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This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Culture11, 5 October 2008.

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, skirting Asheville and Roanoke above the hidden hollows and little towns. And on Thursday afternoon, thanks to Bayerische Motoren Werke, three friends and I were driving along the parkway, scattering wild turkeys left and right, carving turns and going flat out on the straightaways in a BMW 335Ci convertible. It seems that BMW periodically turns up at upscale resorts to let the (presumably free-spending) guests try the company’s cars for free, for no obligation beyond the painful duty of returning it at the end of the drive. We were attending a conference at a such a location, already stretching the limits of our decidedly middle-class budgets, at just the right time. After filling out a surprisingly informal questionnaire, the keys were ours and we were off.

As we gasped and laughed at the difference between our borrowed joyride and our real-life cars (as the owner of a base-model 2000 VW Passat, I have the most fly car of the bunch), we were well aware of several layers of irony. Down in the valley motorists were waiting in long lines for scarce gasoline at the stations that were open at all, due the supply crunch in the Southeast following Hurricane Ike. We, meanwhile, were burning gas like it was going out of style (which, come to think of it, it soon may). Then there was the improbable identity of the four merry riders: all of us activists in the growing environmental movement within evangelical Christianity, concerned not least with the reality of and remedies for human-induced climate change. That climate change is caused in part, of course, by the carbon dioxide that we were gleefully generating every time the Beemer let out a particularly gratifying growl. Let’s just say there was a hint of guilt in the pleasure.