An atheist group in South East Texas gave birth to a movement of atheists who help the homeless. In the process they also have shown how you do not need God in order to be good, perform acts of charity or love. The Wondering Eagle which writes about atheism from time to time wants to encourage the South East Texas Atheists to continue to help the homeless and better our species.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
The South East Texas Atheist Helping the Homeless
The first give away of Atheists Helping the Homeless on September 9, 2009
This blog writes about and examines the atheist and secular movement as stories and news develop. There are a few things that bother me deeply here at The Wondering Eagle. The first deals with how some Evangelical Christians have engaged in discrimination of atheists. Its a major problem and its something that needs to be discussed and admitted. Secondly this blog acknowledges the growing nones, and its part of the reason why this blog supports secular humanist chaplains in the United States military. As a Christian I am appalled over how many parts of my tribe have treated those outside the faith. As situations and stories become known The Wondering Eagle will write about them in the course of time. One final point that I would like to add before getting into this post, this blog is interested in telling de-conversion stories from time to time, and if you would like to explain how you went from Christian to atheist I will gladly give you the platform. You can read about it here, and read one such story here. Recently in the news I heard of a story that I put on my pile of items to write about, because it offers a lot to think about.
Atheists Helping the Homeless
Down in South East Texas, an atheist group is feeding and helping the homeless, and from what I am reading they are doing a better job than some of the Christians are doing. The South East Texas Atheists have been helping the homeless since 2009 according to their Facebook page. If you want to read how this came about here is the history of how Atheists started to help the homeless in Texas. Then the South East Texas Atheists in 2015 that same atheist group started a project that resulted in regularly helping the homeless monthly. It is the brain child of Rob McWilliams who at one time was homeless for three years. It was his desire to help others that led to this project coming about. So once a month a group of atheists get together and help out the homeless in Beaumont, Texas. During that time a number of skeptics, free thinkers and others provide bottled water, deodorant, clothes, food and other amenities to those in need. The goal for Rob and his group is not to drop the food off and let the homeless be, but instead to befriend, talk and get to know them. This organization is always taking donations and they have an active Facebook group which you can access. All the activities are done without advocating atheism in the process. Its just a program that helps people that are down on their luck.
From my understanding the group has faced discrimination from Christians in the area who are angry that they are helping the homeless in a secular way. In someways however, those Christian groups that help out do limited engagement. In reality its almost like dropping off food and leaving the homeless to themselves. This is how it was described at The Friendly Atheist.
Today, as we had lunch with our local tent city, we were told us taking the time to hang out with them, eating and having a good time was more important than the actual food.
They said a few churches also bring food to them, but hand it out of their vehicles then quickly make their exit without as much as asking them how their day has been.
We were told that treating them as humans and not just a charity was the best part of our visit.
They are also launching other chapters as well. Here is the breakdown of this movement:
- In June of 2012 a new Atheists Helping the Homeless launched in Dallas/ Fort Worth, Texas.
- Joe Zamecki organized a new Atheists Helping the Homeless group in Houston, Texas in July of 2013
- Also in July of 2013 Vicky Gettman organized volunteers in San Antonio, Texas into a new chapter called Atheists and Humanists Helping the Homeless.
- The next expansion came in April of 2014 when Bryan McDowell organized volunteers into East Texas Atheists Helping the Homeless.
- Nate Smith then founded the first chapter outside the United States in Kamloops, British Columbia in Canada.
- An attempt to start an Atheists Helping the Homeless in Iowa by Nika Kaye did not work out and was shut down.
From there the group grew to have a presence in the following cities in the United States: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Charlotte, Modesto, Indianapolis, Spokane, Nashville, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Mobile, Denver, Kalamazoo, Chattanooga and Columbia, South Carolina and Searcy, Arkansas. There have also been two international chapters in both India and Queensland, Australia.
