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. Cal

    "So please explain to me how that is fantasy."

    I would, but it's more stupidity than fantasy. In any event, self-inflicted stupidity is legal, and it has its own charms. Enjoy!

    May 6, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Artist

      Self imposed delusions

      May 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  2. Artist


    When a woman I know, who is a deeply devout Christian, can look another woman in the eye and tell her she will have a baby within a year, and it comes true, that is prophesy. Now mind you, this woman she told had stopped trying to have a child after years of trying and doctors telling her that she was infertile and would never have a child. She laughed in my friends face when she heard this...she's not laughing now, she is just so incredibly thankful for the wonderful blessing of a child she has in her life. And this woman I know gave all thanks and praise to God for granting her the gift of sharing these messages with the people in her life. So please explain to me how that is fantasy.
    Well there you have it folks, that there is evidence. God took his time to tell this woman to tell another that she was going to have a baby. Meanwhile, people and children are blown to bits, r a p e d, killed, vaporized etc. Other poor a holes got thrown, crushed, splattered in a tornado.
    Do people ever really think about how ignorant they sound and are?????????

    May 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Karen

      Artist your comment seems filled with anger and hate why is that? Jay gave you an example of his experience, something he nor his friend can explain but yet you start talking about ra-pe, children blown to bits. It has no relevance to what Jay was talking about, except as a way for you to come up with an excuse to dismiss his comment. You are only demonstrating how immature you are nothing more.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Artist

      Karen, perhaps you should re-read it. I was simply putting it in more perspective. You see when you cast light on voodoo campfire stories, it shows it for what it is. You know like the one where I was called upon to preach the word of god. I refused until one day an ax on fire came out of the sky and landed before me and I heard the lord command me to preach the word of god. And everybody goes woooooo....ohhhhhhh....I cant explain it. I am sure there are a lot of christians with little stories that stir the soul as well as muslims. But in reality it is bs stories of ignorance.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Artist

      ps Karen, also you need to get over yourself. Because one disagrees or comments about christians does not mean it is hate. There is no War on Christians. *rolling eyes*

      May 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  3. Vic of New York

    Who's God?

    Anyway, it's really sad to see all this happening in the South. That said there's an old saying: "You don't mess around with Mother Nature!" Maybe, "God" is punishing all those folks because everyone knows – "There's no such thing as Global Climate Change!"

    May 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  4. dave

    Hi More Choices,
    If God does not have have mercy on you come May 21 2011 the last thing you will be worried about is me May 22 2011. What you will be doing is weeping and gnashing your teeth. Today is still the day of salvation. The door to salvation will be closed may 21 2011. you can still cry out to God for mercy.

    May 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Artist

      So Dave, come May 22nd if we are still here then your god is false. Ar eyou ready to denounce and realize the bs you have been told to believe? Or like every other flake christian just get a marker out and cross the date out and look in your book of bs for another date?

      May 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • NoFool

      @dave: I am SO bookmarking this page so I can come back on May 22, 2011 and say; "So, what's up, Dave?" Another basket case identified. Thanks for the entertainment.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  5. Cal

    God has the best marketing machine ever! Without a shred of evidence of any form of existence, billions of people love to proclaim their unshaken belief in their magic friend in the sky (and boy do they need everyone to hear how pious they are!). That same omniscient, omnipotent, and infinitely benevolent friend who sends (or allows) tornados, disease, wars, famine, drought, fires, etc. etc. to kill and destroy and just kind of hangs back and watches. Well, personally I don't need friends like that.

    God must be very busy these days. Between saving (some) people hovering in bathtubs while 250mph winds destroy their homes, and picking a winner for the Amazing Race, not to mention the NBA playoffs... he's got a lot going on.

    May 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  6. Denker


    God died in Auschwitz.

