Most helpful positive review
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2002
Mr. Buckley is an exceptionally talented man; his writing is only one of many disciplines at which he excels. And even within this field he is an accomplished novelist, essayist, speech writer, author of monographs, and the author of a syndicated national newspaper column. This particular work could be legitimately characterized as theology although the author denies that he is so qualified. By his definition this may be true, but his level of expertise on Christianity, and on being a Roman Catholic far surpasses the knowledge the majority of the practitioners of the faith can claim.
I came back to this book for a second reading after Mr. Buckley was mentioned several times in the new book by Gary Wills, "Why I Am A Catholic". Mr. Buckley's working title was the same as that of Mr. Wills, but when his book was published in 1997 it had become, "Nearer, My God". Mr. Wills and Mr. Buckley had worked together with Mr. Wills having written for the National Review. Their personal preferences in the political sphere were to become incompatible, and the professional relationship ended.
"Nearer My God", is not as critical of the Church although it does raise a variety of questions about Vatican II, and the decline of virtually any form of religious instruction in education, public or private. Mr. Buckley shares the changes that have taken place at the preparatory school he attended, and includes at the end of his book a list of quite prestigious private schools generally founded by Christians, and their present course offerings that are devoid of anything other than religious homogeneity. The effort spent ensuring that any discussion/teaching is as far from any study of specific religions, is either laughable, or offensive depending on the reader's point of view. It brings to mind recent court rulings that took place within days of each other involving the constitutional issue of the separation of church and state. Within days two rulings were handed down, one stating The Pledge Of Allegiance was unconstitutional due to the words, "under God", and then within days a ruling that school vouchers could be used for religious schools was deemed legal. Genius or even common sense is becoming harder to find residing upon the benches of the judiciary. The decision regarding the pledge was particularly obscene as it was brought in an effort to bolster a child custody case, and not for any legitimate discourse on constitutional law.
Mr. Buckley is a devout Catholic, and while he may take issue with the decisions of The Vatican II Council, he does not attack the Church as an institution. The book explores the Catholic Faith in a variety of ways. He shares a brilliant discussion on a variety of points from the theologians Arnold Lunn and Father Knox. He then invited a group of familiar names that had either found, or converted to The Catholic Church as adults, Lance Murrow, Whittaker Chambers, and many more.
The discussions range from what either kept them from converting sooner, to which ideas finally made up their minds. There are discussions on all of the hot buttons currently at issue, and while these discussions are not devoid of feeling, they lack any manner of rancor.
This book is as lacking in fuel for animosity filled debate, as Mr. Will's work is filled with its opposite. Both books represent an opportunity to learn from extremely bright people who often share the same sources for their discussions. The books differ in the level of criticism and the manner by which it is presented. I have always felt that many readers are put off by Mr. Buckley's work as they feel attempting his work is a daunting task. Mr. Buckley has a brilliant mind and a true love of the written and spoken word. A dictionary at hand when reading his work is often an aid. I don't feel than anyone who has passed on his work would regret a change of mind. He is an original thinker, and will long be remembered for his contributions to literature.