May 6th, 2011
08:16 AM ET

Faith unshaken by tornado

By Aaron Brodie, CNN

Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN) - The sound of someone playing a piano drew us in to the Alberta Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, two days after a devastating tornado ripped a deadly gash that will scar this Southern town for years to come.

I had been looking for a high spot where I could to shoot a panoramic image of the endless landscape of destruction, but I turned back toward the church with CNN's Wayne Drash to see where the music was coming from.

Alberta Baptist seemed to have fared better than many of the buildings in the immediate area. It was an oddity in this neighborhood, because it was both standing and clearly recognizable. Whatever had been next door was neither.

The church was hardly unscathed, though. Much of the roof was missing. Stained glass windows were blown out. And the facade of the main chapel was reduced to a pile of rubble spread across the front sidewalk like a bag of building blocks.

Inside the church, we met a small group of members who had come to witness firsthand the challenge that lay ahead. A young girl stopped playing the piano as her mother began to tell us how the building had recently been renovated.

I started taking photos of mangled metal and shattered sheetrock, all covered with a thick dusting of insulation that made you itch just by looking at it. As I was about to leave, I met Joe Southern, a member of Alberta Baptist for 45 years.

Joe lives in a part of Tuscaloosa that was spared the monster's wrath. Yet he decided to make the trek across town through military checkpoints, driving down streets littered with debris into what can easily be described as a war zone, to see the fate of his religious home.

In this video interview, Joe explains that while "we've lost a building," the church is more than just bricks and mortar: The church is the people. He says the congregation will rebuild, and that the tornado and its aftermath have only served to strengthen his belief in God.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Alabama • Baptist • Church • Houses of worship

soundoff (969 Responses)
  1. Richard

    I am helping out with the tornado relief, but I am an atheist. We help people in need also, but not at the end of a bible. Those I have helped will never know.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • richunix


      May 9, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  2. James Walsh

    God loves us so much he sent us a tornado??? Maybe next time he'll send a money cloud!!

    May 9, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  3. life

    Please tell me athiests how does life come from NON Life......if doesn't and it can't.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      The only truthful answer is "We don't know"...

      By the way, where does your "god" come from?

      May 9, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • life

      The key question, therefore, is this: Which faith sits on a firm foundation—faith in evolution or faith in a Creator?
      My Faith in life and where is came from sits on a firm foundation while your's in a NON-Creator sits on nothing.

      May 9, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • life

      Many people do not believe in a Creator because of the well-known abuses and corruptions that blacken the history of many religions. Is that a sound reason for disbelief? No. “The excesses and atrocities of organized religion,” says Roy Abraham Varghese in his preface to Antony Flew’s book There Is a God, “have no bearing whatsoever on the existence of God, just as the threat of nuclear proliferation has no bearing on the question of whether E=mc2.”*


      May 9, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Well, if you find comfort in old fairy tales, I couldn't care less. Of course, then you have to figure out which fairy tale to follow...

      However, when you and like-minded people try to control my life and the progress of mankind, then it becomes an issue.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • life

      Lard how exactly is this controlling your life??? and how is this stopping mankinds progress. You are looking deep to try and find something that is not there.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Hitch

      'My Faith in life and where is came from sits on a firm foundation while your's in a NON-Creator sits on nothing.'

      Let me start by saying that your comment is nearly incoherent & the grammar/spelling is off (where is came?, while your’s?).

      What foundation or evidence do you have for claiming to know how life started, a series of books authored by who knows how many different authors cobbled together in the middle east while numerous other religions previous espoused similar ideas using multiple gods?

      Your statment is not one of knowledge, facts or evidence, but of faith, & you quite deliberately open it with that.

      Saying ‘god did it’ isn’t really any kind of explanation any way as it’s utterly devoid of any details, processes, mechanisms on HOW it supposedly created it. To utter such a thing is to simply decry by fiat ‘god dun it’ & that you’re not genuinely interested in knowing the natural processes responsible.

      To suggest we know nothing on how the most simplified replicators, what we’d call loosely as pre-biotic quasi life, arose is factually wrong. Numerous experiments have shown that the organic compounds required of life were already plentiful both on earth and in the cosmos. We also know that amino acids can form quite naturally & that bi-layer lipids can self polermyze forming a protective shell for replicators. There are of course more details, but I gather you’re not interested.

