Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have You Been Hurt in Church?

“[My pastor said] ‘you need to ask forgiveness.‘ I said ’for what?’ because I thought he knew that I was frustrated with God and was anxious. And he said, ’cause Seth has this abnormality because of something you did.‘ And being taught that forgiveness is complete and it’s washed away…what could I have done? And I kept running through everything.”
This assertion — that she was responsible for her son’s Down Syndrome — caused her so much angst and pain that she decided to leave the church.
“I completely stopped going to church,” she explains. “The only way to get through that was to get out.”
Watch her share her story, below:

Lifetree Cafe Hurt By Church Press Release from Lifetree Cafe on Vimeo.


Athens, TX Atheist Who Threatened to Sue County Because of Nativity Drops Suit When Church Helps With Bills

ATHENS, Texas (BP) -- The man who threatened to sue a Texas county for placing a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn has had a shift in perspective, dropped the lawsuit and now plans to move to the county with his wife and cat.

Patrick Greene, an atheist, said he was shocked when a church began raising money to help battle a detaching retina. Greene previously had fought to have a nativity scene removed from a courthouse lawn. Photo is courtesy of the Athens Daily Review.
Patrick Greene, an atheist cab driver from San Antonio, had said he found the placement of the nativity unconstitutional and intended to use the legal system to force a judge to order its removal -- that is, until he began losing his vision because of a detaching retina.

With surgery on the horizon, no health insurance and a job that he could no longer maintain with his deteriorating eyesight, Greene realized he needed to focus his energies and finances on life's necessities, leading him to withdraw his lawsuit.

When Jessica Crye, a member of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens, Texas, found out, she called her pastor, Erick Graham, to see if he had heard the news -- not only about the dropped suit but about Greene's health. Crye asked Graham if their church could help him. Graham's answer was simple.

"Sure we can help him," Graham told her.

Graham said he didn't need to take time to pray about the matter or to mull it over because Christ had already provided an answer.

"We don't need to pray about it," Graham said. "We've already been given the command to do it."

Crye began to organize an effort to send support to the Greenes, and Graham explained to the church that they had an opportunity to show Greene the love of Christ.

Greene did not accept the offer of the church to pay for his eye surgery, but eventually agreed to let the church help him with bills and rent, which were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain with medical costs stacking up and no job to bring in income.

Greene said when he agreed, he and his wife never thought the church would actually follow through and send money.

"My wife said, 'We'll never see that,'" Greene said. "Two days later, a check for $400 came in the mail. We are totally flabbergasted."

Donations have not ended there, though.

"The money continues to come in for him as it's been made more public," Graham said, explaining that Greene then asked them not to send any more. "But I can't keep the people from giving. The money keeps coming and it's not ours to hold onto."

In the meantime, Greene has changed his mind about accepting help in funding his eye surgery, saying the Christians from Athens have worn down his resistance to outside help. He even set up a website to receive donations, publicly thanking Graham, Crye, and the Sands Springs church family.

Greene said in his entire life, he never has had a Christian treat him the way the Christians in Athens treated him. (Athens is the county seat.) The so-called Christians that Greene had encountered had refused to pay their fare in his cab because they did not want their money going to the "devil." They also had also refused to lease him apartments because of his disbelief in God. But they had never loved him, he said.

"No Christian at all that we've ever met in our lives, had ever been nice to us," Greene said. "No Christian has ever done anything for us. Our own families have totally forgotten our existence, and strangers -- Christians and atheists all around the country -- are helping us. One of the things Jesus said to was love your neighbor as yourself. These people are acting like real Christians."

Greene said he and his wife have received enough money to get caught up on rent, bills and taxes and that the surprise of the Christians' generosity and selflessness has not worn off.

"We are literally still in a state of shock," Greene said. "I feel like we're in the Twilight Zone."

Shock or not, though, the Greenes are moving forward, with plans to make Athens their permanent home with the help of Sand Springs Baptist Church and others who have heard about Greene's story and wanted to help. In Athens, where the cost of living is lower than in San Antonio, the couple has found an apartment within walking distance to Walmart, meaning they will not need to drive anywhere to get their groceries.

Greene said when he gets to Athens, he plans to become friends with the very people he once fought against.

"I've already invited [Jessica] and her family to dinner," Greene said. "I want to get together with everybody. We are not isolated anymore."

Though Greene has not changed his beliefs, Crye said Greene told her he would come to some of her church's services when he and his wife move to town.


New TN Law: Faith & Prayer in Public Schools, "Religious Viewpoints" Allowed

Prayer in public schools continues to be a highly-debated issue in states across America. In Tennessee, a new proposal that would pave the way for more faith activities in public schools is heading to the state’s House floor for a vote.
In a move that will surely anger church-state separatists, the bill would allow for rules governing prayer in public schools to be amended, while affording districts the right to allow students to meet and discuss faith and religion more freely before school events.
The Chatanooga Times Free Press describes the bill in detail:
Local school boards would be required to let select students voluntarily express their “religious viewpoints,” be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan or atheist, at football games, school assemblies and graduation ceremonies under a bill moving in the House.
The “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” passed on the House Education Committee on Tuesday on a voice vote after a motion to put it in summer study was tabled.
Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, the bill’s sponsor, said his legislation is needed to protect students. If anyone has issues with the bill, Holt said, “then you’re expressing your problem with the First Amendment and not with my bill.”

If the bill becomes law, it would open the door to all faiths — not just Christianity — to more openly exercise their rights and beliefs on school campuses. This is a concern for those opposed to its implementation.
“I do believe that a student or any citizen should have the right to express their religious viewpoint — and not be discriminated against,” said Republican Rep. Andy Holt.
On Monday, lawmakers voted in favor of the bill and it is now headed to the House floor for a vote. The Senate has not yet taken up the proposal, although another has been passed by both the House and the Senate that would allow teachers and other school employees to participate in prayer groups and religious activities. These activities can be on school grounds, but they must be initiated by the students and not the employees.

The Associated Press adds:
Sponsors of the bill brought it in part to support “See You at the Pole” gatherings, where students and their parents gather at school flag poles to pray.
The measure was approved 29-1. The companion bill unanimously passed the House 93-0 earlier this month. Before it can go to the governor, the measure must go back to the House to approve an amendment that was added.
The legislation allows school personnel to participate in such activities as long as they don’t carry into the classroom or conflict with the assignments of the participant.
The activities also must be student-initiated and be held before or after school. The amendment clarifies that teachers can attend events in cases where a school may rent out its facilities to a church or faith-based organization.