***Update***: Hey, look! New information! Joe Zamecki points out (in the comments) that at least one group of atheists *has* been trying to raise money for Patrick Greene. Joe writes:
The fact is, I and some other Atheists HAVE been there for him, raising money for him online for the past couple of days. He didn’t mention any of this church news to me, but some Atheists have been helping. Here’s the donation page he set up, at my suggestion: http://www.gofundme.com/h44q0
It doesn’t include my $20. donation because I mailed that to him.
I didn’t know about this and it basically makes my whole point moot. My apologies to all of you for that. Thanks to Joe for pointing out the omission.
So now, I’m wondering why (or if) Greene didn’t mention that to the reporter (Betty Water) and why Water didn’t include the information in her piece…
Last year, Henderson County (Texas) officials put a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.
When the Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted to include a display of their own on the lawn — or have county officials remove the Nativity Scene altogether — there was a kinda big rally in support of Jesus:
Last month, Patrick Greene, an atheist from San Antonio, told county officials that if they did it again, he would file a lawsuit against them.
Greene said, “… If they do not respond to my email by … Monday, February 20, 2012, I will assume that they have no intention of responding at all. In which case I will begin filling out the necessary forms, and file the lawsuit on the day they put up the nativity display.”
When asked his reasons for becoming involved, Greene said “to show that Christianity does not rule my state of Texas, the Constitution does. Christianity is only one of the many faiths represented in this state.”
But then, just a few weeks after sending out that email, Greene backed off. He said he couldn’t go through with it because he needed to focus on his health:
Greene revealed this weekend that he believes he has a detached retina, which he expects will leave him blind in the very near future.
In early February, Greene emailed several county officials promising to sue Henderson County if the traditional nativity scene is displayed on the courthouse lawn this Christmas. But because of his health, he has decided to back away from his threat to sue.
“There is no way for me to go up there if I’m blind,” he said.
He had intended to represent himself in the lawsuit, something he has done multiple times.
Greene said he has no insurance to pay for an operation that might save his sight, and can’t even pay for the exam that will confirm the diagnosis.
“Why waste the money if I can’t do anything about it,” he said.
And that’s when some decent Christians stepped in:
“I knew of his lawsuit and threats and thought how sad it was for him to be so bitter toward Christians,” Jessica Crye, of Athens, said. “I thought he must have never felt the love of God through Christians. I also thought about how scary that must be.”
Upon hearing about Greene’s plight with his eyes, Ms. Crye spearheaded a movement for a collection to send Greene.
Ms. Crye said she knows most people in Henderson County see the condition of his eyes as a “victory because he is leaving us alone.”
But Ms. Crye saw the situation differently.
“Why not turn this into something else? This is a great opportunity to turn the other cheek and show God’s love,” she said.
Ms. Crye contacted her pastor, the Rev. Erick Graham, of Sand Springs Baptist Church, and the drive for a collection for Greene gained momentum.
“We didn’t have to think about it or pray about (it). We saw the need,” Graham said. “We don’t discriminate on who we help, whether they are Christians or non-Christians, church members or not. We just help those with a need.”
Crye’s reasoning is not only wrong, it’s insulting. To suggest that Greene is bitter toward Christians because he asked the local government to obey the law? To suggest his life must be desolate and depressing without God’s love? None of that is accurate.
But, dammit, her church was there for him and we weren’t.
They sent him a check for $400, an amount we could’ve raised for him in a heartbeat. (Yes, I’m aware that could open the floodgates for something that may not be a good idea — giving away money to anyone who asks for it — but just work with me here…)
The Christians ended up looking great. Meanwhile, atheists who were there for Greene in his time of need were nowhere to be found.
I don’t know if a fundraiser would’ve been appropriate in this situation, but this is a serious issue that we don’t talk about (or act upon) very often: How should we respond when people in our community (online, local, whatever) need help? Are we going to be there for them emotionally? Do we take them into our homes if they need a place to go? Do we offer them financial support if they can’t pay their medical bills?
You can criticize Crye and all the other Christians for their faulty reasoning, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they have answers to all of those questions: Yes. Yes. And Yes.
In their mind, that’s what it means to be a Christian.
Unless we find a way to replicate that sense of community without the need for supernatural nonsense, churches aren’t going to dwindle in number anytime soon.