What the fuck are the Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads?
“Don’t you boys know nothin’? The USA is the center of Jerusalem”
In 2001, Lift to Experience, led by Josh T. Pearson, released their first and only album The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. Described at the time by Pitchfork’s Brent Sirota as “a ten-gallon prog-emo Biblical concept album about the Texan apocalypse.” The band quickly earned a cult following, but despite the stars aligning the Texas trio broke up less than year following the album’s release. Now, fifteen years later, the band has reunited for a string of shows in Texas and London and an upcoming reissue of their seminal album. To celebrate this occasion, I wanted to take a close look at an album that has fascinated and perplexed me for years.
I was first introduced to Lift to Experience via a music subreddit five or six years ago. I remember sitting up late that night listening to the entire 93-minute double album and immediately wanting to listen again. It’s combination of explosiveness, allusions to grandeur, and humor were like nothing I had ever heard before. Pearson’s voice, with its Texan drawl, is enthralling and immediately demands your full attention when he first booms, “This is the story of three Texas boys.” The line is an implicit promise: somewhere within the cacophony and chaos of the album that is to follow there is story that will be told.
That promise, possibly more than anything else about the album, kept drawing me back to The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. Yet despite countless listens, I could not seem to garner anything more than a vague idea as to what the album might actually be about or what the Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads might be referring to. Let me stress that this is something that would cross-my-mind at least every month or two. A song from the album would play and I’d be back trying to figure out the narrative and how that song fits into it. I’d listen to the song again, maybe even pour over the lyrics, but inevitably I would give up without making much progress.
When I heard news of the reunion and reissue I became determined to take a hard look at the album and figure out once and for all where or what the Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads are.
I began at the same place I always do: the opening lines:
This is the story of three Texas boys busy mindin'
their own business
When the Angel of the Lord appeared unto them
‘When the Winston Churchills start firin' their
Winston rifles in the sky from the Lone Star State
Drinkin' their Lone Star beer and smoking their
You know the time is drawin' nigh when the sun
shall be lifted on high’
(“Just as Was Told”)
At once clear, God has told the band that the end of the world is approaching, and yet cryptic, who are these Winston Churchills? And is a Winston rifle a thing? I realized if I ever wanted to understand an album about the Texan Apocalypse, I was going to need to better understand the Christian Apocalypse upon which it was based. Thus, I sat down to do what I had been avoiding for as many years as I had listened to the album. I would actually need to read the Book of Revelation, a work central to Christian Eschatology.
Being a nice Jewish boy, I wasn’t all that familiar with the Book of Revelation. So I gave it a read-through and really didn’t understand a whole lot. I did get there is going to be a lot of fire, blood, and death until Jesus comes back, pulls a giant sword out of his mouth and smites Satan once and for all, after which everything is going to be great for ever and ever. It seemed I was going to need to do some deeper research. Now, I admit a lot of this research was ‘Wikipedia Research.’ However, Wikipedia has been sufficient for most of my medical education thus far, so I am assuming it is at least equally sufficient for biblical studies.
The Book of Revelation, also known as The Apocalypse of John, is a highly symbolic text and considered by some Christians to be prophetic. Now there are innumerous analyses and interpretations of each and every one of the nearly 400 lines found in the book. I was determined to stick to my goal of understanding The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads in reference to The Book of Revelation, so I only skimmed the analyses for fear of getting lost in that rabbit hole and never making it back to the Crossroads. However, if you find yourself interested in going down that road, Wikipedia has articles on several of the major schools of interpretation. Including,
- Idealism, that the events of Revelation should be taken as an allegory for spiritual struggle
- Preterism, that the events occurred in the first century AD
- Historicism, broadly that the events refer to other historical events (most commonly attributed to people and events during the Reformation), and
- Futurism, that the events described are still to come.
Wikipedia is well annotated and provides links to numerous scholarly works, however if reading really isn’t your thing and you happen to be a fan of poorly edited videos made on iMovie then I suggest you hop over to YouTube and find out how the Book of Revelation is actually about Obama, ISIS, and Kim Kardashian!
Luckily for me, I was primarily interested in narrative structure which was not only an easier place to start, but was ripe with similarities to The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. In Revelation, God’s plan for the end of the world is communicated to John via prophetic visions. The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads opens with God telling three Texans that end of the world is coming and that ‘all the prophecies of old; shall come to [pass].’ The ‘prophecies of old’ may directly refer to the Book of Revelation and the visions presented within it of the final battle between the forces of God and Satan. The album continues by following several angels that come to Earth in order to prepare for the coming battle. The song ‘Down Came the Angels,’ tells of three angels who ‘seek shelter from the storm on the horizon’ and to deliver a message from the Council of God to a chosen one.
