Buckley and ReligionPosted by PH
There’s a whole lot that can be said about William F. Buckley and religion. I spent hours when I was in high school watching in rapt awe of Buckley’s argumentative prowess on Firing Line . (More info here.) Only much later did I learn of his love of music (playing Bach in concert!) and religious beliefs. Here’s an article by Gary Wills on Buckley.
Perhaps it was his matchmaking urge that made Bill want to connect people with his church. After he learned as a child that any Christian can baptize a person in need of salvation, he and Trish would unobtrusively rub water on visitors to their home while whispering the baptism formula. In the National Review circle, those who were not Catholics to begin with tended to enter the fold as converts—Bozell, Russell Kirk, Willmoore Kendall, Frank Meyer, William Rusher, Jeffrey Hart, M. Joseph Sobran, Marvin Liebman, Robert Novak, Richard John Neuhaus. The major holdouts were James Burnham, a born Catholic who left the faith and never went back, and Whittaker Chambers, who was drawn to Richard Nixon’s Quakerism. It was always easiest to be a Catholic around Bill. I believe Bill was so nice to me because I am what the Lutheran scholar Martin Marty called me, “incurably Catholic.” There were different concentrations of people at National Review—Yale alumni, ex-communists (Burnham, Meyer, Chambers), ex-CIA members (Bill, Burnham, Kendall, and Priscilla Buckley, another of Bill’s sisters)—but the Catholic contingent outnumbered all others.
Bill went to church on Sundays with the many Spanish-speaking house servants he had over the years. That did not fit his reputation as a snob. He was accused, at times, of being a social snob, an ideological snob, and an intellectual snob. None of these was the case in any but the most superficial sense.