Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Jesus and fuel efficiency

What would Jesus drive? Not an SUV, according to several religious and secular groups.

I am conflicted. On the one hand, I despise SUVs. They are road hogs and parking lot hogs and, of course, gas hogs. On the other hand, using the name of Jesus Christ in this regard seems a little disrespectful, not to mention presumptuous.

It's one thing to hire Martha Stewart to sell towels or pay Tiger Woods to wear a hat with a swoosh. It seems quite another to draft Jesus.

"The Risen Lord Jesus is concerned about the kinds of cars we drive because they affect his creation," according to a statement from the Evangelical Environmental Network. So does penicillin, one might argue. Or deodorant. The Amish man who built our cabinets doesn't think Jesus would get behind the wheel of anything built in Detroit. He believes Jesus would drive a nice, well-behaved horse. Julie Isphording probably thinks he would run to his destination. And Marge probably would try to sell him a Buick.

Wrong spokesman

On Nov. 20, a caravan of hybrid electric Toyota Priuses brought a convoy of religious leaders to Detroit to meet with executives from Ford, General Motors and the United Auto Workers. The cars were emblazoned with "What Would Jesus Drive?" banners.

In case anybody missed the point, they were driven by Catholic nuns, who apparently believe that Jesus would prefer a vehicle that gets at least 40 miles to a gallon.

Many of us have long suspected that certain elements (BMW and Corvette owners spring to mind) choose their transportation with what can only be described as religious fervor. It looks as if clergy have decided to fight fire with fire. Or brimstone. Or, anyway, something tougher than turning the other cheek.

The SUV Ad Campaign in Los Angeles announced plans to air TV commercials that portray the burly cars as a threat to national security and the environment. The National Council of Churches has joined the effort to get the Bush administration to increase fuel efficiency requirements for SUVs and light trucks.

An open letter, signed by more than 100 heads of denominations and sent to automakers, said, "Because automobiles are having such an extraordinary global impact, choices about what cars to build raise fundamental moral issues."

Fair enough. But from what I've read about him, Jesus is just wrong for this particular campaign. He'd have been a terrible driver, stopping every few minutes to offer solace to beggars and to pick up litter and hitchhikers.

He was always more interested in the journey than the destination, so it would be like getting trapped behind a Sunday driver, who stops to admire every flowering tree and stray dog.

Plus, he was poor. He just kept giving everything away, so I can't imagine him coming up with enough money to buy a car. Even one without six cup holders and a Bose sound system Even one that had a high fuel efficiency rating.

Jesus wouldn't drive at all. He would take the bus.

E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.

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