      Like all past explorations by science that were previously unknown or consisted of lacking evidence, as more consistent evidence was found the supernatural answer become utterly disregarded, unnecessary, & superfluous.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • life

      Hitch – you still have no FIRM foundation for your BELIEF..........with belief is faith that it is truth. Does not mean it has to be a religion. I have a mind that likes to listen to people.....I would love to compare your facts with my faith sometime.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  4. Freethinksman

    Jesus will eventually lose out. Just like Thor and Zeus and all the mythological creatures who have been worshipped throughout history. The one thing I take solace in is that humanity does progress. Sometimes it's slow, and sometimes there are backwards steps, but as we continue to evolve, more and more people will realize that a collection of heavily edited texts are only that: man-made myths. If you feel better subjugating your life to an imaginary force, so be it. But you need to realize that while atheists may respect your right to believe whatever you want, we don't have to respect the mumbo jumbo, nor the policies it influences. There are real problems in the world that need real solutions. Hoping a magician in the sky will make everything better doesn't begin to address the real issues. Please keep your gods to yourselves.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  5. The Dude

    ? Since when do tornadoes cure stupidity? This is not news.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  6. richunix

    I’m going to only comment on the story, seeing people band together under (any) a banner of hope, regardless if it is religious in nature. It seem disaster has a tendency of bring out the best and worst of mankind, glad this bought out it’s best.

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    May 9, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  7. AndyK

    few radicals. That old 'turd from the 700 Club, David Koresh (what ever his name from the Waco, TX fire), and all of these nut jobs do NOT speak for all Christians. If you take a moment to consider how many denominations there are, you'd realize that Christianity is as diverse as the rest.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  8. Canaduhhh

    I farted.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  9. Canaduhhh

    I farted!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  10. Mom of Three

    Things like the Holocaust weren't enough for most people? Starving babies with flies in their eyes? Where is a god for them? There isn't one. I understand that some people cannot wrap their heads around this and, like a security blanket, they need that just to make it through life. In those people, you'll never convince them otherwise. Fine, leave them be. But, for the rest of us, the knowledge that this is all there is is both sobering and liberating. There are no future streets of gold, you have to try to make this reality a better place for all.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  11. Lev

    I really don't understand all these people with the negative comments. This is a belief blog. If this man uses God to help him through a difficult situation, then so WHAT!! Did he ask you to believe in God? Did he go and seek out a cameraman? Why are you concerned. This is one of my problems with people responding to this in a negative way. If you don't believe then fine, but why bash someone because they do? I'm a highly educated woman and a scientist who believes in God but, I don't bash atheist or anyone else if they don't. To be so disrespectful and hateful is unnecessary. Why even come on THIS blog to be hateful. People cam be so ridiculous sometimes. I would never be disrespectful to someone who has a different opinion. This is HiS life, He can believe what he wants. Why waste time to refute something that's helping him. Is he hurting you by believing in God?? Get a life people please!!!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  12. franny

    Seriously, folks...do you have nothing better to do than get on here and bash ppl's religious beliefs? You can believe what you want; they can believe what they want. No one is forcing you to change your beliefs. They're not bashing you; why bash them? It really shows maturity levels when ppl get on here and patrol comments and articles just so they can rip someone's religion apart.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • richunix

      Granted I do not believe in the continuation of this fantasy, but I DO NOT agree with bashing those who do.

      “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      May 9, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  13. Reality

    A new sign for all mosque, church and synagogue doors:







    May 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • RekrulNewsReader

      Neither did Jesus, onto next subject!

      I love how these loonies claim the disasters around the world were the act of god towards the non believers and when a disaster hits into the heartland of the bible belt it was "sent there to make them stronger" seriously? These type of things are a two way street, not one way with these accusations.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  14. paul

    no other book than the Bible has prophetic truths that have come true. check it out. And more are coming true every day,look at the Bible and then the middle east. do an echieological study of the scriptures, you might be surprised.

    May 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  15. Rich


    May 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  16. paul

    many are called,few are chosen. Thats what Jesus said. So i really dont expect you non-believers to understand something that has not been given to you.The Holy Spirit, It is the gift of God given freely only to those who believe.With out first believing in God you will never come to the true knowledge of God.Even our faith is supernatural,it is given of God.But you atheists in all your infinite knowledge, would rather bash, and ridicule those of faith. You can question God,I as a believer do at times, but deny Him,Never! 1 question,why do you people come running at the mention of God? looking for him maybe?
    If you really wanted to find God, believe me you will. But it seems to me your just here to spread your hate of believers,Gods ears and eyes are open to all things.

