On Tuesday, I found The Road To Nowhere. For real.
I hadn’t been searching for it, but there, on the backside of southeastern Pennsylvania was The Road To Nowhere. I’ve even included a picture of it for your edification.
Traveling from Lebanon, PA to Reading, PA is murder. It’s a terrible drive. In reality, it’s only about nineteen miles and should take about half an hour, but it generally takes one to one-and-a-half hours to get there. The main road is Route 422, a mostly two lane connector that runs from Harrisburg almost all the way to Philly. But no one ever expected this many people to live in southeastern PA, so it’s a friggin’ nightmare to drive.
I go to Reading relatively frequently because it’s a mid-point for my buddy and I to meet. I’m there once or twice a month (the Tuesday specials at Canal Street Pub are killer). So, of course, I’m going to look for an alternate route, which I found one day going home from Reading back to Lebanon. It’s series of back roads that runs north of and parallel to Route 422. Genius! and it makes the drive beautiful and an easy 49 minutes. Mostly, its Brownsville Road, but then it intersects Bernville Road with this tiny little farm road called Bunkerhill Road shooting off to the west at the top of a hill. You can literally avoid 27 stoplights by taking this alternate route. I counted.
My grand discovery of The Road To Nowhere came as a result of taking this back way going the other direction, from Lebanon to Reading. I turned off Route 422 and then quickly grabbed Bunkerhill headed east. It dipped and rolled, passing freshly harvested fields and big barns and silos. And then, coming around the final corner to the intersection with Bernville Road, it ended. Just stopped.
This was a true Road To Nowhere. Not one of those back-country dirt roads that just stops in the middle of the woods somewhere. I’ve been on those too, and they are not roads to nowhere. They definitely lead somewhere. Dead-ending in the middle of the woods is definitely the beginning of something awesome: discovery, adventure, fun, new smells and sights. This was a true Road To Nowhere.
Bunkerhill Road connects to Bernville Road and Bernville Road can take you all sorts of place (namely, Bernville). But, as you can see in the picture, you’re not allowed to turn on to Bernville Road. There is a no left-hand turn sign, a no right-hand turn sign, a no exit sign, and a stop sign. Bernville Road goes somewhere, but not for you if you’re on Bunkerhill.
What the heck? Who thought of this? Some city planner is sitting in an office somewhere chuckling at himself at my expense. Can you imagine being the road workers who posted these signs? What a crazy assignment! What a useless intersection! And there’s no warnings; the state of Pennsylvania wants me to simply arrive at this stop sign, look at the other posted signs and think to myself, “Well, clearly this is rational. Of course I wanted to get to just this point, turn off my car and sit here since I can legally make no further forward progress.”
I was flummoxed. Consternated. Prerogatively stupefied. What was I to do? So I sat there a considered my options.
I could backtrack and return to Route 422 from whence I came and then grab Bernville Road when it intersected Route 422. But that would cost me like, three miles, a good seven minutes and the liquid gold we call gasoline. I had not come this far for that chicanery. So, I looked at the signs, looked deeply within myself, then slowly moved the car forward. Drawing abreast of the stop sign, I could see why they did not allow turns off this road. It was a death trap. You couldn’t see what was coming up either side of the hill at all. But I couldn’t go back now, could I? Was I a man or a mouse? Batman wouldn’t have turned back at this point (The Dark Knight is my reference point for all things macho).
Now, I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but a 2003 Chevy Cavalier — especially the metallic blue ones — can go from zero to sixty in less than fourteen seconds, so the odds were clearly on my side. Four times I looked both ways super-fast, swiveling my head back and forth like I was watching a tennis match in hyper fast-forward, and then I gunned it. And I’m here today writing this post thanks to my steely nerves and inconceivably powerful four cylinder engine (American-made, baby!).
I spent the rest of the ride to Reading considering my new discovery of The Road To Nowhere. And it got me thinking about proverbial and metaphorical Roads To Nowhere, particularly as a follower of Jesus.
Growing up as a young Christian in the 80’s and 90’s, the concept of “relativism” was all the rage for Christians to combat. At the risk of gross oversimplification, relativism is essentially a philosophical belief that there is no definitive truth. Knowledge, truth, and morality are expressed only in the ways they are related to culture, perspective and history. Therefore, truth is relative in that every person has unique culture, perspective and history so truth can’t be strictly or strongly defined. What is right for me may not be right for you, and vice versa.
The grand Christian response to relativism was the concept of absolute truth. That what God says to be true is true absolutely, in every situation, for all people, for all of history and for all of the future. Truth is truth all the time and everywhere. Christian apologists used the extreme examples of evil as ammo for why truth had to be absolute.
What about Hitler? You mean to say the Holocaust was relative? Would you want your banker to be relative with your money? If I came to your house and murdered your children and told you it was wrong for you but right for me, how would you feel then? Either God is absolute and what He says goes, or you are absolute and you can do whatever you want whenever you want!
These are all ways that I was trained in the defense of absolute truth. And it made for some crazy discussions and situations for us as Christians. Either you were an absolutist or you were a heretic, there wasn’t much middle ground.
But in the end, both of these philosophies and approaches led to what I now observe as Roads To Nowhere, both philosophically and pragmatically.