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There have been more mass shootings this year in America than there have been days of the year. And gun sales are booming (an ugly pun, I know). We seem determined to wipe one another off the face of the earth…rapidly.

So what has all this got to do with Flannery O’Connor? O’Connor, a prolific Southern writer with a deeply spiritual mindset, has been dead since 1964. She did not live to see gun violence escalate into wholesale slaughter on an everyday basis. But her influence lives on.

I have been walking around in a state of O’Connor-based awareness for the last several weeks, as I have been reading her collected short stories. It’s hard not to fall under her spell, even though her stories are typically difficult to read. That innocent-seeming visitor at the door on page one? Likely as not he will uproot the life of the people upon whose door he knocks. The lady who sees a photo of an escaped murderer in the newspaper? You can be certain said murderer will do her in by the last page of her tale. But one story in particular, “Revelation,” spoke to me most profoundly. In it, a woman who has been assaulted by a mentally ill person seeks to understand what she did that drove her attacker to action. She suddenly, unexpectedly has a vision: A vast group of pilgrims ascending into heaven together — all colors, all backgrounds, the mentally ill and the so-called sane — all marching toward God as one.

And that’s when it hit me: Either we all go together, or no one goes. Let that sink in for a minute. Try to knit it into the fabric of your beliefs. What would it mean if we all truly believed that? If we weren’t each out for our own success, redemption or happy ending, but utterly dependent on — and responsible to — others to achieve the same?

What would be the use of war in a mindset like this? Or of murder of any kind? Division of persons based on any sort of criteria dissolves into inanity. Anything negative I do to you robs me of happiness, as we are all interconnected and interdependent. There is nothing I can do to my neighbor that does not impact me personally. Either we get it together and achieve some sort of perfection in this world or the next or we all fail — and are punished for it miserably. And yes, this does make me my brother’s keeper. And he, mine.

I’m asking you to take seriously the ethical position of one writer, who just so happens to be echoing the words of Christ himself: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” We are in this together, folks. Like it or not. As a Founding Father once asserted, either we all hang together or we will each hang separately. So, yes, I’m demanding that you choose a side: Work for peace or step aside. Because I don’t want to die. And I don’t want you to die.

This mandates some difficult decision-making. Do we, as a country, love guns more than people? If so, there will be no parade of salvation. If not, let’s do something. Enough talk. Talk ain’t gonna get us to the Promised Land. And isn’t that where we want to go?

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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