http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,839310,00.html ‘What would Jesus drive?’ gas-guzzling Americans are asked
Oliver Burkeman in New York Thursday November 14, 2002 The Guardian
The midwestern United States, equally devout in its worship of God as in its worship of gas-guzzling four-wheel-drive vehicles, is about to be asked to choose between the two.
“What Would Jesus Drive?” is the slogan dominating a television advertising campaign about to blanket cities in Iowa, Indiana and Missouri, along with the southern state of North Carolina.
The question presumably did not arise in first-century Galilee, but the Christian group behind the ads believes the answer would not include sports utility vehicles, the fuel-inefficient, environmentally unfriendly monsters that rule America’s roads.
“We have confessed Christ to be our saviour and Lord, and for us, that includes our transportation choices,” the Rev Jim Ball, of the Washington-based Evangelical Environmental Network, said.
“Most folks don’t think of transportation as a moral issue, but we’re called to care for kids and for the poor, and filling their lungs with pollution is the opposite of caring for them.”
The campaign’s slogan is inspired by What Would Jesus Do?, a phrase ubiquitous among young Christians in the US who sport it on bracelets, clothing and customised Bible covers.
“We take seriously the question What Would Jesus Do?”, Mr Ball said. “What Would Jesus Drive? is just a more specific version. What would he want me to do as a Christian? Would he want me to use public transportation?”
A coalition of religious groups, led by Christians and Jews, are due to launch a related campaign later this month in Detroit, America’s car capital, where they have called for a meeting with representatives from the big three manufacturers, Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.
Though all three companies have begun to launch hybrid cars powered partly by electricity, SUVs, vans and pickups still account for half the new vehicles sold in the US. TV ads abound declaring them “professional grade” and built “like a rock”.
Car companies say they are only responding to demand.
“If people would be demanding tailfins on cars, we’d be making tailfins on cars,” said Eron Shosteck, of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
At least one car maker is fighting on the same territory as Mr Ball: Chevrolet has been touring a series of nationwide evangelical rock concerts entitled Chevrolet Presents: Come Together and Worship, prompting condemnation from non-Christian groups.
“This may be a sign of the times,” Rabbi James Rudin, spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, said recently. “But it’s not a good sign.”