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May 8th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

In the heart of tornado-ravaged Bama Nation, a new battle cry: ‘Let go! Let God!’

By Wayne Drash, CNN

Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN) – The Rev. Kelvin Croom walks down the hall toward the sanctuary his father built 30 years ago with the help of legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“Just glad to be alive,” a deacon says.

“I know what you mean,” Croom responds.

With its painted cement block walls and low ceilings, the hall has the feel of a locker room corridor. In rooms off the hall, church members rummage through debris, trying to salvage anything they can. Windows shattered when the tornado hit. The roof of the fellowship hall upstairs blew off and crashed into nearby homes.

On Easter Sunday, three days before the tornado struck, Croom preached of salvation, of the need to rebuild one’s life, of finding hope even in times of desperation. The rejoicing and the stomps of feet had the pews bouncing.

The place oozed with love. So many people packed the church they literally filled the building to its rafters, with people standing all the way upstairs in the fellowship hall.

Back in the church for the first time since that service, Croom steps through the doorway into that sacred spot, the sanctuary of College Hill Baptist Church. His voice draws to a hush. The crimson carpet, the pews with their crimson cushions, the stained glass windows – everything is untouched.

“In here, you’d have no idea anything happened,” he marvels.

On April 27, a mile-wide tornado tore through Tuscaloosa, one of nearly 200 twisters to strike the South as part of a record storm. Hundreds died, including dozens in this college town – many of whom lived in the area known as Alberta City where College Hill Baptist sits.

The church lies at the center of the damage, as well as at the crossroads of faith, football and Alabama history. In a community where gospel and gridiron are interwoven like a hand-stitched Southern quilt, it all comes together at College Hill Baptist.

The Rev. Kelvin Croom tells his congregation, "We will rebuild!"

The building speaks of history, of a unique bond between two men – one white, one black – at a time when there were few such relationships. While Bryant is revered like no other, it’s Croom’s father, the late Rev. Sylvester Croom Sr., who stands as a pillar of the African-American community in this part of the state.

As a young man, the elder Croom couldn’t attend his hometown college. He couldn’t even step foot into the University of Alabama stadium. He’d stand outside the gate to watch games.

Eventually, though, he became spiritual adviser to Bryant and two other Crimson Tide coaches. He would come to grace the sidelines for years, decked out in his iconic white suit and crimson cowboy hat and boots.

When the elder Croom was starting the church in the 1970s, Bryant gave him a PA system. He gave the pastor money, too, sometimes thousands in cash, sometimes hundreds. “Whatever Dad needed,” Kelvin Croom says.

“He and my dad had a very unique relationship.”

Kelvin and his brother, Sylvester Jr., were among the first African-American football players at Alabama.

And when Gov. George Wallace apologized to Tuscaloosa’s African-American community for his staunch support of segregation and for barring blacks from entering the university, he came to the Croom family. “Will you forgive me?” Wallace asked.

Today, Kelvin Croom surveys the damage outside the church. The parking lot is littered with lumber strewn from homes, roofing tiles and other debris. With the second story gone, he’s not sure the building can be salvaged, even if the sanctuary is OK.

Behind him, a smashed church sign leans to the side, almost like a crooked cross. Two plaques remain intact: one honoring Bryant; the other honoring the elder Croom.

A portrait of the elder Croom survived the tornado.

“We were taught by my dad and we were taught by Coach Bryant, when situations come into your life, obstacles come, then you have to be strong,” Croom says.

“We have to let go what we’re tasting. This is a bitter pill, but God does have his way of resurrecting us. Yeah, we’re hurt … but we can rebuild and come back.”

Last year, his church made green T-shirts with a slogan in the form of a cross: “Let go! Let God!”

“We’ve been wearing the shirts. Now, we gotta live it,” he says. “Now that we have to deal with this calamity, you put aside racial barriers, religious and political. We’re one people. We’re Alabamians.”

He gives a soft holler: “Roll Tide,” the beloved chant of Alabama fans.

“It’s become more than a sports theme,” he says. “It’s a bond between people who have a common interest in humanity, who believe in a democracy, who believe in a higher power. It’s a nation. We call it Bama Nation.”

Across the state, people are mourning. The loss of life and property is indescribable. Thousands of houses across Tuscaloosa alone are damaged or destroyed. Scores of people remain missing.

Faith and football won’t replace the utter destruction that has shaken so many lives here. Yet it’s what people cling to. Conversations with those whose homes were destroyed often end with “Roll Tide.”

Last year the church made "Let go! Let God!" T-shirts. "We’ve been wearing the shirts. Now, we gotta live it," Croom says.

In the fall, they say, the sanctuary on Saturdays is Bryant-Denny Stadium, where more than 100,000 fans gather in the heart of campus to cheer for the Crimson Tide. On Sundays, the place of worship is any of the hundreds of churches throughout this thick Bible Belt region where Saturday’s chants are replaced by prayers and gospels.

