and the Twelve Steps
by A. Orange
Garth Lean was a long-time member and true believer in the cult. Peter Howard mentions in Innocent Men (1941) that Garth Lean was instrumental in his conversion, and Geoffrey Williamson reported in his book Inside Buchmanism (1955) that fourteen years later, Garth Lean was still there, still selling Buchmanism to the newcomers.68 By then Garth Lean was a member of the Council of Management of Moral Re-Armament.69
The back cover of Lean's book reads in part,
"This is also the story of a controversial
Christian statesman who was once denounced as a secret Nazi agent
subsidized by Goebbels,
while being suspected of operating a super-spy network for
Then it gets worse inside the covers. If you were to believe half of the stuff in this book, you would have Frank cruising the world, talking to nothing but heads of state, and miraculously solving all of their problems.
For instance, according to this book, Frank Buchman
single-handedly solved the perplexing
massive unemployment problem that cursed Denmark in 1939, by
asking people whether it was
God's will for a fifth of the work force to be unemployed.
The photographs in the book show Buchman with a long list of royalty, heads of state, and other high-ranking officials. But someone forgot to include any good photographs of Hitler, Himmler, or Goebbels. The author rewrote the history before World War II, so that rather than praising Hitler, Buchman warns the USA and Britain of the coming dangers in the chapters, "Awakening Democracy" and "America Has No Sense of Danger." The Buchmanites explained Buchman's failure to convert Adolf Hitler into a nice guy by stating that Buchman never met Hitler; that the other Nazis, knowing how effective Buchman was at making saints out of sinners, blocked Buchman's attempts to see Hitler. The true believers didn't offer any explanations for the failure of Buchman to "change" Himmler or Goebbels.
Speaking of World War II, Garth Lean gave us a very distorted version of the flap over
the MRA draft-dodgers. He talked about the lively debates in the Parliament,
and told us that 174 members opposed drafting the Groupers,
and then implied that just one British official — Minister of Labor
Ernest Bevin — went off half-cocked and
acted unreasonably in declaring that Oxford Group and MRA members
would be drafted anyway. Garth Lean completely forgot to mention the
minor detail that, after the lively debate, a majority of
the House of Commons voted to deny the
Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament members
exemptions from the draft. (Pages 298 to 303.)
And Buchman and his group weren't kicked out of Princeton in 1923, this author says. Princeton President Hibben publicly stated that, in December 1923, he had banned Dr. Frank Buchman from the Princeton campus, but Buchman and his friends insist that they were not aware of this, and remember only that Hibben had expressed "great confidence in Sam [Shoemaker] and the young men working with him", 'whom he knew to be products of Buchman's work.'
Then, some very strange logic follows: Enemies of Buchman at Princeton, whom the book hints were "practicing homosexuals", allegedly prepared a pamphlet called "The Cannonball" and showed proofs of it to President Hibben, and threatened to publish it unless the President denounced Buchman. This book does not say what the pamphlet contained, or why the President should care if it were published, or how the President of Princeton could be blackmailed by the anti-Buchmanite forces. Nevertheless, the story says, Hibben responded by getting an understanding from Sam Shoemaker that Buchman would not be invited back to Princeton.
Buchman says that he had merely received a Guidance from God, in the spring of 1924, that he should "Clear out of Princeton completely." (Pages 103-5.) It seems that, even if Buchman could not understand that he had been banished from Princeton, God could understand it.
In 1958, Buchman and gang visited Japan, where they say they found that the Japanese cabinet was 'terribly corrupt', taking bribes and keeping mistresses. So one of the local Buchmanites, in three days, wrote a play exposing this evil, and they publicly performed it. When the Prime Minister allegedly found out about it, and investigated, and found it all to be true, he supposedly said to the Buchmanites: "You are the only people who love our country enough to tell me the truth. Go on talking to me like this. The door is always open to you." (Pages 508-9.) If you can believe that any politician would be delighted to have the misconduct of his cabinet so publicly, scandalously, exposed, and if you can believe that any Japanese Prime Minister would welcome such a public, humiliating, loss of face, then I own a major interest in a big bridge in Brooklyn that I'll sell to you cheap... At times, this book is so stupid that it insults the reader's intelligence.
If you are interested in any scholarly research, you will find Garth Lean's book to be maddening, because very little of anything can be verified. Most of the footnotes read like, "Buchman to unknown Yale student, 19 August 1920." (Question: if Buchman is dead, and the student is unknown, and probably dead too, how does anyone even know that such a conversation ever took place? What is the real source of the information?) Another great footnote: "Buchman to mother, 19 March 1924." And: "Lady Hardinge in talks with author and others." And, naturally, it is the most questionable and controversial points that have the flimsiest of supporting footnotes.
There are a few items of interest buried in there, however, like this:
What is Moral Re-Armament?I could swear I heard something like that in an A.A. meeting.
Speaking of which, it is very interesting to see the roots of A.A. and N.A. in Buchmanism. For instance, on pages 150 and 151, we read about a fellow named Jim Driberg who had a drinking problem, and The Oxford Group had dried him out. But there was something about the Oxford Group that put him off, so he wrote a letter explaining that he could no longer work with the group. The Buchmanites' conclusion: "His elder brother John attributed the sudden move to the mental factor which has now and then sent Jim off on absurd tangents." In other words, he's crazy.
Alas, Jim Driberg could not make it alone. As Tom, his brother, relates in Ruling Passions, he soon turned back to the bottle and to massive borrowing.
You are crazy if you quit the group and stop practicing Buchmanism, and you will never make it alone — you can't maintain sobriety without a 'support group'. The seeds of A.A. are all there.
