison observed in 1934 that,

The finances of the Group are a complete mystery. In Canada the same perplexity was felt. How could a Team of fifty people travel by crack trains and stay in the best hotels throughout an extended tour of the Dominion and the United States unless there were a very rich backing somewhere? The headquarters of the Group in London are divided between Brown's Hotel and the Hotel Metropole. The Rev. Alan Thornhill, Fellow and Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, in a letter to The Times attempts to justify the use of expensive headquarters on the grounds that drastic cuts in prices are made for numbers and that hotels are willing to provide private sitting-rooms and large halls free of charge.   ...
      The Group states that it "never asks for funds by either public or private appeal.55 Anyone doing so is disloyal to, and in direct conflict with, the principle and practice of the Group." As one member put it to me, "There is no collection or subscription." Quite. But what's in a name? At a House Party there is a "registration fee". This fee of five shillings levied on five hundred people amounts to 125 pounds. Any religious organization that could make sure of securing an average of five shillings from those participating in a concentrated activity would consider itself lucky.   ...
      There are large numbers of men and women who are attached to the Teams either as permanent workers or for long periods of time at a stretch. Who pays their expenses? Are their relations and friends content that they should "live on faith", which usually means living on other people? Or are they all people of substantial independent means? Many of them are very young.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), pages 103-105.

One of the devoted Buchmanites attempted to rationalize away the issue of finances with this rather paranoid explanation:

      Finances were always a major public relations problem for the movement.   ...   Another aspect of the problem was that Buchman was not about to open his books to a prying public, where enemies might get at his sources and destroy his work.
...
      Critics have always tried to locate a Henry Ford or other mysterious "angel" as the source of Buchman's funds. It is true that a number of wealthy people contributed, but all of them were a part of Frank's team and convinced about what he was doing. The implication that he must have been beholden to outside "fat cats," to promote their economic or political interests, has no foundation. Such charges reveal a misunderstanding of the Buchman dynamics.
World Changing Through Life Changing, T. Willard Hunter, pages 38, 39.

What was that? Wealthy supporters don't count if they are "a part of Frank's team"? What does that mean?

Similarly, when Frank Buchman was asked why he wouldn't open up his books to public inspection, he answered the question with another question, "Now why would anyone be interested in my accounts?"


The MRA resort hotel headquarters at Caux, Switzerland — "Mountain House" — which Frank Buchman got as a gift from wealthy supporters after World War II. At its peak, MRA occasionally held conventions and "World Assemblies" where it filled all three of the hotels in the picture.

Geoffrey Williamson attended a Moral Re-Armament convention at Caux, Switzerland in 1954, and observed:

...one of the Governors of the College of the Good Road [the Moral Re-Armament school on Mackinac Island]... wound up his address with a request for funds to help carry on the good work of Moral Re-Armament. I had been assured in London that the Buchmanites never made any public appeal for funds. Yet here was Bernard Hallward, one of the movement's leading lights, not only asking us for money, but asking in a big way.
      "We need three million francs!" he declared, "and we need them urgently."
      He went on to explain that the money, which he was sure would be forthcoming, would be allocated equally between three main enterprises. One million would go towards the maintainance of Mountain House [the hotel in Caux, Switzerland]; one million towards the development of the College of the Good Road, and one million would be used to complete the production of The Good Road film.
      So, while a pianist played solemn music, ushers moved silently among the audience with silver salvers which were soon heaped high with contributions. No loopholes were allowed. Those without Swiss currency or who had left their cheque books behind were given prepared slips bearing addresses in America, Australia, Britain, Ireland, and New Zealand to which financial contributions could be sent on their return home. The fact that these slips had been run off on a duplicator seemed to suggest that this practice was a fairly regular one.
      I felt that it was as well that I had not played truant from that morning's assembly. My presence had at least exploded the myth that the Buchmanites never appeal for funds.
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, pages 90-91.

Geoffrey Williamson found that Buchman's organization had four main sources of income:101

  1. Donations which people give as they are able from time to time.
  2. Regular gifts made under covenant for a period of seven years or longer.
  3. Legacies and interest on them.
  4. Sales of books and other literature.



