Review: Christian Encounters – William F. Buckley

2 Sep

I recently signed up for a program called Book Sneeze. The Christian publisher Thomas Nelson provides bloggers with free copies of books in exchange for honest reviews of them. The most exciting part for the bloggers is trying to keep the review under 250 words. The most exciting part for readers is that we will offer a few of these books as giveaways every few weeks. Winners will be chosen randomly from the people who comment on the blog post we set up for the giveaway.

Review: Jeremy Lott, Christian Encounters: William F. Buckley

When William F. Buckley died at the age of eighty-two, the New York Times described him as a man who “marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse.” Buckley founded the National Review, hosted the PBS show Firing Line for decades, and published over fifty books, including a popular series of spy novels. What people have tended to gloss over, however, was his deep religious faith and commitment to Catholicism.
In his biography of Buckley, however, Jeremy Lott places religious faith at the center of his retelling of the journalist’s life. The publication of God and Man at Yale dominates the beginning of the book. Lott uses the responses to this book to explore anti-Catholicism at Ivy League institutions and the general distrust of deep religious faith there. The book’s brevity, however, prevents Lott from providing readers with anything more than a cursory examination of Buckley’s life. Although he describes the founding of the National Review, Lott does not explore the magazine’s evolution over the several decades of its existence or any disagreements that occurred within its staff in any depth. Readers who want to know more William Buckley and his place in modern conservatism would do well to look at a more in-depth biography. For those who want a short introduction to Buckley’s life, this biography will do more than suffice.


4 Responses to “Review: Christian Encounters – William F. Buckley”

  1. Christopher September 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Thanks for the review (and please don’t think my comment is intended merely to get my name in the potential pool of lucky recipients of this book or others :)).

    I generally like the idea of Buckley’s Catholicism being given in-depth treatment, this seems pretty unsatisfactory for the reasons you list here. It looks like there’s a handful of biographies of Buckley available–have you read any of the others? Do you know if any of them treat his Christianity in any depth?

  2. amanda5245 September 3, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of the others. One of the reasons why I chose this book out of the multitude of ones that were available was that I had heard his name but knew next to nothing about him. I did a little bit of searching on the internet and on JSTOR after I finished the book, but prelims has prevented me from doing much more. The Lee Edwards biography looks like it could be fascinating, though. It was written by one of his longtime friends. It’s published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, though, and is likely to have quite a conservative bent to it.

  3. Marjorie Conder September 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Buckley was always engaging and interesting and his use of language left me in awe. However, while I realized he was Catholic, it never computed in my brain, his deep commitment to his faith. Thanks for the “head’s up.”

  4. Ronbo October 19, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    Can you believe the Left finds Buckley was their main man after all?


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