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Monday, November 25, 2002

Will Jesus Christ Be Next Vehicle Trendsetter?

By Leanne Potts
Of the Journal
    That Jesus would be an environmentalist makes perfect sense. After all, his dad made the fields we're covering with concrete and the oceans into which we're spilling tankers of oil. And that whole Noah's ark thing was nothing if not an effort to preserve endangered species.
    So it really isn't surprising to learn from a coalition of environmental and religious groups that the son of God is unhappy with Americans' penchant for gas-guzzling, smog-spewing SUVs.
    As you've probably heard, the Evangelical Environmental Network and other religious groups have launched a much-buzzed about anti-pollution campaign catchily titled What Would Jesus Drive?
    The campaign urges Christians to view their cars' gas mileage as an ethical statement.
    "What's coming out of the tailpipe of your car has a tremendous impact on public health," says the Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the Pennsylvania-based EEN and the leader of the What Would Jesus Drive? campaign. "How can you love your neighbor if you're filling his lungs with car exhaust?"
    What Would Jesus Drive? is a play on the ubiquitous (and ubiquitously spoofed) What Would Jesus Do? campaign that for years has had church youth group members across the nation wearing cryptic WWJD? bracelets.
    The What Would Jesus Drive? campaign drew national attention last week when Ball and other clergy delivered a letter signed by 100 religious groups (including the New Mexico Conference of Churches) to the Detroit headquarters of Ford and General Motors asking them to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.
    Next month, EEN will run ads on TV and in Christian magazines, but the word-of-mouth campaign has already started. Since the Detroit kickoff, the Web has been buzzing with speculation on just what would be parked in that big garage in the sky.
    Hypotheticals give one's imagination room to romp.
    "Jesus would drive a Harley," wrote someone in a forum on www.therant.info.
    "If I were Jesus, I'd be afraid that people would want to kill me and I would have my chauffeur drive me around in my bulletproof and explosion-resistant presidential-type limo," wrote another.
    "For the record, Jesus drove a Honda," wrote someone named Ben. "Look at John 12:49: 'For I did not speak of my own accord ... .' ''
    Someone named Frank Lockwood wondered online if Jesus' lifestyle and occupation wouldn't require him to drive an immorally large vehicle.
    "Sorry to say, but Jesus would have gotten about 15 mpg city," Lockwood wrote.
    "Look at the facts:
    "1) Jesus was a carpenter: full-size pickup.
    "2) Rugged geographical area: 4x4.
    "3) Had lots of friends: extended cab."
    Lockwood concluded that Jesus of Nazareth would drive an F-250 SuperCab 4x4.
    Not everyone has been receptive to the idea that his or her minivan might be a sin. A lot of Americans believe that guzzling gas is as inalienable a right as bearing arms and super-sizing their McDonald's combo meal.
    "Keep your paws off my SUV!" wrote a hostile person on www.therant.info. And hackers have attacked the EEN-sponsored site www.whatwouldjesusdrive.org. The Web site has been working sporadically, possibly due to hacker attacks.
    Ball said What Would Jesus Drive? is not about guilting God-fearing Americans into buying Geo Metros or, as one sarcastic person suggested online, mules.
    "We're not trying to take people backwards," Ball said. "We want them to think about the moral implications of their transportation the next time they buy a vehicle. And we want carmakers to use technology that already exists to improve fuel economy."
    So what does Ball think Jesus would drive?
    "Jesus wants us to drive the least-polluting, most fuel-efficient vehicle that truly meets our needs," Ball said. "He would definitely be using public transportation."