"The Good Road", one of the many melodramatic Moral Re-Armament theatrical productions

When Williamson asked how a production of the morality play The Good Road was financed, he was told:

      In the New World News for February 1949 an accountant who assisted the Hon Treasurer tells how it was done, his article bearing the now familiar heading: "Where Does the Money Come From?"
      He says that 60,000 people saw The Good Road on a free-admission basis.
      At the start there was nothing in the bank [he writes]. Many closely associated with the venture turned out their pockets. A clerk not only gave up every evening to help with the books, but sold his last security. Another man gave up half of his small capital. But these were small sums and the total (£20,000 was the estimated need) still seemed a tremendous figure.
      Though he vouches for the fact that there was no public appeal for subscriptions, money flowed in.
      Opening the morning's mail was a perpetual surprise [he declares]. Someone writes from the West: "We have sold our savings certificates and send you the money." An old lady with a shaky hand begs "to enclose something towards the expenses."
      A naval officer sent all his war gratuity. A typist sent the proceeds from the sale of her bicycle. Someone sent valuable rings. Four members of the orchestra returned part of their wages.
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, pages 185-186.

Williamson reported:

A lot of recruits feel moved to put their savings into the Group's coffers. At Caux, too, I spoke to a typist who said she had gladly given everything she possessed — a matter of £50. She was prepared, she told me, to work for the Group for nothing for the rest of her life. And she was quite confident that her economic needs would be met somehow.
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 164.

Likewise, when Williamson asked some MRA leaders how they managed to purchase and maintain the castle/resort hotel at Caux, Switzerland, (after World War II), he was told,

      "Where does the money come from?
      "The money comes from all over Switzerland. It comes from Swiss people, many of whom have felt that this was their best opportunity of showing their gratitude for having been spared the horrors of war.
      "They give their savings, their bank balance, their family jewels. The money comes in because Mountain House is an investment for the future.
      "One girl gave her trousseau; a business man sold his house and gave the proceeds; others sold life insurance policies. They have invested their inheritance because they know that Moral Re-Armament, which brings the answer to social and international problems, offers the greatest security for them and their children."
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 177.


The main building of the MRA center at Caux, Switzerland

Likewise, the MRA book The Story of Caux bragged about all of the people who had donated money to MRA, and the author shamelessly encouraged people to give even their life savings, their homes and their family heirlooms:

      There are many families in Switzerland who, week by week, month by month, year by year, help to finance Caux with regular gifts which rarely come from surplus, and often represent real sacrifice.
      A mechanic in Geneva, for instance, sends 35 francs every month to a friend of his on the permanent staff at Caux; a worker in Basle sent 1,000 francs last Christmas for the work of MRA; a family in central Switzerland have only soup for lunch once a week in order to send the money saved in this way to Caux. Multiply these examples by a hundred or a thousand and you will have the answer to the question of where the money comes from.
      There are also some people in Switzerland who have chosen to follow the path mapped out by Robert Hahnloser, a man of substance who did not hesitate to give a large part of his fortune for Caux. A few months ago a Swiss businessman living in the Aargau sold a house. The idea of sending a large sum to Caux occurred to him. He resisted it. After a few weeks he plucked up the courage to mention the idea to his wife and children. They supported the idea. He brought his cheque to Caux at a moment when money was urgently needed to pay the current bills.
      The gift of savings patiently accumulated, the sale of houses and land, shares, jewelry, pictures, furniture — often inherited and treasured possessions — provides a moving demonstration of the way in which Caux has always been financed.
The Story of Caux; From La Belle Epoque to Moral Re-Armament, Philipe Mottu, Grosvenor Books, 1970, c1969, pages 90-91.

Notice the slanted language and the mind games: According to the author, that wealthy Swiss businessman in the Aargau hesitated to give a large part of his fortune to Moral Re-Armament at Caux because he didn't have "courage" — he needed to "pluck up the courage to mention the idea to his wife and children". By implication then, if you hesitate to give a large sum of money to MRA, it is because you are afraid and you don't have "courage". But if you give money to MRA, then you will be courageous.

Also notice the contradiction: After many years of the Oxford Groups and MRA denying that they had any rich patrons behind the scenes, they suddenly switched to bragging about wealthy men who gave "large parts of their fortunes".

