The Simple Way is celebrating 20 years in 2018! We’re inviting some early members to share their reflections on where these 20 years have led them. This month’s thoughts are from Shane Claiborne.
One thing I’ve learned in the past twenty years with The Simple Way is that those of us who follow the Prince of Peace should be the greatest champions of life, and the greatest challengers of death and violence, that the world has ever seen.
To really be pro-life is to consistently challenge death and violence in all its ugly disguises. It may be that the USA is one of the only places where you can be pro-guns, pro-war, pro-death penalty — and still call yourself pro-life.
For us at The Simple Way, being FOR life means welcoming immigrants, opposing war, supporting black lives, abolishing the death penalty, and ending gun violence.
Over the years we’ve seen way more untimely death than we should. Some of it has come from drug addiction, lack of health care, or dying in the cold. But many of the lives we’ve lost were taken by guns. We can walk through our neighborhood and tell you the stories of folks killed on almost every corner and even on our steps. There is a homicide almost daily in Philly¦ 90 a day in the U.S.¦ and 33,000 a year in our country.
Each one of them is a child of God with a name and a story.
And eventually, we said ENOUGH.
Dr. King spoke this truth: “We’re called to be the good Samaritan, and lift our wounded neighbor out of the ditch, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch, you start to say, ‘We need to rethink the whole road to Jericho and do something about why people keep landing in the ditch to begin with.’
That’s one of the things The Simple Way is up to these days – getting in the way of death. As we continue the daily work in the neighborhood of sharing food with families who need it, helping kids with homework, fixing up houses, and planting gardens. We are also working to subvert death.
One of the concrete ways we’ve started doing that is by turning guns into garden tools. We’ve teamed up with our blacksmith friends and started taking some of the 300 million guns (that’s more guns than people in the US) that we have here in America and melting them down.
It wasn’t our idea; it was inspired by the prophets Micah and Isaiah who talked about God’s people beating their swords into plows and spears into pruning hooks.
Over and over, the most prominent leaders in the early Church embraced that vision as the vocation of the Church. They said that just as Jesus transformed the brutal cross of Rome into a conduit of God’s love, so we are to turn this world of death to into the world of life. Peace begins with us.
Hear what Justin, martyred in 165 AD, has to say: We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools & now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness, faith, and the expectation of the future given us through the crucified one.
On March 21 — we are going to do this again. We’ll be taking an assault rifle, like the one used in so many of the mass shootings, and we’ll be turning it into garden tools. (Find out more here: www.DemandTheBan.org)
As we move towards Easter, we remember how Jesus subverted death, over and over again â€“ from the moment he was born as a refugee in the middle of a genocide until he was executed as a criminal on a cross. May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, make us champions of life and the enemies of death and violence in all its ugly disguises.
Thank you for supporting this holy, life-giving, death-subverting work here at The Simple Way. May we continue to be the FOR life and anti-death people– the ones who beat swords into plows, who love people back to life, and who insist that nothing, and no one, is beyond redemption.