Sacred MountainsA Christian Ethical Approach to Mountaintop Removal

Sacred MountainsA Christian Ethical Approach to Mountaintop Removal

Andrew R. H. Thompson

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780813165998

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


Mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining, which has profound environmental and social impacts on the Appalachian Mountain region, represents an urgent ethical issue for Christians. The book proposes a Christian ethical approach to MTR that addresses the various intersecting discourses and narratives that shape an understanding of this region and this issue. It draws on the ethical thought of H. Richard Niebuhr, whose theocentric ethic integrates a relational theory of value, a view of moral agency as responsible, and a steadfast insistence on the centrality of God and God’s purposes. The proposed Niebuhrian theocentric approach examines and challenges the church’s imaginations in this regard and offers alternatives centered on the purposes of God rather than on finite human interests. In applying this approach to MTR, the author considers three specific discursive pairs in order to critique them and suggest how a theocentric imagination might modify them: power and powerlessness, insiders and outsiders, and destruction and reclamation. Finally, the author argues that this approach, informed by a practiced love of the mountains, can support a strong but nuanced prophetic critique of the most destructive aspects of this practice.