Greetings from Amsterdam!
Although Amsterdam is a beautiful city, I have to admit that some aspects of this city are very disturbing. Legalized prostitution is one of them. Now, if legal prostitution meant that women who enjoy that work are free to make a living, then that would be OK with me. Honestly, I can’t imagine the woman who enjoys having 20-50 men use her that way. And it is a fact that virtually all of the women who voluntarily choose the oldest profession have a history of past sexual abuse. Nevertheless, I would not jail prostitutes. That never was the answer.
The problem is that wherever you see prostitution, there’s trafficking. Legalized prostitution simply makes it easier for the real criminals (the traffickers) to enslave women and make money from them. It also eases the conscience of the johns, who satisfy their lust and lie to themselves, believing that the women enjoy the work. Legal prostitution allows them to believe that there is nothing shameful about paying for sex with a stranger. But if there really is nothing shameful about it, then why do they hide this activity from friends, family, and coworkers? They go on sex tourist vacations to Amsterdam or the Dominican Republic and visiting prostitutes becomes an addiction.
In addition, if legalized prostitution is just like any other profession or business, then why would the window girls of Amsterdam need a panic button? Yes, each room is supposed to be equipped with a panic button in case the john becomes violent. Many of the men who visit prostitutes actually hate women. Often johns turn violent, and even brag about abusing prostitutes in anonymous chatrooms (according to The Johns by Victor Malarek).
Prostitutes not only have short career lives, but they actually have a shorter life expectancy than other women. Violent johns is only one hazard of the job. Often the traffickers use narcotics to subdue and eventually get the women so addicted that they will literally do anything for their next fix. Often the women, once offered freedom and rehabilitation from the drugs, are so ashamed that they refuse to return home to their families—especially if their family is poor.
So, it is against this backdrop that I came to Amsterdam to meet Allita (from the last chapter of my new book Holy Goosebumps). She had visited me in Milan while I edited and got the book ready for publication. From there, she came to Amsterdam and has been prayer walking the city of Amsterdam, as she did in Milan. We had a couple of days together in this beautiful city. We explored the city, renewing our friendship.
At the hostel where we both stayed, we made friends with the staff and other visitors. The hostel we stayed at is one of the two Christian hostels: The Shelter and The Shelter Jordan. We stayed at The Shelter Jordan. They were very friendly and welcoming, and is definitely one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed at—and by now, I’ve stayed at many hostels all over Europe. One young man who worked at the front desk is a fellow writer. He wrote A Life Method. I also met a young Italian man, who was delighted to find someone to speak Italian with. We talked about Italy, Amsterdam, the US, and eventually Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. He had looked for work in Italy, and finding none, he had come to Amsterdam, saying that he will never return to Italy—well, only to visit his mom. He admitted that he smokes pot, but was very open to learning about a genuine Christian life.
That’s the wonderful thing about places like The Shelter: people can mix and share their faith in such a natural way that there is none of the stiffness of bringing them into a church. Let’s face it, most churches are not comfortable places for people who are being convicted by the Holy Spirit. But over a coffee in a friendly Christian café, they’re ready to listen and to talk without arguing. Arguing someone into the kingdom doesn’t work anyway. Love is what attracts people into the kingdom, and The Shelter is a great place to love people into the kingdom.
We need more places like The Shelter and Christian coffeehouses. I would rather see our people build those things than churches. If we want to reach this generation with the Gospel, we’re going to have to adapt. God is good!
 Whether you call it an addiction or an obsession, behaviors like this can become a drug—an escape from the unhappy realities of life.