Welcome to the third installment in my ongoing examination of the highly controversial Christian organization variously known as "The Family" or "The Fellowship." In the first installment I broadly outlined the organization, which dispenses millions (and likely billions) of dollars yearly to various causes and which holds an annual National Prayer Breakfast that has been attended by every sitting US President since Dwight Eisenhower. The background of Family founder Abraham (Abram) Vereide and the alleged religious experience than inspired the organization were all discussed in that installment.
With part two I began to examine the origins of the group admist the labor struggle in the Pacific Northwest (but especially Seattle) that erupted in the mid-1930s. Originally the Family was begun as a labor busting organization, at the urging of several former military officers. This is rather curious as the military and FBI employed a host of anti-labor groups as a part of industrial security during the First World War. The practice had quietly begun again the late 1920s when labor unrest once gain began to emerge. The murky netherworld of industrial security was examined in greater depth before here.
Also considered was the potential ties between Vereide and his group and William Dudley Pelley and the Silver Shirts. Seattle and Washington state on the whole were a stronghold for the Silver Shirts and Vereide shared certain similarities with the arch fascist Pelley.
|Pelley with the Silver Shirt|
"... In 1932, Abram took as a Bible student Henry Ford. By then, the automaker was a wizened old leather strop of a man, wary of controversy. He had been the American publisher of the notoriously fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic fantasia concocted in czarist Russia to justify pogroms against Jews, and the other The International Jew, a book many Nazis would later credit with awakening their Aryan anti-Semitism. During the previous decade, historians suspect, he illegally financed Adolf Hitler. But it was not just national socialism's bigotry that Ford supported, nor even mainly that. What Ford, inventor of the assembly line, loved above all was efficiency. Even his war of words against the Jews had been in the interests of standardization, purging of 'others' from the American scene. And yet, in 1932, Ford wanted certain details of his campaign for American purity to disappear. He wanted to sell cars to Jews. He was need of a makeover, a quick bath in the Blood of the Lamb.
"Ford's wife heard Abram speak in Detroit and insisted that he meet with her husband, no doubt guessing that Abram's theology of biblical capitalism would sit well with the tycoon, an eccentric religious thinker who had been raised on populist American fundamentalism. Abram and Ford traded Bible verses through a series of meetings in Ford's offices, and then Ford invited Abram to his home in Sudbury, Massachusetts. 'They were together two days,' records Abram's biographer Grubb, '[Ford] unloading about spiritual, intellectual, and business problems, and Abram seeking to give the answer for himself and the nation.' Abram thought Ford 'befuddled,' full of half-baked religious notions gathered from partial readings of Hindu texts and theosophy. 'The question was,' Abram thought, 'How could he be untangled?'
"Their meetings continued in Michigan. Abram was drawn like a moth to the great man's wealth – to the possibility that Ford might put his tremendous worldly resources behind the campaign for government by God. But he was frustrated by Ford's failure to settle on one simple fundamentalist explanation of life and the universe, until, at their final meeting, Ford finally shouted, 'Vereide, I've got it! I've got it! I found the release that you spoke of. I've made my surrender. The only thing that matters is God's will.'
"But Ford continued to see divine will best expressed in German fascism. As Hitler's power grew, Ford became more comfortable expressing his admiration. It was mutual; the Fuhrer hung a portrait of Ford behind his desk and told the industrialist, on a visit Ford paid to Nazi Germany, that national socialism's accomplishments were simply an implementation of Ford's vision.
"That was a perspective that, unlike theosophy, gave Abram no pause..."
(The Family, Jeff Sharlet, pgs. 122-123)
"Another factor was also responsible for the Anglo-Saxon Federation's growth, the involvement in its affairs of William J. Cameron. Cameron and Rand apparently met at a federation meeting in Detroit in 1930. He was certainly present at the Detroit convention in May of that year, when he was named to the federation's executive committee. He served as the organization's president in the mid-1930s and remained in leadership positions until the end of the decade.
"While Rand was a faceless functionary, Cameron was a public figure, indissolubly linked to the career of the man he served from late 1918 until 1946 – Henry Ford. Cameron had begun as a writer for Ford's weekly, the Dearborn Independent. He became its editor in early 1921 and remained in the post until the paper ceased publication in 1927. However, by about 1920, Cameron had also begun to serve in a broader capacity as Ford's link with the media. He remained in complete charge of Henry Ford's personal press relations from the mid-1920s until the early 1940s. Since Ford spoke little and was often incomprehensible when he did speak, Cameron became the indispensable interpreter and intermediary, bringing the great man's thoughts to a public hungry for the wisdom of the premier industrial statesmen.
"In addition to his involvement with Henry Ford, however, William J. Cameron was a committed British-Israelite... "
(Religion and the Racist Right, Michael Barkun, pg. 31)
While I've found nothing to indicate that Vereide and Cameron had ever met one another, it seems unlikely the Vereide would not have been aware of Cameron by the time he encountered Ford. At that time Cameron had already become something of a minor celebrity during the Sapiro trial and was vigorously promoting the Anglo-Saxon Federation. Cameron was also a close friend of Ford's and controlled much of the automaker's access to the media. It hardly seems a stretch that Cameron may have been present during some of Vereide's meetings with Ford.
While Ford wisely kept his distance form Cameron's religious lobbying he vigorously supported another preacher who openly praised Hitler and fascism.
"Ford was not known to be generous or supportive of charities, either, he never contributed any large sum to anyone, with one exception: the Moral Re-Armament movement led by Dr. Frank Buchman, a notorious fascist and a Lutheran minister.
"Buchman preached a philosophy of pacification of labor through the use of force. Followers of Buchman read like a who's who in the anti-union movement, such as Harry Chandler, the reactionary publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and Louis B. Mayer. With this program for pacifying labor, Buchman rabidly opposed communism and praised Hitler: 'I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism.'
"While many of his apologists claim Hitler deceived him, Buchman never renounced fascism or changed his fascist views of labor. The main reason the Moral Re-Armament group has persisted to the present, despite its controversial views, are the pro-business and anti-labor stance, and the support it received from such leaders as Ford. Buchman also was the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous."
(The Nazi Hydra in America, Glen Yeadon & John Hawkins, pg. 196)
|a poster for Moral Re-Arament|
"Buchman had just returned from the Olympic Games in Berlin, orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels as a visual symphony of black and red swastikas and eagles and the long, lean muscle of Aryan athleticism. Most of the world would remember the 'Nazi Olympics' for the African-American athlete Jesse Owens, but Goebbel's spectacle achieve its desired effect on Buchman, who left Berlin with a surging admiration for the vigor of the Third Reich. In particular, Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the Gestapo, had impressed him as a 'great lad,' a man whom he recommended to his followers in British government. The sentiment, to be fair, was not mutual. After World War II, Buchman's followers, eager to 'wash out' their leaders past, would produce Gestapo documents condemning Buchmanism, though in terms not exactly reassuring: Himmler, it seems, saw Buckman's Moral Re-Armament as too close of a competitor to national socialism.
"In 1936, flush with the excitement of Hitler's Olympics, Buchman gathered some American Oxford Group men at a house party at a Lenox, Massachusetts, estate. The Oxfordites sat on the floor in their tweeds as Buchman described the vision he brought back with him.
"'Suppose we hear were all God-controlled and we became the Cabinet,' he said. Then he designated the World-Telegraph reporter secretary of agriculture and pointed to a recent Princeton graduate... to replace Cordell Hull, Roosevelt secretary of state. Around the room he went, referring not to the talents of his followers but to their willingness to govern by Guidance.
"'Then,' he continued, 'in a God-controlled nation, capital and labor would discuss their problems peacefully and reach God-controlled situations.' The distribution of wealth would remain as it was, but the workers would be content to be led by employers who were not greedy but God-controlled. Echoing the words of U.S. Steel's James A. Farrell that had so inspired Abram in 1932, words which the Fellowship repeats to this day, Buchman declared, 'Human problems aren't economic. They're moral, and they can't be solved by immoral measures.'
