Shouldn't you be feeling just a little bit guilty about buying this magazine? A celebration of sport-utility vehicles is so . . . so . . . well, it's just so much fun, is what it is. It must be, or so many people wouldn't be buying them, for God's sake. And buying them we are, Bucko. The craze really caught a backdraft a decade ago, though plenty of hunters and fishermen and working people with a need for comfortable truck space had been driving sport-utility vehicles for decades before they were actually dubbed SUVs.
As of 2002, light trucks (which means sport-utes, pickups, and minivans) are officially outselling cars. Back in 2001, light trucks came within spitting distance of cars (just 133,041 units shy, against total sales of 17,177,789), but last year, the balance shifted, with light trucks finishing 211,303 units ahead of cars. Zeroing in just on SUVs, statisticians have announced that one in four passenger vehicles sold in 2002 was a sport-utility vehicle.
We love sport-utility vehicles. They move us and the vast stuff of our lives. They welcome our dogs and their kennels, our kayaks and bicycles built for two, our armoires and armaments. They are more convenient than renting trailers or shuttle buses. You can drive them through the woods. You can drive them through deep snow. You can see the road ahead. They just fit.
So when did sport-utility vehicles become the work of the devil?
When did it become time to repent, time to ask yourself, "What would Jesus drive, you ignorant, gas-guzzling, war-mongering, earth raper?" It's a question we've heard asked and answered in the name of the Lord so many times in the past couple of months that we've gotten a little slap-happy about it.
You may ask how we're able to joke about such a serious moral issue. The joke actually began more than two years ago with columnist Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle; it was kept alive at an obscure little Web site called Off-Kilter (www.offkilter.org), in an article by Roy Rivenburg entitled "Would the DMV Make Him Wait, Too?"
It was all very sweet and funny, with Ostler's readers suggesting that Jesus would be piloting an old Plymouth, "because the Bible says God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden in a Fury." Har-dee-har-har!
Rivenburg went on to add some of his own biblical proof: "In Psalm 83, the Almighty clearly owns a Pontiac and a Geo," he wrote. "The passage urges the Lord to 'pursue your enemies with your Tempest and terrify them with your Storm.'" We can understand about the Tempest (if it was a 1964 LeMans model with the GTO package and the 348-horsepower Tri-Power option), but even Rivenburg questioned the terror factor of a Geo Storm, "unless it had those scary shooting flames painted on the sides."
Rivenburg notes: "Some scholars insist that Jesus drove a Honda but didn't like to talk about it. They cite a verse in Saint John's Gospel where Christ tells the crowd, 'For I did not speak of my own Accord ...'"
My personal favorites were his ideas for the Holy One's bumper stickers:
From there, the theme was picked up by churchgoer Joe Giove on his personal Web site (www.highrock.com/personal/WWJD), with a link at the bottom of the page to "The Big Question" (God asking, "Why should I let you into heaven?"). Whether or not we're headed to heaven, we still appreciated the humor with which Giove added photos to illustrate the Rivenburg quotes (including one of a vintage Plymouth captioned "Plymouth Furyin the year of our Lord 1957") and carried the joke further with his own religious research.
"Maybe He drove a Jeep," he speculates, citing the ninth verse of the eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians: "But take care that this Liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak."
It's all good fun over at Joe Giove's Highrock Cafe, despite the proselytizing at the end. But at some point, out there in the righteous, righteous world, the discussion went to hell in a handbasket. The finger points to a group called the Evangelical Environmental Network, a very crabby bunch who, in the process of asking the stupidest question of the year, have added the tagline, "Because transportation is a moral issue." Now we have people shouting at each other on national radio and television about what Jesus would or should drive. It would be a thirteen-passenger van, so He could fit in the apostles. It would be a big old pickup with ladder rails, because He was a carpenter. And so on and so on.
Laugh while you can, monkey boys. Before you know it, the government is going to be corralled into taking action predicted several years ago by retired Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech. He was pretty sure that our government wouldn't stop at Corporate Average Fuel Economy and zero-emissions goals but that laws governing width, weight, and height were less than a decade away.
He was talking about a government elected by the people. By the people who are buying way more light trucks than cars. Repent! The end of the world is at hand!
Get ready for the ad campaign.
Starting in January, ads written and directed by the "Got Milk?" guy tied gas-guzzling sport-utes (has anyone noticed that there are a good many fuel-efficient SUVs?) with terrorism.
DRIVE AN SUV, DRIVE WITH SADDAM! reads a real bumper sticker. Meanwhile, you can count on us. We are here with the definitive guide to help you sort through the heaven and hell of SUV ownership, especially if you want to have a little last-minute fun. In which case, you might want to ask yourself, "What would Satan drive?" We know, for instance, that it would have really crappy fuel economy, so you can count on the Ford Excursion, the Hummer H2, the Land Rover Range Rover, or my own personal Chevy Suburban.
And how about that 315-horsepower Cadillac SRX on our cover? It would be big and comfortable and capable of towing a trailer that has snowmobiles or personal watercraft or dirt bikes on it. (All definite non-Jesus-mobiles. Or maybe Jesus would rent.) You would like it a lot.
And one more thing. Satan's best would most definitely have XM or Sirius satellite radio, so you can be sure you'd never hear one of those WWJD ads from the "Got Milk?" guy.