Moral Re-Armament

Moral Re-Armament (MRA) was an international religious movement that, in 1938, grew out of the Reverend Frank N. D. Buchman's Oxford Group. Buchman headed the movement for 23 years, from 1938 until his death in 1961.

The movement, in its early years, was made up of Buchman's personal followers, and so the name change was incremental rather than abrupt and formal. One of the first uses of the term was in 1938, when H. W. Austin edited the book Moral Rearmament (The Battle for Peace). Buchman and his fellow Oxford Group leaders liked the new phrase, and the former Oxford Group developed into Moral Re-Armament. Buchman used the phrase when on May 29, 1938 he stated, "The crisis is fundamentally a moral one. The nations must re-arm morally. Morally recovery is essentially the forerunner of economic recovery.

The origin of the movement's name lay in the political climate of the late 1930s, in which the re-militarization of post-WWI Germany was a contentious issue. The rejoinder of the Oxford Group and MRA was that the world needed not military re-armament, but moral re-armament.

In 2001, the MRA movement changed its name to Initiatives of Change (IofC) and formed a non-governmental organization, IofC-International, for purposes of cooperation with organizations such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe.


The movement had Christian roots, and grew into an informal, international network of people of all faiths and backgrounds. It was based around what it calls 'the Four Absolutes' (absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love) and encouraged its members to be actively involved in political and social issues.

One of the movement's core ideas, especially popular during the Cold War, was that changing the world starts with seeking change in oneself.


In 1938, Alcoholics Anonymous was formed through people, notably Bill Wilson, whose lives had been changed through the Oxford Group, the forerunner of MRA. The twelve steps were a derivation of Oxford Group principles.

In 1965, Up with People was founded by members of and with support by MRA.

In 1965 The National Viewers and Listeners Association was set up by Mary Whitehouse, a member of MRA, who wrote that "without its ideals I cannot see that I would have been interested in starting this campaign".


Criticism and a drop in popularity resulted from the involvement of some Oxford Group members with pre war German Nazis, and Buchman's famous comment in a 1936 interview: "I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler who built a front line of defense against the Anti-Christ of Communism..... The group's subsequent unsuccessful request for members' Exemption from Military Service in WWII also drew criticism, from (among many others) Ernest Bevin and Tom Driberg (the latter described Buchman as a "soapy racketeer who never repudiated his admiration for Hitler and Himmler.")

During Buchman's life, MRA was criticised as a personality cult. The Four Absolutes were criticised as being impossible to fulfil and mutually contradictory, as when Absolute Love required the telling of a white lie, in contradiction to Absolute Honesty.

The Catholic theologian John Hardon claimed that the movement's political ideas were naive, since they simply assumed that moral awakening would solve "social problems that have vexed humanity since the dawn of history". He also criticised the emphasis on personal revelations on the grounds that "if each member of society is allowed to hear the voice of God through personal revelation, the variety of interpretations of the divine will becomes infinite.

The Swedish entertainer Tage Danielsson made a satirical song about the organisation in 1962 that he performed at the variety show Gröna hund.

MRA's claim that it could unify "Catholic, Jew and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Confucianist” led to claims that it obscured its actual Christian basis when that would have invited attack, as within communist or Muslim countries.


External links


Initiatives of Change

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