As if there was any question that our culture worships cars, a group of fundamentalist Christians is now exalting a long stretch of Interstate-35 as the “holy highway.” From Laredo, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota, evangelicals are blessing the blacktop and proselytizing to those they deem depraved (like gays an lesbians, for example) through what they call a “purity siege.” They drive their Hummers to gay bars and brothels to condemn “sinners” and win converts, stopping frequently at gas stations for group prayer sessions and Slim Jims. They’re also praying for societal perfection, a la Miss America: “We prayed to eliminate systemic poverty, we prayed for safety, we prayed for people caught in drug addictions, and trapped in their lives and hopeless," Cindy Jacobs, founder of the highway prayer movement, told NPR.
Don’t get me wrong—these are all nice, general, pretty prayers. But, I’m biased: wouldn’t it be more effective to take action to stop global warming, or, at the very least, say some prayers to that effect, and, meanwhile, try to rely less on your car (i.e. rollerblade to Bible study)? If the apocalypse is coming, my guess is that it’s due to climate change, not hedonism. (Then again, I’m a highway heathen.)
Jacobs was first struck by the seemingly spiritual nature of I-35 while reading the Bible. She told NPR:
"One day we were praying, and we were reading Isaiah 35, Verse 8, which talks about a highway for holiness," she says. [I’m no theologian, but does the Bible really mention a “highway,” at least as we know it?] "And we were thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if along this Highway 35 here, that there was a special time where God just touched everybody that lives in all parts of this highway?’"
Jacobs then developed what she calls a "prayer strategy" for people from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minn., to pray for 35 days along Interstate 35.
In Texas and all along I-35, the movement, called Light the Highway, has become nearly as popular as pickup trucks.
Light the Highway’s web site lists 22 churches and prayer groups along the interstate — in places such as Laredo and Duluth as well as San Antonio, Dallas and Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo.; Des Moines, Iowa, and Minneapolis. According to the site, participants do not believe that Isaiah actually refers to Interstate 35. Rather, it says, the Bible is used symbolically "as a catalyst to begin praying, just like those who live in Interstate 40 can use Isaiah 40:3."
Fortunately, pedestrians are free to travel without worrying about unwanted proselytizing. As for what Jesus would do, Kanye West has the answer: