Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 12. September 20, 1951
Offend no One - Appeal to All — Plunket Medal Speech ... — Buchman of M.R.A
Offend no One - Appeal to All
Plunket Medal Speech ...
Buchman of M.R.A.
Just 2000 years ago Caius Julius Caesar was defeated. But what defeated Caesar was not an army, but a problem. He left behind him in Gaul what has never since been quelled. The French have always feared and hated their German neighbours across the Rhine, and Caesar could do nothing with this.
Yet last year, a French statesman forgot this ages old tradition of fear. Robert Schumann offered a plan which would have called for complete co-operation between the French and Germans. Who is this Robert Schumann who can succeed where Caesar failed? We need not look far, because the only significant fact about Robert Schumann is well known. He is a follower of the Moral Rearmament Movement, a disciple of Dr Frank Buchman.
Then who is this man Buchman, who can persuade French and Germans to cooperate? Indeed this looks like a new spirit of understanding in international politics, and we need men like this.
Dr. Frank Buchman is the founder of the Moral Rearmament Movement. Some of us may remember him as the founder of another Movement in the thirties—the Oxford Group. But if Frank Buchman is little known, it is not for want of praise: because Mahatma Gandhi long ago praised him highly. And among his current followers are not only Schumann of France, but Adenauer of Germany. Chiang Kai Snek in China, and leaders in every other country in the world.
His own life has not been eventful: his fame will rest in his ideas. Dr. Frank Buchman is an American, horn about sixty years ago in Pennsylvania. Like many other Americans, he went to college and later, because he was a Lutheran of Dutch stock, he became a Lutheran pastor. The other positions he held tell us little about him: he was for some time a YMCA secretary in Pennsylvania, and later a teacher in a Lutheran seminary.
What was significant was that, about the beginning of the first war he went to China as a missionary. For Buchman has always been the true missionary: the man with a tierce conviction that he is right, and that his beliefs should be known to America, his message was clear. Where was he to sew the seeds of his ideas? Well, Buchman was a wise man not for him the highways of tomorrow. This was fertile ground, because in a few years, Buchmanism was raging through Princeton and Harvard and Yale: later Oxford and Cambridge fell to his missionary onslaughts.
Why was it so successful? In the twenties, Frank Buchman gained his first popular title. He was called "'Hie Soul Surgeon." And a soul surgeon was just what Buchman aimed to be. Because he knew that in our day, men's souls are sick because they carry a cancerous growth of sin and guilt. Like other surgeons, Frank Buchman had to invent his own instruments for surgery, but they were ready at hand. For by happily mixing Freud and Catholicism, he produced the Group Confessional. They certainly were not haphazard, because the technique was perfected. Seen, in house parties all over America, students in their thousands were led to confess away their sins, to the greater glory of Frank Buchman.
Setback at Princeton
But Buchman soon met the first of his setbacks. He was asked to leave Princeton by authorities who simply failed to understand him. Of course, it was true that he himself had estimated, scientifically, that between 80 and 90 per cent, of all sins were sex sins. But surely it was grossly unfair to suggest that students were more interested in the sex than the confession? Certainly Buchman himself could never overstep the narrow line between confession and boasting: for he has never married. And who could possibly suspect this benign, upright gentleman of anything unhealthy? Was he not, in his person, so perpetually neat and fresh and scrubbed? But at [unclear: Prirtceton] the authorities suspected this curious odour of sanctity . . . and bathsoap. Of course, it was also true that the star at a group confessional was he with most to confess: and there was a temptation to fabricate confessions rather than be insignificant among your friends. But are not any surgical instruments double edged?
At least in England his success was unqualified. The Oxford Group took the house party confessional to the summit of its achievement: all the best people confessed! So, in the bitter years of the depression, it remained, even when Buchman found his houseparties islands of spiritual—and physical—comfort. But we must be wholey grateful that he was spared the burden of want and poverty. For it allowed him breadth of vision. He could see the problems, and he knew their answers. What the masses needed, he knew, was not more food, or full employment. They needed spiritual uplift. The danger lay with those materially minded people who disagreed: and they were all Communists. Dr Frank Buchman would soon provide plenty of spiritual comfort, but not a defence against Bolshevism. But he knew the answer. Let us digress for a moment to sec why he can be so positive.
