Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Things I wish Christians would stop saying: Anything whatsoever about homosexuality

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If you are a Christian and you publicly condemn homosexuality or homosexual behavior, stop it. You’re harming the faith. You’re making Christians look like pinheads.

That’s because it’s not the Christian’s job to tell the world how to live. The Christian has three major jobs:

  1. Be the conduit for God’s love into the world
  2. Introduce people to God through Jesus Christ
  3. Encourage other Christians to become better disciples

There’s so much work to do in just these three jobs that we should be too busy to pronounce condemnation on anyone. There will never be a shortage of people in need: sick, poor, addicted, grieving, lonely, incarcerated. Go and do for them.

Sometimes, people you serve will become ready and receptive to hear more about God. Tell them your faith story and show them what the Bible says about redemption. Let your testimony and especially the word of God penetrate their hearts. After they’ve accepted Christ, help them build their relationship with God. Encourage them, study with them, pray with them, be their friend, and give them opportunities to serve people in need. And so the cycle continues.

Here’s where this gets a little thorny. Part of helping other Christians grow and become better disciples sometimes involves pointing out their sins. On the one hand, Jesus warned us in the Sermon at the Mount to take the log out of our own eye before we point out the splinter in someone else’s – that is, we should we should overwhelmingly focus on cleaning up our own act over correcting others. But Paul in his writings tells Christians that they should directly address the gross, unrepentant sin of other Christians.

It can be tricky to figure out through the Bible what God considers to be wrong behavior. It’s tempting, but risky, to read any English translation of Scripture as direct instruction to us. That’s because the Bible’s books were originally written for an audience that has been dead for thousands of years. Who was the original audience in terms of their history, culture, and level of understanding of the world? What is known about why that book was written? Additionally, do other passages about the same subject harmonize with this one and with the Bible’s overarching message? Finally, because the original language is not always easily directly translated into English, it is often very illuminating to look at the original words to learn shades of meaning obscured in English. In other words, a full understanding of any Bible passage requires study.

Upon that level of study, it’s clear that the Bible unambiguously calls out many sins: God hates divorce. Don’t sleep around on your spouse. Don’t murder anybody. However, I find after some study that the few verses that call out homosexual behavior are ambiguous.

But regardless of what your study leads you to think about homosexuality, those few verses are positively overwhelmed by verse after verse after verse that tell the Christian what behaviors and attitudes to put on. The Bible relentlessly tells you to live a life of compassion and service. Give yourself over to it, and let God sort out the rest.

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Here is another thing I wish Christians would stop saying.

A new look for Down the Road

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I’ve given Down the Road a new look.

This new design sheds clutter, placing all of the spotlight onto my words and photos. The text is a little bigger, making it easier to read. And now I can make my photos larger, too. That’s really what drove this change, as my blog has become more and more about photography in the last few years.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

I’ve also dumped some of the sidebar links and moved the rest to the bottom of the page. Frankly, hardly anybody ever clicked them anyway.

If you usually read my blog in your e-mail or via a feed reader, I encourage you to click this post’s title today and see it on the Web. My blog’s new design even works on your tablet or smart phone, sizing itself to fit your display.

I think you’ll like the new Down the Road.

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A survey of all the old National Road and US 40 alignments in Indiana

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I’ve written for years here about the National Road, which was the nation’s first federally funded highway. (See everything I’ve written here). It was authorized by Thomas Jefferson in 1806 and built from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois between 1811 and 1837. Today, if you’re on US 40 between those two cities, you are on or near the old National Road. And so the old road lives on.

In Indiana, the National Road was originally little more than a path through the woods. After the state formed its fledgling highway network in 1917, the road was surfaced in gravel and, sometimes, brick or concrete. But starting in the 1930s the state undertook a very ambitious project to make our section of US 40 one of the finest highways in the nation – four divided lanes in the country, three or four lanes through towns and cities, and paved in concrete all the way. We take such roads for granted today, but in those days highways were narrow, winding, and sometimes even unpaved. The new US 40 leveled the terrain, straightened the most wicked curves, and provided a wide and smooth surface, allowing for high-speed travel. It was a marvel!

