By on April 19, 2010

When GM was lobbying for a federal bailout back in the Fall and Winter of 2008-09, desperate times called for desperate measures. Unable to explain why 30+ years of decline didn’t open The General’s corporate eyes to the need for change back when it could still afford it, pro-bailout agitators reached for the most divisive, debate-squelching justifications for a billion-dollar handout they could find. Whether that meant accusing opposition of weakening national security, ingratitude towards the outcome of WWII, racism, classism or even more racism, GM’s pro-bailout campaign left no wedge issue or leverageable political identity untouched. And man, are old habits hard to kick. The Detroit News reports that:

General Motors Co. is making a pulpit pit stop today as part of its accelerating quest to change perceptions among buyers, boost market share and reach new customers — particularly minorities.

Yes, Chairman/CEO may be banishing corporate arrogance from the GM boardroom, but clearly the marketing department is still in a bailout-era, all-options-on-the-table mindset. Otherwise, why else would the company consider a church to be an appropriate place to hock the latest Chevys, Cadillacs and Buicks? Oh right, this is Detroit we’re talking about. Hartford Memorial Baptist Church pastor Charles Adams explains:

This is a wonderful opportunity to do something really special for Hartford church members — something that has never been done at a church in Detroit. Minority suppliers help to provide jobs and financial security for thousands of people in metropolitan Detroit.

Because bailing GM out was good for minorities, it now falls on these same minorities to pay it forward by buying a new Buick. At church.

Of course, some analysts are wondering if this is such a good idea. Autoconomy’s Erich Merkle notes that:

Folks see church as a place to worship — it’s not a car show. Some may say, ‘Bring it on in’ because they have a vested interest in the auto industry because they’re dealers or suppliers. But others may look at it as being not the right venue… [besides,] the exposure for GM is going to be relatively small, I would think, so it’s not going to have the multiplier effect you might get from other marketing activities.

But hey, GM has already crossed a once-inviolable line by taking on government stakeholders… why not muddle the line between business and religion as well? What could possibly go wrong?

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48 Comments on “Jesus Says: Buy General Motors...”


  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Who says patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    “Folks see church as a place to worship…” – Erich Merkle

    There are so many charlatans, con artists and predators running churches already, what’s one more scam in the larger scheme of things? This one is arguably less harmful than some.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I gave this some further thought and would like to amend my remarks…

      There are so many charlatans, con artists and predators running churches already, what’s a little extra commercialization in the larger scheme of things? This is much less harmful than some things already going on in churches.

      Now, is this an effective use of GM’s time and money? That, I couldn’t say.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    I’d hate to be standing around when the lightning starts striking the good, honest sales guys or when they spontaneously burst into flames.

    I thought churches were for bingo?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    As a churchgoer, this offends me (Luke 19:46).

    Will the church also open itself up to other business sales opportunities, such as various investment products, lending institutions, pizza vendors, etc., who wish to make a buck?

    Best quote: “We know some people have never been in GM products before, particularly for a division like Buick/GMC,” she said. “We know one way to help people fall in love with our products is to get them into our products, get them exposed to it.”

    Wrong. Nearly everybody has been inside a GM product, which is one reason (among many) that they buy a Hyundai instead.

    On the other hand, the church parking lot may already be filled with GM products. In that case, all GM is really selling is increased indebtedness to these churchgoers.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    I’m somewhere between agnostic and atheist and couldn’t give a flying fig about religion, but isn’t the Bible pretty clear on commercialisation in holy places?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleansing_of_the_Temple

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Makes me wonder if this “pastor” has ever read the Bible. Beyond his questionable ethics, why would GM think this was a good idea? Are they going to be visiting the jews, muslims, seikhs, etc. in their places of worship as well? Not that I was planning on buying a new GM product, but this sure doesn’t change my opinion and has the exact opposite effect of getting me to test drive one.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    At least they are using OOTB thinking to market vehicles.
    Are churches really that different from other social networking groups that gather together.

  • avatar

    I guess it’s really true–GM does stand for “God’s Motors”.

    John

  • avatar
    Christy Garwood

    EN said “Because bailing GM out was good for minorities, it now falls on these same minorities to pay it forward by buying a new Buick. At church.”

