I have written a good number of articles over the last few years about the debate over mountaintop removal coal mining. I’ve given some positive coverage to protesters demonstrating against mountaintop removal.
This morning, however, I find that I can’t give that positive coverage. Yesterday morning, there was a protest that I cannot bring myself to sympathize with.
Before dawn, Roland Micklem and three other activists chained themselves to a guard gate, preventing people at the Massey Energy company from going to work at a regional office. “As far as I’m concerned it is destroying God’s creation, which I think is a sin,” Micklem said, explaining why he was taking part in the protest. He continued, “I am exercising a spiritual obligation as a steward of Creation. It was not God’s intent that these mountains be destroyed to enhance the wealth of a few individuals.”
How does Roland Micklem know whether it is the intent of God that the Appalachians be destroyed for the sake of mining coal? No one has yet even gathered any objective evidence that can confirm that God exists at all, much less any proof of what God’s political opinions about coal mining are. Roland Micklem may think that he knows the will of God, but what he claims as God’s intent is really his own.
That’s a dangerous confusion, one which was shared by the Islamic revolution in Iran, George W. Bush in the White House, and Scott Roeder as he strode forward with righteous anger to murder George Tiller. It’s the same confusion that led Jose Mar Flores Pereira to hijack an airplane over Mexico yesterday. Certainty about the will of God seems to lead toward a kind of extremism which disregards other people’s rights.
Micklem suggests that mountaintop coal mining is a bad idea because it is a sin, a defiance of the will of God. If we accept this kind of political reasoning, then we have to accept that any kook can come along, declare a special understanding of God’s will, and demand that the law be twisted in order to comply with that understanding. If Roland Micklem is allowed to have his way, what’s to stop Creationists from imposing their understanding of God’s will, and outlawing the teaching of evolution?
Public policy on coal mining is not a religious affair, and it must not be settled through a battle of faiths. I support people who protest mountaintop coal mining, but only when the motivation and the methods of their protest are based on reason and fact.