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. Daniel

    Yes RELIGION may be a crutch for weak minded people. There are people who blindly follow a person who is more concerned with himself than the message of God. However God allows us to have life. Faith in Jesus Christ as our savior grants us salvation and gives us hope in a world where evil corrupts the moral fabric of our daily lives. There are people who say we have the power to make anything possible ourselves and that there is no God. But it is because of God that we are so gifted. The article was simply pointing out how in the midst of such destruction these people have hope because they know God is great and that God will offer a helping hand. Even if death were to come, everything will be okay because God grants us eternal life in His kingdom. If people cant see the beauty of this article then they too have been handicapped, handicapped in the worst way of all: to live a life with no God.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Artist

      Ah yes he offered a helping hand to some while b! tch slapping others. Sorry but if the tornado is an evdience of your god, then I p! ss on him.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Thank God Sometimes

      Sure would be nice if God offered a helping hand and did not try to kill the people with the tornado. I suspect his faithful would much prefer he did not torture them only to save them and just save them by not torturing them in the first pace. Surely God could see the logic in that as well.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • NoFool

      @Daniel: *LOL* OMG, you must be joking!! "God will offer a heping hand"... sure, after he first smacks the snot out of them?? Oh, here, let me first jack you up to a fair-thee-well, then offer a helping hand of benevolence. "Even if death were to come, everything will be okay because God grants us eternal life in His kingdom"? Oh really? That's only for the ones who believed, right? And the rest? Oh, as far as God is concerned they can all rot in hell for all eternity. Things will be okay for the family members left behind? The mother that lost a daughter? The son who lost a father? A devout Christian family loses a couple of members and their house but some atheist a block away is unscathed? How does that work? What tripe!

      May 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • JustJosh

      So, since you don't think your church is "religious", does that mean you'd support revoking its tax-exempt status? The exemption only applies to religious organizations.. If you're not religious, then fork over your dues like the rest of us.

      May 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Ryan Richardson

      Nocrutch or what ever your name is. you said that GOD doesin't care where you go. Your Wrong he does that is why his Only Begotten Son died for us, so we may have eternal Life through him. You need to get your facts straight and Read the Bible, like John 3:16. But what's wrong with you People, you have to run your Mouths if you hear the Word GOD. You never seen us run our Mouths about you on here but we were talking about GOD's love. I thank GOD that I know where I'm going, and I know I'll live Eternity in Heaven. You call me a Fool because I love Jesus, well then I am a FOOL for Jesus. Atleast I will live Eternity in Heaven with my Savior Jesus and my Father GOD. Unlike you people who bash GOD, but I have faith that even you who mock him can get Saved. I will say an extra Prayer for you at Night or actualy when I get done with this. Just know that jesus Loves You and I love you my Friends... GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  2. Thank God Sometimes

    Same old thank God for saving me but God is not responsible for causing the reason I needed saving. They claim god is all powerful and makes all things happen when it is good stuff but never give god that same credit when it is bad and kills. In same neighborhood a family dies from the storm the family that made it is thanking god for saving them which is like saying that the neighbors who died must have deserved and been killed by god. Sad that weakness allows such foolishness.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  3. AliRizvi

    This is like saying: "Yes, my husband beat the living $#%! out of me, I have two broken bones, and two of my kids died – but it has only made my love for him stronger."

    May 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  4. Eric

    People were MORE logical in 1755! Google "1755 Lisbon earthquake," and you'll read this:

    The earthquake and its fallout strongly influenced the intelligentsia of the European Age of Enlightenment. The noted writer-philosopher Voltaire used the earthquake in Candide and in his Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne ("Poem on the Lisbon disaster"). Voltaire's Candide attacks the notion that all is for the best in this, "the best of all possible worlds", a world closely supervised by a benevolent deity. The Lisbon disaster provided a salutary counterexample. As Theodor Adorno wrote, "[t]he earthquake of Lisbon sufficed to cure Voltaire of the theodicy of Leibniz" (Negative Dialectics 361). In the later twentieth century, following Adorno, the 1755 earthquake has sometimes been compared to the Holocaust as a catastrophe that transformed European culture and philosophy.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  5. JEN


    May 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  6. SteveHouston

    I always chuckle when those who survived these types of natural disasters credit God for saving them. Of course, you never hear from those who were huddled in their bathrooms praying the same prayer, yet were killed by the tornado. I guess will all the suffering going on in the world, God has time to pick and choose who in the American south will live or die.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  7. mcineri

    to all people who try to argue with people of "faith." Never argue with idiots, for they will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • pat carr


      May 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Maybe

      I don't think I have many illusions of changing their minds... but it is necessary to let them know that we are watching and are holding them accountable for their actions.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Joe

      oh no!!!! I'm gonna be held responsible for my actions by someone signed as "Maybe". I better... Oh, wait! You actually cant hold me responsible for anything can ya? Sorta seems like you're just a putz.
      "holding them accountable" -lol, what a joke. You're a joke.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Maybe


      It's interesting that you find fault with my screen name. To me it means that I tend toward being open-minded, and willing to consider all sides of an issue. I'll be watching you for any characteristics like that, Joe.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Joe

      "I don't think I have many illusions of changing their minds... " Yea, you're real open minded, you hypocrite. You're idea of an open mind is one that agrees with you. Keep watching for that, Maybe.

