My wife and I recently completed an 11-city, eight-state “What Would Jesus Drive?” tour of the Bible Belt that began at the First Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, and ended at Riverside Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
I spoke at a wide variety of events, including worship services, adult education classes, church suppers, a clergy breakfast and a vacation Bible school. I also spoke on numerous Christian radio programs. We concluded the traveling portion of the tour by having a booth at the Creation Festival, the largest Christian music festival in the world with over 50,000 in attendance.
Here is what an editorial by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said about our campaign:
“The presentation wasn’t what we expected, and we’d bet we weren’t alone. We expected a fire-and-ozone sermon blasting the automobile as Satan’s tool. What we got was a polite conversation, led by a very un-slick Reverend Ball. The message was simple: Humans should do what we can to conserve what we can, and protect the environment–sorry, Creation.
Who could argue with that?
“The good Reverend didn’t even take shots at the SUV, which is high on most environmental hit-lists. He says get an SUV if you need it. But if you don’t, why not test-drive a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon, like some of the newer hybrid cars? If the faithful create a market, Detroit will build them. And the more of those babies coming off the assembly line, the cheaper they’ll become. Faith, meet basic economics. The Reverend’s right.
“The Reverend Ball then went on to speak of Jesus as the Great Physician, who wants all of mankind to be healthy. And how higher-efficiency automobiles would make America less reliant on oil from other countries.
“It was all low-key, sensible, and well, kind of disappointing for a reprobate inky wretch just looking for a bit of controversy to spice up a weekday edition. What it was, we realized, was good copy–with a whole new emphasis on the good part.”
If all of our tour experiences taught us anything it is this: the message of the WWJDrive campaign is sound.
Once we reviewed how the Bible proclaims Jesus Christ to be Creator, Savior, Sustainer and Reconciler of all things, of how his Lordship includes our transportation choices, of how Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, and how pollution is contrary to all of these things, people came to a fuller realization of the basis for our campaign.
Once we explained that our driving is having harmful consequences–human health impacts, global warming’s threat to the poor and our oil dependence–people understood more fully how reducing our pollution and getting better gas mileage are part of loving our neighbor and protecting creation.
Kara and I also met with mayors, state representatives and city council members to share our message and urge them to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles for their fleets. One of the interesting things I learned is that many such officials had never considered how religious values could be related to fleet purchases.
The traveling part of the tour was a great experience. (Our Web site has photos and my journal http://www.whatwouldjesusdrive.org/tour/). We are just now beginning the final act of the tour, meetings with administration officials and congressional offices to share our message and what we heard. I ask for your prayers.
Jim Ball is Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change at the Evangelical Environmental Network and author of the award-winning book, “Global Warming and the Risen LORD: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change.”