On Being Anti-Hummer: American Excess, Cars, and the Spiritual Nurture of Children

HummerI am anti-Hummer. The audacious excess of these elephantine tanks is beyond absurd… it’s downright silly. Does anyone living in suburbia really need an assault vehicle built to withstand the rigors of war? How often does someone need to drive on the roof of other vehicles like a monster truck? Do we really need zone-specific memory settings that automatically adjust their seat positions and temperatures?

In sharp contrast, I drive a stick-shift early-nineties Ford Escort worth about five hundred dollars. When I pull up to a drive-through, I have to open the door because my window doesn’t work. The alignment is horrendous, the tires shake, the front speakers buzz, and the brakes squeal. Starting the ignition requires a nuanced wiggle of the key. And the engine emits a spurious low-pitched whine… loudly. No power nothing. Escort… appropriately named. That’s what it does. And I’m okay with that. I don’t need anything fancy. In fact, I don’t want anything fancy—I don’t want my kids to someday wonder why their parents spent lots of money on a bigger car just so we’d have extra room for all the groceries.

The only reason I have this car is because a generous couple in our church found out we needed a vehicle and purchased it for us, taxes and all. For their kindness, I am forever grateful. But, as a young pastor with lots of education and student loans but a relatively impotent salary, I watch church members, some of whom are kids, drive up in huge SUVs and, well, let’s just say it makes me think hard about money and life’s priorities.

I an openly, passionately anti-Hummer. Being strung out financially makes one think hard about money and life’s priorities. I am increasingly grateful for temporary financial difficulties because it’s made my wife and I consider what we want, for us as a family, and for our kids’ long-term spiritual health.

Instead of accommodating the excess and busyness of American culture by buying larger vehicles, we want our cars to allow for some margins in our lives. There was a good reason Jesus spoke of taking only one’s staff and cloak. It was because it keeps open the spiritual margins of our lives so we can take seriously spiritual nurture.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti progress or anti culture. I have long used a Palm Pilot, I use a cell phone, and I would donate a kidney for the new Apple MacBook Pro laptop. I don’t believe we should buy things of poor quality and I don’t think God called us all to live in grass huts with no running water, but I do have some questions about what we’re doing with our money and how it’s affecting our children.

Does every social context within which we find ourselves require an appropriate shoe? For many, a style principle like this is axiomatic—because, really, we all know that others’ perceptions of our personal style is far more important than children created in the image of God having enough food to eat, right?!

The amount of time and energy we spend creatively thinking about how to indulge ourselves and enjoy the luxuries of modern life is embarrassing, even for someone of average means.

Can you imagine what God could do with American Christians’ money if they began to think creatively about meeting others’ needs? And what do you think the difference is in children who grow up in an Escort instead of a Hummer?

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3 Responses

  1. Here’s the deal: I would rather see you driving a vehicle whose brakes did not squeal, and which had an engine that did not make noise, precisely because your children ride in it, and their safety is REALLY important to me. Another thought: never purchase anything more expensive than you can appreciate (for me that equates to a $200 bike, for Jonathan it’s an $1800 one). There are those who’d contest inclination to donate that kidney so you could obtain the latest coolest computer, too 🙂

  2. The allignment and the brakes are solvable problems and are safety issues. I agree with your primise. We need to be careful where we put our priorities. It would be interesting to ask kids to list their parents priorities. Make it safe and say after God & Family, what do your parents care the most about. I might have to ask my kids that for a reality check. I would guess they would say sports.

  3. Buying a Hummer is like buying a inkjet printer. You will pay for the @#%! ink through your nose. They *give* it away. What you pay for is a war in Iraq and a 10-20mpg fuel economy to drive to the local mall.

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