Spiritual Highways In American Mythology
By James Donahue
We noted an odd story about a number of Christians who think US Interstate 35, heading north from Texas through six states into Minnesota, is a “Highway of Holiness” mentioned in the
The Old Testament verse, Isiah 35:8, offers the passage: “A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall
be called the Highway of Holiness.” That the verse is found in Chapter 35, has caused the group to link it with the
name of the Interstate, which is 35.
With no more of a link than that vague thought, churchgoers in all six states devoted 35 days of praying alongside
I-35. There was a strange belief that to fulfill a “prophecy” of making that ribbon of pavement a Highway of Holiness,
there had to be some intense prayer. We guess the idea was to purify and bless the road, somewhat like a Roman Catholic priest
sprinkling holy water on it.
We find some humor in the vision, penned by one reporter who observed the rituals, of Christian believers chanting
“loudly and vibrantly, making many people in the neighborhood wonder what was going on. They prayed that adult businesses
along the corridor would ‘see the light’ and perhaps close down.”
They also prayed for safety from crime for people who traveled and lived along the interstate.
Taking the highway numbers to yet the opposite extreme, we remember traveling Highway 666 that ran north from Gallup, New Mexico, through Colorado
and Utah and passing through the heart of the Navajo Nation.
The highway connected at the south end with that historic Route 66. By the time we arrived in Arizona, remnants of Route 66 could still be found, but the road had been replaced by Interstate
US 666 was an oddity in its day. The US Highway
system has historically assigned odd numbers to north-south roads, and even numbers to east-west roads. Yet US 666 was always
a north-south route. The story was that the number was picked because the highway connected with two other east-west routes
and no appropriate odd number was available.
Naturally, with a number like that, US 666 was nicknamed The Devil’s Highway, and the Road of the Beast. There
was a successful movement among Christian groups to have the highway re-named, so it now is known as US 491.
As far as we know, Highway 666 was never known as a deadly or dangerous route, any more than Interstate 35 is proving
to be a holy road into Heaven. The only positive effect of changing the name of Route 666 is that people have stopped stealing
the road signs.