Friday, December 21, 2007

The Holy Highway

Some Christians believe that Interstate 35 is the highway mentioned in the Bible:

According to CNN, the small contingent of churchgoers believe that Interstate 35, a sprawling highway running from Texas to Minnesota, is specifically mentioned in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 35.

"A highway shall be there, and a road," reads a portion of the chapter's verse eight, "and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it..."

But if I-35 is indeed the place, some Christians believe there's a lot of work to be done before the road can fulfill it's saintly destiny, according to CNN's Gary Tuchman, who was on the scene in Texas as believers launched an effort to pray for the road.

"Churchgoers in all six states recently finished 35 days of praying alongside Interstate 35, but the prayers are still continuing," reports Tuchman. "Some of the faithful believe that in order to fulfill the prophecy of I-35 being the 'holy' highway, it needs some intensive prayer first. So we watched as about 25 fervent and enthusiastic Christians prayed on the the interstate's shoulder in Dallas."

It is charming, in its way. Human beings find meaning in the oddest places. I remember reading Nostradamus as a teenager and trying to relate the mumbo-jumbo in his predictions to the political events of my time. It didn't occur to me that Nostradamus might not have had my particular time in mind when he wrote his book. Or perhaps it did, but I wanted it all to apply to the only slice of history I can personally witness.

Something like that might lie behind the desire so many seem to have to live in the Biblical end-times right now. It's more exciting than living in times which are not especially significant in any particular way.

All this ties into the deep and difficult question of how to interpret holy texts (or even Notradamus). How concrete should one be in those interpretations? The fundamentalists prefer to err in the direction of excessive concreteness, other believers go to enormous lengths to turn the meaning of the text upside-down when the direct message appears to be an unsavory one.

I liked Sheri Tepper's take on this issue in a few of her science fiction books set in some future world of planets. In one of the books a woman from our earth is viewed as a prophet. She pops up on various planets at various times and one of the messages she tells people is this: "Don't let them mess with your head."

In another book, set in a time centuries later, a religion flourishes based on the records of this prophet's life. Her followers never cut their hair.