"In 1936, when men such as Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh openly admired Hitler, it was still safe to name the style government to which these words pointed. Human problems, Buchman told his little group that night in Lenox, require ' a God-controlled democracy, or perhaps I should say a theocracy'. Just as good, said Buchman, would be a 'God-controlled Fascist dictatorship.'"
(The Family, Jeff Sharlet, pgs. 129-130)
"Buchman, clearly wishing to obfuscate about his pro-Nazi ties before the war, turned his attention towards Asia, particularly Korea. One Korean Presbyterian preacher, who took an interest in Buchman’s Moral Rearmament principles of a universal religion and total personal submission, was Yong Myung Mun of North Korea. He later changed his name to Sun Myung Moon and, after being expelled from the Presbyterian Church for preaching heresy, he established a right-wing, nominally Christian sect called the Unification Church. Like Vereide and Buchman, Moon began to spread his influence globally...
"Buchman died in 1961 and his Moral Rearmament Movement in the United States soon gave way to the Unification Church of Moon. Moon began to penetrate the United States with his “missionaries” in the 1960s. In 1972, Moon made his first journey to the United States. His number one priority was to take over control of the U.S. government by getting his followers elected to office. Moon traveled the country in what he called his International One World Crusade. As with Buchman, Moon kept his initial meetings small – house parties were used to entice converts – and like Vereide and Coe, groups were organized into small “cells.” And as with Vereide’s prayer breakfasts and Buchman’s “crusades,” hundreds of politicians around the country were duped into extending official welcomes to the enigmatic Korean."
It probably goes without saying, but the paths of Buchman and Vereide had crossed. In point of fact, Buchman seems to have had an enormous influence on Vereide's ideology.
"In the early 1930s, he and Abram crossed paths. Buchman was in Ottawa to perform soul surgery on Canadian members of Parliament, and Abram, fresh from what would prove to be his short-lived salvation of Henry Ford (Ford would later require renewal by Buchman, for whom he built a retreat in Michigan), was lecturing in Canada on behalf of Goodwill Industries. The two met, and Abram suggested to Buchman that he come on with Goodwill as a chaplain, to infuse the organization with his 'life-changing' evangelical fervor. Buchman answered by proposing a Quiet Time.
"Besides confession of sexual sin, Quiet Time was the core practice of Buchmanism: a half-hour-long period of silence in which the believer waited for 'Guidance' from God. Guidance was more than a warm feeling. It came in the form of direct orders and touched on every subject of concern, from the transcendent to the mundane. 'The real question,' Buchman would preach, 'is, "Will God control America?" The country must be "governed by men under instructions from God, as definitely given and understood as if they came by wire."' Guidance meant not just spiritual direction but declaring one's own decisions as divinely inspired. 'We're not out to tell God,' Buchman announced to an assembly of twenty-five thousand in 1936. 'We're out to let God tell us. And He will tell us.'
"'What did God say to you?' Buchman asked Abram when their Quiet Time was completed. Abram believed he had heard God's voice several times in his life, and had even considered the possibility that he might be a prophet, but he had not yet been exposed to the ideal the God spokesman regularly and in detail. He didn't say anything, Abram confessed, disappointed.
"Well, Buchman replied, God had spoken to him. 'God told me, "Christianize what you have. You have something to share."'
"Blander words no Sunday school teacher ever spoke, but to Abram they seemed like a revelation. God had told Buchman not to join Goodwill, but that didn't matter. What was important was the discovery that God should be consulted not just on broad spiritual questions but on absolutely everything. This, Abram decided, was what it meant to die to the self: to turn all responsibility over to God. That such a transfer meant the abdication of any accountability for one's actions, that it provided justification for any ambition, did not occur to him.
"Thereafter he transformed his daily prayer ritual into Buchmanite Quiet Time. And, soon enough, God filled the silence with instructions: go forth, he said, and build cells for my cause like Buchman's.
"The cell of spiritual warriors that elected Arthur Langlie was one result. The cell of men listening to God during their Quiet Time – doubled itself, and the two became four, the four became eight. The many cells for congressmen and generals and lowly government clerks in the Washington, D.C., of the present are the offspring of that original mitosis, catalyzed by Buchman. But to call them Buckmanite wouldn't be quite right. When Buchman spoke of Christianity's 'new illumination,' 'a new social order under the dictatorship of the Spirit of God' that would transform politics and eradicate the conflict of capital and labor, Abram took it literally."