      May 15, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  8. Drew Strickland

    In a contest between some anonymous internet posters versus the witness of one whom many, many eyewitnesses say was the true God.
    A God who, I'm told, came and died for me and was raised from the dead. I'm following the guy who died and came back to life.
    When you have accomplished this feat, (heck, when one of your gods has accomplished this feat) get back with me.

    Until then, I choose to throw my lot with what the dead man walking has to say on the matter of truth and reality.

    Thanks to the free will allowed You by the true "God" You may continue worshipping Yourself, instead.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • pat carr

      "A God who, I'm told, came and died for me and was raised from the dead"

      yes you were "told" about this. No proof of course, but you believe what someone else "told" you. You drivel on about how we worship ourselves but you worship some lies that you were told. Poor thing

      May 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Drew Strickland.
      Here's a short list of other gods who have come back from the dead (off the top of my head):
      Adonis, Asclepius, Achilles, Castor, Heracles, Astarte, Osiris, Isis, Horus, Tammuz, Mithras, and Dionysus.
      In fact, the ancient greek legend of Dionysus, which pre-dates Xtianity by hundreds of years, is remarkably close to that of Christ.
      He was born in a stable to a virgin mother, travels the land with a group of apostles performing miracles like turning water into wine, is crucified by the local authorities and rises from the grave three days later in front of women weeping at his tomb.

      Maybe you should consider adopting one of the above mentioned gods. Dionysus is a ton more fun than Jahweh.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Jay

      Pat, not that I need proof, because blessed are those who have not yet seen and still believe, but you should watch a show on the History Channel called "The Real Face of Jesus." You want proof, watch that and then tell me that Jesus didn't die and rise again on the third day. Granted, you will probably see that and still not believe, and will try to shoot holes in the arguments these scientists make. Also, consider the Bible proof. As the word of God, it is THE source for the way, the truth and the life.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • NoFool

      @Jay: For that matter, you should go to godisimaginarydotcom and read up, then come back and tell me you still believe in fairy tales...

      May 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  9. Doc Vestibule

    I'm surprised nobody has blamed the heathen, commie, nihilistic, treasonous, evil atheists for forcing God to punish humanity with natural disasters.
    You know, like the Muslim cleric who blamed the Haiti earthquake on "immodest women"...
    Every time a gay couple kisses, God smites a cuddly woodland creature.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  10. Kenrick Benjamin

    Why do people feel that God premitted this to happen, The last I remmembered God only permitted his commandments and that of his son Jesus Christ. Then people asked, why do these things happen, the answer is entropy.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  11. Drew Strickland

    Poor, poor atheists among us, so easily deceived.

    You think you are "courageous, intellectually honest, trailblazers."

    So sad. Your gods are small indeed.

    Your beliefs go by different names.

    You cling to science and logic just like the sheep cling to God and guns.
    In fact, you have almost no understanding of the limits
    of your two favorite gods.

    Science, logic, human progress...

    These are their names. You build an altar to these limited human constructs.
    You believe You can have a better life, a better world. You have made the
    Creator the enemy, and You are correct, he is Your enemy.

    For jusst a moment try and truly be "intellectually honest" with yourself.

    Your real enemy is You.

    Your desire to be unfettered by tiny minded folk, especially, Christians trying to force their beliefs on You. Your wish to be able to do
    whatever You want, however You want to do it, but here comes the caveat,
    as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else's "freedom." It is beyond You that this
    notion is entirely inconsistent with the logic you lift up as Your god. You should know
    that everything on this planet interacts with everything else. You cannot place yourself
    in a "moral vaccuum." You do not have the power to make and legislate your own moral code
    independent from the rest of the world. You intuitively (I won't say logically becuase that obviously escapes you), know this.
    This is the real reason you attack, because you know you need to get everyone on the same page. But, on whose page?

    Why Yours, of course.

    Sorry, guys, You lose.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      Rage! Rage against the dying of the light!

      May 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • pat carr

      blah blah blah blah blah

      as for "Your desire to be unfettered by tiny minded folk, especially, Christians trying to force their beliefs on You"

      yes we'd like christians to stop forcing their beliefs on us. GET IT? stop shoving your garbage down our throats

      May 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Eric

      Science, logic, human progress? Where have those things gotten us? Nowhere! All our advancement is because of our priests, imams, and other religious leaders ... It's opposite day today, right?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • pat carr

      "Science, logic, human progress..."

      yes they made the very mechanism you are typing on. please let me know what "god" or your religion has done?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Rogue

      Everyday is opposite day in religion. Love means God will kill you and torture you. Forgiveness means holding on to your hate forever and trusting in God to show that hate on your behalf. Charity means telling people that if they don't work they don't eat.
      Yeah, opposite day is where religion is at. Lies are like that.

      May 6, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Rogue

      @Drew – If you can't post anything better than that, don't expect much of a response.

