This is the story of a man who set out to remake the world. That must be said at the outset because it is only possible to understand Frank Buchman in the context of that aim. Everything he did in his adult life was part of it, and scarcely anything he did could, in his eyes, be separated from it. That aim conditioned where and how he lived, how he approached people and situations, and what he did from hour to hour.
No sane person looking round the world of 1961, when Buchman died at the age of 83, would have described that bid as successful. On the other hand, it would be equally hard to judge his life a failure. Some remarkable streams of events sprang from his initiatives; others are still breaking surface today. It is at least arguable that few of them would have emerged if his aim had been smaller.
Buchman was always - and still is - a controversial figure. In the thirties Archbishop Lang of Canterbury stated that he was being 'used to bring multitudes of human lives in all parts of the world under the transforming power of Christ', while Bishop Henson of Durham accused him of 'megalomaniacal self-confidence'. In 1940 the British Minister of Information, Brendan Bracken, said that he would be arrested immediately America entered the war, while the United States Department of Justice described his work as 'essential to the defence effort'. The author and Member of Parliament for Oxford University, A. P. Herbert, called him a 'canting cheat' in the House of Commons, and Tom Driberg, later to be Chairman of the Labour Party, attacked the Home Secretary for allowing a man who had never denounced Hitler to re-enter Britain in 1946. The Gestapo condemned him in reports from 1936 onwards and he was periodically attacked on Moscow Radio. His work was investigated at different times by Princeton University, by the Secretariat of the International Confederation of Free Trades Unions, and by a working party of the Church of England's Social and Industrial Council. In 1953 the Holy Office in Rome issued a warning to Catholics, a 'misunderstanding' which was only cleared up years later. Meanwhile he was decorated by seven countries, including France, Germany, Greece, Japan and the Philippines, for his effect on their relations with other countries. When I had nearly finished this book, I was introduced at an Oxford reception to Cardinal Franz Konig, Archbishop of Vienna. He asked me what I was writing, and I mentioned Frank Buchman. 'He was a turning point in the history of the modern world through his ideas,' he said immediately. In the next week he sent me his reasons for saying so.