A house at the corner of Elandsgracht and Lijnbaansgracht, in the center of Amsterdam, sports a message spelled out in huge, white letters on a black background: “Lees De Bijbel Het Boek voor U” — Dutch for “Read The Bible The Book For You”. Yes, no punctuation.
Most Amsterdammers are familiar with the sign, but don’t quite know why it’s there.
The sign has been displayed since 1968, when a real estate agent by the name of Heule had it commissioned.
It was one way in which he wanted to share his Christian faith.
Just before he died he asked his son not to remove the sign, and reportedly that son will in turn ask his son to not remove it either.
One wonders how effective the recommendation is. At present, less than three percent of Amsterdammers still attend church on a regular basis.
Amsterdam is home to people from some 180 people groups — making it the most multicultural city in the world. Consequently, one finds adherents of many different faiths.
Yet most citizens don’t bother with religion at all, and – purposely or not — are into atheism and secularism.
There is also a large contingent of ‘salad bar’ believers — the ‘spiritual but not religious‘ crowd that picks and chooses, mixes and matches beliefs and practices, without regard to doctrine or principle other than “What’s true for you is true for you.”
Often when I walk past this place — or pass by in bus or tram — I hear people comment on the ‘Lees De Bijbel’ sign. Many such comments are crude, thoughtless or just plain dumb.
One comment I heard stuck with me, though. A child asked, “What is a Bible, grandpa?”
“Like it says, it’s a book,” he replied. “It’s book many people don’t want to read.”
“Because it contains truth.”
I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation, but wish that I had.
© Copyright, Anton Hein