A guiding value for Christians is found in the saying of Jesus from Matthew 25:45, “when you did it to the least of these, you also did it to me”. This phrase is one of the most foundational for Christians, guiding our response to pain of the world we believe God wants to address. The “least of these” can be anyone who is made vulnerable by life’s circumstances, regardless of how those circumstances came about. This value is what stirs up most of my felt responses when I learn of the suffering of others. The cost of pollution is one of those issues that agitates my spirit because it literally makes people, our water, our soil sick. The cost is usually counted as collateral damage, the cost of “doing business”. But who pays the costs, in days lost to work, school and life as in pre-mature death? The cost is usually born by the most vulnerable.
Recently, I learned that 4-17 tons of coal dust is lost in transportation on every train carrying coal. Yes, EVERY train transporting coal spreads between 4-17 tons of coal dust depending on the amount being carried, wind conditions and more. Coal is transported via open car rail. I wondered, “Why can’t it be covered?” when the narrator said, “It can’t be covered because of the danger of combustion.” Right, it might blow up. That would be bad too.
I wondered where all that coal dust goes as trains traverse cities, neighborhoods, deserts, and the open plains. No one is required to protect the people, the plants and animals that are involuntary affected; there is no recourse for them. Who speaks for the least of these?
We are a Green Chalice congregation. That means we do all we can on our site to walk more gently on God’s good earth. It also means we develop our own capacity to speak for the least of these adversely impacted by the abuse of the environment that support all life. Sometimes, the least of these are even us.
People from different faith traditions collaborate to advocate for the least of these impacted by our own misuse of Creation. Georgia Interfaith Power and Light is one example. Our own Green Chalice ministry is another. Advocacy means speaking up and speaking out in public, about public policies that both help and hurt “the least of these”. The ministry of Jesus was and continues to take place in public and is especially an expression of Good News when we take that ministry out into the public.