Cormac McCarthy’s Strange Faith

From McCarthy’s relatively unheralded The Sunset Limited:

Black: … At the deep bottom of the mine where the gold is at there aint none of that. There’s just the pure ore. That forever thing. That you dont think is there. That thing that helps to keep folks nailed down to the platform when the Sunset Limited comes through. Even when they think they might want to get aboard. That thing that makes it possible to ladle out benediction upon the heads of strangers instead of curses. It’s all the same thing. And it aint but one thing. Just one.

White: And that would be Jesus.

Black: Got to think about how to answer that. Maybe one more heresy wont hurt you. You pretty loaded up on em already. Here’s what I would say. I would say that the thing we are talkin about is Jesus, but it is Jesus understood as that gold at the bottom of the mine. He couldnt come down here and take the form of a man if that form was not done shaped to accommodate him. And if I said that there aint no way for Jesus to be ever man without ever man being Jesus then I believe that might be a pretty big heresy. But that’s all right. It aint as big a heresy as saying that a man aint all that much different from a rock. Which is how your view looks to me.

McCarthy says he grew up loosely Catholic, but religion doesn’t really affect him anymore. I’ve read too many of his books to believe that. But I couldn’t tell you where he stands on questions of faith, either: The Sunset Limited is one of those books (like The Brothers Karamazov, actually) where both sides of the question are presented not just convincingly but with passion. It’s a quick, gripping, and ultimately devastating read. And it’s a book in dialogue, which is McCarthy’s strong suit.

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