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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. Thank you God

    There will be terrible times in the last days.
    People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,
    boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents,
    ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous,
    without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
    treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure
    rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness
    but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
    2 Timothy 3:1-5

    May 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  2. Ryan

    Many of these posters' hatred for God is astonishing. Why? This article was not meant for you to come on here and tell the world "how dumb Christians are," but to depict a story of faith; a story of people hanging on and having hope for life and future amidst the overwhelming devastation. I find time after time that people who want to bash religion are usually the mass majority clicking on the "Religion/Belief" section and spewing their rhetoric all over the blogs.

    But most amazing are the EXTREMELY rash, uninformed, out-of-context, assumptive generalizations that most of them make.

    For something as "ineffective" and "ancient" as the Scriptures and Christianity–it doesn't matter who you are–no one can deny the power and influence that the Word has; because here you guys are talking about it... 2000 years after they were compiled.

    I am a Believer; and I have to say, most of you have our "religion" all wrong. But you're so quick to say something negative about it. There are articulate, logical, smart Believers out there–I would like to call myself one of them.

    I am not afraid to be asked any questions you can throw at me.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Hitch

      Why doesn't god heal amputess?

      May 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  3. Ryan

    May of these posters' hatred for God is astonishing. Why? This article was not meant for you to come on here and tell the world "how dumb Christians are," but to depict a story of faith; a story of people hanging on and having hope for life and future amidst the overwhelming devastation. I find time after time that people who want to bash religion are usually the mass majority clicking on the "Religion/Belief" section and spewing their rhetoric all over the blogs.

    But most amazing is the EXTREMELY rash, uninformed, out-of-context, assumptive generalizations that most of them make.

    For something as "ineffective" and "ancient" as the Scriptures and Christianity–it doesn't matter who you are–no one can deny the power and influence that the Word has; because here you guys are talking about it... 2000 years after they were compiled.

    I am a Believer; and I have to say, most of you have our "religion" all wrong. But you're so quick to say something negative about it. There are articulate, logical, smart Believers out there–I would like to call myself one of them.

    I am not afraid to be asked any questions you can throw at me.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  4. VishaNu

    What are the tornado survivors supposed to say? It was by my own grace and dumb luck that I survived? That may what some people believe, but other people's worlds aren't that narrow. Some who have endured tragedy while watching others around them die, need to believe there is a higher purpose for the reason they survived. It's an effective method by which to heal emotional trauma left by such incidents.
    I guess you can call it trite if you want. You can make fun of their belief in the "Flying Spaghetti Monster." (That's very 2002, by the way.) But it would say more about the current condition of humanity if those reading this article left encouraging comments instead of trying to take away the only thing some of these people have left - their faith.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  5. Karin

    Slavery:
    I Timothy 6:1-2
    Ephesians 6:5
    Exodus 21:2-6
    Exodus 21:7-11
    Exodus 21:20-21
    Leviticus 25:44-46
    Luke 12:47-48

    May 9, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Silver Chair

      Snooze.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  6. Karin

    A God with issues (Requires anger management):
    Nahum 1:2-8
    Nahum 2:2-10
    Zephaniah 3:6-10

    May 9, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Silver Chair

      Double yawn.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  7. Karin

    Human Sacrifice:
    I Kings 13:1-2
    II Kings 23:20-25
    Deuteronomy 13:13-19
    Exodus 13:2
    Ezekiel 21:33-37
    Genesis 22:1-18
    Leviticus 27:28-29
    Joshua 7:15
    Judges 11:29-40
    Wisdom 3:5-7 (Catholic Version)
    Wisdom 14:21-23 (Catholic Version)

    May 9, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • life

      boy do you not know what you are talking about at all!!!