It’s why a chemistry professor from Germany says, “The holy man in Alabama is not the pope. It’s Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.” Outside Croom’s torn up church, a military policeman put aside his allegiance to cross-state rival Auburn University to protect the property from looters.

“I’m an Auburn fan,” says Sgt. Casey Chambers, “but above that I’m a true Alabamian.”

A handgun at his hip, Chambers says through a big grin, “I’m protecting y’all.”

'How we come together'

Terry Jones is the legendary noseguard who played for the Crimson Tide in the mid-1970s and went on to play for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

Now a strength coach at Alabama, Jones was in the team’s practice facility when the tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa. An announcement came over the PA system for everyone to take cover.

He rounded the corner into his office. On his wall, Bear Bryant looked down. Jones stared back at the man who shaped his life, one of five mentors who molded him.

“Where you thinking of going to school?” Bryant had asked him on a recruiting trip.

“South Carolina,” Jones told him.

Bad choice, Bryant said. “All you’ll do is play football, and you’ll lose all your games. What’s your second choice?”

When Jones responded with the University of Tennessee, Bryant leaned over. “You can go there,” the coach said, “but we’re going to kick your ass every year.”

Alabama strength coach and former NFL star Terry Jones weathered the storm at the Crimson Tide’s practice facility.

Jones became an All-American playing for Bryant. Yet, he says, he also owes much of his success to another man: the elder Rev. Croom.

Jones, who started playing for Alabama in 1974, remembered a story he heard from his older teammates. In 1973, the Crimson Tide was about to play Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. The black players for both schools planned to sit out the game to send a civil rights statement across the nation.

Bryant phoned his spiritual adviser: Get to New Orleans and mediate the situation. The Rev. Sylvester Croom gathered the athletes.

“This is an opportunity for you to showcase your talents and get to the next level, the NFL. Don’t jeopardize that,” the elder Croom said. “You’re the pride of the black community. Don’t let us down!”

Everyone suited up. The game went on. (Alabama fans don’t like to talk about the outcome; the Crimson Tide lost 24-23 on a field goal in the last five minutes, but the team still won the national title that year.)

All that went through Jones’ mind as he hunkered down in his office, the storm overhead. The 6-4, 320-pound giant owed his life to both those men. If the elder Croom hadn’t given that speech to the black players who preceded him, his career could have been over before it started. If Bryant hadn’t switched him to noseguard his senior year, he might never have starred with the Packers.

Bryant made his players attend church. He ingrained it in them: Football and faith help shape a boy into a man. Jones now serves as a deacon at College Hill Baptist Church.

Legendary Alabama football coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant mentored Jones and helped the elder Croom start his church.

In his office that day, he reflected on a quote from Bryant: “If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high, but so are the rewards.”

Life has been good to him, thought Jones, a small-town boy from Sandersville, Georgia, who broke racial barriers and crushed many a lineman along the way.

Jones braced for the worst. The wind whipped outside. The tornado missed his building.

“Every Saturday, I’ve seen how we come together – the football and the religion,” he says. “This storm, I think, brought everything together right here.”

Sermons in the barber chair

Clee Greene no longer walks with that pep in his step from when he first arrived in Tuscaloosa in 1960. He got off the back of the bus from Louisiana with a “dollar and quarter” in his pocket and has never looked back.

He’s now got a bridge named after him in Alberta City.

While Bryant brought black players to Tuscaloosa to play football, it was Greene who helped shape them into men. The barber on the other side of the railroad tracks would sit the young kids in his chair and preach to them about life and love, God and unity.

Clee Greene was barber and counselor to nearly every black University of Alabama football player for decades.

Nearly every black football player from the 1970s through the 1990s, from Terry Jones to NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, sought haircuts and counseling from him. At 73, he remains a father figure to Jones. “If you got nothing to do, you just go to Clee’s,” Jones says outside the shop. “He’s an institution.”

A pious man with veins that bleed Crimson Tide and Bible scripture, Greene says the tornado looked like the devil when it came through. “It began to make a tail,” he says in an accent as thick as sorghum. “It went up in the air, like it had arms and shoulders.”

Electricity poles snapped with gigantic flashes. The tornado screamed, and his house shook. “A train is coming in,” his granddaughter said as they huddled in a hallway.

“That’s not a train,” he told her.

Remarkably, his house is one of the few in Alberta City that wasn’t harmed. He runs his barbershop out of his house. He gives away more haircuts than he sells.

Sitting in his barber chair amid Crimson Tide memorabilia, he says God is trying to send a message with the tornado: “He wants us to get back to loving each other.”

It’s kind of like football, he says: “You got to dig down deep inside yourself and pull yourself up.”

What sustains him now amid such destruction?

Faith for one, he says.

