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As a Sunday school teacher at his local nondenominational church, Allen Johnson can teach lessons about the Beatitudes, Ten Commandments and other scriptural encounters with the Divine atop mountains. He enjoys living in a beautiful area of the upper Appalachians on the border of Virginia and West Virginia. But when he drives a few miles west into coal country, he mourns the destruction of the very mountains that have long meant both inspiration and life for residents there. He can’t look away and he’s not content to practice his faith only from a Sunday school classroom.
“Our focus, of course, as Christians is to honor God,” says Johnson, “But within that we have our feet on the ground, as it says, ‘They kingdom come, thy will be done,’ so we have a work to be done.” Johnson and others have organized concerned citizens and groups to form Christians For The Mountains. They advocate “that Christians and their churches recognize their God-given responsibility to live compatibly and sustainably upon this earth God has created.”
CFTM is particularly concerned about the destructive practice of mountaintop removal that has leveled approximately 500 mountains so far in pursuit of coal. It organizes college students to do health surveys that can help show patterns of disease and death in area residents. It supports air and water quality testing to monitor effects of mining on public health. Johnson says CFTM often networks with other groups concerned about mountaintop removal. CFTM also created the Mountain Mourning DVD collection that helps spread awareness.
Johnson and others believe there’s a correlation between modern mining practices and the very health of people and the place they call home. Via CFTM Christians are no longer able to look the other way, even in the name of jobs, leaving all the work to so-called environmental groups. Johnson says, “That is a moral issue, that the health and safety of people and the long-term viability of the community is a more important goal than the short-term profits from mountaintop removal.”
For more about resources available so your church or community group can learn about mountaintop removal, go here.
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