      May 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  8. Karin

    Murder in the Bible:
    I Chronicles 20:3
    I Chronicles 21:12
    I Chronicles 21:14
    II Chronicles 14:9
    II Chronicles 15:12-13
    I Kings 14:9-16
    I Kings 18:36-40
    I Kings 20:35-36
    II Kings 2:23-24
    II Kings 19:35
    I Samuel 6:19-20
    I Samuel 15:2-3
    II Samuel 6:3-7
    II Samuel 12:31
    Acts 5:1-11
    Deuteronomy 2:34
    Deuteronomy 3:6-7
    Deuteronomy 12:2-3
    Deuteronomy 13:1-6
    Deuteronomy 13:7-12
    Deuteronomy 13:13-19
    Deuteronomy 17:12
    Deuteronomy 17:2-5
    Deuteronomy 18:20-22
    Deuteronomy 22:20-21
    Exodus 12:29-30
    Exodus 21:15
    Exodus 22:17
    Exodus 22:19
    Exodus 23:23
    Exodus 31:12-15
    Exodus 32:26-29
    Ezekiel 9:5-7
    Ezekiel 35:7-9
    Genesis 9:5-6
    Hosea 9:11-16
    Isaiah 13:15-18
    Isaiah 14:21
    Isaiah 21:9
    Jeremiah 15:1-4
    Jeremiah 48:10
    Jeremiah 50:21-22
    Jeremiah 51:20-26
    Joshua 6:20-21
    Joshua 7:19-26
    Joshua 8:1-29
    Joshua 19:47
    Judges 4:21
    Judges 8:7
    Judges 8:10
    Judges 15:14-15
    Judges 18:27-29
    Judges 20:48
    Leviticus 20:9
    Leviticus 20:10
    Leviticus 20:13
    Leviticus 20:27
    Leviticus 21:9
    Leviticus 24:10-16
    Leviticus 26:21-22
    Numbers 1:48-51
    Numbers 16:32-35
    Numbers 25:1-9
    Numbers 25:3-4
    Numbers 31:16-18
    Psalms 58:10
    Psalms 68:21-23
    Proverbs 20:20
    Revelation 7:3-4
    Revelation 9:3-4
    Revelation 14:1
    Revelation 14:3-4
    Romans 1:24-32
    Zechariah 13:3

    May 9, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Silver Chair

      Yawn.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  9. Karin

    Alert! Children's faith in Santa Claus goes unshaken after the aftermath of maddening tornado's!
    Days later Spaghetti Monster seen in numerous locations across the U.S.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  10. Obie1

    Let me see if a person has oxygen in his nose then God does'nt love him It would almost be amazing to read some of these posts from the atheist that post but if God destroyed those who love him he would certainly have started with the ones who don't which would include you so stop and think sometimes and maybe by 2024 you will see that man as always is the culprit using microwaves to attempt to control the weather for military applications so there again he woud need to destroy all which you would again be included

    May 9, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  11. rt

    Me, I'll take science over religeon anyday.
    Science flies rockets to the moon.
    Religeon flies airplanes into buildings.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • AndyK

      So one group of radicals whom I doubt represent more than 1/10th of 1% of the world's religious folks, and all religious people are radical nuts. Riiiiiight.

      May 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  12. mike

    Something good happens: "God is AWESOME!!!"
    Something bad happens: "God is AWESOME!!!"

    This is pretty much the definition of delusion and borderline insanity.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Brad

      Romans 12:2 (NLT) “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but
      let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

      When the inevitable trials and problems of life come your way, focus on the:

      1. Purposes of God.

      Romans 5:2-4 (NLT)“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and
      trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

      James 1:2-4 (NLT) “…when troubles come your way, consider it an
      opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your
      endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is
      fully developed, you will be perfect (mature) and complete, needing nothing.”

      II Corinthians 4:17 (NLT) “For our present troubles are small and won’t last
      very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will
      last forever!”

      2. Greatness of God.

      Psalm 147:5 (LB)“How great God is! His power is absolute! His
      understanding is unlimited.”

      Jeremiah 32:27 (NIV) “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind; is there
      anything too hard for Me?”

      3. Goodness of God.

      Psalm 27:13,14 (NAS) “I would have despaired unless I had believed that
      I would see the goodness of the Lord…Be strong, and let your heart take
      courage; wait for the Lord.”

      Psalm 31:19 (ICB) “How great is Your goodness! You have stored it up for
      those who honor You. You do good things for those who trust You.”

      4. Promises of God.

      Psalm 31:7 (NLT) “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you
      have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul.”

      Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV) “The LORD himself goes before you and will be
      with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be
      discouraged."

