For many years I have been an admirer of Shane Claiborne, author of several books and leader of “new monastic” Christians who go by the name The Simple Way in downtown Philadelphia. Last week I had the privilege of meeting Shane for the first time.
Claiborne (b. 1975) is the author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (2006). That was the first book of his that I read, and I was very favorably impressed by it.
He also wrote, with Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (2008). That was also an impressive book. Two years later he wrote Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, which I have not yet read but have seen quoted often.
Mike Martin (b. 1982) is a Mennonite blacksmith from Colorado. He is the founder and Executive Director of an organization known as RAWtools. (Check out their attractive website here.)
Shane and Mike teamed up to write Beating Guns: Hope for People Who are Weary of Violence, a nearly 300-page book that was published last month. It is an attractive, challenging work worthy of serious consideration.
Beating Guns Tour
Currently, Shane and Mike are on a thirty-seven-city Beating Guns Tour. The 23rd stop on that tour was in Kansas City, Kansas, on April 2. Their event there was held at the Rainbow Mennonite Church, where June and I are members, and it was a very engaging evening.
Here is the picture I took of Mike standing by the bus:
And click here to see a video of Shane telling about that bus soon after they acquired it in November 2018.
The inside-the-church program was primarily an excellent presentation by Shane explaining the purpose of the Beating Guns Tour. It also featured a brief talk by Jamal Shakur who works for Kansas City in what is called the Aim4Peace program.
Outside, in the parking lot right behind the church building, they used their forge to heat the metal of a gun red hot. The metal was then placed on an anvil where several people, one after another, beat it with a hammer. Before the close of the event, the new garden tool, as you see below, was brought in for our admiration.
Beating Guns into Garden Tools
One of my favorite sculptures was created by Arlie Regier (1931~2014), a member of Rainbow Mennonite Church. It is a “swords into plowshares” work which I wrote about (and included a picture of) in my 5/25/11 blog article.
Since there is not so much use of swords, or even plows, now, Shane & Mike’s emphasis is on guns and garden tools. While they certainly stress the problem of guns in USAmerican society, their primary opposition is to violence of all kinds.
Following the teachings of Jesus, they not only oppose the rampant violence of guns used for both homicides and suicides in this country, but they also speak out clearly and firmly against all war as well as capital punishment.
The tone of the book—and certainly the tone of the authors as they spoke to us last Tuesday evening—is not harsh. Shane and Mike don’t come across as strident or angry, but they do speak out forcefully—and also with a hopeful message.
In the words of the subtitle of their book, they, indeed, are seeking to foster “hope for people who are weary of violence.” They end their book with these words:
May we be the midwives of a better world—through our prayers, by our lives, and with our hammers.