Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith Paperback – October 15, 1998
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Buckley writes with consistent intelligence and precision; how, indeed, could it be otherwise? Even those who do not agree with him politically will be struck by the sensitivity of his spiritual inquiry, particularly in his elaboration of the distinction between contemporary Catholic practice and the enduring Catholic heritage. Nearer, My God serves as a splendid testimony to the maintenance of faith. --Ron Hogan
From Kirkus Reviews
Top Customer Reviews
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.
In "Nearer, My God," written before President Bush took office (and whose title springs from the hymn,"Nearer My God To Thee") Mr. Buckley draws from Catholic liturgy, philosophy, dialogue, art and debate (reaching to Scripture itself) to describe and affirm his love for Christ and his Catholic faith.
The book is subtitled, "An Autobiography of Faith," and often reads with warm, vivid, humorous family memories and familial wit (a WFB trademark.) Mr. Buckley vividly describes his youth in strict but nurturing St. John's school in Beaumont, and recalls his parents and siblings' religious practice (closing with tender remembrances of his mother Aloise, to whom he dedicated the book). Mr. Buckley tempers memories of a nephew's ordination into a strict Benedictine order, a Sistine Chapel TV taping and audience with Pope John Paul II with humorous asides on bad wine, camcorder angles and papal misintroductions. Mr. Buckley also bemusedly describes his years at Yale, from where gradual, hard-hearted removal of Christian symbolism and ethos inspired his first best seller and a recurring theme in this book. (WFB's dismantles Millbrook College's Christmas, um, "Candlelight" service with particular humor and relish.)
But WFB also at times falls into the moderator role he often took on his flagship PBS show, "Firing Line." Early in "Nearer My God" he steps back and relays a blow-by-blow theological debate between author Arnold Lunn and Catholic priest Ronald Knox in their book "Difficulties." Lunn and Knox touch on everything from the Crusades and Inquisition to the concept of pre-destination and eternal damnation. The episode concludes ends with Lunn converting and Knox performing the ceremony.
Mr. Buckley later gathers recent Catholic converts (including former National Review colleague Jeffrey Hart) to ask their personal conversion stories (their "road to Damascus," as WFB calls it) and views on issues like married priesthood, contraception, and Christ's uniqueness to His time. But Lunn and Knox, and Mr. Buckley's panel, slowly reach the same conclusion: trust God's providence and authority given His church and shepherd to interpret the faith. To help, Mr. Buckley invokes Bishop Joseph Butler's "escape," which states if you would have created the world, you would have done so differently. (WFB effectively invokes the "escape" here describing an Turkish earthquake and more recently in National Review after Hurricane Charley struck Florida.)
For its many strengths, "Nearer, My God" is not a Catholic conversion tool. Mr. Buckley takes issue with Latin's gradual disappearance from Mass and other Vatican II-era changes, describes a wayward Protestant evangelist (who later repented) as a "cretin" while praising equally rehabilitated Watergate-era figure Charles Colson. You also leave the book wanting to understand, as best he can explain it, more of WFB's personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
But as WFB unwinds wisdom from sources as diverse as John Henry Newman, Andrew Greeley, and even Bach's "St. John's Passion," no one will finish this book without understanding Catholicism's permanence and reason to resist popular sentiment. It's what held its faithful followers to it even now, if not always to its highest teachings. (Mr. Buckley devotes part of the book to sin's concept and role in social morality). "Nearer My God," is an often moving semi-autobiography, written expertly by one of the 20th century's most influential thinkers and seekers of knowledge. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lutheran soul take delight in my Catholic brothers.