Christian's raise funds for ill atheist protester

(TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Patrick Greene says he has always been "treated like dirt" by Christians because of his atheistic beliefs.

That recently changed, leaving Greene "completely flabbergasted."

It happened when some Henderson County Christians offered Greene financial assistance with a medical problem despite his opposition to a nativity scene on the courthouse square.
Greene is the San Antonio atheist who threatened to sue in an attempt to force Henderson County officials to remove its nativity scene. Greene also filed a complaint with the state against the county judge for not removing a county commissioner for remarks supporting the nativity scene.

Greene dropped consideration of the lawsuit after being told by medical personnel he could at any time go blind in at least one eye from a detached retina. Greene decided he could not pursue a lawsuit blind.

"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.

It was announced to the Christian community of Henderson County, and donations came in not just from members of Sand Springs Church but from the community at large, Graham said.

"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."

Ms. Crye said, "I want no publicity for this; I was just doing as God asked me to do. I had great parents that taught me very early about God's love and showed by example how to demonstrate that to others."

The first Greene knew about what was going on among some Henderson County Christians was when they offered twice to pay for eye surgery for him.

Greene flatly turned them down because he said the surgery is not 100 percent guaranteed. "I told them I don't want you throwing your money away," he said.

They countered by asking if there was anything else they could do to help.

Greene, a taxi driver, was short on funds for living expenses because he had turned in his taxicab out of fear that he might suddenly go blind while driving passengers.

Now retired, Greene replied that he needed some funds for groceries and other expenses to carry him and his wife, Karen, while they got squared away with the start-up of Social Security income and pay their taxes.

A check was sent. Greene said he and his wife debated whether the check might be for $10 or maybe $50 or even $60.

To their astonishment that any Christian would ignore the fact that they are atheist and help, the check was for $400.

"They said they wanted to do what real Christians are supposed to do – love you – and they wanted to help," Greene said. The money is better than prayer because Wal-Mart doesn't accept prayer as legal tender, he added.

Despite his atheism, Greene has clear-cut ideas about "real" Christians. "They do not say horrible things about an atheist because we don't believe," he said, lamenting that he and his wife have long been confronted by that.

Contrarily, what some Henderson County Christians did for him, Greene said, is such an amazing story that he is going to write a book about it. "I've already titled it ‘The REAL Christians of Henderson County,'" he said.

The reason for the title, Greene explained, is that based on what he has read about Jesus, he thinks the hatred that some Christians show toward anybody that doesn't agree with them is not what Jesus would have done because Jesus taught to love your enemy.

"It's good to actually deal with Christians that don't beat you over the head and say you are wrong, you are a sinner and going to hell and pray for you. They just accept you as a human being," Greene said.

Greene claimed he and his wife have been discriminated against and mistreated by Christians because they are atheists all of the more than 33 years the couple has been married.

"I have high opinions of Christianity generally as a philosophy, but I don't agree with it in any way. My wife is more adamant," he said.

Greene added that he has studied Christianity and read Genesis and all four gospels about the life of Jesus, but considers the Bible "too preposterous" to accept.

"I appreciate the love and the generosity (of the Henderson County Christians who helped), but it doesn't affect my own outlook on the Bible in any way," Greene said.

The Sand Springs pastor said Greene had never seen Christians do what Christians are supposed to be doing. "I think that was one of the reasons he was so hardened toward Christianity," Graham said, revealing that donations are still coming in and more may be done to help.

Greene was so appreciative to the Christians that he ordered an electrical star for their nativity scene and had it shipped to Henderson County.

"I saw the nativity scene on a video on You Tube. There's no star on top of it. Shouldn't there be one?" Greene asked. "I just hope that the Christians that weren't a part of this contribution to us don't mind that an atheist bought them a star."


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