You Do Not Need God to do Good Things
Years ago when I was in my faith crisis I was asked to listen to a sermon by Matt Chandler. In that talk Matt spoke about how you do not need God in order to do good things. It was something I was already realizing as I was in the depths of a faith crisis. There is a lot of stuff taught in Christianity that is not true. And all too often many evangelical Christians have bought into the notion that you need God in order to do good things in life. That it is the reborn Christian, the “new Creation” who betters society, the world and the church. And the cold hard reality is that is not always true. There are many people in the world who are outside the Christian faith who do good, amazing and kind things. And each and every time they do acts of charity or love, they further make this point. In taking care of the homeless the South East Texas Atheists and other groups further illustrate that claim by evangelical Christians is not true at all. But in addition that also brings about another question that must be asked. If many Christians buy into the notion that you need God to do good things, then what about Christians who engage in allegations of criminal activity?
On the Flip Side What About Christians who Allegedly Engage in Criminal Activity?
This blog has written multiple stories of deeply disturbing situations involving allegations of criminal conduct or wrongful activity. For example here are a couple…I have been writing about an Acts 29 church in Memphis, Tennessee called Fellowship Memphis. In that disturbing tale the worship pastor was allegedly into voyeurism and he secretly recorded females in the restroom. In the process it is my belief that child pornography was manufactured. When Rick Trotter was let go, the victims were allegedly forced to forgive him. Rick Trotter then went onto another church in Memphis and did the same thing. You can read about the disturbing affair in “The Sordid Tale of Rick Trotter, Bryan Loritts, John Bryson and Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis and Downtown Presbyterian Church.” Then in the Northeast United States there is another troubling story. It involves Steve Estes, who is still teaching Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Steve’s son, Brock allegedly raped his wife while drunk and also pointed a loaded gun at her. The person at the center of the story knows she could be dead. When Hurit filed for divorce in the allegedly abusive marriage Steve Estes allegedly orchestrated the ex-communication of his daughter-in-law. The situation is still playing out in the Evangelical Free Church of America. You can read the story in “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity.” I could go on but I believe I made my point. If some Christians are going to continue to make the claim that you need God in order to be good, I will continue to point to stories like the ones above and ask them how they will explain that aspect. Many Christians buy into the notion of a transformed life and I think that poses incredible risks when we are speaking of sex offenders, those who engage in criminal activity and more. I would like to pursue this issue in further detail in another post.
This Christian’s Encouragement for the South East Texas Atheists
Rob McWilliams and those of the South East Texas Atheists I want to give a shout out and say…well done. While we may disagree on God, we are still members of the human race. Our species and humanity have many social ills that plague and create problems. I am happy that you are taking on some of those problems and helping those down on their luck, dealing with mental illness, or helping those who are veterans dealing with the psychological wounds of war. You are doing an incredible service and this Christian is grateful for your work. There is too much need in the human race and your efforts help considerably and its too modeled.
Here is another factor as well to consider. For too long there is too much garbage that has been taught in modern evangelicalism. There has not been enough focus on the poor, and the broken, and what it means to love and serve others. When you do work that helps the homeless and puts the Christian church to shame I believe you are modeling that love where many Christian churches are failing. You are showing the problems and issues that some of us inside the church have been concerned about. In other words I will put it like this…you are loving and helping others better than my tribe is doing. That is to be commended. I am not image conscious and I firmly believe that criticism of my tribe is valid especially with all the corruption, politics, and other problems that hemorrhage out of it. While I am based in the Washington, D.C. area the fact of the matter is if I was based in South East, Texas I would love to hang out with you guys from time to time and just help out. The fact that you do much of this with no strings attached is even more beautiful. My hope is that you will continue to do what you are doing and to further grow as an organization and help those in need. So from one member of the human race to another member of the human race, Rob McWilliams I am proud of you. Thanks for what you are doing, and please keep it up. Ignore those from my tribe who will insult, degrade, or mock you. And if you guys have problems with discrimination I would be happy to write about it. Perhaps one day Atheists Helping the Homeless can come to the Washington, D.C. area. It is needed here and I think in the place that is ground zero for the culture wars and politics you guys could make a profound statement. Keep up the good work in helping others and keep putting my side to shame. If we ever met one day I think we would find that there is much common ground that we could share. I understand your next give away is February 26, 2017, and the details can be accessed on your Facebook page. Man I wish I could be there to help out. Well that is the post for the day, take care guys and know that I love you. I invite feedback, and pushback. Differing points of view are always welcome here.