Old Paths, Deep Ruts, and Ford Pintos

Staff_McDermott, Tom

I bought my second car three months before my 16th birthday. Now before you jump ahead of me and assume I was an innovative child entrepreneur on my way to being a millionaire by the age of 20, let me explain.

My first car was a gift from my estranged father. It was a used 1970 Ford Pinto. You remember the Pinto? At the time, I believe the two-door hatch back window with the long front design was one of Ford’s sportier attempts at design. I got a ride to Houston, where my father lived at the time, and picked it up.

I was suspicious when my father wasn’t present to hand over the keys. He’d left it with a friend who handed me the keys and described the car, looking to me more like a misshapen tennis shoe with a brownish yellow tint and black vinyl top, as a “roadster.” It was a four speed manual shift, which definitely had its appeal for me. And it was only 3 years old. But it already had 95,000 miles on it.

Nevertheless, I passed along my great thanks and excitement, pointed the “shoe” homeward . . . and the engine blew about 60 miles north of Huntsville!

chevrolet-impala-1963-2So, I bought my second car about three months later from Ernest Allen Chevrolet. It was a beautiful, sky blue, four door, 1963 Chevy Biscayne (Chevrolet’s “cheaper” Impala). White, vinyl bench seats with a straight-six motor and a “three on the three” manual transmission. It was 10 years old but had had only one owner — a little old lady (I was told her name was Ethel Martin) who’d lovingly cared for it its total mileage of 78,000 miles. The thing rode like a tank and, by today’s automobile size standards, was like driving around in a mobile home. Seven passengers could ride comfortably, and the trunk could hold two guitars, a drum set, amps — and two bodies if you’d needed to (we never did need to). And you could sit inside the engine compartment and work on the straight six with the hood partway down (if you needed shelter from the rain during a repair). It was huge — and cumbersome and wobbly. But it definitely got folks’ attention . . .

There are times I wish I still had that car. It’d certainly be a Classic today! But the reality is that cars become ineffective over time. While they continue to make its smarter, sharper brother, the Chevy Impala, the Biscayne has gone the way of many cars and designs.

I share this example by way of thinking about God . . . not so much to create a clever (or not so clever) analogy for thinking about God . . . (i.e., “God is like a Chevy” — not too fancy, but solid and reliable and occasionally in need of a trade-in). But more to think about US and the way we think about God.

It’s been said that the American sense of identity, who we are and how we see ourselves, is intimately tied to the kinds of cars we drive, used to drive, or wish we could own and drive. This is certainly truer for us than for almost any other country in the world I suspect. It has also been said that you can tell what we think about God, how we do theology, by the stuff with which we connect, not the least of which being our cars. I’m not sure how direct a cue this might be, but it does create some interesting points for reflection. And this all gets caught up in our world-view and the way we process ideas and the mythologies and traditions of our culture . . .

But before you go jumping off ahead and concluding what all THAT means, I hope you can join us this Sunday as we begin our Summer Series . . .

939 1111 5Ws of God_HS

The 5 W’s of God (and an H)

“why? — old paths, deep ruts, and new ground” 

Rev. Tom McDermott 

with the music of Janis Ian, Dawes, and the eleven:eleven Revolution Band. We’ll have a few surprises and you’ll definitely come away with some curiously new ideas.

Hope to see you soon!



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