The other? Well, Greene decides to demonstrate. He leaps from his barber chair and searches through his belongings. He pulls out a stuffed elephant, the Alabama mascot known as Big Al.

Terry Jones, left, and Clee Greene belt out the chant of Crimson Tide fans.

He presses a button. The elephant grinds its hips to the tune of the Alabama fight song. Greene places his nose to his shoulder and throws his arm into the air, like it’s an elephant trunk.

With Terry Jones at his side, Greene begins to belt out that iconic chant. The legendary noseguard joins in: ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIDE ROLL!

'We will rebuild'

Standing at the altar on the Sunday after the storm, Croom dabs the sweat from his brow with a white coach’s towel. Dozens in his flock lost their homes when the tornado gutted Tuscaloosa. Many lost friends and loved ones.

Tears and hugs, singing and rejoicing punctuate the service. The University Church of Christ volunteered space for members of College Hill Baptist to worship.

“Just tell somebody I need you to survive,” he preaches. “Tell the person next to you: I pray for you; you pray for me.”

The congregants pause. They share hugs and pleasantries. “Our community has been devastated, but God still lives,” Croom says.

The pastor calls everyone to the altar. More than 200 people huddle together. Some place hands on shoulders; others hold hands.

“Some of us looked death in the face. Some of us thought it was over in the storm. But God gave us new life,” Croom says. “The flock will not be scattered because of this storm. College Hill still stands. We’re here today!”

“Some will say the church is over there,” Croom booms, pointing toward the tattered building across town.

He then points at members of the congregation: “No, the church is where you go! And you go! And you go! … That’s where the church is!”

Kelvin Croom walks down the hall of his church; many members of his congregation lost friends and loved ones.

He preaches for more than an hour. A woman sings "Amazing Grace":

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Croom implores the congregation to volunteer, to help thy neighbor. The church was planning a complete renovation before the storm. Maybe, Croom says, the tornado is a warning to be careful what you ask for. Now, they have no choice but to rebuild.

“Lord, I will serve you forever,” Croom hollers. “We will rebuild! We will rebuild! God bless you! God bless you!”

And in true Alabama fashion, he ends with the two words that have brought people here together for decades: “Roll Tide!”

CNN’s Sarah Hoye contributed to this piece.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Alabama • Baptist • Belief • Church • God • Houses of worship • Pastors • Prayer

soundoff (600 Responses)
  1. The Automated Same Day Religion Turd Detector

    Ding.

    The Deacon says "We are just glad to be alive".
    If THAT doesn't say it all. The fundamental lack of real faith, the fundamental unbelief in the bull that they say they believe.
    I was in town today, helping two friends clean up the mess made from this storm. Not everyone buys the line from these people, and the "good ole boys". They are smart enough to keep their mouths shut in such a redneck culture.

    May 10, 2011 at 5:26 am |
  2. Buffoon

    Others' gods should suck mine; yours bend over! 'til then, I don't believe in neither promises nor fears!

    May 9, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  3. Carl

    Are you guys kidding me! Are you so self-absorbed that you use an uplifting story about a community that was devastated by a natural disaster to push your peudo-sophisticated agendas! Please people. What I saw in this story is a community coming together. Regardless of affiliation. Regardless of color. Regardless of social standing.

    I live in Alabama. I worked on an ERT (Emergency Response Team) that helped in disaster recovery. What I saw was mind-boggling in terms of suffering and devastation. However, I saw example after example of the type of love, devotion and community that most can only dream of. Many of the ERTs were church sponsored. For those of you who have no faith, if that bothers you, you can shove it! I will not tip-toe around it like many have. All I know is that I was not asked my affiliation when I joined an ERT but the kind of love I saw in those teams was fantastic.

    Go to your freaking coffee shops, pat yourselves on your backs for your superior brains and morality and then ask yourself what do you feel is motivating the thousands of people who actually are doing something about this devastation? You really want to show how cute and superior you are: Get off your atheist rear-ends and actually fly down to Alabama and help these people. Maybe then you will understand. However, until you have seen this suffering you have no idea.

    Please take your prattle to another board. This is not the place for it.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Nathan

    "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." -Thumper

    Go watch Bambi, you jerks.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  5. Terri

    Earth has no sorrow Heaven can't heal;/ It rain's on the just as well as the unjust. I encourage you non-believers to believe, there is a GOD

    May 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  6. Danny

    Sylvester Croom Jr. was the first black head football coach in the SEC.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  7. mikey

    Wait.......................Bear gave the pastor cash money so he sons would play for the tahd., say it ain't so!!!!!!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  8. Nancy

    I think that, regardless of your religious affiliation, or lack thereof, we should all be able to come together to hope for a better tomorrow for all the survivors of this natural disaster. They need our support and whatever assistance we can provide, whether spiritual or material. Let's put religious differences aside and support them out of the goodness in our hearts – THAT is the American way, not this bitter divisiveness!

