Campaign supported by ABHMS grant calls for one million Christian gun owners to disarm

Calvin Lee, co-founder of [Gospel]

Calvin Lee, co-founder of [Gospel] and speaker at the 2024 Space for Grace & Spiritual Caregivers Conference.

VALLEY FORGE, PA (03/27/2024)—In 2023, Marisa Prince and Calvin Lee’s 3-year campaign LAY IT DOWN was awarded an American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHSM) grant that will help the pair encourage one million Christians to lay down their guns. That year the number of guns in America was estimated at 466 million, with 393 million owned by civilians. Race influences the likelihood of being shot and killed with a gun: Black Americans are 10 times more likely to die by gun homicide than white Americans. American women are 16 times more likely than women in other developed nations to be shot and killed. Firearms are the leading cause of death among American children and teens.

LAY IT DOWN’s focus on Christians is not coincidental; 38 percent of white evangelicals and 35 percent of white mainline Protestants owned a gun in 2022, as compared to 10 percent of Jews and Muslims. Recognizing the deadly impact of gun violence, faith leaders across the nation have organized protest rallies and vigils. Faith is a driver of gun safety activism for many, including Prince and Lee. “It’s time for thoughtful Christians to love their neighbors and do what Jesus would do,” they say. “It’s time to lay it all down.”

Marisa Prince, [Gospel]

Marisa Prince, co-founder of nonprofit [Gospel] and speaker at the 2024 Space for Grace & Spiritual Caregivers Conference.

Prince and Lee founded the nonprofit [Gospel] to create a wide range of content, including the LAY IT DOWN campaign directed at countering Christian gun narratives. LAY IT DOWN is an ambitious and complex project. Currently, researchers are crafting campaign messaging to effectively reach, and resonate with, key audiences. Summer 2024 will then see project staff traveling across the United States, visiting 20 cities and building the foundation for an action network. This surge of activity will culminate in an August 2024 concert and, later, an immersive theatrical production in multiple venues about the aftermath of a Christian school shooting. A clear campaign objective is engendering meaningful dialogue about the relationship between guns and faith, which Prince and Lee see as a springboard for the late-2024 launch of a podcast that focuses on people of faith with visions of self-transcendence.

The duo’s plans for 2025 are equally ambitious. They include organizing discussion groups around the project content, delivering more theater performances, and publishing a book (with a companion workbook) of reflections of “ordinary Christians” on guns following the 2023 mass shooting in Allen, Texas. Another concert and a rally are also in the offing. The year will conclude with a planned “Gun Surrender Month,” when gun owners will be encouraged to relinquish their weapons through buyback and other programs.

The idea is simple—use faith-derived strategies to solve seemingly intractable social problems. To achieve their goal, Prince and Lee propose to employ a paradigm of truthfulness, oneness and action. Prince reflected, “Until we really are willing to be truthful about who we are, where we’ve been, what our follies are, and how we benefit from [injustice], we can’t get to oneness because we can’t all be together until we’re honest about the things that we have allowed to keep us apart. This is ‘heart work’ that is necessary and the action necessary in the body of Christ.”

The Rev. Dr. Lauren Ng, ABHMS director of Leadership Empowerment, which sponsored the grant, says the organization “is proud to support [GOSPEL]’s LAY IT DOWN campaign.” Ng considers faith leaders to be uniquely positioned to address the catastrophic effects of gun violence in the U.S. and prays that the ABHMS grant “equips [Prince and Lee] to undertake this truly life-saving and transformative work of engaging Christian communities on this topic and compelling them to act.“

Prince and Lee are featured co-speakers at the Changemakers Luncheon, April 11, part of ABHMS’ signature national event, Space for Grace & Spiritual Caregivers Conference 2024; “Engaging Intergenerational Faith.” For information about participating virtually in the three-day gathering and to register, visit the Space for Grace website.