A More Excellent Way
‘VE been listening to Christmas music for weeks now. Don’t judge me. I look forward to about everything related to Christmas time except for the inevitable clash of worldviews. Sometimes it seems a little silly the lengths some will go to in an attempt to remove all religious implications from the celebration of the holiday (holy day) that literally means “Christ’s Mass.”
Sometimes it seems as though we can talk about everything at Christmas time except for Christ. How secular must the Incarnation become? How should Christians respond to the ever pressing demands to downplay our beliefs?
That struggle was on center stage in a small town in Texas. A nativity set on a corner of the downtown square in Athens, TX, captured national attention. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist organization, based in Wisconsin, found the nativity to be offensive and was making the case for its removal.
Rally for the Nativity
When it seemed their demands from states away would not be followed, they sent a banner for the city to display across a Main Street in downtown Athens that read, “At this season of Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” As you might imagine, the banner was not used.
How should Christians respond? Should we fight for our right to party? Should we protest? That’s what some did.
A number of churches grouped together and organized the “Rally for the Nativity” event for a Saturday evening. Thousands of people gathered in downtown Athens to protest the atheist organization and fight for their nativity. When one pastor was asked about the purpose of the rally, he responded, “We want to exhibit and communicate the love of our God to all.”
So, let me ask you, is that the best way to communicate the love of God? Is this what Christian love looks like, a public protest?
Wasn’t the first Noel, the first nativity, an obscure event in the middle of Nowheresville? Is the best way to really demonstrate the love of God to demand a cheap plastic replica be prominently placed in front of a courthouse?
When Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love” is this the sort of thing you think he had in mind? (John 13:35)
An Angry Atheist in Texas
When the Wisconsin based “Freedom From Religion Foundation” couldn’t stop the nativity in the small town of Athens in Henderson County, Texas, a fellow Texan, an atheist, picked up the cause. A San Antonio man, Patrick Greene (who lives about 297 miles away from Athens) alerted state officials that he was initiating a costly lawsuit if the town of Athens ever put the nativity up again.
Locals were indignant that someone from so far away, a city slicker, would stick his nose in their local politics. Everyone seemed to be mad. Except for one Athens citizen, Jessica Crye. Jessica had learned that Patrick Greene, after threatening the lawsuit, discovered he was going blind. She knew that was a big deal for the taxi driver whose livelihood depended upon his ability to drive his cab.
So Jessica spoke with her pastor and who brought it before their church, Sand Springs Baptist Church, and they decided to model the love of Christ to the atheist taxi driver. They didn’t picket or protest. Nope. They offered to pay for his medical bills.
“They’re going to help?” his wife Karen asked when her husband shared the news. The two were skeptical. But checks from the church started showing up in the mail.
Not only did the church offer to pay their medical bills, they gave enough money to take care of their rent, and make sure the Greene’s had enough to buy groceries and even pet food for their cat “Big Boy.”
The Real Christians
Patrick Greene told an interviewer that he had never had a Christian do anything nice for he or his wife. His experience was that Christians were “narrow minded individuals who treated them unkindly.”
In response, Greene has said he wanted to do two things. First, he wanted to find the money to pay for the star for the Athens, TX, nativity set the following year. “They can figure out how to plug it in,” he jokingly told reporters. Second, he said he wants to write a book called The Real Christians of Henderson County, because, he explained, “these people are acting like what the Bible says a Christian does.’”