[Surfside] What Would Jesus Drive?

Paul Makepeace bookmarks@paulm.com
Tue, 26 Nov 2002 14:20:05 +0000

US religious leaders in environmental awareness shocker! What's amazing
is the apparent breadth of support. Some great sound bites too.


[full article]

A Group Links Fuel Economy to Religion

DETROIT, Nov. 18 -- A broad coalition of religious groups is preparing a
grass-roots campaign linking fuel efficiency to morality, with some ads
going so far as to ask: "What Would Jesus Drive?"

Leaders of the effort are coming to Detroit on Wednesday to meet with
William Clay Ford Jr., the chairman and chief executive of the Ford
Motor Company. They will also meet with executives at General Motors.

"We are under a commandment to be faithful stewards of God's creation,"
said Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious
Partnership for the Environment, an umbrella organization of Christian
and Jewish groups. "This is a crisis in God's creation at the hands of
God's children."

Leaders of many groups within the partnership have signed a letter to
the Big Three's chief executives asking for improvements in fuel
economy. They say they have a biblical mandate to be good stewards of
God's creation and a responsibility to the poor who are especially
harmed by pollution. And they decry supporting "autocratic, corrupt and
violent" governments that produce oil.

"We write now to ask you in the automobile industry a more explicit
question," the letter said, "what specific pledges -- in volume, timing
and commitments to marketing -- will you make to produce automobiles,
S.U.V.'s and pickup trucks with substantially greater fuel economy?"

The letter was signed by an array of denominations, including American
leaders of the Serbian Orthodox and Swedenborgian churches; Frank T.
Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church; David A. Harris,
executive director of the American Jewish Committee; and the Rev. Mark
S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in

The letter says the groups will send study materials to 100,000
congregations of varying faiths and "train hundreds of clergy and lay
people as spokespeople for energy conservation and fuel economy." Mr.
Gorman said he hoped the meetings on Wednesday could begin a civil
dialogue with Detroit.

A spokesman for Ford, Jon Harmon, said: "We know that environmental
issues are important to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.
Our first thing is that we want to make sure they have an understanding
of the good things we have done," including Ford's pledge to improve the
fuel economy of its sport utility vehicles by 25 percent by 2005.

The campaign could create complications for G.M.'s Chevrolet brand,
which makes S.U.V.'s like the TrailBlazer and has been courting
religious conservatives by sponsoring a Christian concert series. Mr.
Gorman took a dim view of the relationship, saying "Chevrolet is
encouraging people to buy automobiles which are poisoning God's

One of the smaller groups in the religious partnership, the Evangelical
Environmental Network, is behind the "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign.
But much of its effort will be done pulpit-to-pulpit by disseminating
bumper stickers, pamphlets and magazines on the topic of Christianity
and fuel economy. An ad in Christianity Today magazine will show a
plaintive Jesus next to a clogged superhighway. TV spots will be shown
in four states -- Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and North Carolina -- but
distribution will be limited with an initial shoestring budget of

"When we look at the impact on human health, it's significant, and when
we look at global warming, the projected impacts are going to be hardest
on the poor," said the Rev. Jim Ball, the head of the evangelical group,
who drives a Toyota Prius hybrid. "How can I love my neighbor as myself
if I'm filling their lungs with pollution?"

Such views are not typical of religious conservative leaders. An article
on the home page of the Christian Coalition questioned the wisdom of Mr.
Ball's advertising campaign and echoed Detroit's claims that toughening
long-stagnant fuel economy rules would lead to safety risks with only
minimal environmental gains.

Some postings on Mr. Ball's Web site, http://www.whatwouldjesusdrive.org
were more pointed.

"Jesus would drive a Hummer" read one message, referring to G.M.'s
gas-guzzling S.U.V., while another said, "This is a Web site with a
liberal agenda and this has nothing to do with the Bible!"

Rabbi David Saperstein, the Washington representative of the Union of
American Hebrew Congregations, the central body of Reform Judaism, said,
"The letter raises the issue of urging the automobile companies to
engage with the ethics and human impact of what it is they are producing
and to think about the values beyond the profit line."

Not all members of the National Religious Partnership have signed onto
the effort. The Catholic Conference of Bishops, which last year drafted
a lengthy statement asking for more action on global warming, is not
taking an active role.

"We share some of the goals and welcome the dialogue," said John Carr,
the director of social development for the conference.

"We would be less likely to talk about what would Jesus drive," Mr. Carr
said, "and more likely to talk about how to advance the common good of
workers, consumers and the poor, who pay the greatest price for
environmental degradation."

Paul Makepeace ....................................... http://paulm.com/

"What is the first name of Ian Beale? A question."
   -- http://paulm.com/toys/surrealism/