Bending Swords into Plowshares – Securing Enough for All
One of the most famous statues outside the United Nations in New York is the sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich, “Let Us Beat Swords into Ploughshares.” This gift from the Soviet Union in 1959 depicts the biblical image from the prophet Micah, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Micah 4:3). This image of a sword being bent into a plowshare has been a powerful symbol for disarmament and peace movements around the world.
Too often, we focus primarily on the bending of the sword, the call to shift away from militaristic solutions, without really hearing Micah’s dual call to take up the plowshare and pruning hooks and cultivate a better world. The following verse, verse 4, depicts a future in which all sit “under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.” (Micah 4:4) This is the vision not only of true security, but also of abundance. It is a vision of God’s Shalom in which all have what they need to thrive.
Vuchetich’s statue outside the UN also makes another important point. While the male statue may not resonate with many as a depiction of the work of justice, this muscled, strained image points to the fact that the work of justice, the bending and forging of swords into plowshares, requires preparation, persistence, and skill. How can we as advocates hone these tools for doing justice? Through practice; and our UCC office in Washington D.C. has a variety of ways to be involved!
One important opportunity is the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice conference, sponsored by the United Church of Christ and our Global Ministries office. For over twenty years, faith advocates have gathered in person and virtually to lift up a faithful voice in our nation’s capital. This year the event will be held virtually April 25-27, and will include three days of issues education, skill-building workshops, ecumenical worship, and a lobby day. Attendees will meet with Congressional offices and call on them to make just policy change on several pieces of federal legislation, this year focused around our theme “Swords into Plowshares: Achieving Enough for All and Pursuing Peace.”
The “ask” that advocates will bring to Capitol Hill will be twofold: First, a call to Congress cut Pentagon spending by as much as $100 billion, an amount identified by a 2021 Congressional Budget Office Report that could be cut without impacting national security. We will be asking key house members to support H.R.1134, the “People Over Pentagon Act”, being supported by a campaign by the same name, and for Senators to speak out in support of these principles. This is the part of the “ask” to bend our nation’s “sword” by lowering our outsized and unnecessary investment in military spending, set for at least $886 billion in 2024, that has led to skyrocketing global military spending which toped $2 trillion for the first time in 2021.
The “ask” also has a second critical component. It is the call to put our hands to the “plowshare” and build the future we seek. As in the Micah passage, we are called to be the ones to plant the vines and fig trees that our children, and their children, will one day sit under. At a time when 2.3 billion people in the world (29.3%) were food insecure last year, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, and life itself remains threatened by climate change, this is an urgent call to action. How can we make such macro changes? Every five years, we are given the chance to shape a wide swath of public policy through the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill, or Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, expires in 2023 and must be renewed. It sets policy on a range of issues including nutrition, commodities, energy, rural development, and others. The “nutrition title”, one of twelve areas of focus, will be one of the issues that EAD advocates will lift up given that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is an essential source of security for low-income families.
In order to create the future we seek, we must work to build Micah’s vision of peace and abundance and securing enough for all God’s children. The UCC’s Washington D.C. office invites you to join with us at this year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days as we seek advocate for more of our nation’s swords to be bent into plowshares, and ultimately ensure all God’s children have what they need to thrive.
Rev. Michael Neuroth is the Acting Director of the United Church of Christ Washington D.C. Office