    May 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  9. WJW

    Great reporting, very nice work!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  10. Ed Maxwell

    many of the comments are really sick. You have missed the whole point fo the article. Yes, I am a believer in God and attempt to do His will.

    The whole point of the article was the bringing people together through a time of crisis. Taking off the prejudices we all have an looking at all of us as people. The examples with Bear Bryant and George Wallace are just icing on the cake. We all need to look at each other as equals and to love our brothers and sisters unconditionally – regardless of religion, race, creed, or color. Even if you do consider yourself to be one of God's children – you are still a member of the human race. Is respect of person that hard to get?

    May 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  11. AthiestIsTheOnlyWay

    So you bible thumpers believe that everything is written by god, huh? You are to do just what the bible says, huh? How many of you are currently in jail for murder? The bible tells you to. (Exodus 31:15 – Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth [any] work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. King James Version)

    You are all hypocrites using that joke book to push your own beliefs. God loves everyone, except gays, blacks, mexicans, or whoever you have a bias against.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Steve (the real one)

      By "bible thumpers" I will assume you mean Christians:
      1. Again another atheist that only quotes from the old Testament
      2. The law was NOT written for Christians. The church was established under Grace and NOT law.
      3. Not knowing the diffrence renders your argument invalid!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Free

      Steve (the real one)-
      "2. The law was NOT written for Christians. The church was established under Grace and NOT law."
      Yet it seems to be mostly Christians who want to post the Ten Commandments, the cornerstone of the OT Law, up in public places. I know that Jesus mentions some of them in the NT, but he also stated quite clearly that his version of the Golden Rule was a better alternative to them. Yet, where are the Christians insisting on publicly posting "Love your neighbor as yourself?"

      May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Free

      Steve (the real one)-
      "2. The law was NOT written for Christians. The church was established under Grace and NOT law."
      Yet it seems to be mostly Christians who want to post the Ten Commandments, the cornerstone of the OT Law, up in public places. I know that Jesus mentions some of them in the NT, but he also stated quite clearly that his version of the Golden Rule was a better alternative to them. Yet, where are the Christians insisting on publicly posting "Love your neighbor as yourself?"
      -------–
      Free, if you look at the 10, you will see ther are divided into 2 sub categories:
      the 1st 4 (40%) are how we treat God
      the next 6 (60%) are how we are to treat each other. Interestingl how 60% are about treating humans. If I love my neighbor, I will not:
      steal from him, kill him, desire his wife, or lie on him. All six were condensed into just one: Love your neighbor as you love yourself! The 1 more than covers the 6. In fact, Jesus took all 10 and condensed them down to only 2.
      In short we do not have to insist on displaying "love you neioghbor as yourself. That is already covered.

      I end with this: The Ten Commandments on display is just a reminder and is fine. It is however, better to have then in our hearts than on a wall!

      May 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Free

      "I end with this: The Ten Commandments on display is just a reminder and is fine. It is however, better to have then in our hearts than on a wall!"

      My question was why the few who want something on the wall as a reminder never seem to choose Jesus's direct teaching, but instead only seem to want the Old Hebrew Law version that they supposedly aren't tied to anymore? Why is that, I wonder?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Free,

      1. "You seem to be concerned about a cloud? Stop wasting your time." You mean that the Bible is wrong and that people won't be taken up in the clouds?
      --------–
      I am referring to God's ability. There will be a cloud. Jesus departed on one, He'll return on one. God is able to make that happen. I don't worry about that.

      2. "I will happen The REAL question is what happens to Free during the time of the rapture?"
      I guess I'll find out on the 21rd
      ----------–
      I have a choice make then. Either I believer date setters or I believe Jesus who said NO one knows when but the Father. I am fairly certain you know which way I lean.

      3. Why would God be vengeful against people exercising the free will he supposedly gave them? Same for human intelligence. Why give people intelligence and then tell them never to trust it? Martin Luther sure didn't like human intelligence.
      -----–
      You used to have faith, tell me!

      4. So why is it that Christians cry foul so loudly when somebody compliments them for not using their intelligence? Weird!
      ---------
      Compliments? Really?

      5. Tell me, outside of religion, do you take anything else in your life on faith alone?
      --------
      This is where SOME atheists go wrong.

      a. I really hate the word religion. To me, it implies trying to be good enough and human attempts to reach out to God. Christianity is a RELATIONSHIP with God in faith through Christ. There are tons of religions but they do not enjoy a relationship with through Christ.

      b. It is impossible to separate my life from faith. This is not what I do on Sundays. It is who I am everyday!

      May 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Free
      "I end with this: The Ten Commandments on display is just a reminder and is fine. It is however, better to have then in our hearts than on a wall!"

