This is a guest post from Rev. Allen Johnson, whom we interviewed last year as part of our God & the Environment series. Johnson heads Christians for the Mountains, a group fighting to protect the Appalachians from mountaintop-removal mining. This post is reprinted with permission from the Moyers Blog.


On August 22, The New York Times published an article that began, “The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday [August 24] that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal.”

Enshrine? An oddly appropriate word, I thought — a biblical word, even. A place where dwell the gods; in this case, the gods of money, comfort, and power.

For over two years I have been involved with a network organization, Christians for the Mountains, to engage Christians and their churches to take on the moral question of mountaintop removal. The massive scale of beheading coal-bearing mountains, obliterating headwater streams, and building multi-billion-gallon toxic slurry impoundments begs biblical and theological activity.

It is now clear that the coal industry, and its regulatory and political sidekicks, cares only about the dollar. An honest debate on the ethics and morality of mountaintop removal has not occurred. Like wolves salivating their chops over a herd of lambs, the coal industry and its lapdogs in government now look upon coal-to-liquid technology as a new source of meat to feast their jaws upon. “Coal will bring prosperity to the state,” they trumpet. Yet after more than a century of economic and political domination by the coal industry, West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, especially in the southern coalfields. So much for prosperity.

OK, churches, let’s have it. Is it “right by God” to permanently destroy the mountains, valleys, forests, streams, rich diversity of animals and plants, and local culture to provide a few jobs, a tidy corporate profit, and a cheap electricity bill? For a couple of generations, at most? Through exploiting an economically desperate, vulnerable, defenseless population?

We think not. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” is from the 24th Psalm that launched Christians for the Mountains two years ago at a gathering in Charleston, West Virginia. Simply put, this answered a decisive question for us: “Is nature our property to do with as we like, or do we as humans have responsibility that corresponds to our privilege of living and gaining our sustenance within God’s creation?”

The majority of U.S. citizens identify with Christian faith. Christians have influence. Are you listening? Do you care? We implore your biblical, theological, and ethical thoughts — and consequent faithful action.

And we’d like to hear from non-Christians, too. Do you think we Christians are measuring up to our standards?