      May 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  12. Friar*uck

    Its the gays.. the gays cause the tornadoes and anger God(tm) into destroying the rest of us. It is all the gays fault.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  13. Artist

    Jessy Ventura said it best: "Religion is a crutch for weak minded people".
    The world is not ready to move past myths. The ignorant and weak need something to believe in because they do not or cannot believe in themselves.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Special Moments

      Show me a story about God and there's always the Atheist close in tow. Moths to a flame. Kind of ironic. 🙂

      May 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • jimtanker

      More like a train wreck. At least the mind of a theist is a train wreck. I like to see how ignorant and silly the religious types get.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • pat carr

      show me a story about a disaster and try to explain to me how your "god' allows so many to die?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Alexander_Raj

      Yeah, guess he will say the same thing on his judgement day ! Ironically his very name proclaims the Glory of God and his existence !!

      Kinda interesting I find more atheists on this board than theists for which I am glad .


      May 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Ann Ecdote

      Special Moments,

      I'll bet if the headline read, "Thousands Credit Lucky Rabbit's Foot for Tornado Survival"... and if you saw this headline, year after year, disaster after disaster, ad nauseum, you might eventually pipe up with a comment too.
      And that's not even mentioning that the Footians insist that you must get a lucky rabbit's foot too, and live your life according to its trumped up whims... or else.

      May 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  14. JJ

    It's called "fideism," it's a pathetic theological creation and it's the belief that you can't and shouldn't let reason interfere with faith. It's also why knowledge is the mortal enemy of faith.

    In other words, its the belief that after every tornado you should rebuild in wood so you can prepare for the exact same thing to happen again when the next tornado strikes, because you think (insert favorite deity here) will protect you the next time. I call it the Darwin Instinct, otherwise known as stupidity.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • pat carr

      well said. Their god didn't protect them this time

      May 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Artist

    To the people that survived, you are so special because god spared you. No I mean you were real real f ing special. The ones that didn't....well god hated or did not feel you were worth sparing.....um s u c k s to be you.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  16. jimtanker

    Man, if I believed in a god and he threw a tornado at me like this I would be plssed.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  17. Stacy argon

    You just gotta have faith! Yea right. It never ceases to amaze me the mindless following that believers have. It's sad really. They simply believe in something that doesn't exist. It's too bad they can't channel all that "faith" into believing in themselves and the natural world around them instead.
    Jessy Ventura said it best: "Relgion is a crutch for weak minded people".

    May 6, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Special Moments

      LMFAO.....you pick on believers and quote Jessy Ventura? Wow!!! Anyway, don't you worry about this believer none. I'm doing just peachy. Peace. 🙂

      May 6, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  18. Neal

    Honestly, its just too easy to ridicule religion, which is in itself ridiculous. But I have to say it.... GOD must be angry at you! Repent!! (or else)

    May 6, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  19. john

    Atheists suck. They are always so angry.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Friar*uck

      I know.. all those darn atheist suicide bombers, and atheist child rapists being protected by the catholic church. I wonder what the heck is wrong with their moral compass!?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • pat carr

      Well maybe we are tired of religious people shoving their doctrine down our throats

      May 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • sassypants

      Pat car – when is the last time someone forced you to listen to religious doctrine? God is the foundation of who I am. I can barely have a discussion without at least thinking about Him. Sounds like you want to be accepted but you don't want to be accepting.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • pat carr

      "Pat car – when is the last time someone forced you to listen to religious doctrine? God is the foundation of who I am. I can barely have a discussion without at least thinking about Him. Sounds like you want to be accepted but you don't want to be accepting."

      Last week actually and it happens all the time. Despite me telling the other person i don't want to listen to it, they go on and on. It's obnoxious beyond my ability to describe and so disrespectful.

      Don't give me rubbish about "wanting to be accepted" or that you can't have a discussion without bringing up your religion. I can have plenty of discussions and i don't push my beliefs.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • NoFool

      @sassypants: They are doing it right now, today, for example via attempts at legislation to ban abortion and trying to get their conservative legislators to de-fund Planned Parenthood. They are constantly trying to get prayer inserted in schools, instead of, if it's so important to them, having their child pray at home BEFORE they leave for school. It goes on and on, year after year, decade after decade. THAT is why.

      May 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Les

      @ pattcar

      "I can have plenty of discussions and i don't push my beliefs."

      *cough*Blatant lie is blatant*cough*

      May 19, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  20. Stephen Hawking

    I love all the assaults on people of faiths. It truly shows how far we have come.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • pat carr

      and i have to laugh about "Faith". That so many people in the 21st century still believe in an invisible man in the sky is appalling

      May 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • pat carr

      what exactly are these "Faiths" except hand me down bronze age BS?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • bananaspy

      Faith is assaulted because people now realize that believing things that aren't a part of reality is harmful to people. I throw people of faith in the same category as children who believe in Santa or people who think Elvis lives. Except that religion is actually harmful to society when people begin injecting their dumb beliefs into it. People toss around the word "god" to alter the world around them, in their own favor, and the rest of you gullible people with *faith* defend them, because you believe in illogical things for no reason, which is exactly what faith is.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
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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.