Last month, the Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign rode into town and started one of the silliest debates since medieval scholars argued over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
The Detroit visit with executives at General Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers union touched off a new advertising campaign titled “What Would Jesus Drive?” aimed at forcing auto companies to make more fuel-efficient vehicles and shaming self-indulgent Baby Boomers out of their gas-guzzling SUVs.
The caravan of religious leaders beseeching Motown to improve fuel economy was a great story for the media and generated discussions around water coolers across the country.
Considering his vocation as a carpenter and his devotion to helping mankind, I picture Jesus driving a 4-wheel drive, fullsize pickup. The 4WD option would better enable him to help folks in need during winter and in more remote areas. Besides, he'd need room for a full sheet of plywood.
However, if Jesus needed to haul around 12 apostles, he probably would be forced into a fullsize 15-passenger van. They're hard on gas, but it would still be less expensive and better for the environment to all go to supper in that than to drive in separate cars.
But ownership of these vehicles would make Jesus “immoral,” according to the logic of these activists. In their totalitarian, one-dimensional view, the relative “morality” of a vehicle is tied directly to its fuel efficiency, which in turn reflects directly on the moral character of its owner.
Hence, you are “moral” if you buy a small, frugal vehicle, and you are “immoral” if you drive something more extravagant. Perhaps the ICEC is even preparing scarlet letter “Gs” for sinners who drive gas-guzzlers.
But in this scenario, who would have the moral high ground: someone who owns a fuel-efficient car that gets 40 mpg (5.9L/100 km) and commutes 60 miles (96 km) each way to work, or a person who drives a less-efficient SUV only six miles (10 km)?
Such philosophizing would be good fun if it weren't indicative of the darker, self-important stance that some factions of the environmental movement are taking today.
As the world focuses its attention on problems more pressing than recycling and global warming, these environmentalists appear to be getting desperate for attention: They are getting shriller, more violent and more ridiculous by the minute.
The U.S. needs to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels, but launching campaigns like “What Would Jesus Drive?” is a big step backward. It's getting attention, but it will make it even harder for serious environmentalists to be heard in the future.