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. THOR


    May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  2. Patrish

    Not impressed with this so-called GOD, who punishes 'evil' people. And this suppose to be a GOD that loves us??????????????? I have better thing to do then to pray to an imaginary presence, and even less time for people that 'think' they know what this imaginary presence wants! The more people go on about 'being Christian' the less interest I have in reading their comments.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  3. stevie68a

    "god works in mysterious ways" is the statement religious people say whenever their religion is easily disproved. It is nonsense.
    When the World Trade Towers fell, a nearby church, St. Paul's, didn't get destroyed. Another smaller church, St Nicholas' was
    completely destroyed. What is so very funny, is that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of travelers. Tell that to the people who were
    on those planes.

    May 15, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  4. Kelli

    That's good that these people keep their faith through anything – natural disasters, famines, war, etc. – it shows a portion of the magnitude of God's power, glory, and existence. He is love. 🙂

    May 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Robert Johnson

    While the God of the Bible is blasting those who believe in him with destruction, suffering and death, the Flying Spaghetti Monster serves up real love and pasta. Ramen, brother.

    May 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  6. john leddy

    if floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, cancers and all manner of painful and deadly diseases doesn't convince you that there is no "heavenly father" looking out for us, i guess nothing will.

    May 14, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  7. Monica

    James 1:13 says, "When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone. " And Job 34:10,12 says, "Far be it from the [true] God to act wickedly,
    And the Almighty to act unjustly! Yes, for a fact, God himself does not act wickedly, And the Almighty himself does not pervert judgment."

    Natural disasters and tragedy are not a result of God's action or punishment upon man. Its just "time and unforeseen occurrence." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Remember God would not punish the wicked with the righteous. People from all walks of life were effected by the floods. Good and bad. Its just something that happened.

    May 14, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • MadeupStory

      O.K.! so God just stood there,powerless, and let the children die in horrible ways! Tsunami,Earthquakess,Vocano eruptions etc...
      What 's about the Great Flood in your Bibble 'God saw how great wickedness had become and decided to wipe mankind from the face of the earth'!
      Exactly! Those are just natural disasters.Bibble is just manmade story book.

      May 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  8. PAT

    I will not argue the scripture. I will say that the church, the Body of Christ is in need of severe deliverence.

    Forget about what unbelievers say. They are doing what they are suppose to do...be used by satan, in their words
    their deeds, their actions. They are blind to the truth, the lust of the eye, pride of life, sin, lewdness, and all its
    brothers and sisters are the dead life of the unbelieving. Why argue with them? The best argument a Born Again
    Christian could have is to LIVE THE LIFE.. LOVE GOD LOVE PEOPLE , especially the household of faith. When we
    get our LOVE WALK IN RIGHT STANDING WITH GOD then perhaps our lost sisters and brothers who Jesus died for
    will run to Christ in you.....the HOPE of GLORY ~~~ WAKE UP CHURCH !!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  9. Hitch

    ‘DNA. It is information right? Just like words?’

    I love how you don’t at all try to answer or rebut my answers or questions, but rather move onto another question. Does it contain information, I would say so, but this of course depends on how one defines information. Just like words, no, not really.

    ‘I promise you that no matter how long you look at a blank peice of paper, words, or information will not just appear.’

    Well of course they wouldn’t, that’s a silly analogy. DNA didn’t just ‘appear’ out of nowhere either, it evolved from a more simplified molecular replicator- RNA. The world is full of many complex things which occur naturally & without any aid or suggestions the supernatural being involved, the only reason you opt for the ‘god did it’ excuse is b/c we do not have a comprehensive understanding on how life originated, but we do have many sound hypotheses. Tornados, rainbows, snowflakes, etc. etc. are all quite complex & come about naturally via natural processes.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • ?

      So RNA is information to create DNA then right? Regardless, where did the RNA come from? Eventually someone somewhere must have made it. There has never been any scientific experiment done that proves that DNA or RNA or anything can just appear, there must have been some sort of Creator behind it. You can't look at the White House, lets say, and say that it was made because of some explosion in a brick factory. That would be plain stupidity. You can't look at a car and say that scrap metal in a pile randomly formed together to make a functioning car. Just like those examples you can't look at the earth and say that a bunch of dirt or rock or whatever randomly came together to form the Earth after an explosion or by mer chance. The DNA/RNA can't just randomly appear, it is information, regardless of how simple or complex you may think it is, it is information, information can not just appear.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @?: You're not very smart. Go back to your homeschooling and let the big people talk, k?