      My question was why the few who want something on the wall as a reminder never seem to choose Jesus's direct teaching, but instead only seem to want the Old Hebrew Law version that they supposedly aren't tied to anymore? Why is that, I wonder?
      ----------–
      1. The Ten Commandments are still valid, they were never discarded. Jesus made it easy. The ten are rolled into two.
      a. Love the Lord with all your heart...
      b. love your neighbor as yourself.

      The essence of the Ten are still there

      2. Free, I cannot answer for anybody else. That is a good question, just one that I cannot answer

      May 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  12. Sandylove

    It is funny how we say that we don’t want God involved in our lives, schools, government, ect… But when a disaster happens, we scream “why would God allow this” We as a people all fall short of the glory of God. With what’s going on in the U.S. today. We are showing our true colors as Americans. We have too much hatred for our fellow man. God is love.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Susan

      The folks who want a secular society without God being explicitly part of our schools and government aren't necessarily non-Christians, you know? Maybe they're just Christians who are aware that they share this country with people of other faiths and non-believers, and aren't interested in unfairly pushing their beliefs on everyone? I have faith that there are at least some Christians out there like this.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  13. Steve (the real one)

    A simple story of how faith is helping folks deal with tragedy. That is what this is. You don't have any faith in God? That is your right and your business. Faith in God is their experience (as is mine). Why the constant bad mouthing of faith? Arrogance and true delusion is telling somebody that our faith (which is real) is but a delusion. You choose to live your faithless lives. I choose to live my life of faith! I said this before and it bears repeating why are SOME atheists only able to quote (and poorly, I might add) the Old Testament? You don't seem to know ANY of the New Testament! No surprise, since it is ONLY spiritually understood!

    May 9, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Free

      Steve (the real one)
      "A simple story of how faith is helping folks deal with tragedy."
      So, by that logic, all those inspirational stories about the Ja.panese earlier in the year somehow prove the truth of Eastern religions?

      "You don't seem to know ANY of the New Testament! No surprise, since it is ONLY spiritually understood!"
      I guess you would have to "spiritually understand" the New Testament in order to reach the idea of the trinity, just as an example, because it sure isn't stated anywhere within it.

      "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."
      — Thomas Jefferson

      May 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Free

      Steve (the real one)
      "A simple story of how faith is helping folks deal with tragedy."
      So, by that logic, all those inspirational stories about the Ja.panese earlier in the year somehow prove the truth of Eastern religions?

      "You don't seem to know ANY of the New Testament! No surprise, since it is ONLY spiritually understood!"
      I guess you would have to "spiritually understand" the New Testament in order to reach the idea of the trinity, just as an example, because it sure isn't stated anywhere within it.

      "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."
      — Thomas Jefferson
      --–
      1. I am not interested in eastern religions, yet you don't hear me bashing them!
      2. The Word "rapture" is not in there as well, yet it is implied! I don't see the word "Sunday" in there as well, yet that is a day of corporate worship! What's your point?
      3. So I assume ridicule is your subst-itute for adult argument. OK!

      May 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Free

      "1. I am not interested in eastern religions, yet you don't hear me bashing them!"
      Ok then, I shall take it that you regard eastern religions as being equal to your own faith in every possible way, and that their followers are as good and fine a people as any Christian? Jesus is not the only way then, right?

      "2. The Word "rapture" is not in there as well, yet it is implied! I don't see the word "Sunday" in there as well, yet that is a day of corporate worship! What's your point?"
      Rapture actually is another idea not detailed in the NT, and it is funny how so many so-called Christians can take such an idea as actually being 'scripturally based', isn't it? Funnier still how many who take this position will argue just as strongly against the Catholic idea of a papacy, while both ideas are just as grounded in 'tradition' rather than scripture.

      Sunday finds its meaning in the worship of the sun, not the 'son', but it just happens to be the name of that day of the week in certain European countries, just as the other days of the week are named after other pagan deities. It's your point that I don't get with that.

      "3. So I assume ridicule is your subst-itute for adult argument. OK!"
      Only when engaged with people who have already brought the conversation down to childish levels, like insisting they have an invisible friend who (sometimes) grants wishes.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Free

      "1. I am not interested in eastern religions, yet you don't hear me bashing them!"
      Ok Only when engaged with people who have already brought the conversation down to childish levels, like insisting they have an invisible friend who (sometimes) grants wishesthen, I shall take it that you regard eastern religions as being equal to your own faith in every possible way, and that their followers are as good and fine a people as any Christian? Jesus is not the only way then, right?

      "2. The Word "rapture" is not in there as well, yet it is implied! I don't see the word "Sunday" in there as well, yet that is a day of corporate worship! What's your point?"
      Rapture actually is another idea not detailed in the NT, and it is funny how so many so-called Christians can take such an idea as actually being 'scripturally based', isn't it? Funnier still how many who take this position will argue just as strongly against the Catholic idea of a papacy, while both ideas are just as grounded in 'tradition' rather than scripture.

