Cathedral to Host Weapons into Plowshares Event on March 15

Inspired by the prophet Isaiah’s call to “beat swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4), Christian activist Shane Claiborne and Mike Martin, a Mennonite pastor turned blacksmith, are launching a national tour on March 9 to offer a Christian response to the crisis of gun violence in the United States. They will bring their message, as well as a forge and other blacksmithing tools, to Christ Church Cathedral on March 15.

The 90-minute event, which will begin at 6 p.m. in the Nave, will include music and a discussion of the spiritual dynamics of a culture of fear and violence. While the event is going on in the Nave, Mike will turn a gun into a garden tool on a forge set up in the parking lot.

“We have the audacity to believe that it is not the will of God for approximately 105 people to die from guns each day in the U.S.,” the two men say. In their new book Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence (Brazos Press), which was released today, they build their case with a revealing overview of the history of guns and gun marketing in America, alarming statistics, and stories of devastated lives and restorative justice. They offer ideas for common sense change, addressing:

• Fear in America: Americans cling to their guns, ready to kill at the slightest sense of fear.

• Corporate accountability: The industry that manufactures guns enjoys total immunity when it comes to any responsibility for harm done.

• Millions of guns in America: An average of just under 9.5 million guns are manufactured per year here—25,912 guns per day. Although there’s almost one gun per person in the U.S., only 32 percent of households have guns.

• Forgotten victims: An estimated 73,000 people per year are shot and survive, many of them injured in life-altering ways.

• The changing NRA: Less than 5 percent of gun owners belong to the NRA. A recent survey found that 74 percent of NRA members support universal background checks on all gun sales, compared to 84 percent of guns owners in general and 90 percent of Americans.

• Gun control myths: The idea that any gun control measure will lead to all guns being taken is just one myth the authors debunk. “Banning semiautomatic weapons or high capacity magazines that allow guns to shoot one hundred rounds per minute does not lead to taking away hunting rifles or even a handgun purchased for self defense.”

In discussing the spiritual dimension of the problem, they point out that violence is not just about guns. As Christians who practice nonviolence, they believe “Christians cannot carry a cross in one hand and a weapon in the other.” Rather, they “plot for peace,” engaging in the practice of de-escalation of everyday interaction. De-escalation of the small things helps keep the big events from happening.” During the event, attendees will have an opportunity to write the hostilities of their hearts on pieces of paper and then burn them in the forge. Claiborne and Martin say, “Peace begins with the people of God, who refuse to kill and beat their weapons into farm tools. We will make violence extinct by refusing to kill.”

Shane Claiborne is a prominent speaker, activist, and best-selling author. He worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and went on to found The Simple Way in Philadelphia. He heads up Red Letter Christians, a movement of people who are committed to living “as if Jesus meant the things he said.” His books include Jesus for President, Executing Grace, Red Letter Revolution, and his classic The Irresistible Revolution. Shane speaks more than 100 times a year, nationally and internationally. His work has appeared in Esquire, SPIN, Christianity Today, and the Wall Street Journal, and he has been on everything from Fox News and Al Jazeera to CNN and NPR. He has also given academic lectures at Harvard, Princeton, Liberty, Duke, and Notre Dame.

Mike Martin is the founder and executive director of RAWtools, which partners with communities in an effort to repurpose weapons for creative and productive uses. A former Mennonite pastor, Mike learned to be a blacksmith in order to turn guns into garden tools and is passionate about connecting people to nonviolent skills like restorative justice and conflict mediation. He is trained for restorative justice facilitation and encourages everyone to explore how they can connect to similar efforts in their community. Mike is licensed for specialized ministry in Mountain States Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA. He blogs at

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Dianne Green