(Photo: Patrick Greene)
Atheist activist Patrick Greene had plans to sue Henderson County, Texas, just a few months ago if the county did not move its nativity scene from the courthouse lawn to a private property. He eventually dropped his threats, however, after discovering he was quickly losing his vision. Not long after his decision was reported, donations began pouring in from Christians who wanted to lend the non-believer a helping hand, with no strings attached.
Greene was interviewed by The Malakoff News in late February, when he revealed that he believed he had a detached retina which would eventually cause him to go blind in the near future. Greene, who worked as a self-employed taxi cab driver before his vision began to fade, had no health insurance and no money to get surgery, so he simply accepted that he would go blind.
"No Christian has ever acted this way in the entire time we've been married," Greene told The Christian Post on Friday, referring to the donations from believers. "These are the first actual Christians we've ever met in our lives."
Jessica Crye, a Christian woman from Athens, Texas, read Greene's interview and decided she wanted to help the man who tried to have her county's nativity scene removed from county property. She called her pastor, Erick Graham of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens, and asked if he thought they could do something for Greene, and without hesitation he said yes.
"It was one of those things where I didn't have to think about it. I didn't have to pray about it. Jesus already commanded us to do it, and so I just did it," Graham told CP.
Graham later added, "It goes back to what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount. If you do good to those who do good to you, what more is that than the rest of the world? But when the world sees that a Christian will do good to those who do evil toward them, it's a much greater witness."
Greene says he was against the idea of accepting funds for the expensive surgery, which he says may or may not have allowed him to keep his vision. It would have cost $20,000 for the surgery, and that amount would increase if there were any complications. He had been told by one of his taxi passengers, an "eye doctor" who was in town for a conference, that his retina could re-detach even after the surgery, so he decided not to spend the money on surgery at all.
But after giving up his job, he realized he had very little income and needed help. He accepted the financial offerings from Graham and says he is now using the money to cover basic costs of living. So far he has been able to buy groceries (including cat food), pay the rent and he even has enough money from donations to cover what he owes in taxes this year.
According to Graham, donations are still coming in on a daily basis, which has so far amount to about $1,300. Greene also took the advice of an acquaintance in Austin who works with the American Atheists organization and set up an account at GoFundMe.com, a fundraising website where both Christians and atheists alike have donated to Greene's cause to make his major life transition a little easier.
Greene says he has been officially diagnosed with cataracts, but believes he also has a detached retina and glaucoma. He diagnosed himself, he says, with the help of the Internet and of the doctors and blind people who would enter his taxi.
"Going blind is not dying," Greene told his wife, who was upset after she had heard the news. He has been practicing feeling his way around with his wife's cane so he can get used to it before he completely loses his sight.
After receiving the generous offer from Graham and Crye, Greene says he did some research on Athens and says he would like to move there. He and his wife have found an apartment they hope to eventually move into, which is more affordable than their current one in San Antonio and is within walking distance of a WalMart store.
"They were so nice that I went to the website for Athens just to see what that city looked like, because all I had ever seen on YouTube is the nativity scene and the courthouse area," said Greene.
While his vision may be fading away, Greene says his view of at least some Christians has changed for the better.
"We don't expect this kind of treatment from most Christians because most Christians don't act this way," said Greene. "But because of the fact that Jesus said 'Love your neighbor as yourself'...these people are acting like real Christians. Both my wife and I love them for that, because they're actually putting their actions where their beliefs are."