      May 13, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  10. zagwee

    God was sure looking out for them, thats for sure. He does eerything for a reason right?


    May 13, 2011 at 8:57 am |
  11. Hitch


    ‘The world wide flood first of all has been proven, that is why we have more than one solid land mass. ‘

    I don’t follow you, how does a global flood = more than one solid land mass, how are the 2 related?
    And how’d noah get all the millions of species on such an ark, 2 of each no less, that by the way we have no evidence existed? How’d he get all the food, water, & dispose of all their waste & prevent them from eating eachother for nearly a year till the water receded?

    ‘Then through out the 6,000 years of land shifting, which happens naturally, the land masses have broken apart and that is where we are at now.’

    Sorry, but tectonic plates move slowly, they don’t move anywhere near that speed, we’ve even measured it with lasers from satellites. They move at about the rate your finger nail grows.

    ‘Bury wood for 6,000 years and I bet you money that it will rot away.’

    Apparently you don’t even know your own flood myth very well. The noah flood supposedly occurring around 4000 years ago, not 6000. That is doesn’t exist isn’t my problem, it’s yours since you lack evidence. No, burying doesn’t guarantee that it will rot away, as you may or may not know, wood can become petrified & last for many 1000’s of years.

    ‘The tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, along with the rest of the garden of eden have been hidden by God.’

    Again, not my problem then, it’s yours since you have the burden of proof to back your claim that indeed it exists.

    May 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Richard

      How do people with beliefs like yours get that way? Weekly brain washing I would assume.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  12. dave

    May 21 2011 will be the beginning of Gods judgment. Anytime God brought judgment He warned His people as we read about Noah, God Gave Noah the exact day, 7 days before the flood, God warned Lot and his family, The Ninivites were warned etc...

    When the Ninivites God word Judgment was coming they cried mightily unto God for mercy saying, who can tell, maybe God would have mercy on them Jonah 3:8. We to can beg God for mercy, who can tell, maybe He will have mercy on us.

    All this information is taken from the Bible, to find out more information on judgment day , you can go to Familyradio.com
    Or just google May 21 2011

    May 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  13. dave

    May 21 2011 will be the beginning of Gods judgment. Anytime God brought judgment He warned His people as we read about Noah, God Gave Noah the exact day, 7 days before the flood, God warned Lot and his family, The Ninivites were warned etc...

    When the Ninivites God word Judgment was coming they cried mightily unto God for mercy saying, who can tell, maybe God would have mercy on them Jonah 3:8. We to can beg God for mercy, who can tell, maybe He will have mercy on us.

    All this information is taken from the Bible, to find out more information on judgment day , you can go to Familyradio.com
    Or just google May 21 2011

    May 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • U

      And this according to Harold Camping who has done all the math? The Bible warns against making predictions. No one knows when judgement day is!! Just let Jesus into your life and have faith!

      May 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  14. Ron

    Why would tornadoes shake your faith? If you believe in invisible sky pixies, talking snakes, demons etc then a tornado certainly isn't going to change that. Once you're nuts you're nuts.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  15. js

    Hey Darwin...
    "IF humans have "free will" to do whatever they want, both good and bad, PLUS if God (if this creature exists) does NOT manipulate or control any natural phenomena in the Universe, such as tornados, disease, earthquakes, etc., then this God is not involved in anything that happens on this Planet! For example, if a man drives drunk and kills a family of 6, then it was his free will to get drunk and into his car, and God had nothing to do with it. You Christians ought to stop your "humans have free will" arguments, because it logically conflicts with almost everything else in your doctrines."

    Darwin was NOT an atheist. Just felt like pointing that out...do some research.

    But I also want to say, if you had been here (I'm in Birmingham) and read some of the stories of people's kids being killed by this storm (so many had lost power already by earlier storms and had no idea F4 and F5 tornodoes were about to hit, and their kids were at friends' houses...and then those friends' houses were totally destroyed, and several parents lost all of their kids - I also know of several people who lost their wives AND all of their kids because they were at work while their family was at home)...anyways, if you could read some of these stories, who are you guys to tell them that their loved ones are not going off to a better place? Why is that any of your business? Different people deal with things in different ways, and there's no proof that there is no afterlife or no God, and it is helping these devastated people in believing their lost children have gone to a BETTER PLACE..so why do you care so much???