    IMO, as I read the flyer, it said it was a RIDE and DRIVE event, no buying involved. Just a chance to drive new Cadillac – Buick – GMC – and Chevy vehicles. What people do after that is their prerogative.

    BTW, as a GM employee, I can say that these ride/drive events are not just for “minorities”. If you are interested in having one in your area, please let me know.

    Best regards.

  • avatar
    love2drive

    I wonder if the church’s tax standing could be affected by allowing solicitation of a commercial product like that…

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I wondered that, too. As a non-attorney, I wonder whether it makes a difference if the event occurs in the parking lot rather than pushing a product from the pulpit.

    • 0 avatar
      Zasdoogy

      I volunteered as a youth for a non-profit organization and we were handed an IRS ruling and IRC for non-profits which basically stated that they were barred from doing any commercialized selling of ANY product or services with a set dollar amount, and if we did, we would lose our tax-exempt status and be taxed on any moneys brought in.

      Now, this was in the 1980’s, and I’m sure the tax law hasn’t changed much for exempt status of non-profit/exempt organizations since then. If they have, I wouldn’t know about it since it’s been 25+ years.

      If the tax law hasn’t changed in that time, then the Church promoting a for-profit organization may lose it’s exempt status by the IRS and from my understanding, once you lose that, it’s very hard to get back.

      I’m not a tax attorney, nor do I pretend to be one on TV, so don’t quoteth me directly on this. I’m just saying from what I remembered as to how non-profit/exempt organizations were treated back then.

      Either way, it’s fairly disgusting to say “minorities” should be responsible for “helping out” GM from their own failures. Wasn’t it the “majority” that brought down the company to begin with? *cough*UAW*cough* Why aren’t they the ones being asked to “help”? And when did “minority” businesses ever help GM? I don’t see AC/Delco being run by a bunch of non-whites…

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Hmmmmmmmm. During the time I spent in Detroit (1999-2002) most of the mega church Christian pastors I saw were driving Mercedes and Lexus. Including one who had a gigantic house of worship on 7 mile and dared to put “PASTOR” on his personalized plate. Should at least let the local kids know it’s a good living.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    I am an athiest, and I think this is despicable! Out of all the places to try to sell crap to people, why the hell a church?

    I am expecting the uptight crazy christian fundamentalists to start a massive (and well deserved) boycott of GM.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If anyone thinks marketing doesn’t happen at a house of worship, he’s just not paying attention. How many business cards are distributed by people selling real estate, insurance, or the like? How many business contacts happen after services?

    Lighten up, guys…besides, if anything could make you really feel the hand of God, it’s a ride in a CTS-V.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      And the Aveo can serve as a stark reminder to church members that we live in a fallen world…

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Certainly many business contacts are made within the church, but that is at a personal, relational level. The difference here is that the corporate church is enabling, inviting, and promoting another corporation to display its products on their premises.

      Individual businessmen do not speak for the corporate church if and when they should offer their services to me there.

      This Detroit church also appears to be rather selective. Will they also invite Ford and Chrysler to make the same presentation? How about inviting all the US automakers?

  • avatar
    Rusted Source

    This is a misguided attempt at doing something good.

    I’m assuming many Detroit church have a heart to help out people affected by the economic downturn. That could be by running soup kitchens for people displaced from their jobs, or organizing clothing drives, food programs, etc.

    Perhaps this particular church feels that in promoting one of the D3 brands if someone bought a car (perhaps something some of their congregation were planning to do anyway) they would be helping to stimulate their city back to firm ground.

    Of course that’s just rubbish. They should really be mindful of the messaging this gives off.

    Christians (as myself) need to be willing to do the work that others may not, in actually identifying and going to help those who need help. They need to give out of what they have, instead of giving with an expectation of something in return like a great deal on a new Cadillac.

    It’s always easier to write a cheque and say “I’ve done my part,” than to offer our own time and resources.

  • avatar
    JimC

    Maybe we’re looking at this wrong:

    “Your penance is to buy a GM and drive it for 10,000 miles.” That might convince me to stay on the straight and narrow (pun intended).

    Would owning an X-car be like purgatory? That would mean the Vega would be hel… wait, this is supposed to be family-oriented :)

  • avatar
    cykickspy

    Jay Leno says buy American vehicles… that’s good enough for me!