[God] seek[s] a seer to ride the sea, to crash the tide,
protect the free.
They want a watchman upon the wall (to) sound
(Down Came the Angels)
The angels then promise the man that he will be given angel wings and other powers if he agrees to the task. I believe this is a subtle reference to the ‘Woman of the Apocalypse’ mentioned in the Book of Revelation. In chapter twelve of Revelation, a woman ‘clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars’ who gives birth to a son. The woman and her son are attacked by a ‘great red dragon’ (Satan), she escapes to the wilderness and her son ‘who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron’ is taken up by God. This leads to a war in heaven, Michael and his angels prevail and cast the dragon, Satan, out of heaven. Now on earth, the dragon again attacks the woman, but this time the woman is given angel wings and is able to escape. This woman is often interpreted as either the Virgin Mary or as representing the Church (or both at the same time). However, another interpretation is that the woman is the Nation of Israel. I prefer this last interpretation in the context of The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, as the angels aren’t necessarily seeking a person, they’re seeking Texas. Portraying Texas as the Woman of the Apocalypse is just one of the ways in which Texas becomes Israel on The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads.
The climax of the Book of Revelation is the final battle between good and evil, between God and Satan. In this scene from Revelation, Jesus and his heavenly host descend to do battle with Satan.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse;
and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and
True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were
many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man
knew, but he himself.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and
his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon
white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he
should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a
rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness
and wrath of Almighty God.
(Revelation, Chapter 19:11-15)
In the apocalypse of the Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads the focus isn’t so much a battle as the struggle to make it to Texas. We are told in ‘With Crippled Wings’ that “if you [are to] reach the Holy City, it won’t be without a fight” and that “those bound for our Texas state line… [will] find the weary and the faint. Dry admist the deluge inside our city of refuge.” One of the most memorable exchanges on the album occurs on 'Waiting to Hit' when the protagonists are charged by the almighty himself to spread the word that Texas is the promised land.
When the Lord said "Son! Tell the world before
The glory of the Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads."
I said "Lord I'll make you a deal;
I will if you give me a smash hit so I can build a
'city on a hill'."
And He said "Son! I will if you will."
I said "My sweet Lord, it's a deal."
(Waiting to Hit)
Again Texas is put in proximity with Jerusalem/Israel. And understanding Texas as the promised land is essential to understanding The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. This is because in Revelation, after Satan is vanquished, Jesus and God create a new kingdom on Earth in which to rule.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for
the first heaven and the first earth were
passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,
coming down from God out of heaven, prepared
as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying,
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and
he will dwell with them, and they shall be his
people, and God himself shall be with them, and
be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow,
nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away.
(Revelation, Chapter 21:1-4)
This new holy city is called ‘New Jerusalem’ and in this city God will rule and all men will exist in perfect harmony. After evil has been completely vanquished the world will be so different that it will be as if it has been made anew. In The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads the ‘crossroads’ represent the point at which Texas becomes this ‘New Jerusalem.’ The final words of the album hammer this point home.
Follow me over the Jordan across the desert
Follow me O Israel into the Promised Land
Follow me over the Jordan across the Rio
Follow me into Texas into the Promised
Marching on to Zion with gun in hand
Into the promised land
(Into the Storm)
Following the descent of the angels, the wars and hardships of the Great Tribulation, and finally the Second Coming of Christ and the defeat of Satan, Texas will become God’s holy city.
To be honest, this post was incredibly difficult to write. I spent a lot of time worrying that maybe there was no meaning to The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, that it was all the nonsensical ramblings of mad Texan prog-rockers. Even when I thought I found some meaning, I had trouble putting that meaning down on the page. It took many stops and starts and several re-writes to get my own mad ramblings into this slightly more succinct and coherent version. In short, the answer to my original question was relatively simple, the Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads refer to the fact that Texas is destined to become the ‘New Jerusalem’ of The Book of Revelation. Though this answer is simple, little else about the album is, it’s interesting, complex and well worth exploring and listening to.
I hope you go and check out the album in full, it’s truly one of a kind and there’s so much more in it than I could ever hope to discuss in one blog post. For example, one of my favorite tracks, ‘Falling From Cloud 9,’ explores what it must be like for Satan, or one of his angels, to go into a fight knowing the outcome has been preordained against him, yet struggling on anyway.
And if you came here because you’re one who believes that the end is near, perhaps you should take Pearson’s advice and “take two steps towards Texas tonight.”