      May 9, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • YaThink

      Brad, seriously? You are quoting from a book that someone who believes is a book that is made up by man to control man, a work of fiction. All you are doing is proving Mike's point...you're delusional.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  13. Grumpster

    It's pretty hard to use your faith to protect you from those 300mph winds throwing shrapnel through your brains.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  14. Grumpster

    Faith unshaken...yeah...right...fine. Those in this category are no different from those overseas with extreme views that scare the h3ll out of us here. No amount of scientific data or evidence would ever convince them that it wasn't God that put the tornado in their path...they just see it as God challenging them. Pheh...it's weather and nature and just bad odds that eventually caught up with them. Faith won't protect you from 300mph winds throwing shrapnel through you..

    May 9, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  15. Richard

    One really can't fault churchers for their beliefs, that have been taught not to think or question church dogma since childhood. My problem with them is that they push their beliefs on others and try to legislate their religious based views. We free thinkers realize that religion is a 6000 year old con game that was perfected long ago, you may as well try to convince them that the sky is black. The Republican party realized this religious fervor of unquestioned belief and has used it to their advantage beginning with the Christian Coalition in the mid 1990's. They converted Republicanism into a religion.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • AndyK

      First, @Karin

      You're just going onto a website and looking up a Concordance of how many times that particular word shows up. You're not citing the context, and quite frankly, if a lot of Christian's get the CONTEXT wrong, you stand NO chance of getting it right. So you can stop that now, thanks, we get it, you're smart. You can use Google.

      Ryan, THANK YOU. You said it perfectly. I wasn't born into my faith, I came to Christ as a teenager, and every step of the way since then (I'm 24 now) I've sought answers. I'm the only moderate in my group of Christian friends, and you know what I hear a lot of when I stand up and back up my own personal stance? "Wow, Andy, you're right. We might have this one wrong." I said it in a previous comment, stop aligning every single Christian with the few radicals. I, and almost every Christian I know and share my faith with, abhor the burning of Q'ur'an's, shooting of abortion doctors, and the comments of these few radicals about the people of Alabama bringing on the tornado or Haiti's earthquake.

      Also, it's a curious situation. You say to me, prove that the things of the Bible happened. And I say, prove that they didn't. Archaeology even shows that the walls of Jerico fell outwards, when any seiged city's walls would have fallen inwards with the direction of the attack (physics dictates of course). That's just the start... there's plenty of additional reading available.

      I voted for Obama, I abhor the death penalty. I served in the Coast Guard Reserves as opposed to the Army or Marines while I was in college because I find war to be bothersome. Anything that we find in the Bible that's tough to swallow, gee whiz, the translation is always going to be tough. Aw shucks, the dang word motorcycle in Latin would roughly translate to "A two wheeled horseless cart that drinks a firey liquid" or something to that effect. Christian's aren't perfect, by our own belief system, if we were perfect we would not need Christ.

      And I'll stand by the platform that if you don't like God, or Christianity, that's your inaliable right. But, don't try to drag us down. This nation is a melting pot, and those crazy idiotic people believing in fairytales you're speaking out against and even demeaning.... they built this country from the ground up. Remember that Plymouth, and many of the other early settlements, were religiously-based in nature.

      May 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Linda

      "Remember that Plymouth, and many of the other early settlements, were religiously-based in nature."

      Ok, bad analogy Andy because they stole the land from the Native Americans, yeah they were really religious, NOT. They were plain greedy, nothing more. That is the problem even today Christians can't recognize their own greed.

      May 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • AndyK

      Check your history Linda, much of the land initially utilized by the early settlers in both Plymouth and Jamestown were unoccuppied by the locals because of swampy, fly-ridden conditions. The really hard core "conquest" didn't occur for several decades, by that time, many more secular folks had made land fall. As I recall, Plymouth actually stayed rather small and insular for some time while the Boston Bay Company took off with their colonies in what's now called Boston, New Bedford, and I believe the Cape Ann area but I'd have to re-read a book I read while going to school down on Cape Cod a few years back.

      Even if a "Christian" folks committed aweful acts, which they did, do, and will, that's a far cry from all Christians being evil. In fact, most of the charities in the world are faith-based. And while I am sure that there are some bad apples in the group, none do the South Park "Accept Jesus and I'll give you food" thing. My bet is that one group did that somewhere, and now it's a broad generalization.

