Cather tells us that McKann’s “religion was not very spiritual, certainly, but it was substantial and concrete, made up of good, hard convictions and opinions. It had something to do with citizenship, with whom one ought to marry, with the coal business (in which he own name was powerful), with the Republican party, and with all majorities and established precedents.”
In the story McKann has a conversation with Kitty Ayrshire, a famous singer. He had with great reluctance attended a recital she gave at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall, and now they find themselves to be riding the same train to New York City.
Kitty tries her best to shake his solid convictions about artists. He is certain that that they all are “light people….who have no depth”. McKann confesses that he had been dragged to the concert.
Kitty responds “I might have known”….. and she goes on to say “No, don’t give me any good reasons.(for his convictions) Your morality seems to me the compromise of cowardice, apologetic and sneaking. When righteousness becomes alive and burning, you hate it as much as you do beauty. You want a little of each in your life, perhaps --- adulterated, sterilized, with the sting taken out. It’s true enough that they are both fearsome things when they get loose in the world; they don’t, often”.
Our celebration of the Incarnation of the Word of God (a.k.a. “the birth of the baby Jesus”) is just that. It is righteousness and beauty let loose in the world, and it is fearsome. (jmp)