Remember how T. Willard Hunter rationalized that

"It is true that a number of wealthy people contributed, but all of them were a part of Frank's team and convinced about what he was doing."

But that is not what this book described. Here, Philippe Mottu wrote about wealthy outsiders making very large financial contributions — just the thing that Frank Buchman, the Oxford Groups, and Moral Re-Armament had always denied was happening: 'The Group states that it "never asks for funds by either public or private appeal.'55

Besides, what's with the goofy word games and the lying with qualifiers?
"...but all of them were a part of Frank's team and convinced about what he was doing"?
As if there could be wealthy sponsors who gave large sums of money to Frank Buchman who did not believe in what Frank was doing?
Not likely.
And if you gave a large sum of money, were you suddenly "part of Frank's team" and then that made it all okay and then your money didn't count as a donation from a wealthy outsider?

What happened to all of that much-ballyhooed "Absolute Honesty"?

Oh, and then, to pile hypocrisy on top of lying with qualifiers, six pages later that same book about the Caux, Switzerland, Moral Re-Armament headquarters declared,

Two basic ideas are always emphasized at Caux. The first is that of absolute moral standards. The second is that of Divine Guidance, which can show men the way through the complexities of the modern world and equip them with the wisdom they need so badly.
The Story of Caux; From La Belle Epoque to Moral Re-Armament, Philipe Mottu, Grosvenor Books, 1970, c1969, page 97.


Later, when Moral Re-Armament's song and dance show called Up With People was touring the country, a promotional booklet declared:

You can give financially to Up With People and Moral Re-Armament. Dollars, dimes nickels, pennies — believe it or not, without contributions like these Up With People would stop. Consider carefully whether you shouldn't give a hundred dollars — or a thousand dollars. Or more if you've got it. Consider how much it means to you to have this spirit spreading throughout the world today. How much does it matter? Maybe you should give everything you've got. People did two hundred years ago when this country had to finance the Revolution. And Up With People is financed in exactly the same way.
Born To Upturn The World: The people who are making the Sing-Out explosion, "Up With People", David Allen, pub. 1967, Pace Publications, page 71.


In his analysis of Buchmanism, Geoffrey Williamson concluded:

      This same pernicious softening of moral fibre, it seems to me, is fostered by the unorthodox attitude of the Buchmanites towards their economic problems.   ...
      "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," says the Bible, but some Buchmanites, ignoring this, seem to get their bread by the sweat of other people. And they don't stop at bread. They get their homes and their clothes and their cars and all the good things of life in this way.
      The whole movement is supported by charitable gifts. But when I asked at headquarters whether it dispensed any charity, the reply was a frank and emphatic: "No."
      No matter how sincere the followers of Buchmanism may be, no matter how zealously they may work for the cause; no matter how honest their beliefs, I cannot understand how they can possibly justify their actions simply by saying: "Where God guides, He provides."
      I dislike their forced heartiness and the way in which they fawn upon the wealthy and the titled. I dislike their flattery and the way they pander to snobbish instincts. They may possibly claim that they are only exploiting human failings in others to bring people to their meetings. It still revolts me.
Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, pages 220-221.


Frank Buchman and his crew camping out at the DuPont family mansion in Florida, the winter of 1943.
Left to right: Ray Foote Purdy, Loring Swaim Jr., Dr. Morris Martin (standing), Frank Buchman (seated), hidden and unknown woman (seated), Signe Lund (seated), Dubois Morris and Bob Young (standing).
Preview Of A New World; How Frank Buchman Helped his country Move from isolation To world responsibility; USA 1939-1946, Arthur Strong, page 109.

Dr. Morris Martin was one of the British draft dodgers who found that practicing Buchmanism while living in millionaire's mansions in the USA was a lot more fun than serving in the British Army and camping in the mud and snow.

Rumor has it that Dr. Morris Martin was also Dr. Frank Buchman's gay lover.

