INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Thursday, November 21, 2002

SUVs and Morality

Interesting article in the New York Times about a growing movement among organized religious groups to spread awareness about the environmental menace of gas-guzzling SUV’s.

“We are under a commandment to be faithful stewards of God's creation," said Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, an umbrella organization of Christian and Jewish groups. "This is a crisis in God's creation at the hands of God's children."

Apparently these groups are planning to send study materials to 100,000 congregations of varying faiths and train hundreds of clergy and lay people as spokespeople for energy conservation and fuel economy.

This is a most welcome development! However, the strategy of these groups seems to be directed solely against the auto manufacturers. They need to be pressuring the politicians. Ultimately, legislative changes will be necessary to force the manufacturers and the driving public to give up their addiction to SUVs. Of course, attitudes have to be changed first, and religious groups are in an ideal position to wield this kind of influence.

I wonder, however, is there a bit of hypocrisy here? If we’re going to denounce the ultra-right wing influence which religion has wielded in the area of social policy, does it then become inconsistent to lend encouragement to these religious forces when their stance is to our liking? I think not. You take your allies where you find them. Back when we were protesting the Vietnam War, we sure appreciated the help we got from many religious groups.

I think it’s exciting to see stewardship of the environment cast as a moral imperative by the people whose business is morality. It’s exciting to contemplate pressure being brought to bear in this way. I just hope they apply it more effectively than simply writing letters to auto executives. The execs will go where the money is, period.

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