BLIND MAN'S BATTLE
One far-reaching product of this 1959 assembly was a 32-page pamphlet entitled Ideology and Co-Existence. After 1956, when Krushchev had denounced Stalin, it seemed to many lovers of democracy and peace that the Soviet Union's old aggressiveness was giving way to a milder competition. The phrase 'peaceful co-existence', which Krushchev popularised, led to the hope that the world was emerging into a less dangerous rivalry between the democracies and the Communist dictatorships.
Buchman did not subscribe to this view. He had been proclaiming for more than a dozen years that democracy without a moral and spiritual ideology at its heart was no match for totalitarians of Right or Left. In his opening address at the assembly in 1959 he had quoted with approval the words of a former American Chief of Naval Operations and Ambassador in Moscow, Admiral William Standley, that 'the choice for America is moral re-armament or communism'.1 Both Standley and Buchman were referring to the ideologies rather than the organisations. Neither would have said that the choice was between the Oxford Group and the Communist Party. Buchman was aiming for a revolution through which the Cross of Christ could change Communists and non-Communists alike.
The pamphlet, on the other hand, spent much of its space alerting people to the strategies and tactics of Communism. It quoted from Russian, Chinese and other ideologists of the day to show that the long-term aim of revolutionary Communism was still world domination, and warned Western leaders that if they were to meet Communists on equal terms they needed an equally passionately-held philosophy and plan and a more disciplined way of life. The word 'ideology' was defined as 'an idea that dominates the whole person - his motives, his thinking, his living - and fights with a strategy to get everybody else to live the same way'.
Buchman was quoted to the effect that 'the battle for America is the battle for the mind of America'. 'A nation's thinking is in ruins before a nation is in ruins,' the quotation continued. 'People get confused as to whether it is a question of being rightist or leftist, but the one thing we really need is to be guided by God's Holy Spirit... America does not have much of her great moral heritage left. Just think, if we fail to give the emphasis to a moral climate, where will our democracy go? Some of us have been so busy looking after our own affairs that we have forgotten to look after the nation ... The true battle-line in the world today is not between class and class, not between race and race. The battle is between Christ and anti-Christ. "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." '2
During the next months Moral Re-Armament teams in many parts of the world got to work translating, printing and distributing millions of copies of the booklet, and when Buchman opened the summer conference at Caux in June 1960 he stated that 73 million copies had gone into the homes of the United States, Canada and Western Europe, as well as of India, Latin America, Australia and Japan.3 It was translated into twenty- four languages, and became the most widely distributed publication Moral Re-Armament has ever produced.
It was also the most controversial. In Finland, for example, President Kekkonen sent for Lennart Segerstraale, the reputed painter, who was the chairman of Moral Re-Armament's legal body there, and severely reprimanded him for arranging its distribution to millions of Finnish homes. On the other hand, the grand old man of Finnish Socialism, Väinö Tanner, said it was just what was needed to clarify people's minds.
In retrospect, many people within Moral Re-Armament have doubted the wisdom of the move, since it created an anti-Communist image which was a gross over-simplification of Moral Re-Armament philosophy. Buchman was, however, heart and soul behind the venture. He simply felt that a warning and a challenge were urgently needed and, as usual, cared little about public images or the reputation of his work. Characteristically, he did what seemed to him to be right, sometimes with the minimum of consultation, and let the sparks fall where they would.
While his friends were at work with Ideology and Co-Existence, Buchman left Mackinac and returned to the beauty of Tucson. On the way he made two visits - the first to the island's priest, Father Ling, who lay ill in St Ignace hospital just across the water from Mackinac. He had spent forty-years on the island and had come to see Buchman about once a fortnight whenever he was there. Now the old priest was slowly dying. He came from his bed to talk to Buchman, who had, the previous year, got one of his own friends to care for the Father's closest companion, his dog Max. The two men said goodbye, each knowing it was for the last time.
The second visit was to Anoka, Minnesota, to the home of his uncle who had died in the Civil War. He and his companions heard once more how the uncle had gone to war leaving his wife and a young baby with only a fifty-cent piece, a coin which was again respectfully passed round.
At Tucson the cables, telexes and telephone calls came incessantly. He worked hard from his bed in the early morning, and over lunch and dinner with his guests. Some were public figures, some old friends; some both. As he got older he dispensed more and more with formality and said bluntly what he thought. One prominent Republican Committee woman talked non-stop while her silent husband sat resignedly eating. Finally Buchman saw an opening and said, 'Madam, you need to listen twice as much as you talk!' Her husband looked up with delight, and made his first remark of the meal. The wife began to listen and the lunch conversation continued until afternoon tea was served.
