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Oscar-Nominated Star Of 'The Wife' Glenn Close Grew Up In The Cult-Like Moral Re-Armament

Updated May 24, 2021 7.9k views14 items

Known for her emotional, dramatic performances, actor Glenn Close has been nominated for seven Academy Awards during her career. Nominated in 2019 for The Wife, Close has slowly begun opening up about her dark and troubled past. From the ages of 7 to 22, she was involved in the Moral Re-Armament (MRA), a cult-like organization whose founder had ties to oppressive movements in Europe. 

The MRA had a youth performance branch called Up With People, who preached societal improvement through individual adherence to strict moral codes. Although she's not the only celebrity with connections to a suspected cult, Close's transparency about her time with the organization gives context for her exceptional acting abilities.

Close's past was strongly affected by her involvement with the group. She had to overcome shame inflicted by the MRA for what they termed "unnatural desires" as well as resentment toward her parents - particularly her father, who moved their family to Switzerland to be closer the organization. Close largely escaped through theater, and finally left the group at 22 when she began studying performance at the College of William & Mary. Considered one of the best actresses working today, Close has made concerted efforts to make sense of her past.

  • Photo: The Me You Can't See / Apple TV+

    Closes Said The Cult Has Harmed Her Ability To Have Relationships

    In May 2021, Close shared on the Apple TV+ series The Me You Can't See how the cult has deeply affected the quality of her relationships:

    Because of the devastation, emotional and psychological, of the cult, I have not been successful in my relationships and finding a permanent partner and I am sorry about that... It's astounding that something you went through at such an early stage of your life still has such a potential to be destructive.

  • Photo: Harris & Ewing Photo Studio / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Group's Founder Reportedly Supported Adolf Hitler And Far-Right Movements

    The MRA was a right-wing organization founded on what leader Frank Buchman called the "four absolutes:" honesty, love, unselfishness, and purity. The group began as an evangelical movement, but eventually turned into a controlling and isolating organization with a rigid belief system. Buchman asserted those with "special guidance from God" couldn't sin and had a moral obligation to lead others.

    Allegations circulated that Buchman supported Adolf Hitler - in 1936, Buchman allegedly praised the German leader as a check against communism. Furthermore, Buchman's successor, Peter Howard, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament under the New Party, whose founder later formed the British Union of Fascists.

    Regardless of these connections, high-level diplomats and politicians attended MRA seminars post-WWII, and Buchman mainly targeted the rich for membership.

  • The MRA Focused On Recruiting Young People

    The MRA's certificate of incorporation from 1941 stated their goal was "to disseminate Christian teaching among the people of the United States and other countries by means of the preparation, publication, and circulation of magazines, pamphlets, books, songs, music and other writings, or by means of radio or television broadcasts, or the use of sound or motion picture films."

    From this mission statement, the group specifically targeted young people when they formed Up With People in the '60s. A performance group that toured around the US, UWP proselytized and encouraged large audiences to join. After a performance at Harvard in 1967, The Harvard Crimson wrote:

    In just a year and a half, the three national troupes and the numerous foreign troupes have sung before two million people all over the world: South and Central America, Africa, Japan and Korea, and throughout Europe. They have been at 84 military bases, and Sayre reports that Gen. Westmoreland wants them to come to Vietnam if it can be arranged.

    Their appeal is strictly emotional. A successful Sing-Out creates [a] hysterical atmosphere where rationality is lost to powerful feelings of patriotism and goodness in the catchy rock beat of the songs... Wealthy businessmen in the fervor of it all dash off $500 checks, and high school and college kids run over to sign up, to be Sing-Out people themselves and solve the problems of the world by spreading the Word.

    Up With People formally split from the MRA in 1968 and rebranded themselves as a service and community-focused group. Beginning in 1976, they performed at the Super Bowl halftime show four times and appealed largely to universities and high schools.

  • Photo: Bettmann/Contributor / Bettmann/Getty Images

    The Group Relied On Significant Financial Contributions

    The MRA appealed to the wealthy, who sustained the organization through substantial financial contributions. One of the group's main financiers was the Schick razor company and its founder, Patrick J. Frawley Jr., a well-known supporter of right-wing politics. Schick sponsored a broadcast of the MRA's conservative youth performance group, Up With People. The one-hour show reached 32 cities and aired, in some cases, for five consecutive nights.

    Only CBS refused to air Up With People because it "contravened the network's policy of not accepting entertainment ventures that contain an editorial or ideological point of view." The broadcast cost $300,000 in 1966, over $2 million adjusted for inflation.

    While The Harvard Crimson reported that contributions to the MRA were difficult to track, they did note the group owned over $2 million in property, around $15 million today. The MRA also received numerous donations over $100,000 and seemed to collect smaller donations from group members.

    After founder Frank Buchman and his successor, Peter Howard, passed in 1961 and 1965, respectively, donations declined by nearly $1 million over a year.