(Photo: Patrick Greene)
A few months ago Patrick Greene was an atheist who was threatening to sue Henderson County, Texas, if the county didn't remove a Nativity scene from its courthouse lawn. Today he is a believer in Christ who underwent a radical change of heart that was catalyzed by the compassion of one Christian woman.
In late 2011, Greene joined the fight against a Nativity scene that had been set up outside the courthouse in the town of Athens, Texas, threatening to file a lawsuit over it. Shortly after he made his threat, however, he discovered that his ability to see was rapidly deteriorating and he would soon be blind, so he withdrew his threats and left the Nativity alone.
That's when Jessica Crye, a Christian woman from Athens, asked her pastor, Erick Graham of Sand Springs Baptist Church, if they could help Greene. As a result of her kindness, thousands of dollars in donations have gone toward helping Greene, who has reconsidered his view of God as a result.
"There's been one lingering thought in the back of my head my entire life, and it's one thought that I've never been able to reconcile, and that is the vast difference between all the animals and us," Greene told The Christian Post on Tuesday, as he began to explain his recent transformation from atheist to Christian. The theory of evolution didn't answer his questions, he says, so he just set those questions aside and didn't think about them anymore.
But when the Christians in a town that had reason to be angry with him showed him a gesture of love, he began reconsidering his beliefs altogether. He eventually began to realize that evolution would never have the answer to his questions, he says, and it was at that time he began to believe in God.
"I kind of realized that the questions I [was] asking you just had to accept on faith without doubting every period and every comma," he said. He later began studying the Bible, both the Old Testament and the Gospels, and also discovered his belief that Jesus is the Son of God.
Now this former atheist says he's not only a Christian, but he also wants to become a pastor.
Greene plans to either join a nearby liberal congregation or may even start his own chapter of the Rainbow Baptists, an outreach ministry of The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists that supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He says he feels strongly that homosexuality is acceptable in Christianity, and claims the Bible's original approach to issues of homosexuality has been altered over the last 2,000 years.
Greene says his wife of nearly 34 years, who is still an atheist, was "surprised" at his conversion but understands him. Even though they disagree on the issue, they haven't argued over it.
"We don't interfere with each other's differences, we don't put each other down because of it," he said.
As a symbol of his appreciation to the Christian community both in and around Athens, Greene has purchased a star for the top of the tree that is part of the Christmas display he once railed against. He has also written a letter to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that said the Nativity display was unconstitutional, to explain why their legal arguments against the Nativity are not valid.
Formerly a self-employed taxi cab driver, Greene was forced to give up his career after being diagnosed with cataracts and discovering symptoms of a detached retina and glaucoma. Although he says blindness is inevitable, he is still pursuing a second opinion of his diagnosis.
Greene says he was able to pay for his rent, bills, groceries and money owed from taxes thanks to the generous donations made by both Christians and atheists alike. In addition to receiving money from Sand Springs Baptist Church, he also received funds through two Go Fund Me fundraising accounts he set up for himself.
He hopes to eventually use some of the donation money to move out of his San Antonio apartment and get his wife the "dream" mobile home that she has always wanted. Once he purchases the mobile home, any leftover money that was donated to him will go to the Humane Society in order to help the fight against animal cruelty and abuse.
Greene was raised in a Catholic family, and says he read the Bible frequently during his teenage years. As a new Christian, he says he finds it "shameful" for someone to say they are a Christian but not make it a habit of reading the Scriptures.
"What has always bugged me, which I want to make a change to ...is the vast amount of Christians in this country don't read the Bible regularly or don't read it at all," he said.
Atheists are proud when they know more about the Bible than Christians do, he says, and he hopes to get people to read it so regularly that it becomes "just like waking up and brushing their teeth."