MINNEAPOLIS — For many drivers it’s an efficient route to the cabin up north or the Iowa homestead down south, but for a number of Christians across denominations, Interstate 35 is a holy stretch of asphalt leading not to the site of Buddy Holly’s last gig, but to divine salvation.
Some believe I-35 might be shorthand that links the interstate to Isaiah 35:8 of the Bible: “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not pass over it, and fools shall not err therein.”
While some believe the interstate is literally a road to enlightenment and a detour from sin, others say the link is, at best, a wildly skewed interpretation of scripture and at worst, “ridiculous.”
What proponents of the idea call “The Highway of Holiness” cuts a swath straight through the heartland from Duluth, Minn., to Laredo, Texas, bisecting the country and kissing the Mexican border. The road’s prominence through the country’s midsection lends more apple-pie credence to the belief.
Worshippers in churches across the United States and abroad prayed nonstop for 35 days from late October to early December as part of the “Light the Highway” movement lead by a Texas ministry.
The goal, believers said, was to pray for the overall betterment of the country, forgiveness of personal and collective sins and closeness with God.
“I believe it began a shift in the spiritual realm over the city of Duluth and especially over I-35,” said Shannon Stone, a participant whose husband is pastor of Jesus is Life Ministries in Duluth. “I think we’ll see a change in the things that are happening, people’s desire to live more righteously.”
Not everyone buys it, however.
Central Christian Church Pastor Bill Banks said the bible verse refers to the path Moses created to free the Israelites from Egypt or the path John the Baptist made for Jesus and probably not a physical highway.
But he said he likes the idea of getting more people to pray for the country.
“It sounds wonderful with the corruption in America we need to return our nation to the nation our founding fathers created: One nation under God,” he said.
Banks said some members of his church pray constantly to purge gangs and violence from the city.
Pastor Curtis Shelburne of the 16th & D Church of Christ in Muleshoe doubts the physical highway leads to salvation.
“No, not even close not within a million miles, of I-35 or anywhere else,” he said.
But he thinks using the idea to get people to pray is a good thing.
“I think it’s always good for us to try to make our prayers more specific than just general,” Shelburne said.
Three years ago self-described prophet and God Channel regular Cindy Jacobs was preaching in a Texas church when she said she made the first public connection between the interstate and Bible verse.
“It’s amazing that there’s a scripture that talks about the highway of holiness and there’s an actual one,” said Jacobs, who co-founded Generals International ministry in Red Oak, Texas, which lead the Light the Highway movement.
— CNJ staff writer Gabriel Monte contributed to this report.