Last Wednesday's Fall meeting of the James River Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy was titled "Transforming Communities into Wellsprings of Hope and Healing." As well as updates on VICPP's priorities for the upcoming legislative session, the meeting featured Shane Claiborne of RAWTools, which turns guns into garden tools. (Shane explained that the "RAW" part of the name is "WAR" backwards.) At our Social and Environmental Justice Committee meetings, we have discussed our support of this effort, particularly given incidents of gun violence in our own community, and we're looking forward to RAWTools visiting Newport News on April 22, 2023, for a demonstration. (Watch this compelling, invitational video, and register for the meeting HERE.)
As RAWTools explains its mission, "Our nation has been through a variety of horrific events surrounding gun violence, and it has brought the conversation to the forefront of our current events and 'water cooler' conversations. It has largely become a binary conversation of either more guns or more laws. RAWtools wants to open a new option, a third way: What if we made a commitment to solve our problems without guns and violence?"
This is the work that Shane has been doing in Philadelphia. Though he grew up around guns in the South, he has seen the damage that gun violence does to communities and how the availability of guns makes other problems worse — and more deadly. In spite of the vast majority of Americans (and the vast majority of gun owners) supporting reasonable gun safety measures, Shane acknowledges that gun extremists, particularly the NRA, have a stranglehold on legislative action. So, with the support of local police, Shane expanded his ministry to include directly reducing the number of guns by turning them into tools that can cultivate life rather than destroy it.
As the RAWTools puts it, "By using weapons to make garden tools and other hand tools, we are creating a symbol for change and we’re asking you to participate, to dare to use our imaginations to change our impulse. Beating swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and guns into garden tools creates a dynamic shift in our investment in time and resources. If we are no longer training for war, what else would we be doing? It doesn’t mean we are all to become gardeners, but it does mean we can invest in providing life sustaining resources for our communities."
I look forward to seeing RAWTools in action when Shane visits Newport News on April 22. Let's all embrace what it says in the song: "Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside. I ain't gonna study war no more." (Here's my favorite recording of that song: https://youtu.be/nQ1gHm8v3ek.)