The question came from the Evangelical Environmental Network, a group of people who have enlisted Jesus Christ in the holy war against sport-utility vehicles.
"What would Jesus drive?"
It was asked more pointedly by an EEN member who wanted to know why I bothered test-driving a 2003 Hummer H2 Adventure Series SUV: "Do you think Jesus would drive a Hummer H2? Would that be moral?"
I say yes on both counts, based on my study of the New American Bible and the Baltimore Catechism -- and lots of seat time in the H2.
Jesus and his 12 apostles traveled rough terrain mostly by foot and mule, the latter being substantially more polluting than the full-size Hummer H2 or any other sport-utility vehicle, large or small.
The H2, designed by General Motors Corp. and built by AM General of Mishawaka, Ind., can go places where mules can't go, and it can carry more stuff on the journey -- although GM and AM General could have done a better job of creating more onboard cargo space.
The H2 is a purpose-built vehicle in much the same way that its big brother, the Hummer H1, the first commercial scion of the military humvee, is built specifically for high-mobility, off-road use.
The H2 offers more creature comforts than the H1. It's also easier to drive. That's why it's on sale. Many consumers want a sport-utility vehicle with the H1's rugged performance and looks. But they would prefer having those things in a smaller, more manageable and less expensive package.
GM and AM General gave the H2 a kinder face without turning it into a wimp. After all, evangelism isn't a coward's work. You've got to keep going when the going gets tough, and the H2 is plenty tough.
Ground clearance is 10.5 inches, which means the H2 can roll over rocks and fallen logs with relative ease. Vital underbody components, such as differential housings, are protected by thick skid plates. The electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly; but there is a stoutness to it that signals it's designed for severe, stressful duty.
There is the matter of overhangs, those portions of a vehicle's body that hang over the wheels front and rear. GM and AM General deliberately kept those overhangs short on the H2, allowing the mighty sport-ute to ascend and descend steep grades without scraping, crushing or otherwise entangling the front and rear portions of its body.
With its high-mounted air intake vents, reminiscent of the H1, you might not be able to walk on water with the H2, but you can drive through it -- through streams and creeks -- without sucking water into the engine.
The H2's on-demand four-wheel-drive system is a push-button cinch. Push to engage the center and rear locking differential. Push for four-wheel high or low gear selection.
God knows the H2 can haul! It's equipped with a gargantuan 6-liter V-8 engine that develops 316 horsepower at 5,200 revolutions per minute and 360 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. That's the kind of power you need to haul a trailer weighing up to 7,000 pounds or, if you are a missionary like some of my friends, to bring loads of food and medical supplies to people in poor countries.
Ask one of my missionary buddies if Jesus would drive a Hummer H2 and she would answer unequivocally: "You betcha!" They are doing the Lord's work, and if the H2 can help them in that endeavor, so much the better.
Some backers of the "What would Jesus drive?" campaign find it "deliciously ironic," as one of them put it, that we are fighting for oil in the Middle East to fuel a passenger vehicle with military roots. But I find their criticism deliciously ironic.
Again, I turn to the New American Bible and to the dog-eared copies of the Baltimore Catechism I studied in my youth. It seems to me from those readings that Jesus was all about peace, love and forgiveness, about "beating swords into plowshares." I suspect that Jesus would be thrilled over the idea of turning a military humvee into an H1 and an H1 into an H2 that could be used to bring food and medicine to the poor, or just to have some good ol' fun instead of making nasty ol' war.