DETROIT -- A group of religious leaders came to the Motor City on Wednesday with a proposition for U.S. automakers: Start producing vehicles that are kinder to God's creation, and we will urge the faithful to buy them.
The delegation, which included representatives from a variety of Jewish and Christian organizations, met with executives and top officials at Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers.
Earlier, the group introduced a "What Would Jesus Drive?" television advertising campaign, sponsored by the Pennsylvania-based Evangelical Environmental Network.
The ad, to begin airing in limited markets next month, says too many vehicles are polluting, then asks: "So if we love our neighbor and we cherish God's creation, maybe we should ask, 'What would Jesus drive?"'
Representatives of GM and Ford said they looked forward to a dialogue with the Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign's leaders to explain advances and challenges in the effort to improve vehicle fuel efficiency.
The religious groups -- which include the Korean Presbyterians, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Mennonite Church -- are promoting hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles, as well as other fuel-saving technologies, framing their arguments in both moral and economic terms.
"If you in the American auto industry manufacture and market more clean cars, we in the American religious community will not only tell our people about it, but we'll have prepared them to embrace such a change," said David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington.
Campaign leaders said the effort is not aimed at any specific products, and no boycotts are planned.
GM said it has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to develop nonpolluting hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and hopes to have a significant number on the road by decade's end. Every major automaker is working on some sort of fuel-cell vehicle, but considerable challenges -- such as cost -- lay ahead.
Minivans, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks accounted for half the new vehicles sold in the United States last year. The average fuel economy for all 2003 model cars and passenger trucks dropped to 20.8 miles per gallon.
As many as 100,000 congregations and synagogues nationwide have been contacted about the cause, and more notifications by letter and e-mail are planned, said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the New York-based National Council of Churches of Christ USA.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.