      Sunday finds its meaning in the worship of the sun, not the 'son', but it just happens to be the name of that day of the week in certain European countries, just as the other days of the week are named after other pagan deities. It's your point that I don't get with that.

      "3. So I assume ridicule is your subst-itute for adult argument. OK!"
      Only when engaged with people who have already brought the conversation down to childish levels, like insisting they have an invisible friend who (sometimes) grants wishes.
      ------
      Your lack of knowledge is loud and clear! Read what I wrote, stop putting words in my mouth
      1. You ask what you already know what my answer will be.

      you say: .and that their followers are as good and fine a people as any Christian?.

      I say yes they are! Yet are they saved? No!
      2. Read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians IF you want to know about the Rapture (also Rev 4:1)
      2a. Sunday= sun day, Monday= moon day Thursday= thors' day, Saturday+ saturn's day. Once again, your point?
      3. you said: Only when engaged with people who have already brought the conversation down to childish levels, like insisting they have an invisible friend who (sometimes) grants wishes .

      let me rephrase for you:

      Only when engaged with people who have already brought the conversation down to childish levels, like ridiculing faith I (Free) have no knowledge of.

      I like my version better!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Free

      Steve-
      "I say yes they are! Yet are they saved? No"
      And not being 'saved' is a form of ridicule, isn't it? Aren't you really saying that these religions don't actually 'work' at all like you claim your faith does? Sounds pretty critical to me.

      "2. Read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians IF you want to know about the Rapture (also Rev 4:1"
      "Rapture" is just a Latin translation of a Greek word meaning something like "caught up" or "swept away." Actually, being "caught up in the air" sounds more like a description of being a tornado victim, like the unfortunate folks mentioned in this article, or even being "beamed up" by Scotty in Star Trek than the notion that certain folks will float like Jesus or just vanish altogether. It's really a very recent, and utterly American doctrine that really has no roots or tradition in Christianity outside of the States.

      1 Thessalonians 4:17
      "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
      Does this literally mean that Jesus will not be setting foot on Earth, but will hover in the air forever? Are clouds necessary for the Rapture and, if so, what's to comfort the poor Christians living in Phoenix? Again, I only mock because it really is silly.

      "Only when engaged with people who have already brought the conversation down to childish levels, like ridiculing faith I (Free) have no knowledge of."
      Why do you assume I never had faith? I had it once, but lost it as soon as I seriously thought about why I had it, a transition that can easily be followed by any willing to get put aside the fear of a vengeful God for a moment.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Free

      Steve-
      "I say yes they are! Yet are they saved? No"
      And not being 'saved' is a form of ridicule, isn't it? Aren't you really saying that these religions don't actually 'work' at all like you claim your faith does? Sounds pretty critical to me.

      "2. Read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians IF you want to know about the Rapture (also Rev 4:1"
      "Rapture" is just a Latin translation of a Greek word meaning something like "caught up" or "swept away." Actually, being "caught up in the air" sounds more like a description of being a tornado victim, like the unfortunate folks mentioned in this article, or even being "beamed up" by Scotty in Star Trek than the notion that certain folks will float like Jesus or just vanish altogether. It's really a very recent, and utterly American doctrine that really has no roots or tradition in Christianity outside of the States.

      1 Thessalonians 4:17
      "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
      Does this literally mean that Jesus will not be setting foot on Earth, but will hover in the air forever? Are clouds necessary for the Rapture and, if so, what's to comfort the poor Christians living in Phoenix? Again, I only mock because it really is silly.

      "Only when engaged with people who have already brought the conversation down to childish levels, like ridiculing faith I (Free) have no knowledge of."
      Why do you assume I never had faith? I had it once, but lost it as soon as I seriously thought about why I had it, a transition that can easily be followed by any willing to get put aside the fear of a vengeful God for a moment.
      ------
      1. Earlier you said: "Jesus is not the only way then, right?"
      If Jesus (and He is) explain how anything outside of that is also true?

      "are you really saying, are you really saying?"

      How about just read what I am actually saying!

      2. Unless 1 Thess was written in America and recently, you would have a point about the rapture being an American and recent theology. You are wrong on both counts.

      You seem to be concerned about a cloud? Stop wasting your time. I will happen The REAL question is what happens to Free during the time of the rapture?

      3. The vengeful God is going nowhere. You will still get to be judged one day. "Vengence is Mine, I will repay"

      You claimed to have had faith at one time. Yet you forget these truths. What happened, if I may ask?

      May 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Free

      Steve-
      "How about just read what I am actually saying!"
      Well, what are you actually saying? Do you consider all religions equal or do you consider others to be inferior to your own?

