Christopher Buckley lost his mother and father to death in the space of twelve months and wrote a book about it. That’s not surprising considering the fact that he’s written thirteen books and numerous magazine articles. The unique part of the story is who his parents are: William F. Buckley and his wife Patricia.
Bill Buckley is one of my intellectual and professional heroes (full disclosure). He founded National Review, which for years was the leading conservative journal of opinion. He hosted the PBS TV show Firing Line for 33 years. He wrote over 60 books and a weekly syndicated column for decades. He was the either the founder or provided the intellectual capital for the modern conservative movement in the United States.
Christopher, their only son, aid he had two aims in writing the book. He wanted to avoid any sense of self-pity and hoped the book would be a true celebration of the lives of two extraordinary people – his Mum and Pup. I think he accomplished both of his aims.
Overall, I liked the book and found it “a good read.” I learned quite a bit about Christopher and his father but even more about his mother whom previously I had virtually no knowledge. Bill and Patricia were certainly larger-than-life. There were a few disappointing elements, though.
Any time “the curtain is pulled back,” you hear or see things you’d rather not hear or see. I learned some things about William F. Buckley that, to be honest, I’d rather not know. Ultimately he and his achievements are not minimized in mind, but I’ve been reminded that all of us are fallen, sinful human beings in need of God’s grace. My image of Bill Buckley needed to be brought back to some semblance of reality.
I was, and remain, disappointed by the lack of faith and hope in Christopher. Patricia and Bill are other stories, individually and together, but their son is my concern at this point. Christopher is officially agnostic. Neither his mother’s Anglicanism or his father’s Roman Catholicism was passed on or embraced by him. Because of that, he grieves but as one having no hope. Christians grieve the death of loved ones, but as the apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, we grieve in a different way precisely because we do have hope. A hope that can face death head on comes only from a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Christopher doesn’t yet have that faith and hope, but I pray at some point he does.
Losing Mum and Pup accomplished its purpose of being a celebration of Christopher’s mom and dad. It also succeeded in bringing up a topic – death – that most people in today’s society do everything they can to avoid. It was helpful in terms of my ministry because Christopher reflects how a lot of people think about death and losing a parent (or both of them) if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ – confusion mixed with guilt, wishful thinking, and no hope.
Read this book if you want to know how a non-Christian child of famous parents deals with death.
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