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/jay-leno/vintage/jay_leno_american_cars_poised_for_comeback

  • avatar

    The idea for this was Pastor Adams’, not General Motors. When this event was first announced in local Detroit media, Pastor Adams made it clear that he approached GM and not the other way around.

    I think I understand the motivations of those who criticize this, but I fail to see what’s the harm in a church inviting a locally based business to show members its wares. It’s pretty common for synagogue sisterhoods or men’s clubs to sponsor gift bazaars or other vendor events in connection with Jewish holidays.

    Next month, a large church in Redford, MI is having their annual Blessing of the Bikes for the local motorcycling community. The church makes vendor space available, free of charge, to all sorts of vendors. I plan on being one of those vendors.

    The notion that religious institutions must somehow keep commerce at an arm’s length is arbitrary. In particular, when discussing Detroit’s pastors, the notion is silly. The Ellis family has controlled the Greater Grace Baptist church for 40 years and the church owns all sorts of real estate and rental properties in northwest Detroit. Greater Grace is not the only church that deals in real estate and other commerce. As has been pointed out, many of the pastors live very well. The original Bishop Ellis drove a 450 SEL Mercedes Benz 35 years ago. Greater Grace bought the building of the synagogue where I grew up. Eventually they bought the real estate for my father’s adjacent veterinary clinic, so my dad and the bishop were friendly neighbors who transacted business with each other. My dad held Bishop Ellis in high regard, said he was honest, but there was no doubt that he treated the church like his family business.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I think I understand the motivations of those who criticize this, but I fail to see what’s the harm in a church inviting a locally based business to show members its wares

      Jesus Christ opened a (documented) can of theological and/or literal whoop-ass on _______. Choose all the apply:
      a) Homosexuality
      b) Communism
      c) Violence against others
      d) Commerce in a place of worship
      e) Macramé
      f) Clergy getting their (matrimonial) bone on

      The answer is (c) and (d). As a Christian, it really bothers me when other Christians act or assume it’s (a) or (b) or (f). Those four gospels are important, and not just because of who they’re a record of**: they’re like constitutional amendments; they supersede the stuff that comes before them and aren’t subject to the Holy Commentary*** and Holy Drug Hallucination that comes after them and you’re not supposed to forget, creatively misinterpret or outright ignore them.

      Now I know that the clergy—any clergy—have been kind of lax on this, ever since they noted they were short on tithes because parishioners kept getting fed to the lions in the Coliseum, but it’s really something a pastor should be aware of.

      ** hint: his name rhymes with Feist.
      *** because that’s what Paul’s stuff is, really

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      @Psarhjinian,

      (f) was a response to the Ascetics, who were gaining converts. At least that was the subtext of the Council of Elvira ~300 AD, when the first shot at the “no nookie” clause was enacted.

      However, the Vatican remained pretty much the ultimate frat house, especially during the Middle Ages – indulgences funded hundreds of years of killer parties and swingin’ orgies.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      However, the Vatican remained pretty much the ultimate frat house, especially during the Middle Ages – indulgences funded hundreds of years of killer parties and swingin’ orgies.

      I always got a kick out of Alexander VI, or as my Renaissance history TA referred to him, “Pope Corleone”.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Alex VI was definitely one of the more memorable ones.

      Leo X was another good one- naked boys jumping out of the pudding at dinner parties.

      I got my intro into Vatican history in HS religion class. We had several priesthood ‘dropouts’ as religion teachers, so we got to hear a bit more of the real history of the church. (Funny in a Catholic school, no?)

      Bowdern (one of the participants in the exorcism that inspired the movie) was also there. If you approached him from a completely intellectual perspective, he would talk about it. Fascinating stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      psharjinian: The answer is (c) and (d). As a Christian, it really bothers me when other Christians act or assume it’s (a) or (b) or (f). Those four gospels are important, and not just because of who they’re a record of**: they’re like constitutional amendments; they supersede the stuff that comes before them and aren’t subject to the Holy Commentary*** and Holy Drug Hallucination that comes after them and you’re not supposed to forget, creatively misinterpret or outright ignore them.

