Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Beating Guns

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.
Beating Guns
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.


  1. Eric Dollard, my faithful Thinking Friend in Chicago, was the first to comment on today's article:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for bringing Shane and Mike to our attention.

    "Although I favor stricter gun laws, what really needs to change is the gun culture and the idea that a gun provides protection. What a gun actually provides, for most people, is greater danger. There is very good evidence that owning a gun is much more dangerous than not owning one.

    "One possible approach to the gun violence problem is to tax firearms and ammunition according to how often a firearm is used in homicides and other criminal activity. The more often a particular firearm is used to commit crime, the higher the tax on the firearm and its ammunition. AR-15's, under this scheme, would face a very steep tax; muskets would hardly be taxed at all.

    "I would put a 'Repeal the Second Amendment' bumper sticker on my car, but I don't want bullet holes in my car."

  2. A brief, but pertinent, comment from local Thinking Friend Temp Sparkman:

    "I salute people that are engaged with passion and reason on critical issues."

  3. Bruce Morgan, another local Thinking Friend, also shares brief, meaningful comments:

    "Very impressive, Leroy. Thanks for sharing such an encouraging post. Guns are one of America’s worst plights. Glad to see a visual demonstration of how to convert guns into peaceful implements."

  4. Nothing "well," nothing "ordered," and nothing resembling "militia" is to be found in our gun culture, although all three are right there in the opening of the Second Amendment. And here I thought it was supposed to be liberals who twisted historic texts to fit their wishes! Sadly, our gun culture is just one small part of our twisted philosophy of American Exceptionalism. Every day our news reports another weird shooting, perhaps a mother shot by her own toddler with her own gun, or some guy rearranging his own anatomy with the gun in his belt. Then there are the tens of thousands of intensional shootings. And the racist calls to police to get them storming into a needless and dangerous SWAT mode.

    I am not a pacifist, and I have nothing against ranchers, hunters, and people concerned about self-defense arming themselves. I just wish they took the first half of the Second Amendment as seriously as they take the second half. I take heart that the percent of Americans owning guns keeps falling, even as the remaining gun owners continue to contain a significant number of people who have no business possessing a gun. On a larger scale, America keeps jumping into reckless wars that end up doing more harm than good. Look at the insane war we are still fighting a generation later in Afghanistan, and the massive damage to our treasury and soldiers done by the inexcusable war in Iraq, that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and left the whole Middle East in chaos. In a just world I believe Dick Cheney would be serving time as a war criminal, having lied America into an unjustified war so that he could personally profit from the Halliburton stock he kept openly after joining the government. Now Trump is toying with war in North Korea and Iran. How can we expect sane gun behavior out of American civilians when our leaders pursue military insanity?

    For a sample of discussion about Cheney and Halliburton, see this NY Times article from 2004:

  5. Thanks for once again posting significant comments, Craig. I fully agree with you and, of course, I think Shane and Mike would also. What you wrote about lies behind much of what they are trying to say on their Beating Guns Tour.

  6. Yesterday afternoon I also received the following brief comment from Glenn Hinson in Kentucky:

    "Very biblical, to say the least! Thanks for reporting this."

  7. Yes, they cite Isaiah 2:4 at the very beginning of the first chapter of their book.

  8. I also received the following comments from a Thinking friend in Connecticut:

    "Thank you so much for re-introducing me to Shane. It’s been too long since I followed his work. Hope to get his books soon.

    "His video on how ‘evangelicals’ won the election for Trump, exposing a downright sickening mentality in our country, is very disheartening. 'Beating Guns' is much more hopeful.

  9. I have a small caliber "assault" rifle with 150 round magazine and black composite stock. You are welcome to make a garden too if you like. I also have an ACP style semi-auto, small caliber pistol with 13 round magazine - I'm not much on hand guns, but I've been offered $30.

    1. Well, I don't have a forge or, certainly, the skill to turn any gun into a garden tool. But Mike Martin would have gladly received your gun(s) and would have skillfully turned them into garden tools--and I probably would have offered you up to $30 for your pistol to be converted in that way. Sorry that you (and I) didn't know about this before April 2.

    2. Sorry. It would have been fun to watch. Both are BB guns, but the rifle is powerful enough for small game. It can shoot about one round per second. Both must be handled as any other firearm. The former I inherited from my Dad, but no sentimental value. The latter only because I had never owned a handgun before - but it could shoot birds at close range. I prefer the spring powered Daisy Buck.

  10. About an hour ago a Thinking Friend in Texas sent me the following email:

    "A Facebook Friend (and relative!) recently posted that to claim you don't need a gun since we have the police is like saying you don't need a fire extinguisher because we have the fire department. I can see the logic of his post. But what kind of gun does he need? An assault rifle? I did not ask him, nor do I intend to unless we were face to face in a personal setting.

    "I think limiting ammo would be an approach. And hunters of migratory waterfowl already live with that as a federal law. Magazines of shotguns used to hunt migratory waterfowl must be plugged to accommodate no more than three shells.

    "NRA is losing its grip. I am somewhat hopeful that some senators will begin to see that. Mitch McConnell?"

  11. Maybe the comparison of a fire extinguisher to the fire department is not too bad. By that logic a single shot .22 caliber rifle would perhaps be comparable to a fire extinguisher.