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William F. Buckley

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Description

Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925–2008) was a voice to millions, hosting the long-running “Firing Line” TV show, writing more than 50 books, and launching National Review magazine in 1955 to “fix the newly cast conservative cannons on the enemies of collectivism, liberalism, and Communism.”

Jeremy Lott makes a nuanced case for the profound influence of Buckley’s faith—he was a Catholic with Irish-Protestant roots—on his emergence as a modern-day Jonah, warning of “the doom to come if America didn’t change course, quickly.” Buckley viewed the challenges of his era as ultimately religious in nature. Like the other members of his colorful family, he believed that God, family, and country—in that order—“demanded our unswerving loyalty.”

Lott traces the thread of faith that ran through Buckley’s public life, from his call for a return to orthodoxy at Yale University to his doomed but entertaining run for mayor of New York, from his jaw-dropping verbal joust with Gore Vidal to his surprisingly fresh final thoughts on the end of the Cold War.

 

 

 

Reading Guides

  1. Several historians have credited William F. Buckley Jr. with playing a large role in the founding of the modern conservative movement in America. Is that reputation earned? Pretend for a moment that you are Clarence the angel. Try to imagine what conservatism—and what America—would look like if Buckley hadn't come along.
  2. Our religious beliefs often influence our politics. What were Buckley's religious beliefs? How were they shaped by his mother's piety, his Irish forbears, and his father's time as an oilman in Mexico? What were he and his sister Trish caught doing to unsuspecting sleeping visitors at the Buckley estate? Why did the Buckleys so dislike comparisons to the Kennedys?
  3. Buckley's first book warned against the creeping secularization of higher education, as well as the university's imminent embrace of socialism. How did Yale's administration respond to these charges? Discuss this statement: “I believe that the struggle between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced at another level.”
  4. Buckley defended both McCarthyism—aggressively and publicly investigating and prosecuting agents of the Soviet Union who infiltrated the U.S. Government—and the person who gave these tactics their name, Senator Joseph McCarthy. Should Buckley have backed Senator McCarthy even after it was clear that McCarthy would sometimes make wild, unsubstantiated allegations?
  5. Buckley founded National Review in 1955 to be the flagship magazine of the conservative movement. What three publications did he try and fail to take over before he founded National Review? How does the National Review of the first decade differ from the National Review of today? What decision did Buckley make that changed the character of the magazine?
  6. National Review announced in its first issue that its mission was to “stand athwart history, yelling stop!” How has that that motto been badly misunderstood?
  7. National Review tried to make peace between several camps of the conservative movement by putting forward a proposal called “fusionism.” Describe fusionism and discuss: Does the argument have any merit? Is it consistent with sound Christian morality?
  8. “You are too intelligent to believe in God,” were the first words that novelist Ayn Rand is reported to have said to Buckley. Yet they were not on speaking terms when she died. What happened to chill relations between them? Why did Buckley try to bury her philosophy of Objectivism with Rand in her obituary?
  9. Why did Buckley run for Mayor of New York in 1965 even though he didn't believe he had a reasonable chance of winning? What do you think of principled but doomed candidacies? Are they a good idea, a distraction, or worse? 
  10. Crossfire was the longest running show of its kind in the history of television. Why did it last so long? How did it change over the years? What reason did Buckley give for retiring the show in 1999?
  11. Buckley was reluctant to write a first novel, even with a guaranteed contract on his desk, waiting for his signature. Why the hesitation? How was Blackford Oakes different from James Bond? What do you make of Buckley's denials that Oakes was simply his fictional doppelganger?
  12. Buckley was a close friend of Ronald Reagan and described Reagan as “the politician in America I admire most.” Yet they did not always see eye-to-eye. Why did Buckley admire Reagan? What major issues did they publicly disagree about? What was the major issue that Buckley professed to change his mind about just before he expired?
  13. What was Buckley's attitude toward death? What was he doing when he finally quit this veil of tears?
  14. During his lifetime, Buckley occasionally referred to himself as a prophet. Was he serious? Do you believe he was right about that?

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William F. Buckley, Jeremy Lott
  • William F. Buckley, Jeremy Lott

Details

Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925–2008) was a voice to millions, hosting the long-running “Firing Line” TV show, writing more than 50 books, and launching National Review magazine in 1955 to “fix the newly cast conservative cannons on the enemies of collectivism, liberalism, and Communism.”

Jeremy Lott makes a nuanced case for the profound influence of Buckley’s faith—he was a Catholic with Irish-Protestant roots—on his emergence as a modern-day Jonah, warning of “the doom to come if America didn’t change course, quickly.” Buckley viewed the challenges of his era as ultimately religious in nature. Like the other members of his colorful family, he believed that God, family, and country—in that order—“demanded our unswerving loyalty.”

Lott traces the thread of faith that ran through Buckley’s public life, from his call for a return to orthodoxy at Yale University to his doomed but entertaining run for mayor of New York, from his jaw-dropping verbal joust with Gore Vidal to his surprisingly fresh final thoughts on the end of the Cold War.

 

 

 

More Information

Length 176 Pages
Series Christian Encounters Series
Publication Date August 17, 2010
Company
  • Thomas Nelson
ISBN-10 1595550658
ISBN-13 9781595550651
Height 7"
Width 5"