It was late Saturday night, or Pentecost-Eve (May 14) as I like to call it. All week I had been on the lookout for a modern-day Pentecost story—evidence that, as Molly T. Marshall writes, the Spirit of God is at work “reversing twisted forms of love that consume the good…laboring toward the liberation of all oppressed.” It was getting late, and my sermon felt a little lifeless, so I kept reading and writing. That’s when I saw an article posted on HuffingtonPost by Shane Claiborne titled “Beating Guns in Memory of Trayvon Martin,” and I immediately felt the Whoosh.
“We,” Claiborne writes, “are going to take a 9mm pistol identical to Zimmerman’s, beat it into a plow, auction it off, and donate the money to Trayvon Martin’s family foundation.”
The “we” in this case referred to RAWtools, Inc., an organization I had not heard about until the evening of May 14. So imagine my surprise when, while scrolling through the RAWtools website for the first time, a new message appeared in my Rainbow email inbox with the subject line RAWtools Meeting: Time Sensitive
The timing was so weird; I almost didn’t open it. I’m glad I did, because it was a personal note from RAWtools Director Michael Martin:
Hi Pastor Harder, I have an urgent request. You may be familiar with George Zimmerman auctioning the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin. Shane Claiborne and us at RAWtools are creating a response by getting a surrogate gun and auctioning a tool we make from it in support of Trayvon Martin Foundation.
We have a gun donor that is able to meet us on our way to another event and we need a public space to meet him. In the past we have used parking lots at churches to plug in a saw to cut the guns to disable them. We need to do this to comply with federal guidelines. Would you, or someone at Rainbow Mennonite, be willing to meet us at the church to do this? It should take about 20 minutes. If you are unable, might you be able to refer us to another church/place which would support our cause?
Thanks for your time and peace be with you.
Michael also asked that we not announce this to the whole congregation because at that point, the gun donor wanted to remain anonymous.
I knew this wasn’t a decision a pastor should make alone, so a group of Rainbow church leaders met after worship to consider this request. After some follow-up phone conversations with Michael, we decided to go forward with this plan, taking all the safety precautions we knew to take.
It was a rainy Monday evening when Michael and his traveling mate Mary Sprunger-Froese arrived, along with the gun donor. We met in the church shed and stood in amazement as these two 9 mm pistols were disabled. It felt like we were standing on holy ground as we watched the sparks fly. Truly a Pentecost moment in my book.
You can watch the video I took here:
Michael and Mary came back to Rainbow a week later to show us what they made out of these pistols. Take a look for yourself.
Michael said that while making this particular gardening tool, someone walked away from the booth in disgust saying, “They are killing our guns!” This is such a sad commentary on what guns have become to so many people in this country.
As Michael and Mary were preparing to leave, one of our Rainbow congregants said that he was proud of the fact that Rainbow Mennonite was seen as a potential partner in this kind of peacemaking work. I couldn’t agree more.
My own thank you to Michael read as follows:
We as Mennonites seek to be faithful to our calling to teach and model the ethic of non-violence, believing this to be the stance Jesus and prophets before him taught. While it is difficult today to know how to fulfill Isaiah’s call to “beat swords into plowshares,” we applaud those who are creatively and bravely seeking to transform hatred and violence into a better purpose. We thank Shane Claiborne and RAWtools for providing us an opportunity to be partners in this work.
The Mennonite covered part of this story here.
Also, you can learn more about the auction and how to give to the Trayvon Martin Foundation here: Sow Your Ground