By the early months of 1960 Buchman was often thinking of a group of German miners who were setting out on a world tour with their play Hoffnung, (Hope). It was playing in Rome on 20 February, and he dispatched Howard to join them there. It was then to proceed to Cyprus and Kerala. One of Buchman's keenest sympathisers in Rome was Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, then Dean of the College of Cardinals. Fifteen months earlier, just two weeks after the election of Pope John XXIII, he had let Buchman know through a friend that he believed a new attitude to his work was on the way. 'The new Pope will take a broad view of this question,' he had told one of Buchman's colleagues in Rome. 'I know him. I know Dr Buchman. He understands. He puts Catholics to look after Catholics at Caux. All my information is positive and favourable. He never takes anyone from their Church ... I believe you have trouble with some bishops ... I have spoken to Suenens. He was against. His views are not the last word. I assure you again that something is going to be done.'4
The Cardinal had until recently been Prefect of the Congregation of Oriental Churches and was particularly interested in Kerala, where he knew the situation intimately as well as many of the personalities involved. So when, in February 1960, he received an invitation to a private performance of Hoffnung, he immediately accepted. At the last moment, however, he decided not to attend in response to a pressing request from an official of the Holy Office. Four days later he was seeing Pope John XXIII, and raised the subject of Moral Re-Armament with him. He described their conversation to two of Buchman's friends two days afterwards. 'It was a long time, I had two volumes to deliver to him, but we did not mention them at all,' he said. 'The whole audience was about Moral Re-Armament...The Pope seems to have heard little about your work, except when he was in France...I told him that because of the visit of this play to Kerala I was eager to see it. I told him of what had already taken place in Kerala through Moral Re-Armament - how the Hindu leadership and the Catholic leadership became united at Caux and how this had been reported to me by Rajmohan Gandhi. I told him about the excellent work done at Mackinac and Caux, and how Catholics who came there were never put under spiritual direction of non-Catholics. I then told him of the importance of the work in Asia as reported to me. I then told him about the support of Cardinal Liénart and the strong support of Cardinal Gushing.'*
(* Cardinal Achille Liénart had remained a faithful friend of Moral Re-Armament since 1948. This was originally occasioned by what he had seen take place in industry in his diocese of Lille, and once described Moral Re-Armament as 'a crack of the whip to Christians who have forgotten their mission.' (Arnold Lunn: Catholics and MRA, unpublished memorandum, September 1953.) Cardinal Cushing of Boston had given many indications of his support. He wrote to Eugene von Teuber at this time, 'I myself and many others have been inspired by Catholics and non-Catholics who are affiliated with this movement...MRA does a tremendous amount of good. I don't know of any Catholic who was ever identified with it who did not become a better Catholic...Keep up the good fight: you are on the side of the angels.' (Cushing to von Teuber, 12 November 1960.)
'The Pope', continued Tisserant, was very interested and remarked I had probably done the right thing in not going to the play.' Tisserant summed up the occasion as 'a very valuable time'.5
For Buchman this news was particularly welcome. It seemed like a light at the end of a dark tunnel. For ten years he had found it difficult to understand why his work was judged harshly by some authorities in the Roman Church. Non-Catholics in Moral Re-Armament had begun to understand the Church better and to realise that in naively insisting on their own ideas and methods they had at times been offensive. This had stopped but it had seemed to make little difference. It was not, in fact, till some years after Buchman's death that it became clear that Tisserant's report was the beginning of a new situation. The ecumenical spirit of the Vatican Council had still to do its work, and personal contacts with Cardinal Ottaviani, the head of the Holy Office at the time of its warning, were nearly ten years ahead. Gabriel Marcel reported that Ottaviani then said, 'There was once a misunderstanding, but that is all over.'6
Two weeks after receiving news of Tisserant's action in Rome, Buchman was asked by Konrad Adenauer to meet him in Los Angeles where he was being given an honorary degree by the University of California. The previous December Buchman had had a mock exchange of letters with the Chancellor's eighteenth grandchild, Sven-Georg, the first son of Georg Adenauer. Buchman had written to the three-month-old baby how much he disagreed with Krushchev's statement that the grandchildren of today's statesmen would be Communists. A long letter of news from all around the world followed to support his contention that those children would be Christian revolutionaries who would be changing the Communists. He was amused by the reply which arrived by return: 'Dear kind Uncle Frank, Thank you very much, also on behalf of my parents and my grandfather, for your kind and touching letter which I got today. It is the first letter of my young life and because of its importance, I shall want to keep it safe. 'I am very well, only sometimes at night when I get hungry I have to cry for an hour or so.