(The Family, Jeff Sharlet, pgs. 126-128)
The timeframe of all of this is quite interesting for, as noted before here and here, during this whole period Ford seems to have been surrounded by both Nazi agents and associates of the US intelligence community (especially those linked to industrial security, of which was briefly addressed in the prior installment of this series). And here we find all of these strange strands of Christianity emerging --Christianity Identity, Buchmanism and Vereide's "Idea" --strands that bare more than a tinge of fascism and which have proved to be disturbingly influential over eighty years later.
Outside of the figures surrounding Ford, Vereide had other associates in the pre-WWII fascist underground.
"... Such was the nature of Abram's ecumenicism. For Jews he felt nothing, one way or the other, but he would no more discriminate against an anti-Semite than against a Presbyterian. He welcomed the vigor anti-Semitism brought to his cause. After the war, another major American fascist sympathizer – Charles Lindbergh – would preside for a brief period over a prayer cell modeled on Abram's original. Lindbergh first came under FBI scrutiny, in fact, for his association with a man who would become a stalwart of Abram's inner circle and a member of the board of the Fellowship, by then incorporated as International Christian Leadership. Merwin K. Hart was an 'alleged promoter the American Fascist movement,' according to FBI files, and denounced publicly as a Nazi in all but name by Robert H. Jackson, the FDR-era attorney general who went on to serve as justice of the Supreme Court and chief prosecutor at Nuremberg.
"To Abram, Hart was a dapper habitue of New York's blue blood clubs, a crucial node in his network of top men. He was a recruiter; operating out of the Empire State Building, he organized business executives bent on breaking the spine of unionism into an organization called the National Economic Council, and from those ranks he selected men for the Fellowship whose devotion to the antilabor cause was religious in intensity. Hart was Abram through a glass, darkly: if Abram could not distinguish between men of power men and men of morals, Hart could not tell the difference between communists and Jews, who through 'deceit' and 'trickery,' he preached, threatened the 'complete destruction' of the American way of life."
(The Family, Jeff Sharlet, pgs. 123-124)
"And the world has no greater devotee of the Spanish Falangist cause, alias Spanish Nazism --along with Hitler, Mussolini and Franco – than of Merwin K. Hart... During the Spanish Civil War Hart traveled to Spain, spoke over the official Franco radio, and on his return wrote a glowing book, America Look at Spain, raking democracy over the coals and heaping upon it abuse and scorn. After this, Hart recommended to the Falangist propaganda office, his friend, Miss Jane Anderson, who had once declared at an Economic Council meeting that 'America is morally and mentally ripe for revolution.' After Miss Anderson finished her work on behalf of the Spanish Nazis, the German Nazis hired her for short-wave broadcasts to America. The Department of Justice has declared Hart's American-born, absentee Quisling friend to be a traitor to her country.
"Upon his return from Franco's Nazi-Spain Hart, who admitted being received by high Falangist officials, denounced the ideals and principles which had motivated the French and American revolutions. He justified the intervention of Nazi and Fascist armies in Spain. In his book America Look at Spain, Hart lauded Primo de Rivera's career as dictator and praised his suppression of 'free speech and free expression of opinion.' Hart directly approved Franco's type of government in these words: 'If one wishes to be a stickler for the theory of pure democracy... or if one wishes to see virtue in the constant policy of compromise... one may find fault with the proposed government of Spain...'
"Hart claimed for his Economic Council, founded in 1931, a membership of 2,000, and a circulation 17,000 for its biweekly letter. Hart is a Harvard graduate, member of a half-dozen exclusive clubs and his scorn for Democracy is deep-rooted and missionary...
"The record shows that for the past fifteen years Hart has been engaged as a professional propagandist for one cause or another. With an annual salary fixed at $10,000 he has sought to influence legislation, both local and national, in the interest of clerical fascism (Falangism) and ultra-reactionary businessmen, using the bogey of Communism as an operating base. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson has denounced Hart as 'pro-fascist.'
