The recent debate about what kind of car Jesus would drive puts me in mind of an old Doug Marlette cartoon from the days of Jim and Tammy "Praise the Lord" Bakker. It shows the familiar headshot of Jesus -rolling his eyes. Without words, Marlette, as usual, said it all.
Jesus to Marlette: Let's roll again.
If ever there were a less likely way to advance a cause, surely attaching Jesus' name would be it. In the 21st century, "Do it for Jesus" is a punch line for heaven's sake. Or, in this case, for Earth's sake.
For Earth is the supposed beneficiary of a new slogan-desperate campaign to condemn sport utility vehicles and their owners. The logic behind the campaign, which will require your removing -rather than tightening -your thinking cap, goes something like this:
Jesus loved people, who live on Earth, which is damaged by excessive carbon dioxide emissions, which account for two-thirds of greenhouse gases, which are believed to cause global warming, which is bad.
Since SUVs burn more fuel than passenger cars, which are subject to stricter energy-efficiency standards, they release more carbon dioxide and therefore hurt the environment. Which is bad. And Jesus is good. Got it?
Much has been written, opined and preached about what Jesus would have driven, the very fact of which makes one wonder what's in America's drinking water. Some have offered that Jesus might have walked, ridden a bike or taken a bus. Others suggest a donkey.
I dunno. That's so first century. Do people really believe that Mary and Joseph would have taken a donkey to Bethlehem had there been a Hertz rental agency nearby?
"I'm in labor, honey. The son of G-d is crowning. Let's leave the car and take the donkey."
I realize these transportation suggestions are all intended to underscore Jesus' populist leanings, his humble beginnings, his rejection of materialism and all the rest. But my guess is that a man who can walk on water doesn't need a car.
Meanwhile, the notion that bullying people into doing the right thing by implying Jesus' disapproval is a comedy writer's dream. It also borders on religious blackmail, which, given our new understanding of the ways religion can be distorted in the public domain, seems ill advised.
It isn't difficult to imagine future politicians being interrogated under the newly evolved auto-religious principles:
Reporter: Sir, have you ever consumed any drugs?
Candidate: Yes, actually, I used to mainline heroin and I smoked crack for a number of years, but that's all behind me now.
R: No problem, sir. We appreciate your candor. Have you ever cheated on your wife?
C: Yes, quite a few times, but I've been faithful now for six weeks.
R: Awesome, dude. Wish I could say the same. I hate to ask this, sir, but is it true that you and Saddam Hussein were once homosexual lovers?
C: Yes, I did have sexual relations with that man, Mr. Saddam. But it's over. Frankly, I couldn't deal with the furnishings.
R: Down with that, sir. I mean I
scream when I see those gold chairs! Hel-lo? Can anybody say Rococo? One last question, would you mind telling the American people what kind of car you drive?
C: Um, sure, I drive a Fommmnn Explmmm.
R: I'm sorry, sir, I didn't quite get that. Did you say, a Ford Explorer?
C: I'm so (sob) sorry. I've made a terrible mistake. I tried to give it away, but no one would take it. Please forgive me. Wait, don't leave. I repent, I swear it!
R: I'm sorry, sir, but some things can't be forgiven.
It may be a good idea to drive a smaller car that consumes less gas. It may be that Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists want to trade their SUVs for something smallish in earth tones.
But in this country, market choices, like religious decisions, are still matters of individual discretion, at least theoretically. It is unlikely that choosing a small car over an SUV would prompt Jesus, no bully, to leap from his cloud couch to congratulate us for our environmentally sound
More likely, he'll roll his eyes and elbow Gabriel in the ribs. "Oh cripes, here comes another one of those self-righteous tiny-car pulpit huggers. Take him over to Jim and Tammy's, will ya? Take the Humvee."