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Telling the Depraved: Cormac McCarthy's Hard Stare at Evil

Michael Dechane

23 sunset_limited I don't think anyone paints evil like Cormac McCarthy. Part of what I mean is that I don't know of another author who has looked that deeply and clearly into what evil is, and what it does, and how it works itself out in our time. I think he's telling the way-down truth about what greed looks like, and what it does, when I watch The Counselor. I think he is speaking most honestly and most earnestly about lust when I read Child of God. I think he sees the darkness of life untethered from what is true, good, and beautiful more clearly than anyone when I try and take in The Road, or am afflicted with what I remember of Blood Meridian. That would all be horrifying and weighty enough, but I read The Sunset Limited, and I saw it played out (thanks, HBO) about as well as it could be since Michael Clarke Duncan couldn't be cast as Black. And it is dramatically more horrifying to realize that McCarthy, to a degree, gets it: he understands and can write the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ more compellingly than most pastors I listen to.

The list of things I am not, or not much of, is unbelievably long. I don't make bones: I'm no theologian. Or literary critic. But I do know a lot about work. And I know this about prophets: their work, their job, is to speak for God, to us. And I believe McCarthy is prophetic. See? I can't even say it straight, I have to edge up to it. I believe Cormac McCarthy is, perhaps unwittingly or unwillingly, but in actuality, acting and writing at the insistence of the God of the Bible, my beloved Papa, our worshiped and rejected Abba. We could try and talk (here, below in the comments thread) about epistemology, or eschatology, or a proper understanding of false prophets, or my literary pedigree, or my story and how I've come to believe I know Jesus when I hear Him. But what I really want to talk about is the mystery of how and when, and through whom, God chooses to speak.