Frank Buchman was an extreme example of inconsistency. Or was it just extreme selfishness and blatant hypocrisy? While he felt entitled to treat himself to a life of luxury, always traveling first class on the best ocean liners, only living in the most luxurious palaces like the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and only dining on the finest cuisine in the best (and most expensive) restaurants, Buchman made a big deal out of one of his followers wasting two cents:

One day I stuck an airmail stamp on a letter for a destination where there was at that time no airmail route. Frank noticed the envelope and realised that 2 cents had been wasted. He made this the basis of a meeting on stewardship. If you could not be trusted with a small sum, how could you be trusted with a great one? He emphasised the need at all times for economy. Never waste string, for example. It might be needed. Never post a letter if it could be delivered. Buy in bulk if this meant a saving. God would provide for our needs but not for unnecessary extravagance.
Frank Buchman As I Knew Him, H. W. 'Bunny' Austin, page 80.




Frank N.D. Buchman in 1937.
While Frank Buchman shared in the lifestyles of the rich and famous, he expressed contempt for the poor. Buchman preached that labor's demands for higher wages were merely sinful greed; that if the workers would quit wasting their pay, then they wouldn't need raises; that what the workers really needed to do was get down on their knees and confess their sins to God. Ebineezer Scrooge would have loved Frank Buchman.

Frank Buchman preached that all social problems were caused by sin. The cure for all social problems was to "surrender to God", and start living a "God-controlled life". Buchman saw "spirituality" as an antidote to the union movement's "materialism", with its emphasis on bread-and-butter issues. Buchman declared that any attempts to fix the world through any means other than prayer, confession, and surrendering to God were "immoral measures." While thanking Heaven for giving us Adolf Hitler, Frank Buchman had declared, "Human problems aren't economic. They're moral and they can't be solved by immoral measures." Thus, to Frank Buchman, the Civil Rights Movement, the Labor Movement, and Women's Suffrage were all "immoral". Only Frank's program for world salvation was moral.

In 1932, when America was in the grip of the Great Depression, when tens of millions of people were unemployed, hungry, and homeless, a very well-fed Frank Buchman declared,

"The President's social trends report indicates that there will surely be a revolution in this country. We are going to make it a spiritual revolution. What hunger marchers need is to be changed."
The Oxford Group — Genuine or a Mockery?, Literary Digest, Jan 28, 1933, page 17.

Buchman didn't say a word about employment, housing, or food; what those bothersome poverty-stricken marchers really needed was to get converted to Buchmanism and to get down on their knees and start confessing their sins.

As far as Frank Buchman was concerned, there was no such thing as an unemployment problem. When people were "changed" and started living a "God-guided" life, they went to work for God, so they weren't unemployed any more. Buchman spoke of one of his followers who was...

... an East London woman, unemployed, but fully employed, because she is bringing a religious experience to others.
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, pages 118-119.

And, presumably, those who worked for God would then be supported by the other believers around them, who would be Guided by God to meet their financial needs. "Where God guides, God provides." Thus, in Frank Buchman's mind, the problem of the Great Depression was solved.

And notice that "religious experience" term. The Oxford Group claimed that it was going around giving people religious experiences that would change people's lives for the better. That is exactly what Bill Wilson later claimed Alcoholics Anonymous would do. Bill Wilson didn't invent all of that A.A. "religious experience and spiritual experience" terminology, either. He just copied it from the Oxford Group.

In her excellent contemporary critique of Buchman's "movement", Marjorie Harrison told this story:

      At the last meeting of the House Party, held in the Grand Hotel at Eastbourne in December, 1933, a young girl stood up to testify to her surrender to God. She was an exceptional young woman, because she was one of the few people who did not use the opportunity to tell everyone about herself. She had the courage to beg a well-fed and well-dressed audience to consider the needs of the poor.
      "When I see so many fur coats," she said, "I cannot help thinking of all those who have no warm clothing in this bitter winter. I think we ought to consider whether we have the right to so many comforts when there are others who have so little."
      Up rose Dr. Buchman in his wrath. He seemed to resent the reminder. He appeared to take it as a personal affront. He valiantly defended his own fur coat.
      "It was a hand-over," he said. "Before you criticize, find out the history of these fur coats! There is no difference between the rich and the poor."
      Well, well, well. Remarkably illuminating, but not very inspiring. Not a word of commendation for a courageous appeal. The unfortunate young woman was made to feel a fool. "Don't think I'm thinking about you," Dr. Buchman shouted at her. "I've forgotten all about you." And the whole audience roared with laughter. The appeal was side-tracked — not skillfully, but through bluster.
      Wealthy ladies, momentarily startled, settled their furs more comfortably about them. Not one in that audience of three hundred or more backed that appeal to their pity — the only attempt to face reality that I ever heard at a group meeting. Yet those people would have responded immediately if their conscience had not been stifled as quickly as it had been aroused.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), pages 28-30.