      Completely wrong. The New Testament does NOT supersede the Old Testament. It represents the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

      The reason Jesus didn’t speak out against homosexuality, for example, is because it wasn’t a common, sanctioned activity in Israel at that time. If you engaged in it, you risked being stoned by religious leaders – as was required in Mosaic Law.

      That doesn’t mean he approved of it. He also didn’t speak out against other actvities that are banned in the Old Testament – idol worship for example – because the Jews in ancient Isreal weren’t engaging in those activities, either.

      The Romans did do those things, but Jesus specifically said that he was sent to minister to the Jews, not the Gentiles. He commissioned Peter and Paul for that task. Note that the epistles of those two men, which were often sent to either Gentiles, or Jews living in largely Gentile areas, DO condemn those activitites.

      Jesus specifically said he came to fulfill Mosaic Law, not overturn it. That meant dispensing with the ceremonial aspects of it, not the moral aspects of it.

  • avatar
    schwerglas

    Boy ,I like it when the B+B take a turn (left ?) into a different neighborhood …

  • avatar

    The mingling of religion with capitalism is age-old, to be sure, but subtlety and restraint has certainly been thrown out the window in recent years, huh? My favorite example is the megachurch in Houston outfitted with a McDonald’s drive-through, sales tax on purchases waived because the proceeds of sales benefit a non-profit… the very church itself!

    I kinda doubt that J.C. would have approved of any of this. That said, and with all other ecclesiastic/religious/dogmatic considerations aside, the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church (or any other religious org) can market Buicks, endorse political candidates or hawk Big Macs to their heart’s content as far as I’m concerned, as long as they permanently renounce their federal tax-exempt status… otherwise, I think we have a problem.

    To paraphrase the immortal tune by the band Ministry, Jesus may have built your hotrod, but he wouldn’t try to sell you one.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Subtlety and restraint haven’t been there in a very long time, but I think it’s a realization that the relatively-Puritan United States is coming to grips with only relatively recently.

      Europe’s a little further along this curve, and I’d fully expect similar “where’s the beef?” moments from other parts of the world when their clergies’ hands are similarly found in the cookie jar.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      In Germany one must pay a tax to a local church. So ministers in one country ALREADY have their hand in the cookie jar.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    To paraphrase the immortal tune by the band Ministry, Jesus may have built your hotrod, but he wouldn’t try to sell you one.

    Perfect. Simply perfect.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    This article jogged my memory. “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76ohvqwsNkk

    • 0 avatar
      Rusted Source

      J.C. on several occasions warned his followers to watch out for false prophets. In Matthew 7 he says “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

      The fall from grace isn’t usually very dramatic, because it’s a very gentle slope between integrity and corruption. This isn’t limited to just televangelists, it’s politicians, school trustees, trust fund managers, and so on as well.

      Anyone who uses public money should be prepared to show complete transparency in how they live.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Oh I completely understand. As a future school administrator, we’ve always been told. “It’s either money, or honey that will be your downfall. Be careful when handling either one.”

      Actually I’d like to see a Mega-Church pastor with the guts to come out with that as his intro song. Although as far as Ray Stevens is concerned I always preferred “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” which is another great song about putting a church back on the “narrow way with a half crazed Mississippi squirrel.”

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    Schwerglas – agreed – very interesting philosophical turn off the highway. Great to see people aren’t afraid to drive on a different road without getting lost.

    From a biblical point of view, issues related to movement of money and the well-being of a community were frequently discussed. The only problem (IMO) that is dealt with negatively is when people define themselves by what they possess. [theological reason: they distort the image of God within and people are supposed to have their identity shaped by the God who created them, so if they give that place up to something else, it’s an expression of idolatry]

    While I understand Pastor Charles Adams desire to support a local business, he’s ‘playing with fire’ by serving up the kind of brand products that auto companies try to deliberately make people define themselves by. But risk and controversy make life interesting huh. Jesus was both those things, never conservative.

  • avatar
    eurodneck

    …is Satan driving a RAM SRT-10?

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Hmmmm… why stop there? Why not sell advertising on the church walls? Replace holy water with Red Bull. Put ad pages in the bibles and hymm books. Dress Mother Mary in the latest styles from Calvin Kline. Put little ads on the back of pews, like those you see near the roof of city buses.

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