      "2. Unless 1 Thess was written in America and recently, you would have a point about the rapture being an American and recent theology. You are wrong on both counts."
      What I meant was that the idea of the rapture as most Americans understand the concept is a relatively new, and wholly American idea. It originated with the Puritans Increase and Cotton Mather. Look it up!

      "You seem to be concerned about a cloud? Stop wasting your time."
      You mean that the Bible is wrong and that people won't be taken up in the clouds?

      "I will happen The REAL question is what happens to Free during the time of the rapture?"
      I guess I'll find out on the 21rd. 🙂

      Why would God be vengeful against people exercising the free will he supposedly gave them? Same for human intelligence. Why give people intelligence and then tell them never to trust it? Martin Luther sure didn't like human intelligence.

      Proverbs 3:5 "Confide in Jehovah with all thy heart, and lean not unto thine own intelligence;"

      So why is it that Christians cry foul so loudly when somebody compliments them for not using their intelligence? Weird!

      "You claimed to have had faith at one time. Yet you forget these truths. What happened, if I may ask?"
      Like I said, I took the chance and actually thought about why I had faith, and discovered that I only had faith because I was taught to accept these things without evidence. People are taught this, either by the Bible, their parents, their pastor or wherever they learn their faith, they are taught to suppress their common sense and just believe.

      Tell me, outside of religion, do you take anything else in your life on faith alone?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  14. Jason

    God Hates Us All, God Hates Us All
    You know it's true God hates this place

    May 9, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  15. AthiestIsTheOnlyWay

    How can something that is supposed to be perfect create something so un-perfect as a human?
    How could he create the universe (and adam) out of nothing but need a rib to make a woman?

    Take a step backwards and leave that fairy tale book world and realize you're all being had. The bible is nothing but a book written by men in order to control the masses and make money while they're at it. Take a look at all the inconsistencies in that book: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.html

    You people have been brainwashed by what you have been told by your parents, and them by their parents.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • JDHD

      Would all reasonable people stop using references like "magic sky man" and "book of fairy tales"? Please, it makes you look far more ignorant than the people you wish to disparage. There's nothing reasonable about dealing in stereotypes and absolutes in a given culture. I am an Alabamian and a Christian, I value reason, science, and faith. Stop using the blanket statements and you might give more credence to your message. As it stands you show your behavior is at best jejune, and at worst destructive.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • garry

      For those who do not believe in the creation ... life has never yet been made from non- life . Science can trace their theories back to a point and then there is the question of how it all started ...They just do not know .. I have a friend who is a scientist and he said his studies of science and the unanswered questions of how life began actually led him to believing in God . He says that thinking evolution evolved thousands of species that have remained the same for thousands of years is really unlikely and the fact that it all still had to start from something... hmmmm Science will state a theory and state it long enough until they think it is true... most of these folks just a few short years ago were trying to learn to tie their shoes and now they have all the answers.......no thanks I will stick with Jesus

      May 9, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  16. Sam

    It's pretty hilarious reading all these comments from believers and non believers.

    We have...
    My God is true and you better believe it, else you're going straight to hell.
    On the other hand, we have ...
    Your God is ****** and you guys are just morons believing in God.

    My walk with God is my personal experience, and whether other people believe Jesus is real is just not relevant.
    I don't condemn non believers, and will be extremely pleased if non believers do not condemn something that they do not believe in.

    God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes, something just cannot be explained by human mind.
    But I am a much better person (not for others, but for myself), and I have God to thank for.

    I sure hope you all find peace in whatever that you believed in.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Sam,
      I respect your position and agree that not denigrating the beliefs of others is commendable, but perhaps your position might be more evident if you didn't point the finger only at non-believers when it is evidently both sides that are doing the condemning.

      Peace and clear thinking to you.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Sybaris

      When people that subscribe to your beliefs quit trying to weave them into the laws that govern this country then maybe you'll get more respect.

      If you want a christian theocracy go somewhere else to start it.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  17. Sha' Boy

    The sooner we stop depending on the magic man in the sky and more on ourselves we can make a better change in this world.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Free

      "Magic Man in the Sky"
      Superman? 🙂

      Imagine if Superman stood upon the Daily Planet building and actually allowed some people fall to their deaths? Would he still be as big a hero as Jesus for choosing to save just a few?

      May 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Elmo

      Don't be sayin "sooner" in these here parts.

      May 10, 2011 at 5:16 am |
  18. PRex

    Actually this article is not accurate. They don't say Roll Tide. It's more of a Rowwwww Taaaahhhd.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  19. Bob

    This is truly an inspiring story! Humbling ourselves before the Lord and seeking his guidance is really THE WAY!