    May 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Artist

      No god was p! ss ed at the jews and made sure they were r a p e d, tor tured and killed. Hitler was just helping god's will

      May 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Hey! That's just what Hitler said!
      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. ...Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross."
      – Adolf Hitler, speech on April 12, 1922

      May 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Artist

      Doc got to love those christians doing god's work

      May 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  7. dave

    I have not done any of those things you mentioned, but I can tell you this. I am begging God to have mercy on me just like the Ninivites did when they were warned judgment was coming, who can tell, maybe God will have mercy. Today is still the day of salvation, but it is coming to a close in 15 days. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. May 21 2011 will be the begining of God's judgment.
    wecanknow.com or just google May 21 2011.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • OK

      So when May 21st comes then goes, we are all still here and just fine. Then it will only prove your God doesn't exist.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Artist


      Of course their faith is still intact. No level of hardship is too much for the christian. They just go to the book of Job which conveniently trivializes man's suffering.
      I say lets bring Rome back and really te s t their faith with lions. If you survive the hungry lions then your god loves you. I can just see a holy roller out there holding his cross and yelling, "In the name of jeeee zzzuzzz I comman thee lion to stop!" Oh jesus! spare what is left of me, I didnt need that left arm anyway. Oh Jesus, I have no arms and legs but they have special chairs ...please spare what is left of me. Jesus spare me, I didnt need the torso, they can fr ee ze my head like Ted Williams. .....lights out.
      Okay folks please get some refr esh ments when we come back we will see the Bible Thu mping Smith family take on a hungry grizzly. Mr. Smith what st rategy are you going to use. I am going to use the power of Jesus and the bible is my shield! And little Jimmey here will be quoting scripture. Amen. Alrighty then.

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


      Of course their faith is still intact. No level of hardship is too much for the christian. They just go to the book of Job which conveniently trivializes man's suffering.
      I say lets bring Rome back and really t e s t their faith with lions. If you sur vive the hungry lions then your god loves you. I can just see a holy ro ller out there holding his cross and yelling, "In the name of je eee zzz u zzz I comman thee lion to stop!" Oh jesus! spare what is left of me, I didnt need that left arm anyway. OHHH jesus their teeth hurts..Oh Jesus, I have no arms and legs but they have sp ec ial ch airs ...please spare what is left of me. Jesus spare me, I didnt need the to r so, they can fr ee ze my head like Ted Williams. .....lights out.
      Okay folks please get some re fre shm ents when we come back we will see the Bible Th um ping Smith family take on a hun gry gri z z ly. Mr. Smith what st ra t egy are you going to use. I am going to use the power of Jesus and the bible is my shield! Amen. Alrighty then.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You know that Harold Camping, the fellow making this prediction, said exactly the same thing would happen in 1994, right?

      The Church of the Subgenius predicted that the end of the world (that they have dubbed 'X-Day') would occur on July 5th, 1998.
      When nothing happened, the Church stated that "it had got the year upside down". A more recent theory says that X-Day did indeed happen but nobody was there to witness it becuase Earth and Mars were switched, and the "Earth" we know is actually Mars.
      I suspect there will be some equivalent rationalization from your flock when everything is just peachy on May 22nd.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Artist

      And they keep saying Jesus is coming back lol....2000 + years. I wonder if in 5000 years if there will still be christians around saying...he is coming back. Concert is over but apparently some still havent got a clue. LOL

      May 6, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  8. Chanselor Jenkins

    Religions were not created by governments. Governments were created by religion. You have religion to thank for civilization as we know it.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Kevin

      Cruel or violent passages in the Bible – 842
      Cruel or violent passages in the Qur'an – 333

      If the bible was a movie, it would be rated R.. at least. Religion is scare tactics.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • pat carr

      Yes thank you Religion for all the wars, deaths and other atrocities you've created. We're SO "grateful"

      May 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Wayne

      Law in the US was not founded on religion. And the US was never a christian nation.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • YaThink

      So Wayne then why does the currency state In God we Trust?

