Repairing Harm Through Ritual

Repairing Harm Through Ritual April 6, 2018

RAWtools runs into a lot of creative folks in our work of turning swords into plowshares.  One of the most creative is Lead  to Life.  Led by Brontë Velez and Kyle Lemle, Lead to Life is described as a “people’s alchemy for regeneration.”  They take tools made from guns by various artists and metal smiths and use them in ceremonial tree plantings.  We sent them some tools for events they are hosting this week in partnership with the King Center in Atlanta commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death.  Pictured below is a trowel we made from a shotgun.

Read the caption if you haven’t.  Its so beautiful the lengths Brontë and Kyle take to recognize a history of violence and then fill their process with symbolic movements that help a community literally plant a new future.

When we talk about the need for legislation in the gun conversation, and then a state passes new laws that requires background checks and limits magazine capacity, we celebrate these small victories and work to the next.  But I feel we are hyper focused on legislation and not focused enough on dealing with the trauma caused by violence in our communities.  Legislation can prevent future trauma to an extent, but it will take a fundamental shift in how we do community when our neighborhoods experience trauma.

What are we doing to help veterans returning from war environments to re-integrate them into the neighborhood?  Folks returning from prison?  From homelessness?  To help tell them what they experienced is not a normal experience and that it should not be their experience from there on out?  We need creative rituals like Lead to Life offers.  We need practices and habits that help folks feel a part of a community.  Sometimes this is going to church, a twelve step group, or to a community garden.

But these will only work if folks emerging from trauma also see their community actively helping other trauma survivors.  We know when voting day is.  But do we know how to rest with trauma like the Nap Ministry that Lead to Life used this week?  Lets be more intentional between voting cycles about dealing with the trauma in our country, that was born out of violence, and continues to pass it to the next generation.  its time to plow some new furrows.

There is no better example to follow in our context than that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  When he talks about the three evils of society being racism, militarism, and greed, he’s speaking about a system that needs fundamental change.  While legislation is no doubt a part of this, so is the by laws of churches, the makeup of our leadership boards, and the commitment to flat out refuse violence as a means of conflict resolution.  We must include ritual to bring meaning to the changes we are making or else we’ll forget why we made them.

Jesus made a change by dying on the cross and rising again after 3 days.  He commemorated it with a ritual that has lasted thousands of years.  Breaking bread with trauma survivors would be a good start.  So would planting a tree and digging in the garden a bit more.


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