    May 9, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  20. Reason

    What was Gods purpose of killing what I would assume to be innocent people, good people in Alabama as well as destroying homes and businesses? Thats an act of terror in todays world view. This was just an act of nature and those poor people just happened to be living in the wrong place at the wrong time and nothing more.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Dan

      Just because we cannot always see the purpose in what God allows, does not mean a purpose doesn't exist. As to the innocence (or lack thereof) of the people, that is for God to decide. We have all sinned and will all die because of it. God take whom he pleases when he pleases. You say that this would be an act of terror by today's standards, which is exactly the problem. You cannot judge God at all, much less by the pathetic standars of modern-day America.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Brian

      It's always entertaining to listen to responses like Dan's. To think that "HE" would have the capability let alone the time to monitor each one of our lives each second of each day. What typical self-centered and selfish people we are.... thinking that the GOD that controls ALL of the elements in the universe were created by OUR GOD. US. If there was a heaven or hell (though there is isn't), wouldn't it be comical is this GOD was an aligator or an elephant.... maybe we get to the pearly white gates and are greeted with a swift punch to the face by GOD Kangaroo!

      May 9, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • April

      “Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”
      “Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
      “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” – unknown author

      May 9, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • pockets

      After the Haiti earthquake a preacher said that 'god' need more 'angel's' in heaven, so he took 250,000 men women and children and killed them to be with him. Welllll I wonder if that precher ever hear of tetonic plates? I don't think so, do you? It would seem like a good compassionate god would spare the good people, and not drown or kill them, don't you think? Naww, your going to tell me, no one knows his "will" for us, now do we. And you certainly can't blame it on weather conditions, or weakness in levees. No, its "god's will" to kill to have those children and old folks with him and to cause massive amounts of suffering, on his "sheep".

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

      People are confused – what's most important to know is not whether god exists, but god's existence is irrelevant.

      Humbleness/compassion/morals my rear! Either you have it or you don't. Don't be full of yourself – god has nothing to do with it.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Corvus1

      What is the reasoning behind tearing down others' faith in times like this, other than to stroke your own ego? I'm not the believer I once was (theist, but not adhering to any organized religion), but I don't look down on those who turn to faith to pull through times of disaster.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Nonimus

      I just realized (perhaps others were already aware of this) that one reason a God might allow this kind of tragedy is to increase worship and prayer to Himself. According to many Christians God cursed the world because of man's sins, but perhaps He really tricked man into sin in order to have a reason to "curse" the world, because without suffering very few would feel the need worship God. Perhaps, that is why God allows random and equal suffering among good and bad people alike, He must keep up the general level of suffer to maintain a certain level of worship/prayer.

      hmm... just thinking out loud really.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Sybaris

      The irony is that their god destroyed their churches.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Free

      Dan-
      "Just because we cannot always see the purpose in what God allows, does not mean a purpose doesn't exist."
      But if that purpose still exists then the point is that it's a purpose completely alien to the human understanding of compassion, right? Why then would you just assume that a being with such non-human emotions and motivations actually 'cares' about you in a way that you would like?

      May 9, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Free

      Sybaris-
      "The irony is that their god destroyed their churches."
      Perhaps that would be a sign that God is displeased with these particular Christians only, and favors those who live in places not as affected by natural disaster, like in Canada or Northern Europe perhaps?

      May 9, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Valna

      I agree with Reason. Dan, people don't die because of their sins, people die because of physics.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Bull

      Here we go again. Mother nature rip's up the place,and God get's the blame .

      May 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • I_get _it

      Bull, "Mother nature rip's up the place,and God get's the blame ."

      Fine - no blame for disasters... and no credit for rescue.

      BTW, where on Earth did you learn those greengrocer's apostrophes? (rip's, get's)

      May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Automated Same Day Religion Terd Detection

      @ Dan,
      Mary, the mother of J, had no sin. She died. JC had no sin, he died.
      Never mind.
      Wizard of Oz to Dorothy : " Do not look behind that curtain".

      May 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Dorianmode

      @April
      Sorry, but the sentimental bull doesn't cut it. Why do religious people think if they scramble the words in a new order, and spout them, it makes the questions go away ?

      May 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • garry

      The Bible calls satan the prince of the air... we live in a fallen world and God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. I do believe that God allows fate to run its course most of the time .. but I do believe also that God answers prayers of the just and many were saved in the path of the storm by calling on God... Proverbs says "It is the fool who says there is no God".

      May 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Kyle

      I was uplifted by the story I read...I went to The University of Alabama...I know Terry Jones...I've met Mr. Clee...They are good people. I was sickened by the comments I read after the article. If people want to believe in God...His micromanaging of their lives or His observing of life from a distance...then who are any of you to tell them what they believe is stupid. I'm sure they would say the same thing about you and your lack of faith. For whatever reason God destroyed their homes, I am pretty sure none of you know the reason...I know I don't...But Forsaking All, I Trust Him (F.A.I.T.H.)! Roll Tide!

      May 10, 2011 at 8:26 am |
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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.