Yes, all there, even the failure rate and the nasty habit of repeated relapses. Another famous drunk whom the Oxford Group supposedly dried out was Russell Firestone, the prodigal son of the famous tire manufacturer Harvey Firestone. The father was so grateful that he sponsored Dr. Buchman and team of 60 in Akron, Ohio, for a ten-day campaign, which established an ongoing functioning group in Akron, which ended up being the famous group that Doctor Robert Smith of A.A. fame joined. But, much to the embarrassment of the Oxford Group, after they had publicized the newfound sobriety of Russell Firestone for all it was worth — the family doctor had called it a "medical miracle" — and after the Oxford Group had staked some of their reputation on it, Russell relapsed repeatedly, publicly, spectacularly, in all of the wrong high-society places. (Sort of like the movie Arthur.) Ah, but this book doesn't mention that last part...
Speaking of A.A., it gets only a tiny mention. Literally, two and a half pages, 151 to 153. Bill Wilson, Doctor Bob, and the anonymous alcoholics group are all dismissed with a cavalier wave of the hand, and an attitude of, "Oh, yeh. That's also another one of the many great things that we did, but we've done much better than that." Bill and Bob got their original charter in the Oxford Group with the words, "You look after drunken men. We'll try to look after a drunken world." That was just a little condescending: "You play with some drunks while we save the world." Still, the Buchmanites claim A.A. and all of its clones as just some more of the many organizations that have benefited from Frank Buchman's 'brilliant morality'.
If your A.A. sponsor wants your ego deflated, check this: This book describes how Frank Buchman would regularly attack the people around him, finding faults in them, and constantly deflating their egos whenever they felt any self-confidence or pride in their work. Then they would confess that they had needed such guidance, because they had been slipping into self-seeking. Why, it's just a regular good old sado-masochistic lovefest:
One day there was something wrong with Buchman's stomach. [Dr.] Campbell gave him his diagnosis.
In fact, Frank Buchman seems to have written a new book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People By Putting Them Down":
"There is a gigantic, Olympian quality in F's wrath that is something to be experienced to be believed. It certainly produces change." (Page 292.)
During the time at Tahoe Buchman often brought up in the full morning meeting the personal faults he had observed in his colleagues. (Page 294.)
"I wish you had fifteen children," he [Buchman] said to another [woman]. "It would make you less of a pedant." (Page 292.)
Buchman held a meeting each morning. They were wholly unpredictable. One day he arrived with a peach in one hand. "Every woman should be like this," he said. "But some of you are like this," and he opened his other hand to disclose a prune. He felt that some of the women in his team had become dry in spirit because they had not given God unconditional control of their lives, and were therefore not free personalities. "It meant fearlessly tackling some of us dominating American women," one of them said later. "But it was done so delicately, with such hope." (Page 293.)
(You know, I just had this funny, perverse thought. I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if Frank Buchman had ever had to deal with a real woman, rather than a grovelling sycophant — a woman who would look him straight in the eye when he pulled a stunt like that, and say, "Go to Hell, you stupid ass-hole." Or, if she really wanted to get his goat, she might have responded by picking up a banana and a limp noodle, and saying, "Oh yeh? Well, every man should be like this, but you...")
Also, notice the Orwellian double-think in the above quote:
He went in to the meeting and, as he later said, "got a basinful." He came to realize that his agitations on behalf of the unemployed and homeless, his fights for meals and boots for the school-children, essential activities which had sometimes landed him in jail, had inadvertently taken a wrong turning. "I'd always said that I loved my class and family... But I saw that the main thing I'd done was to teach them to hate. I'd said I was an idealist, but I'd made materialists out of them," he said.
Campaigning for school-children to have meals and boots is
wrong, because it makes
"materialists" out of them? Those Buchmanite guys were
really something else. I can see his
point about it being wrong to teach people to hate — don't do
that — but abandoning the unemployed, the homeless, and the
school-children because we don't want to make materialists out of
Malcolm Muggeridge writes that for a long time he was puzzled by "the extraordinary hostility which Buchman's Christian evangelism caused" in Britain. "Yes, he's an American," he says, "but so is Billy Graham, for instance, and I've never heard people denigrating Billy in quite such vicious terms as they did Buchman and MRA.
Oh? Really, Malcolm? You were so thoroughly hated that you were forced to resign, just because you would not give out free contraceptives? Why am I having trouble believing that?
And, by implication, Frank Buchman and MRA were likewise viciously hated just because they wouldn't approve of people's immoral activities? So the people who disliked Buchman were all just a bunch of libertine sinners?
Garth Lean's book says, "Why was he opposed? For the same reason as Jesus and His disciples were opposed." (Page 270.) Yeh, right.
Jesus had a name for people like Frank Buchman, who do evil while wrapping themselves in the Bible: "wolves in sheep's clothing."
Those Buchmanites were so insane and so weird and so evil that sometimes it becomes difficult to believe that this is all for real. Someone out there must be wondering if I am making all of this up. I can only say, "I wish, because if my imagination were really that good, and that wild and crazy and demented, then I could make a whole lot of money as a Hollywood script writer."
How about a new slasher horror movie, "The Vampire Vicar"? "The Meeting Monster"? "The Group Godzilla"? "The Buchmanites from Brazil"? Oops! That one's been used. "An American Werewolf in London"? Nope, that one's been done too.
Oh well, enough of Buchman. Let's go on to something else equally depressing.
[Note that the book On The Tail Of A Comet is now a free read on the Internet: http://www.frankbuchman.info/]
Last updated 1 September 2018.
Copyright © 2019, A. Orange