Activists Keep the Faith, if Not Their Money
Saturday, May 31, 2008
The price of regular at a Shell gas station in Petworth gleamed defiantly in the midday sun: $3.91 a gallon.
But unlike the customers rolling up to the station's pumps this week, resigned to the fact that their wallets were about to take a beating, Rocky Twyman and company had a plan to bring that number tumbling down.
They would ask God to do it.
"Our pockets are empty, but we're going to hold on to God!" Twyman, a community organizer from Rockville, said as he and seven other people formed a semicircle, held hands and sang, pleading for divine intervention to lower fuel prices.
It was the latest demonstration by Twyman's movement, Pray at the Pump, which began in April. Since then, he has held group prayers at gas stations as far away as San Francisco, garnering international media attention and even claiming success in at least a couple of cases.
Some would say the proof of whether Twyman has the ear of the Almighty is in the result. On the first day of the movement, April 23, the national average price of a gallon of unleaded was $3.53, according to AAA. As of yesterday, it was $3.96.
But Twyman said true faith does not demand instant gratification, and he plans to keep his pump-side prayers going "until God tells us to stop."
"This whole thing is a wake-up call from God to Americans, because we idolize men so much," said Twyman, 59, a public relations consultant and Seventh-day Adventist who believes that high gas prices are a sign of the apocalypse drawing nigh. "I think through this crisis, God is trying to call us back to depend on Him more."
For the past several weeks, Twyman has assembled a group at a soup kitchen in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest Washington where he volunteers. They have driven to a gas station, locked hands, said a prayer, purchased gas and sung the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," with an added verse: "We'll have lower gas prices."
Reactions, and results, have been mixed.
After he gave an interview to a Tampa radio station, the station received calls from listeners saying the price at their pumps had dropped. (According to AAA's Fuel Price Finder, regular gas at Tampa area stations averaged $3.89 a gallon yesterday, up from $3.59 a month ago).
Last week, as one of the demonstrations was winding down, an angry gas station manager in Petworth chased them from the property, Twyman said, annoyed that the activists were hampering business.