Outdoor “Advertising”

On the way back to South Bend yesterday (returning My Favorite Domer to campus for spring semester) my attention was again drawn to a sign.

One of those billboard-sized outdoor signs, the kind you can’t miss.

The kind that normally advertises legal services or hotels or car dealerships.

Or “adult entertainment.”

The sign is nestled in a clearing on the east side of I-65, somewhere between Lowell and Merrillville, Indiana. It features a stark black background and immense white letters which read: “Jesus is Real” as you’re headed north.

The back side of the sign, as you’re traveling south, reads: “Hell is Real.”

I’d have taken a picture of it, but traveling along at 70 mph leaves little room for photographing stuff.

Even interesting stuff.

Besides, I’ve given you the description, and it’s not like it was photogenic.

This sign has been up for at least four years, and the former journalist and present-day writer in me finds it quite mysterious.

Who put it there? Why do they keep it in such good shape?

Was it erected by a born-again convict who’s seen the error of his ways? Is it being maintained by a church group hoping to nudge passersby into regular religious attendance? Or did a son or daughter use their inheritance to proclaim something dear ole Dad always used to tell them?

Once I called the Indiana Department of Transportation to find out some background on the sign.

But, sadly, they had no information for me. They said they really didn’t know who’d put up the sign, or how long it’s been there, or if there’s a juicy story behind it.

So, I guess I’ll have to do as I’ve done for the past four years. When I come to the vicinity of the sign, I’ll read the front side, then whirl around to read the back.

The one side is comforting; the other, sobering.

Anybody out there know the origins of this billboard or its proclamation?