Dr Frank Buchman is guided by his Maker. He tells his followers to do just what he does: every day he takes time alone—his Quiet Time, he calls it—and like a worthy subordinate, receives his orders. And this is why Dr Frank Buchman has never needed to think: he knows! That is why he knew the answer to Bolshevism. The answer was Adolf Hitler: For Hitler was not only a great man . . . but he was anti-Communist.
But once again Buchman met irony. For the rest of the world remained unguided. The result was war, and Frank Buchman could only return to America to try, desperately, to keep war from her shores. He failed . . . for the unguided Japanese struck at Pearl Harbour.
Lesser men might have been broken, but not Buchman. By now his mission was clear: it was to sell spiritual uplift to the masses, and though the demand had changed, it was still there. In wartime, it just happened to be called "National Morale." So he and his followers started in to sell their goods in the wartime package. And once again their success was astounding ... so much so that by 1945, they were being called "The Shock Troops of Democracy."
This was the real birth of Moral Rearmament, and Buchman was soon travelling once more with his message: we must again bless the force which so wonderfully provides him with money so that he can take his mission where he sees the need.
When Aldous Huxley wrote his famous "Brave New World" he saw the tremendous effect which one man, Henry Ford, had had on our civilisation.
Model T Religion
Future generations will link with Ford the name of Frank Buchman. Because what Ford did for the motorcar, Buchman has done for religion. When Ford went into the car business, making cans was a luxury matter. The cost of satisfying the mass demand was too great. But Henry Ford saw that it could be done. He had only to eliminate some inessentials, make the car cheaper, turn out a standardised model.
But this is just what Buchman has done in his own field. He is great, because he has arrived at a standard model for spiritual uplift.
At last the mass demand can be met, because at last spiritual consolation is there for all tastes. Moral Rearmament will appeal to every man in the world. Of course, what appeals to all must offend no-one. And to appeal to everyone, Frank Buchman has had to eliminate all the inessentials. He has had to find a common denominator. It does not detract from his achievement one jot if this common denominator is also the lowest—common—denominator in spiritual thought.
Dr Frank Buchman has often been misunderstood. Lesser men have criticised him because, they say, Moral Rearmament means nothing. This is true! But what these lesser men do not realise is that this is just its greatest strength! By meaning nothing, it offends no-one! By offending no-one, it appeals to everyone! This is the true mark of the achievement of Dr Frank Buchman.
A Selling Product
Buchman is a great man. He is an even greater salesman. For he knows just what will appeal, and his Moral Rearmament has one major feature to sell it. It stresses the need to abandon false pride, to admit our faults, to break down the barriers of hatred and suspicion in this way. And, ladies and gentlemen, it works. It works between person and person: in families and in social groups. It works between union and employers. It works so well there that American businessmen praise this new Force which abandons materialism and at the same time increases their profits. But most of all, think what this spirit can mean in our international relationships. Just think how the present tension could be broken down of the nations would abandon false pride and admit their own faults, if they would truly cooperate. This would have been the most profound truth Frank Buchman ever uttered—if he had uttered it.
But Frank Buchman is above being merely Christian. He is a genius who knows that he will never sell his goods in this way. And just as he has surpassed Caesar in his achievements, so he has surpassed that other man of 2000 years ago who could offer no better solution for the problem than that Ye Love Your Enemies.
It is because Frank Buchman is great that he knows that this needs to be brought up to date. Dr Frank Buchman knows that the answer must be "That Ye shall love your Enemies—so long as they are not Communists."
This is the true greatness of Frank Buchman, and we must render unto Buchman the greatness that was Caesar s. Dr Frank Buchman is a man who has never married—but he knows that sex is utterly sinful. Frank Buchman has never known want, or hunger—but he knows that strikes are always utterly evil. Frank Buchman preaches co-operation—yet he knew that he must give performances of his plays in South Africa to segregated audiences. Frank Buchman has seen the poverty of the East—yet he knows that Asia needs spiritual comfort, not social change.
Frank Buchman preaches the abandonment of false pride—yet his Movement is called a new Ideology for the West. And Frank Buchman, the Christian, has improved on the teachings of Christ.
Ladies and gentlemen, these may seem to you inconsistent. Bat is a man who is guided by a force greater than reason, to be stopped by merely logical considerations? Is Dr. Frank Buchman to be defeated by a syllogism?
If these are inconsistencies, then so much the worse for logic. For has not Dr. Frank Bachman told us that he Knows because he is divinely guided? And we cannot doubt that this is so, for Bachman is an honourable man.