      May 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Alyssa

      YaThink, its because in the 1950's some religious people were able to convince Congress to change our currency. It hasn't always been there.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      In 1797, President Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli which begins thusly:
      "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

      May 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  9. carrie in Alabama

    And it rains on the just and the unjust . There will be wars and rumors of wars . Faith has nothing ot do with natural events or man made ones. Faith is about the inter man not the outer one. Make fun of these people all you want , but bet they ( the ones of faith,) are much happier even in there trials and tribulations than those that have no faith in anything but themselves. It is hard to tell someone who has no faith how it changes the inter man. That is why is is call faith..

    May 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Chanselor Jenkins

      right on Carrie.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Wayne

      Yeah carrie, I have seen some of those happy nutjob phonies. The believers are clueless in regards to happiness.
      And almost everything else.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • NoFool

      @carrie in Alabama: ...and some of them still need to hit the dictionary.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  10. Baman

    I saw where my previous, very civil and intelligent post was awaiting moderation. Well CNN, here is something else you can moderate – go screw yourself!

    May 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Artist

      Does anybody care to explain to Glen Beck Baman here how ther program works?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Helpful

      It's not CNN – it's the filters. Reality posted this.

      The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

      Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".

      And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.

      “Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
      va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
      ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
      jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
      p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
      o ficti-tious, repeti-tion, competi-tion.
      There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.
      okay words that you might not expect to be filtered....!!!

      Here's a word to add to the banned list: co-co-on
      whether it's c-oc, or co-on, this is ridiculous.”

      May 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  11. kells

    its so sad dat d world is now full of athiests. they see a black color and call it red. life is a choice the choice you make, makes you who are.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Wayne

      Try getting an education and learn grammar. Idiot.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • OK

      You do realize that maturity is defined by the ability express your feelings while being considerate to the thoughts and feelings of the other person. Or did you miss that lesson in school?

      May 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  12. Jay

    Of course their faith is still intact. No level of hardship is too much for the christian. They just go to the book of Job which conveniently trivializes man's suffering.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  13. Chanselor Jenkins

    In Jesus name everyone one this board will come to know God. Truth, love and true Joy is right in front of you.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  14. JAB

    I love these "but my faith is still intact" articles. They're more like "I'm really insecure about my beliefs and need to publicly reaffirm them here for all to see" articles. Who cares about your BS beliefs? As long as you keep them to yourselves it's all good. When you can't it's all bad.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • pat carr

      well said. All we ask is they keep it to themselves.

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

      Yea, they musta called CNN for days begg'n em to print their story.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  15. Craig

    Thankfully, there are a few people (as I just read) that actually laugh at the child fairytales called religion.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  16. Chanselor Jenkins

    Thank you athiests for helping to fullfill our prophicies. Your percicution of Christians is fortold in the bible.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • MG

      It's spelled persecution and prophecies. I hope you are being sarcastic.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Wayne

      Foretolld in the bible? Where?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • pat carr

      LMAO! i haven't percicuted anyone lately...what is that some kind of coffee making?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Cajun Herb

      I would take your comments more seriously if I thought you could read the Bible in the first place. If you count the name, you got five words wrong in two sentences. You should pray that there is no entrance exam at the Pearly Gates.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Bus2

      You're very welcome!

      May 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Smite Me

      @Chanselor Jenkins - "Thank you athiests for helping to fullfill our prophicies."

      I guess you won't have to worry about failing the 7th grade then, huh?

