Time to invest in your own dashboard deity

A few years ago, WWJD (“What would Jesus Do?”) wrist bands were all the rage. Everybody had them, whether or not the individual wearer was clear on the acronym’s meaning. As usual with what began as a good idea, it became trendy. Before long, the Christian-messaged bracelets took a pop-culture left turn, stopped prompting thought and became just another accessory. Worst case scenario, they were used by non-Christians as artificial lures to attract datable Christians. WWJD, indeed!
I’m sure there have been many more shenanigans over the past 2,000 years using the name, image or words of Jesus for less-than-noble purposes. In my lifetime, WWJD jewelry wasn’t Jesus’ only foray into pop-culture of questionable taste. Nearly 60 years ago, members of the entertainment industry spoofed this hokey tendency in a folk song. You all know which one I mean.
Plastic Jesus photo“I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus, sittin’ on the dashboard of my car. Comes in colors pink and pleasant, glows in the dark ‘cause it’s iridescent. Take it with you when you travel far.”
That’s the first stanza of the “Plastic Jesus Song,” written in 1957 by Ed Rush and Joe Komarty. The song vaulted to fame a decade later, along with Paul Newman, whose star was already rising when he sang it in the 1967 classic film, “Cool Hand Luke.” However, Newman’s version was patterned more after the 1965 Marrs Family recording of the ditty.
Plastic Jesus Song originally had been penned as a humorous spoof of an advertising jingle. Rush and Komarty had performed it as the fictitious Goldcoast Singers on World Pacific Records. According to Rush, the idea was inspired by a hokey radio show he’d listened to that had been run by a fanatically-religious Texas dentist. Rush and Komarty positioned their plastic Jesus to be as outrageous as the items with alleged healing properties that were sold during the Texas-based radio show.
“Get yourself a sweet Madonna, dressed in rhinestones, sittin’ on a pedestal of abalone shell. Goin’ 90, I aint’s scary, ‘cause I’ve got the Virgin Mary, assurin’ me that I won’t go to Hell.”
After watching Cool Hand Luke one too many times, I vowed if I ever found a plastic Jesus at a reasonable price, I would become its new owner. And that’s exactly what happened at Antique Salvage in Union City during M-60 Garage Sale Days in June.
The much-desired five-inch rendering of Our Savior was located in the same dollar item bin as had been the decoupaged cow pie I wrote about purchasing earlier this year. More kitschy than reverent, plastic Jesus sported a goofy, knowing grin, shoulder-length black hair, waxed brows and a miniature goatee. His outstretched arms were hinged and four flimsy plastic wheels adorned his undercarriage. This Jesus was made for speed.
I could picture kids placing him on their Hot Wheels tracks. Or perhaps putting a small object into his screwed-on, outstretched hands and then making him either bowl it forward or hurl it backward, depending on the direction they wound the arm. If you manually raised his hands at the same time, plastic Jesus took on the same look of Ohio’s huge, wooden, roadside Jesus that parody performer Heywood Banks immortalized in his “Big Butter Jesus” song.
Only Plastic Jesus was all mine. You might wonder why he was so important to me. Well, because I need him not just every hour, but ‘round the clock, on the dashboard of my life. It’s prompted my friend, Terri Montgomery and I to own matching vintage red, rotary dial phones we designated as our “Jesus hotlines.” Again, because we know the importance of remaining in communication with Him. Plastic Jesus is an amusing reminder of our serious faith in the real thing. And I’m not talking Coca-Cola.
Interested in your own faith-reminding Plastic Jesus? The same 2001 Accoutrements version is selling on eBay for $10 a pop. One eBay vendor also had Edgar Allen Poe and Jane Austen plastic action figures for sale. Now that’s creepy. What an odd, accident-causing dashboard grouping that would make.
But it’s nice to know, whether rain or snow, I’m good to go.

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