Again we see the narcissist's extreme intolerance of criticism. At just the mention of fur coats, the paranoid Dr. Frank Buchman feared that the young woman might be criticizing him. Buchman quickly defended his own fur coat by saying that it was a used "hand-me-down": "It was a hand-over," he said. "Before you criticize, find out the history of these fur coats!" Then Buchman lashed out in defiant counter-attack, humiliating the compassionate young woman and sneering at her for her concern for the poor.

Jesus Christ taught that it will be as difficult for a rich man to get into Heaven as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, but the ex-Lutheran Dr. Frank Buchman changed that teaching to, "There is no difference between the rich and the poor." In Buchman's church, the rich people had no problems with getting into Heaven. In fact, because they were rich and powerful, they seemed to be at the head of the line. As Reinhold Niebuhr commented, "This is the logic which has filled the Buchmanites with touching solicitude for the souls of such men as Henry Ford or Harvey Firestone and prompted them to whisper confidentially from time to time that these men were on the very threshold of the kingdom of God."

Frank Buchman also taught that the rich should not practice charity towards the poor. The Oxford Group never dispensed any charity, or participated in any projects to help the poor, which also directly contradicted many of Jesus' teachings. Jesus often exhorted people to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and give money to the poor, but in Frank Buchman's church, the rich could sit comfortably in their fur coats and ignore the poor people who had no winter coats.

John Boynton ("J. B.") Priestley, a popular playwright who was the author of Angel Pavement, Britain at War, Thoughts in the Wilderness, All England Listened, and many other essays and plays, would have none of it. He came upon a Buchmanite pamphlet containing a "Message to the Unemployed", in which the Group promised the unemployed not only spiritual comfort but jobs. He wrote:

"This seems to me mischievous doctrine. If young men from Oxford and Cambridge like to confess their sins to one another, to listen-in to heaven and go charging around Canada and South America in a state of hearty, priggish self-complacency, that is their affair and not ours.   ...   But when people begin to talk nonsense of this kind to the unemployed it is time to protest. There is no divine plan for keeping children in poverty and misery until the hour when all undergraduates confess their sins and stop casting lustful glances on barmaids."
Buchman — Surgeon of Souls, B. W. Smith, Jr., American Magazine, 122:26-7+, November 1936, page 151.

Likewise, another contemporary critic wrote this advice to a young Oxford Group member:

And if you talk about absolute love, do realise what it implies. Spell it out to the last letter. You see there's no such thing as love in a vacuum, and you've always got to ask to whom the love is to be shown and how.   ...   Now it's there I'm afraid that there's some unreality creeping into the Groups. I'm told that there's a Group meets in the St. K.----- hotel in the West End — a rather "posh" sort of place. Well, every time I go up to town I have to go thro' Bow and Bethnal Green, and some folk I know are doing a top-hole work down there, spending their time trying to get a little extra milk for tuberculous children, getting boots and shoes for them, trying to help folk to eke out their unemployment pay. Now when a Group leader in a boiled shirt starts talking in the hotel about absolute love, I can't help thinking of it in the context of those other people and — God knows it's not pernickety criticism — I can't help wanting to know when he and the Groups are going to get busy on this business of absolute love. It's sheer self-delusion to talk about absolute love when you spend as much on a dinner as would keep a child in Bethnal Green for a week, sometimes more. And it may easily become bunkum, bilge, and flapdoodle.
For Groupers Only; Being a Judgement concerning the Oxford Groups and contained in letters to Duncan Hyde, Undergraduate, sometimes Joyous Pagan and a recent convert at a House-Party, B. C. Plowright, B.A., B.D., 1932, page 44.




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