    I REALLY wish CNN would stop posting all of the AL tornado outbreak articles in the belief section. I'm getting the feeling that bored, judgemental atheists troll this section like no other just so they can state how right they are in their beliefs. I also want to say, for the record, I've posted comments here before, I'm the most liberal person in the world (and yes, I'm also in the south). I hate the Christian Right like no other...but some of the atheists on this page have acted just as poorly, and are just as wrongly judgemental as the Christian right. These people down here are suffering...let them deal with it as best they can. Thanks.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Patrish

      As a border-tine aethist I do troll, I do indeed!

      May 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  16. JPX

    Of course they have to take that position because the alternative would be, "We realize now that there is no magic man in the sky controlling things and I've wasted my life on such foolishness." It's called "cognitive dissonance", which is a well-known phenomenon. Can you imagine believing in a magical man who destroys your home with a tornado yet you still worship him? Thank you God, I really appreciate you wrecking my life. I love it that when someone survivies an accident it's a "miracle" but the accident/disaster is blamed on something else. Faith is just another word for blind ignorance and simplistic thinking. I would love to know the average educational level of these people.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  17. osro

    Heres a headline for you- CNN decides to stop promoting mindless religious oriented fluff pieces in their key news stories, and instead reports on things that actually matter in the world.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Gracethrufaith

      I have a head line for you ... CNN shuts down comments on all news posts because they have become the cesspool of the internet.

      May 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • js

      Osro, I live in Birmingham...I wish they would stop posting every single story about the devastation in my state in the belief section as well, but the fact is, this is the Bible belt, so yes there are going to be a lot of religious stories from here. I just wish they would focus more on the facts instead of hyping up the religion aspect. They're doing it for ratings I feel like, and perpetuating the stereotype that all southernors are Baptists who live for church every Sunday, etc. because it will draw the most attention from people.

      May 11, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  18. 2011judgment

    I do know that many of these disasters that are happening lately are because some people are supporting Liberal Democrat Politicians who in turn faciliate evil laws that are against God. Yes, voting for a Liberal Democrat can get you killed or your house destroyed.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Angry Vet2

      You don't know jack! Your fairy tale god does not care a whit about your faith.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Angry Vet: 2011judgment sounds like a present or future follower of the Westboro Baptist church... I'm sure it all makes perfect "sense" to him...

      May 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Jesus son of god

      Dad, said you are stupid and he is punishing red states because they have turned to the evil Satan and voted republican

      May 12, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  19. surfs-up-charlie

    Faith who?

    May 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  20. Rick Santorum

    This is God's punishment to Alabama for banning marriages of gay people.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • UAAlum

      What a horrible thing to say. You obviously have no heart, and have never dealt with this first hand. I am a gay male, from Alabama, and have seen what this has done to the college town I once called home. This isn't a curse from anyone. I feel sorry for people like you.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • 2011judgment

      I do know that many of these disasters happening lately are becuase of some people are supporting Liberal Democrat politicians who in turn faciliate evil laws tha are against God. Yes, voting for a Liberal Democrat can get you killed or your house destroyed.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust

      2011judgment – If you truly believed such a God exists why would you worship such a psychopath? That is an evil God, just because He created us doesn't mean we are His play things to torture at a whim. Personally I see zero evidence to believe in any magical Beings, all I see is a random tornado that killed and destroyed at random, not some magical punishment.

      May 10, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • civiloutside

      2011judgment: so you "know" that god's response to people voting for Liberal Democrats is to kill people an destroy homes in the heart of the Bible Belt (you know, the part of the country where Liberal Democrats typically have a hard time getting elected)? So your god punishes his supporters for the actions of his detractors? If that's what you believe, then you may wish to examine your logic for evidence that 1) it is badly flawed, or 2) the god you believe in is a psychopath.

      May 11, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Karin

      2011judgment; Are you OK?

      May 11, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Larry

      These rednecks lost their houses, family members, pets, and their favorites, the farm animals, but they still have their faith. Faith in what – that their previous lives have been destroyed?

      May 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • GAW

      Don't feed the Trolls

      May 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • rftallent

      UAlum Well said. I live in Alabama. I don't know where these other idiots come from, but they love to comment on something that is none of their business. And, we're not blaming the tornadoes on God or global warming, and we're not waiting or complaining about the federal government. We are neighbors helping neighbors. We ask how we can help, and what we can do. Alabama will come back strong without their help or words of wisdom.

      May 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • kerry

      How do you know that Rick-where are your solid facts and information?

      May 15, 2011 at 9:38 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
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.