    May 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  17. gary

    Jesus ... nice guy, but dead 2000 yrs. Praying? Useless mental masturbation .. feels good, and makes you look silly. Gods, etc are all myths and legends.

    May 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  18. JoJo

    it's no good saying he moves in mysterious ways or that he has purposes that are opaque to us because that kind of evasion is predicate on the assumption that the person espousing this knows more than I do about the supernatural but I haven't yet met anyone that does have a private line to the creator and neither have you. On the contrary the person shows that they know much less than they probably should.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  19. WOT

    There is no such thing as a good man, none, only God! Bible Belt is one thing, but acting like BEL is another!

    May 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      WOT wrote: "There is no such thing as a good man, none, only God! Bible Belt is one thing, but acting like BEL is another!"

      I'm sorry you've never met a good man... by the way, which of the thousands of gods contrived by mankind over the years did you have in mind? And what in the world is a "BEL" ?

      May 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  20. jesuslovesyou

    Heartbroken over all the ugliness posted by both sides of this wall...even if you don't believe in God you might agree that the example of Jesus Christ...not. necessarily the example of christians...but the example of Christ. powerful all consuming love...of extreme forgiveness...of compassion...is an example that all of humanity can learn from...much love to you all as I know that if you seek Him he will be near you and you will find peace in His arms....this is my prayer for you all that you might seek Him and be overwhelmed with joy in knowing how much you are truly loved

    May 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • William

      I don't believe in the legend of Jesus. By the way, at this point, it's pretty clear the "He" should stop being portrayed as a white guy. If anything he was under 5'6 and middle eastern in appearance.

      May 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Laura

      William, Jesus was born of Jewish stock and, therefore, He would be considered white.

      May 8, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      The Jews of that era looked more like Osama Bin Laden than they did like Prince William...

      May 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • William

      Laura, that was absurd. He was middle eastern. Not European like modern day Jews.

      May 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • doctore0


      Forgiveness, compassion??? Jesus of the bible was delivering THREATS; Submit or burn.
      But not to worry, the bible is fake, as all other magic book/religions

      May 8, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • AndyK

      You're correct about what Jesus would have looked like. I'll give you that.

      I'm going to point out however, that no one from the Atheist movement has displayed the open mindedness they *claim* to so ardently seek. And this bologne about the right elected their Bible thumbing ideologs into political power... the right and left share a sine-cosine relationship in this government. When one's up, the other's down, and vice versa. Right now we're at a point of intercept on the X axis. That's actually what makes this country beautiful.

      You can go ahead and attack people of faith thought... just shows how hypocritical you are in your own ideals.

      A message to the Christians who are posting on here.... brothers and sisters of the Bible, you can't bash someone over the head with scripture and expect it to go well. Remember the book of James, "Be slow to speak, quick to listen...."

      May 9, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • richunix


      1. There is no “Atheist” movement as understandable by the “Christian” belief. Your belief is base solely on writings of 2000 years ago (90-130CE). Written in a time when people had belief in many gods of many names. Your based belief fails the most basic fallacy: argumentum ad verecundiam. I do not try to change those who wish to believe, but, I do have issue with those who state the “Bible” is true. Sorry but when dreams are interpreted as “Truth” and perceived miracle performed as “Fact”, then we have a problem.

      In the past 2000 years: (BAR NONE)

      No one has parted the Red Sea, Sea of Reeds or even a pond.
      No one has ever brought back a person who has been DEAD after three days.
      No one has ever BEEN turned into a Pillar of Salt, Fire…water or stone PERIOD!
      To date NO ONE has seen, or talked with GOD (other than what they dream or say they have). Of course we have the occasional burning bush or trek up the mountain and of course he/she is the only one who seen/talked with god.

      The name GOD is 6th century Germanic language: Prior to that they used names like Jehovah , YAWEH, Hasheim. No different than ZEUS, HERA of the common era.

      So Andy, the next time I defend a person in court, I’ll make sure have him say “They are the Messiah”…prove him wrong…

      May 9, 2011 at 8:53 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.