"In a professional capacity, Hart opposed the forty-hour week. He fought against the Unemployment Insurance Act, and he fought the Child Labor Act, insisting that it was an 'inspiration from Russia... a Russian law for American youth.' Hart's unsavory record also shows that he advocated the disenfranchisement of poor and homeless Americans by demanding during the depression years that only those be permitted to vote who were not on relief.
"Member of the American First Committee and a close friend of William R. Castle, who was chummy with Viereck, Hart fanatically opposed the Lend-Lease Bill and battled against aid to England and Russia. In his appearance before the Senate Committee on Military Affairs he sought to whitewash Japan by declaring that 'an unfriendly attitude on the part of the United States drove Japan into the arms of the Axis.' A few months later came Pearl Harbor...
"Hart's friendship among reactionary big business men is wide. James H. Rand Jr., president of the Remington-Rand Company has been his chief contributor. Other donors have been Lammot DuPont, president of the E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co.; A. W. Erickson, chairman of a large New York advertising agency; Alfred P. Sloan, president of General Motors; J. H. Alstyne, president of the Otis Elevator Company. I'm sure that these important capitalists helped finance Hart in good faith, and are totally unaware that clerical fascism, like authoritarian Nazism, is committed to the destruction of capitalist Democracy. The difference is merely one of method: clerical fascism works more subtly and proposes to strangulate capitalism by slow stages, rather than by guillotine methods."
(Under Cover, John Roy Carlson, pgs. 457-460)
"The National Economic Council, with offices at 230 Park Avnue,, New York, headed by long-time right-winger Merwin K. Hart, is a Liberty Lobby affiliate. Carto publishes NEC's newsletter Behind the News, which deviated from its usually economically oriented content in February 1972 to plead the case of jailed Minutemen leader Robert DePugh."
(Power on the Right, William W. Turner, pg. 165)
"P.A. Del Valle – who was ignominiously defeated in 1954 in a bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Maryland, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general, closely associated with Merwin Hart, and an admirer of Robert Williams..."
(Cross-Currents, Arnold Foster & Benjamin R. Epstein, pg. 145)Regular readers of this blog are of course familiar with General del Valle, but for the uninitiated , here is a brief rundown:
"Pedro del Valle (1893-1978) was a highly-decorated veteran of World War II and the Pacific theater of operations, the first Latino general of the Marines. He commanded the 1st Marine Division at Okinawa, for which he received the Navy's Distinguished Service Medal. Yet in 1948, he wound up in Cairo as a representative of ITT. That year, the Muslim Brotherhood was implicated in acts of terrorism directed against the Egyptian government after the humiliating defeat of Egypt and its allies by the newly-recognized State of Israel. The atmosphere was poisonous in Cairo, so Del Valle left Egypt and began working for ITT as president of the company's South American division, this time in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the Peron regime. A dedicated anti-Communist and member of a number of crusade-like committees, he once quoted from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion at a political rally in order to demonstrate links between World Jewry and Bolshevism. His involvement with ITT at this time and in those locations is suspicious, as that firm had long-standing ties to the Third Reich before, during, and after the war. As an anti-Semite and an anti-Communist, his posting to Cairo and Buenos Aires during periods of great political upheaval in those countries are suggestive – if not indicative – of an intelligence function."
(The Hitler Legacy, Peter Levenda, pg. 186)
Its also interesting to note that, while Hart was working as an agent of Franco's Spain and recruiting for the Family, another militant Christian sect was being established in Spain: Opus Dei. Opus Dei's rapid rise to power was assisted in no small part direct support on the part of Franco's regime. While this researcher has yet to find any thing to concretely link the Family to the Opusians, especially in the early days, the presence of a Franco agent in Vereide's inner circle is most curious when one considers the similarities between the founders of the Family and Opus Dei as well as the objectives of both organizations. And both of course would enjoy close ties to assorted Nazis and fascist in both the pre and post war years along with ties to the US intelligence community during the latter.
|symbol of Opus Dei|