'I know my parents follow your work with great interest and we thank you for all the trouble you take and the help you are giving our world. My parents and I send you in America our best greetings for Christmas and the New Year, but most of all we wish you and those working with you health, success and happiness in the year ahead.
'So thank you again very much for your kind letter. Very many loving greetings from your friend, Sven-Georg Adenauer.'7
An echo from this correspondence can be seen in an article which the Chancellor agreed to have published in the New York Journal-American8 prior to his visit to America. It was not a literary masterpiece, being a summary of his many previous messages to Buchman and public statements about Moral Re-Armament. However, he commented that, for his part, he was 'convinced that Krushchev's grandchildren will not be Communists', and paid unstinted tribute to Buchman's own contribution to the rehabilitation of Germany after the war, to his work for peace over the fifteen post-war years and the continuing need of his message in the years ahead. 'At this time of confusion in Europe we need, and especially in divided Germany, an ideology that brings clarity and moral power into the shaping of international relations,' he began. 'A nation with an ideology is always on the offensive. A nation without an ideology is self-satisfied and dead.' 'Begin with yourself - that, in my opinion, is the basic challenge of MRA,' he concluded. 'May this challenge ring out far and wide across the whole world and into all nations.'
Buchman sat with the Chancellor's party at the degree ceremony and attended three other occasions where Adenauer spoke, including a small luncheon on 19 March. At the civic dinner the Chancellor said to Buchman, 'I must tell you how much I value you and your work. It is absolutely essential for the peace of the world.'9
Buchman was now finding it increasingly difficult to move about. He was generally moved in a wheelchair, his strength was strictly limited, and his eyesight continuing to fail. On the way to consult a Tucson eye specialist, his companions noticed that he was striving to distinguish the mountains, trees and buildings. Waiting in the consulting room he sat eager, alert, testing his vision on the crack of light coming through the door of the dimly lit room and the lamp on the doctor's desk. He had brought a book for him, already inscribed, 'To Dr Sherwood Burr, who is helping me to see again, with gratitude.'
As Burr examined him, he asked, 'Where do you come from?'
'Pennsburg, Pennsylvania,' said Buchman.
'Do the people back home know how famous you are?'
'Oh, no,' chuckled Buchman.
'What do you see on the screen?'
'Nothing.' A pause. 'I can just make out a patch of light.'
On the screen was a huge 'E'. A lens enabled him to see it. But nothing could help him to make out anything smaller, despite the specialist's patient experiments and Buchman's concentrated efforts.
'How long has it been since you were able to read?'
'About a year.'
Burr straightened up and looked down at Buchman. 'Doctor,' he said slowly, 'I am afraid that there is no optical device now made that can improve your sight.'
'You mean there is no hope. I suppose this will lead to total blindness?'
'That is the sensible way of looking at it,' said Burr, 'but you may keep what you have, as long as you need it; and only the Lord knows how long you will need it, and He doesn't speak.'
'Yes, that's right, only the Lord knows.' Buchman smiled. 'He doesn't speak ... but we must get Him to speak.' Then he handed Burr the book with its inscription.
In the same buoyant spirit he was gathering his team, 150 strong, to accompany him on what proved to be his last journey across the Atlantic. He invited a number of his American colleagues to go with him, each with a personal letter.
On 1 April he left Tucson, saying that the two winters he had spent there were among the happiest of his life. During the last week the house was thronged with friends of the most varied kind. A building contractor and his partner - one of the wives came from Italy - prepared a Neapolitan farewell supper of vast proportions in the kitchen. The guests included city, county and business officials, the ice-cream supplier with his family, a banker, overseas students; all sides of the city's life seemed to be there.
Buchman, however, was not looking back. 'We need something new, something absolutely new,' he said to those setting out with him. 'May the grace of God rest upon us to enable us to be different without end - constantly renewed. We are being lifted into spheres we have not worked in up to now. Everything must be different. Our nations must be different.
'Are we ready for the ideological battle? No, we are not. We have done a little, but we need to do much more.'10
1 Buchman, p. 251.
2 Ideology and Co-Existence (Moral Re-Armament, 1959), p. 30.
3 Buchman, p. 259.
4 Andrew Mackay to Buchman, 13 November 1958.
5 ibid., 28 February 1960.
6 Marcel, En chemin, vers quel éveil?, pp. 260-61.
7 Sven-Georg Adenauer to Buchman, 17 December 1959.
8 New York Journal-American, 31 January 1960.
9 Arizona Daily Star, 22 March 1960.
10 Spoerri, Dynamic out of Silence, p. 206.