The True Scotsmen

I’ll spend plenty of time shouting on my soapbox on about how, given the opportunity, fundamentalists and evangelicals will turn this country into an uneducated third world intellectual sinkhole … so I think it’s only fair I should write about the times when normal, everyday Christians come together and do something charitable and good … because it’s the right thing to do.

In this case, the Christians of Henderson County Texas took up a collection to aid local resident Patrick Greene, who was recently diagnosed with a detached retina and is at the risk of losing his vision.

That, in itself, is an admirable act of charity and generosity.  Until you do a little reading on Mr. Greene’s history.  As an atheist living in Texas, he atheist who, according to him “… has always been treated like dirt by Christians because of his atheistic beliefs.”  He’s also expended considerable effort in trying to get Henderson County Courthouse to remove its nativity scene from public property, and even threatened to sue until his health prevented him from following through with any legal action.

To his astonishment, they sent him a check for $400 after twice offering to pay for his surgery outright.

“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.”

“… This is a great opportunity to turn the other cheek and show God’s love,” she said.

I think anyone in this situation would be grateful for their donation and the idea that people ideologically opposed to you would pull together to help you out … especially in light of a then-impending lawsuit.  But let’s be clear about two things:  bitterness toward Christians and Christianity almost always comes from direct experience with the most vocal and self righteous of them all.  While it’s not fair to lump all believers into this category, it’s understandable to develop this attitude if you’ve been given grief for not believing the way everyone else does for long enough.  Second, this isn’t God’s love.  This is money, freely given by people who feel as if they are doing good by it. These people may feel they are expressing the love or the will of God, but I believe they are doing it because they are simply good people … who just happen to be Christian.  I’m compelled to think Mr. Greene agrees:

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.

After spending 33 years being treated like second class citizens by people who claim to do it out of “love” and a moral certainty that could only come from divine mandate, I can certainly understand why he would feel the way he does.  I’m not at that point – and I doubt I ever will be because my experiences are much different from his – but I’m glad he has the opportunity to see that there are Christians who see past the parts of the bible condemning homosexuality and abortion(?) and live more by the words of the Sermon on the Mount.

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

Heh.  While I still feel that the basis behind his lawsuit was right, I guess you have to pick your battles.  I wish him a successful surgery and a speedy recovery.

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6 Responses to The True Scotsmen

  1. Adam Benton says:

    They were discussing this on AETV and apparently he is no even considering converting because of the actions of these individuals, although that might be a misquote.

    • Converting? I think that’s a bit of an overreaction. I can certainly understand if he feels compelled to interact with them on a more personal level and feel a greater sense of community with those he previous saw as adversaries … but you’d think that he of all people would understand that these acts of charity – as generous as they were – do nothing to support their views of the supernatural.

      • Adam Benton says:

        To paraphrase the quote they were discussing on the show, it was something along the lines of “I’m off to Greece to study the Bible with a minister. I’m not a Christian yet, but ask me again in a year.”

        Benign me notes that his condition meant he lost his job, putting him in an extremely vulnerable place where he might be susceptible to the whims of a group being kind to him.

        Cynical me notes that he might just be trying to make a buck off his conversion. We’ve see in the past many atheists getting famous on the Christian circus by converting, and one as anti-theistic as him will no doubt find an audience. Indeed, he is already planning on writing a book on his experience.

        • True … nothing is quite as valuable to the cause of religion like a convert from atheism. I personally think the reality of the situation is some combination of both benign and cynical points of view. He’s pretty fragile right now and it’s likely that he’s been profoundly moved by their generosity, and I think he sees an opportunity to make some money out of the deal. Still, I can’t figure out how or why the outlandish claims made in the bible are made any more credible by some acts of charity by its followers.

          • Adam Benton says:

            It’s always possible that his reasons for being an atheist were never completely logical, thus logic would not be needed to persuade him otherwise.

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