Moral Rearmament: Its Appeal and Threat

Emotion-based Sing-Out Offers Simple Answers

The months of preparation were over. Gerald W. Blakeley Jr. of Cabot, Cabot and Forbes had underwritten the Boston tour with a fat $25,000 check. The Sing-Out Kids had finished their tour of the Caribbean and their assault on New York and Yale. Heikki Lampela had secured the sponsorship and the theatre. The Belmont housewives and the high school kids and the old men and women and the Harvard and Radcliffe students had run the gauntlet of picketers carrying signs reading "Custer Died for Your Sins" and "Sing Away Your Sickness with a Right-Wing Melody." They were all buzzing in their seats now. It was Sunday night and everything was ready.

Jay B. Stephens '68, president of Harvard-Radcliffe Young Republicans, introduced them: "And here they are--Up With People!"--and 130 freshly scrubbed brown and white and yellow Sing-Out Kids burst onto the Sanders Theatre stage singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Their blue eyes gleamed and smiles wrapped all the way around their faces. Their hair was short and they wore yellow and tan and blue blazers or pastel jumpers with white blouses. And they were loud, singing there on the risers below a huge Up With People! Sign.

The Theme

They ripped into "De-si-i-gn for De-e-di-cation": "We'll go harder, faster, higher in space, Deeper in the sea, The greatest generation in history, And banish forever hatred and fear. Famine and greed, Every last problem of humanity. So hay-yay ..." They poured out "What Color is God's Skin?" They rocked out their theme song: "Up! Up with people! You meet em wherever you go! Up! Up with people! They're the best kind folks we know..."

Then, "You Can't Live Crooked (and Think Straight)": "If you want to save your nation Before it's too late, Let's stop our crooked living, and--think straight!" And "Freedom Isn't Free": "From Vietnam to Alamein, Our fighting men will have died in vain, If we just go on with our comfort and ease, Doing exactly as we dang well please!" It was stirring. And then, after all the songs, Will Storey, a Negro and one of the troupe's leaders spoke. He was followed by national program director John Sayre accompanied by catcalls and hisses. And finally a song, that old rhetorical question "Which Way America?" There was applause, a standing ovation from the Belmont housewives and the kids and the old men and--yes--some of the Harvards and Cliffies. Not one of those 40 minute -- standing ovations you get at West Point or the Naval Academy, but a nice standing ovation--as Sayre was eager to point out later.

And the results? "The Kids felt they were really battling out there. It was really an interesting experience," Sayre said. He claimed a week later that "over two dozen" Cliffies and Harvard students had asked for applications to join Sing-Out. Sayre wants to get 1000 applicants from the Boston area, "and this summer thousands of us will sweep across the country," he says with a magnificent sweeping gesture. Money was also a result of the visit. It is not certain whether he got any at Harvard, but after a Sing-Out the week before in Hancock Hall in Boston, Sayre was reportedly handed a $10,000 check.

Saturation

Then there were a few bad results for the Moral Re-Armament folks. The four students who organized the Harvard demonstration have been gathering material to show the alleged right-wing nature of the movement and its methods. They might never have bothered if the show hadn't shaken them so.

And some interesting facts have come to light. The involvement of the Schick Safety Razor Co. in MRA is extensive. Schick is owned by Patrick J. Frawley Jr., a well-known right-winger. Last June Schick sponsored a one-hour television broadcast of Up with People that saturated the country. It was shown in 32 cities, sometimes for five or six consecutive nights, at a cost of $300,000. CBS refused to sponsor the MRA-Frawley extravaganza because "it contravened the network's policy of not accepting entertainment ventures that contain an editorial or ideological point of view" (New York Times 7-30-66).

Schick and another of Frawley's companies, Technicolor, Inc., often take two or three full-page ads in MRA publications such as the magazine Pace and various explanatory paperbacks. There is even a tie-in deal with Schick razors if you buy the Sing-Out record.

It is impossible to trace all the large MRA contributions, but the organization is property rich. It was given a conference center in Caux, Switzerland, purchased in the 1940's for more than $840,000 and London, facilities in Berkeley Square worth $560,000. MRA also owns the Westminster Theatre in London, which cost $400,000 (Washington Post 4-9-61) and the $250,000 Dellwood estate in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., given to the movement in 1950 by Mrs. John Henry Hammond of the Vanderbilt and Sloane families (New York Times 1-5-50). There are also reports of numerous donations of over $100,000 (Tom Driberg, The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament). It seems ironic that the Sing-Out Kids say in the MRA Songbook: "We gave up cars, scholarships, jobs; we poured out our own earnings and savings."

There is more. A book called Mau Mau Detainee written by Josiah Mwangi Kariuki and published by Penguin, discusses the role MRA played in the Kenya detention camps in the 1950's:

"When the Government decided to start 'rehabilitating' detainees, the camp was handed over to the Moral Re-Armament organization ...

Soon the bogey of 'confession' appeared. The officials in charge there did not beat people but they used many other means, some more subtle than others. Rations were reduced and this forced the weakest to surrender. Joseph told me that prostitutes were brought into camp to speak words of love and to dangle their legs before the detainees to remind them of some of the things they were missing. They were not allowed to taste these joys, though, merely to recall them, before the ladies were taken out."

(Kariuki, a member of the Kenya Parliament, is a close associate of Jomo Kenyatta, who is one of MRA's admirers according to the movement's literature.)