      Christians are NOT perfect. There was only one perfect One, and He won't be coming back until the end times. Christians still sin; it's a question as to atonement for that sin. Yes, did Conquestadors use Christ as a reason to selfishly pillage the natives, absolutely. Did Union generals do the same in their push west? Again the answer is yes. Are they doomed to hell for their actions? I'm not a Biblical expert, but I know a bit. All I can tell you is that their actions are indicative of someone who did not have a faithful relationship with Him.

      Hey, if you don't want to role with a Higher Power, that's fine. But where as you see a world controlled by the odds, we see a world where the "odds" are so complicated and consistantly unlikely that all we can attribute it to is a higher power. We chose God. Oh, and whoever earlier on made a comment about the word "God", no duh it's a translated word. The whole Bible is either in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic, so I would certainly hope the Bible is translated since few to anyone actually speek any of those ancient tongues.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  16. Ironic Agnostic

    Now I will be the first to admit I am going to make a broad generalization here. The funny thing about people saying their faith isn't shaken is that these are the same people who will often look at other natural disasters in foreign countries and say God is punishing these people, or that something bad happened because of some aspect of the culture that God disapproves of. Well these tornado outbreaks tend to occur in the bible belt, and to all the bible thumpers out there I say this is your God telling you to shut up and stop pushing your religious standards on the rest of the country/world. Your hate filled judgments have no place in any world christian or otherwise and perhaps your God grows tired of all of you pretending to speak for him/her/it while passing judgment on generally good people while pretending that a religion created by fallible men has all the answers. However all of what I just said would only be true if I beleived in a god that influences this world. For the record I don't and I think this is nothing more then a natural disaster and a tragedy that has nothing to do with anything higher then nature and climate change.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Pablo

      Little children, Jesus never came to bring religion,he never professed saying "i come to bring the catholics or the christians,Jehovah witness,mormons or the pentacostals, babtists, sacraments or holy water" etc. By no means, but i will tell you what he did say "I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE no one can come to the father except through me "and "I no my own and my own know me" you see, being a true son of the living God is not a matter of choice of religion but a matter of divine destiny.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  17. Reality

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

    SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:

    THERE NEVER WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR

    SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:

    THERE WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY

    SAVING 15.5 MILLION ORTHODOX FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM:

    ABRAHAM AND MOSES PROBABLY NEVER EXISTED.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  18. Free

    gary-
    "Jesus ... nice guy, but dead 2000 yrs."

    Christ ... not so nice guy, but expected for 2000 yrs to come, like Rambo. If that makes you feel good, it makes you look bloodthirsty.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  19. Larry

    Funny – Joe on oxygen says his faith is unshaken. His faith should have been destroyed when the oxygen tube went in his nose. Do you do this to someone you love?

    May 9, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • AndyK

      Well actually, if you were to truly study our faith (which while I know some dedicated atheists do, I haven't seen any posters who have yest) you'd know that God made this world perfect with no death, violence, illness, or inperfection. Adam and Eve wrecked it and God cast our original ancestors out. Was it a literal Garden? Some Christians thing yes, some think no, that it was a vivid image. That's actually a defining matter from one church to another.

      So, now that we've displayed your ignorance to what story is woven throughout the Bible, let's attack the next item. Most, and by most I mean a far overwhelming number, of Christians were sickened by the earthquakes in Haiti and Bam, the tsunami's, and every other natural and man-made disaster. One, remember above how Adam and Eve's decisions wrecked the perfect earth for us? By the evidence of the scripture (if you were to actually study it instead of making broad assumptions about it based on what you read somewhere else) God set this earth in motion. As an environmental scientist, I'll tell you now, we can trace how the earth works and why things happe, but we can't figure out where the initial ::click:: of energy came from.

      Most Christians wept at the sight of those disasters listed above. Some grabbed their gear bags, there medical kits, and headed for the battle front. Again, seeing as that so many aid groups both national and internation are faith-based, you will never convince me that Christians aren't out there trying there hardest to help. The fact that a few radical nuts, most of whom have a very tiny following, said untrue and aweful things does not make that the message of Christians as a whole.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  20. Larry

    How come whenever I mention god in most posts, fox "news" never prints it?

    May 9, 2011 at 9:53 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.