OFF THE RECORD: What wheels would the Big Wheel drive?

Ahhh, Christmas. That most magical time of year. A time to reflect. To wonder. To ponder.

I'm sure that foremost in the minds of many is the currently curious question, "What Would Jesus Drive?"

That's what I wondered while digging out my 50-plus-year-old nativity scene that I inherited from my grandparents. It's a small and modest tabletop model that includes a very young and motherly Mary, a still handsome Joseph, Three Wise Men in need of some touch-up paint, a couple of tired old sheep and a grey donkey whose broken leg was replaced with a silver nail.

Oh, and an itty-bitty Baby Jesus -- lying silently in his teeny-tiny crib filled with fake green Easter grass (time to upgrade to real hay). No car in sight.

Looking into Baby Jesus' eyes, I asked myself, "What Would Jesus Drive -- a jet black Honda, a bright red Beemer or maybe a hot new SUV?"

Well, not the latter, if the Evangelical Environmental Network and Creation Care magazine people have anything to say about it. This coalition of religious groups has been airing television spots and initiating discussions about transportation options other than gas-guzzling vehicles "because it's the moral thing to do."

In fact, they feel so strongly about it that last month they met General Motors executives, hoping to get the U.S. car company to make more fuel-efficient cars.

And to drive their point home, a number of them arrived at the meeting in gas-electric hybrid vehicles emblazoned with bumper stickers asking "What Would Jesus Drive?"

As a proponent of clean and green living, I admire this group's passion and commitment in caring for our environment. But using Jesus as a poster boy?

Talk about tacky. What next: "What Would Joseph Smoke?" and "What Would Mary Drink?"

As the coalition's Web site states

(, they are asking all Christians to make a commitment to "walk the walk and drive the talk" when it comes to choosing transportation options. In fact, they're hoping that likeminded folks will take the "What Would Jesus Drive? Pledge," based on the premise that making transportation choices that threaten millions of human beings violates Jesus' basic commandments: "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

I certainly try to adhere to those basic commandments, but shy away from other religious mandates, whatever they may be. Any church that tells me I can't dance, can't do caffeine, can't play cards, can't drink wine or can't wear patent leather shoes (what's that all about?) isn't going to see me hangin' around in the vestibule.

Sure, being raised a Catholic meant that I couldn't consume meat on Fridays ("What Would Jesus Eat?"), but that wasn't such a big sacrifice -- I always enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwiches with clam chowder or salmon loaf that my mom would make on Friday nights.

The "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign shows no signs of slowing down. It's taking out print ads in the January 2003 issue of Christianity Today stating, "Transportation is now a moral choice and an issue for Christian reflection. It's about more than engineering - it's about ethics. About obedience. About loving our neighbor."

The full-page ad is adorned with a photograph of a mammoth freeway next to an artist's rendering of a serene (and non-SUV driving) Jesus. He's looking up to the heavens as if to ask, "Yo! Am I getting royalties for this ad campaign?"

I guess it's time to upgrade my tired Nativity scene. After all, Mary and Joseph could use some new threads; they'd both look good in matching GAP or Banana Republic garb.

The Three Wise Men need to ditch the robes and go for a "Casual Sunday" look. And Jack Russell terriers and a potbellied pig can replace the sheep and lone donkey with a nail where his leg used to be.

And Baby Jesus? I'm buying him his very own ZipZap. It's a free-wheelin', tire-squealin', rubber-peelin' pocket-sized remote controlled racer with interchangeable parts. BJ can smoke 'em on the straightaway and even build his own track. These little cars reportedly kick some serious asphalt.

Jesus would definitely drive a ZipZap.

Sue Frause can be reached by e-mail at

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