Jesus—a driving force?

What would Jesus drive?

It’s a question that almost begs for a wisecrack reply, but the query isn’t meant to be funny, and the moral issue it addresses couldn’t be more serious.

“What would Jesus drive?” is the theme of a series of new, anti-SUV television ads launched by the Evangelical Environmental Network of Wynnewood, Pa. The campaign is part of a groundswell of opposition to sport-utility vehicles, and it could succeed in turning the social consensus against the gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing road hogs. That’s important because, with Congress in the pocket of the auto industry, the best hope for getting these monsters off the road lies in convincing individual consumers that it’s simply not right to drive them.

Environmentalists long have opposed SUVs and with good reason: A loophole in federal clean-air standards allows these oversized hulks to churn out 75 percent more smog than cars do. During the 1990s, the increasing popularity of SUVs accounted for almost half of the increase in vehicle-related air pollution, and most scientists believe that contributed to global warming. Meanwhile, public-health advocates have watched the incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases increase, and many blame that on increased smog from SUVs. Also, the enormous weight of these behemoths—roughly twice that of a car—has meant an increase in fatal accidents because SUVs tend to crush any vehicle with which they collide.

As if the environmental damage and public-health problems weren’t reason enough to be concerned, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have brought the political implications to the forefront. SUVs have dragged fuel-efficacy standards to a 22-year low and have left the country more dependent than ever on oil from the Middle East. Currently, Americans pay $200,000 per minute for foreign oil, and some of that money finds its way to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. We also pay $20-$40 billion per year for our military to defend Middle Eastern oil reserves.

All of this has had surprisingly little impact on consumers, many of whom have gone ahead and bought their Excursions and Suburbans anyway, consequences be damned. But the “What would Jesus drive?” campaign may signal an important turning point, as Christian groups begin to weigh in on the ethical implications of driving an SUV. The campaigners’ position is simple: It’s morally wrong to drive a vehicle that contributes excessively to the destruction of the Earth’s resources, endangers others and undermines world peace.

We couldn’t agree more. The choices we make as consumers are moral and political choices, and opting for an SUV is one of the worst decisions a consumer can make. No matter what your religious beliefs may be, we hope you accept the idea that we all have responsibilities to others and to promoting a healthy, peaceful world. We hope you’ll consider your place in the big picture and reach the conclusion that driving an SUV just isn’t the right thing to do.