Well, as best we know, Jesus mostly got about on foot, but according to Scripture he rode a donkey or a donkey and a colt into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
But what if Jesus were incarnate today and preparing for his ministry? What if he were living in Monroe (being priced out of Seattle) and commuting to the Renton Highlands to build houses? I’m not being facetious.
Surely Jesus would have wept over our oil-soaked economy, which leaves the least among us ailing from the fumes of petrochemical plants, watching rising seas wash away the foundations of their homes, or laboring in 120-degree-plus heat. The Son of Man would have shaken with anger at the plutocrats who lived in gated communities, enriched by profits from the fossil fuels that are destroying the earth.
The larger reality is this: All of us who live a typical, carbon-intense American lifestyle are harming present and future generations (and as Stephen Hawking noted recently, putting life itself at risk). Every gallon of gas we burn harms others. Whether we drive, and what we drive, is a moral decision.
How might we live more lightly on the land, as Jesus calls us to do? As residents of a state where transportation is the leading contributor to global warming, we could start by rethinking our transportation choices.
Here are some simple questions we can ask ourselves:
Do I need to own a car?
If I live in the city, I might be able to get around by walking, biking, bus, ride-sharing, and the occasional car rental.
If I must own a car, what kind will it be?
What would Jesus say about the fact that most vehicles bought in the United States are pickups and SUV’s -- the most environmentally destructive vehicles on the market? Unless I truly need a big vehicle, why not drive a high-mileage smaller car or, better yet, a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric car?
Some hybrids now get more than 50 miles per gallon. Plug-in hybrids run on electric battery power most of the time. And affordable new all-electric models from Chevy and Tesla will go more than 200 miles before they need a recharge.
How important is that flight I’m thinking about?
A round trip between Seattle and New York can add 2 tons (tons!) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That’s one-tenth of a typical American’s annual 20-ton carbon footprint. Flying to Europe or Asia is worse. The carbon from my flight will keep warming the planet for another century or more.
Our transportation choices are only one area in which we demonstrate whether we truly love our neighbor. Going vegetarian could reduce my carbon footprint by two and a half tons a year -- about the same as giving up a gas-burning car. Every purchase we make has moral implications.
Isn’t it obvious what Jesus would do? Wouldn’t he give up the car or go electric? Cut back on flying or stop altogether? Stop eating industrially produced meat? Slash overall consumption? Stop banking with oil pipeline funders like Wells Fargo and Chase?
What are we willing to do?