      May 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Joe

      persecution -phonics is kill'n us.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  17. dan smith

    Religion, in all its various forms, was created by governments as a way to control their populace. Nearly all wars have been over one religious group hating another religious group,for example, the Crusades,Jihad,all the battles the jews fought in ancient times. It's time for mentally stable people to take the reigns of government throughout the world and put an end to this nonsense permanently.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  18. BL

    Stuff just happens. It happens for no one. It's just nature being nature, she could care less who it effects, "good" or "bad." There is no hidden meaning, no agenda, no purpose, no great plan. Everything just eternally is. The absolute appearing as everything.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  19. dave

    To All,
    Judgment day will begin May 21 2011. God has warned His people. Anytime God sent judgment He warned His people, Noah knew, Lot and his family knew, the Ninivites were warned etc. We to are given the warning, it is all found in the bible. You can find out how this was taken from the bible by going to wecanknonw.com or just google May 21 2011. There are only 15 days left, prepare to meet thy God. When the Ninivites got word that judgment was coming they cried out mightily unto God for mercy saying, who can tell, maybe God will have mercy Jonah 3:8

    May 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • MoreChoices

      Hey Dave, please remember to stop back here in a few weeks and let us know how judgment day worked out for ya. We'll be here waiting for your report. Good luck!

      May 6, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      So have you quit your job, maxed out your credit cards, sold your house and given it all away?
      Or are you hedging your bets on the chance that nothing at all will happen?

      I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that come May 22, the centre will continue to hold, the falcon will still hear the falconer and mere anarchy shall not be unleashed upon the world.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Kevin

      shut up.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Leonore H. Dvorkin

      Hey, "dave." If you really believe this nonsense, then feel free to sign your house, car, and other worldly goods over to me, Leonore H. Dvorkin, Denver, CO. You can easily find out more about me by doing a search on my name. If you do not do this, or at least send me some money, then I will know that you do not really believe what you are saying here. Also, on May 23, I expect to see you eating some crow, here. I and others with brains will love to see you proven wrong later this month. But of course every time such prophecies do not come true, you religious, end-of-the-world loons just say, "Well, we must have been mistaken," and then set another doomsday date. It would be funny if it were not so scarily crazy. I pity people like you, people who are so seriously deluded and blinded by your very weird interpretations of religion.

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

      Oh...you are so right! I will do my part to aid in YOUR salvation. I fear for your soul. Any wealth you have will destroy your eternity. You know...the camel and the needle. Send your money to me – cash – your soul will benefit forever.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • ZweiStein

      Dave...I forgot to add that time is of the essence here. I can only accept so much 'sinful' cash. The pressure on me is great with thousands of faithful wanting me to absorb their wealth. You need to get it to me fast – while time permits.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • ZweiStein

      Upon accepting your 'sin-buyout' I will provide you with a certified, raised seal certificate of redemption eligibility.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • xray

      so does that mean i can max out my credit card?

      May 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jay

      dave, I am a Christian and I don't believe you. You should probably read Matthew 24:36-43, 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
      42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

      So since Jesus said that no one knows, what makes you think that for some reason God has told you the date? Why would he violate his own word? We should be ready for His coming at any day, any hour. The date is irrelevant, and your date completely lacks any scriptural foundation.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Joe

      Oh, for heaven's sake!!! Nutz like you make me want to run over to the agnostics.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  20. MJ

    I agree with the Iranian Muslims...it's promiscuous women that cause natrual disasters.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Artist


      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.
      Thats right the people that survived the tornado wee soooooooooo special god took time out of his holy day, while others in the world are r a p e d, beaten and killed. Obviously the people who died in the tornado didnt pray hard enough. That will show them and let that be a lesson....pray god d a m nnn harder next time. It is still amazing at some of the ig norance in the world.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Naomi

      It's actually not just promiscuity that causes natural disasters, all suffering and evil in the world is the natural result of sin...all of our sin. But there is good news, in spite of us, we are incredibly loved and if only we believe, in the midst of our suffering and pain, that Jesus took our punishment for all sin on the cross and through His death and resurrection reconciled us to the Father we will be saved. And saved doesn't just mean a free ticket to Heaven, it means that no matter what you go through, tornadoes, hurricanes, abuse, beatings, torture, God extends His grace, power, strength, and unquenchable love to you so that you will not just get through, you will rise above these things. But faith is a hard road that few walk and even fewer understand.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:26 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.