Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WWJD or Everyday Ethics on Vacation

According to Google Maps, it's 592 miles from Arlington, VA to Chattanooga, TN. According to my backside it's a damn long drive.
The average American family drives 793 miles on its longest vacation drive, or so says a survey by the American Automobile Association. The note on that survey wasn't clear about whether or not that's a round-trip or one-way total. Either way, it's plenty of time sitting in a car to ponder questions such as WWJD: what would Jesus drive?
I'd like to feel all self-righteous about driving a hybrid, but I know I still contribute more than my fair share to the carbon impact on the world. Driving my hybrid puts 3.4 tons of CO2 in the air each year, according to a handy Yahoo calculator. I can't vouch for the calculator's accuracy on tonnage, but it does provide a stark reminder that my everyday choices have consequences.
What would Jesus drive? If you plopped Jesus down in the 21st century in an urban area I think that most days he'd probably leave the driving to others and use public transportation. The man did love a crowd and a teachable moment. I could have ridden the bus this morning, and if I take my incarnational theology with any seriousness I know that I'm a whole lot more likely to encounter Christ on the bus than in my car by myself.
Or on the train. If the Chattanooga Choo Choo still ran perhaps we'd take the train next time down. Of course, like most Americans, I'm going to drive more often than not for more trips than are necessary.
Vacation time raises a host of other everyday ethical considerations: where do all those souvenir t-shirts get made and by whom and under what working conditions? how about all of that fast food? who picks those crops? what do they get paid for their labor? in what conditions were the animals raised whose lives are given over to our bodies in the sacrament of eating?
Most of us are complicit in all kinds of systems or injustice and inequality, and sometimes the most we can do is acknowledge that fact and hope for grace.
But there are a few moral choices we can make everyday that make small differences in the world, and my own vacation experience reminded me of one: we can all hang up and drive! I don't know what Jesus would drive, and I do know that he loved to communicate, but I'm pretty damned sure he would not talk on his divine cell phone while holy rolling behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Is "moral choice" too strong?
Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
It's just like drunk driving. It's life and death. It's a moral choice.
Why did vacation remind me of this? It wasn't actually being cut off in traffic in Knoxville by a guy with his god-forsaken noggin on the phone. It wasn't passing a crash scene and wondering if distracted driving was involved, as it is in hundreds of thousands of accidents each year.
Actually, it was forgetting my cell phone charger and being out-of-touch for an entire week. It was a great reminder that I am simply not all that important in the great scheme of things, and that the world will get on just fine without me being in constant contact. I can hang up and drive and the world will actually be a better place for it. So can you.