Catholic · Faith

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

 

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Dear Anne,

As I wrote to you before, the revolving door that is my children’s comings and goings has landed one out west, working for Tesla in Nevada. That’s how I found myself Friday in the lobby of Tesla’s Gigafactory 1, waiting for the friends and family tour and feeling like I was in a sci-fi movie. Driving through the desolate Nevada desert, through security not unlike that at a military base and up to the gleaming, high-tech, almost mythical factory was rather surreal. The giant Tesla logo on the three-story high lobby wall, repeated on the neon vests and hard hats that employees wear in most of the plant (it’s still an active construction zone in a lot of areas) and the sheer enthusiasm of everyone we encountered enhanced the slight cultish feeling. And no wonder they are enthusiastic about the place. When completed, the Gigafactory will be the largest single building in the world, covering an area of more than 100 football fields and able to hold approximately 500 billion hamsters. (I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement for the tour—I hope sharing that last factoid doesn’t get me in trouble!)

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After Elon Musk made $165 million selling PayPal, he asked himself how to use his scientific talents to further his pet cause, environmentalism. Like many secular people, environmentalism seems to have taken the role of religion in Musk’s life and he approached his task with the energy of a convert.  As Catholics, I think we can take lessons for our own evangelizing from the way, and the reason, he built Tesla.

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The logo was all over the factory and all over Reno. Even saw a Tesla shirt at Mass. Definitely felt like some Kool-Aid was being served!

 

To Elon Musk, driving an electric car is the right think to do. As in any religion, some adherents are going to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do (which might explain why anyone bought a Honda EV Plus). But electric and hybrid cars were ugly, sluggish and uncomfortable, as a rule, and Musk knew he had to build a better mousetrap if he wanted to get more people in them. And what a better mousetrap he built. My son got to drive a Model X the other day and he said the acceleration will literally push your head back into the soft leather seats. The Model S is luxurious and fun to drive, while the new Model 3 will still offer pep and a comfortable ride, but at a reasonable price point. All of which explain the need for a giant battery factory in the middle of the Nevada desert and the waiting list for Tesla vehicles.

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Artist’s rendering of completed Gigafactory 1, courtesy of Tesla

So how do we as Catholics build a better mousetrap? We don’t need an Elon Musk to design us a better product–we have the sacraments, the saints and some of the most awe-inspiring places of worship in the world. Our Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. That alone will blow your head back more than a speeding Tesla any day. No, it’s us that have to be new and improved. Our faith needs to make us shine like a mint Model 3 if we are to inspire the fallen-aways. The grace of the sacrament of reconciliation should be evident in our hearts and our actions so that those who are hesitant about heading back will be drawn to confession. And yes, we should look at the opportunity to receive that Eucharist at Mass not as a “should do” but as an “I can’t wait to have it” moment.

So don’t be a 1999 Honda Insight, be a 2017 Model S. Hit the open road and spread the good news with your life.

Love,

Susan

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