From Tubal-Cain to Jesus Christ: Changing our Moral Imagination

From Tubal-Cain to Jesus Christ: Changing our Moral Imagination September 29, 2014

The recent movie Noah (2014) pits Tubal-Cain as the antagonist, organizing an army to take the Ark. Genesis 4:22 states he was “the forger of all implements of bronze and iron.” Josephus regarded Tubal-Cain as, “[exceeding] all men in strength, and was [an] expert and famous in martial performances, … and first of all invented the art of working brass.”

What would it look like if we used the skills of Tubal-Cain, a metal smith, and fashioned them with the moral imagination of the Christ? Instead of making implements of war we make implements of agriculture. Instead of swords we make plowshares and echo the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Micah and train for war no more. But what are practical steps to make this happen? How do we build on the artistic expression of similar examples like Esther Augsberger and her plowshare installation formerly at the WashingtonD.C. police headquarters?  Much like the spirit of Isaiah and Micah, Esther and other artists are urging us to DO SOMETHING about gun violence. RAWtools is not waiting for the next mass shooting or stray bullet from a gang initiation to answer this call.

After we started RAWtools, several gun laws were passed here in Colorado. These laws dealt primarily with background checks and magazine capacities. While a step in the right direction, the church has a call to do more than stand behind and cheer on the State. Churches and community organizations can work to be places where guns are disabled and traded for nonviolent educational resources. This is the ground RAWtools is preparing to cultivate and will organize a national network to do so.

Police departments are already scrapping confiscated weapons. Why not recycle this deficit into a surplus and tangible benefit for our communities? What if weapons of war instead supported Restorative Justice Mediator training? What if we could provide temporary work for the homeless? What if we tracked the tools made from each gun and tallied the pounds of food we grew, the flowers we spread, and forged peaceful narratives across our communities? This is possible. It has already begun. Here are the words of a gardener for whom one of our tools graced his garden this past summer;

“The RAWtools hand-pick I have been using to work my garden plot was once [as a gun] an instrument of death. Now, it has been transformed into an instrument of community relationship, spiritual growth, and patience. In my hands, the tool helps reconcile garden problems rather than exacerbate sinful problems. Sharing my experience with RAWtools and gardening with friends and family has opened up meaningful dialogue. Sharing strawberries from my plot with my apartment community has strengthened ties. Carrots from my plot went into the salad of a man suffering stage 4 cancer. In the words of a neighbor: ‘This strawberry of peace might be the best thing I’ve ever tasted!’ There is leadership in restraint and there is food in my garden. This is a reality the gun never offered.

In a blacksmith glossary you will find words like Wainwright, Wheelwright, and Cartwright. A Wright is defined as a worker or maker, one who works with metal and wood. It is time we become Peacewrights. From artistic expression to practical application, it is time for a cultural shift in our moral imaginations. It is time to reinvent the Tubal-Cain that dominates our culture and our senses.

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