Except for having been resurfaced in asphalt, it remains today just as it was. Here’s an especially beautiful section of it in Putnam County near Manhattan.

US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana

I’ve been trying to piece together a timeline of this improvement project for years. Recently I read the book US 40: A Roadscape of the American Experience by Thomas Schlereth, which the Indiana Historical Society published in 1985. Glory be, there it was on page 94: a diagram showing when each section of the road was upgraded. Click it to see it larger.

US40PavingProgression

This project left behind several older sections of the road. They give a sense of what an American highway was like in the 1920s. The only old alignment east of Indianapolis is a four-mile stretch between Dunreith and Knightstown.

Old US 40/Natl Rd alignment

A whole bunch of old road remnants lurk west of Indianapolis. This one is actually in Indianapolis and ends at the western city limits, which is where I stood to get this photo. A stripe of asphalt covers concrete laid in the 1920s. Modern US 40 is just outside the photo on the right.

Old Washington St.

Just west of there is an alignment bypassed because of an odd-angle intersection with a railroad track. I’ve seen historic aerial photography of this area that shows that this segment was bypassed by 1937, which is before the widening project came to this part of the state. Unfortunately, this alignment was bisected in 2006 by the new Ronald Reagan Parkway.

Bisected National Road

Just west of Plainfield, a bridge stands abandoned after two new ones were built on the new alignment in about 1940.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Trees are growing in the bridge’s deck.

Abandoned US 40 Bridge

Just beyond this abandoned bridge, a remnant of 1920s concrete lines up perfectly with the current road’s westbound lanes.

Abandoned National Road/US 40

Putnam County boasts the most bypassed segments of Indiana’s National Road. This brick segment is on private property just west of Mt. Meridian. I estimate that these bricks were laid between 1922 and 1925.

Brick National Road/US 40 alignment

A realignment near Putnamville left this stretch of concrete behind. It dates to probably the late 1920s. Notice the seam down the center and the occasional lateral seams. My experience has been that if a concrete road has seams, it is from no earlier than 1925. Earlier concrete roads typically contain no seams.

Former NR/US 40 alignment

The Putnamville Correctional Facility still uses a section of the old road. Notice how it undulates with the terrain. Modern US 40 is flat.

State prison alignment of National Road

This short, narrow old alignment is near Manhattan. Notice the lack of seams in the concrete. My experience has been that seamless concrete roads are generally from the late 1910s to about 1925. Before then, concrete was considered an experimental road surface, and was seldom used.

Itty-bitty old US 40/NR alignment

The road was realigned twice near Reelsville. The oldest alignment was never paved. This is as close as it gets to the original National Road experience anywhere in Indiana, and perhaps anywhere along the entire National Road.

Gravel National Road segment, Putnam Co, Indiana

Here’s another shot of this alignment, taken in summertime.

Gravel National Road segment

This old alignment eventually merges with another old alignment of 1920s concrete. The concrete road was torn out for several hundred yards from this point east, or left in the photo.

1920s concrete

This concrete road soon becomes somebody’s driveway.

Old National Road as somebody's driveway

We’ve been heading steadily westbound so far, but this concrete alignment has another segment to the east and south, so I’m going to back up a little to show it. It is just an access road to a couple of homes, and so it gets little maintenance. Encroaching nature has effectively narrowed it to one lane.

Old US 40, Putnam County

The next old alignment of US 40 is still a highway. State Road 340 stretches from the western edge of Brazil in Clay County to the Vigo County line. Here’s where it begins in Brazil.

Brazil, IN

The last old US 40 alignment begins in Toad Hop, a small community just west of West Terre Haute. It disappears about three miles later into the fill where modern US 40 and I-70 merge. This 1919 bridge is is near the end of this alignment.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

With the exception of SR 340, these old alignments don’t get much use. But US 40 itself isn’t very busy either anymore. I-70 parallels it across the state, and with limited access and a 70 MPH speed limit, that’s where all the traffic is. US 40 was rerouted along I-465 in Indianapolis about 20 years ago, and along I-70 in Terre Haute a few years ago. It is probably only strong opposition from county officials who don’t want the burden of maintaining the road that keeps US 40 as it is everywhere else in Indiana.

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How do I find all these old alignmentsMy secrets are revealed here.

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