William F. Buckley, Jr.: A cherished memory
By Alisa Craddock
I've been a registered Republican since I was eighteen, and except for two dreadful errors of judgment (voting for Bob Graham and falling for the messianic fervor surrounding Bill Clinton), I've been otherwise consistent. But I was a "liberal conservative". In other words, I thought of myself as conservative, but I had been perfectly programmed by our society and education system to think as I was expected to think: I was pro-choice (though I did not personally think I could ever have an abortion), favored gay marriage, and was kind of sympathetic to socialism, at least in some quarters. Mostly, though, I was a New Ager. I believed in Jesus, I just wasn't sure who or what he was, and I believed in reincarnation rather than hell. I believed the Bible and Christianity had "evolved", and was not what the apostles said it was, and I believed everyone eventually went to heaven, but I didn't accept any accepted idea of heaven. I used to wear this sweatshirt with "Mankind is one" in fifteen languages which I bought from a member of the Baha'I faith. I tried a number of "spiritual enlightenment" techniques, including an attempt at an "out-of-body experience." I looked to and fro for the "real" truth. But when I prayed, it was to Christ (whoever he was) so I guess the Lord decided I needed an angel of Truth.
So in the fullness of time along came Mr. Buckley. I had admired him somewhat for most of my life (my brother had liked him as a youth) and he had that smooth voice that sounded like a cello to me. I went to hear him and I bought a copy of his book, Nearer, My God, and asked him to sign it. I said something idiotic and he just looked at me, but didn't say a word. (How would a gentleman respond to a female idiot?)
I took his book home and read it. I learned that he had issues with some of the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. Right now, without opening the book, what I remember most was that he hated the liturgical changes in the Mass, and that he recognized Gnosticism as the creeping heresy that had returned and was destroying the solid foundation of faith. (I had just read Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels not long before I saw him.) Certainly he recognized that the liberals lurking in the shadows now had their moment to "come out", which they did, and the Church has been struggling against it ever since.
But what made me write to him was a dream I had. In the dream, I was looking at the title page where he had signed it, and there were three biblical notations in the margin, one of which was Gen. 1:10. I went to the bible (still in my dream) and looked up Gen 1:10, and it was a Biblical warning to beware of liberals! I awoke and laughed out loud. I simply couldn't keep that to myself. So I wrote this long, impassioned letter full of all my New Age idiocy as though we had so much in common, telling him I didn't believe in hell and how much I loved rummaging around in God's pockets for his secrets. And I concluded with my P.S. (de resistance), the dream.
To my delight, his reply came a couple of weeks later, telling me that my dream reminded him of what a friend had recently (wryly) revealed--that the final secret of Fatima (which had never been revealed) was now known to be "Don't call a Council."
[For those of you not familiar with Fatima, it is the place in Portugal where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on the 13th of six consecutive months, from May- October 1917, warning the world that if men did not change and turn back to her Son, a second, worse war would be visited upon the world (it was--WWII). The visitation culminated in a great miracle witnessed by an estimated 50,000 pilgrims, curious onlookers, and skeptics, some people as far as 30 miles away who had not been interested) that came to be known as the Miracle of the Sun. She also told of the coming of Communism to Russia (the October Revolution took place right after) which would spread its errors throughout the world. She revealed three secrets to the children she appeared to, the third of which, as Mr. Buckley indicated, had not been revealed as of 1998, the date of his communication.]
This comment by Mr. Buckley epitomizes and encapsulates his wit, intellect and faith all rolled into one. It was the perfect evangelization--for me. Along with being the gentlest of rebukes for my New Age idiocy, there was a secret to chase, and in the chasing, I discovered that the childrens' vision included a ghastly vision of hell! It was perfect! Gentle, witty, and tailored precisely to my personality. I was utterly enchanted.
Due to a bit of artful begging on my part, I was permitted the privilege of corresponding with him for a time. He suggested a couple of Catholic writers he enjoyed, and I was off on my rapid education. It was also during this time that he wrote a column on abortion that hit me like a hammer to the chest, and changed my outlook forever. I spent many hours trying to write a rebuttal to him, but the statistics were not there to back up my "compassionate" position. I finally had to conclude that what I was saying to myself was that I would rather kill my hypothetical unborn child than deal with the emotional trauma of giving the child up for adoption. I thought "Solomon is turning over in his grave." It was unjustifiable. My pro-choice stance was the last domino to fall.
William F. Buckley, Jr. changed the face of conservatism in this country. His personality and intellect gave conservatism excitement and respectability. His humor gave it power to reach. But I was "asleep" for most of that. I can really only relate how he touched my small, insignificant life with his generosity and kindness. It's a heady thing for a very ordinary gal from Podunk, Nowhere to be told by William F. Buckley that she has a good mind, and "astute" insights. I hope I have used them well.
I love him, and I will miss him. May he rejoice in heaven, where I am certain he was greeted with the gentle face of Christ saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Alisa Craddock is a columnist and activist in the culture war, a convert to Catholicism, and describes herself as a Christian Libertarian. She may be contacted at alisa.craddock at hushmail.com.