July 20th, 2011
06:20 AM ET

Finding God in the Mississippi Delta

By Tommy Andres, CNN

Moorhead, Mississippi (CNN) - The Mississippi Delta is the kind of place where everyone shows up for a funeral.

It was on such a day in 1997 that Lucas McCarty and his grandfather had come to pay their respects to a young man who'd been killed in a car crash.

John Woods was there to bury his son.

Lucas and John had met a handful of times before, but that's the day John found his new son and Lucas his "black daddy" – each one delivered in his own way from a tragic past.

John worked for Lucas’ grandfather on his catfish farm as an “oxygen man." Catfish are fickle creatures, and if they don’t have enough oxygen, the whole lot of them can go belly up in minutes.

He’d gotten the job a decade earlier after getting out of jail. John had killed his brother-in-law on a lonely Delta road, according to T.R. Pearson's “Year of Our Lord,” which tells about John and Lucas. John had been indicted and tried for first-degree murder, but the trial resulted in a hung jury. He was then indicted and tried for first-degree manslaughter - and this time the jury found him not guilty. He was a free man.

At about the time John was starting a new life, Lucas’ life was almost ending before it could even begin.

Elizabeth Lear McCarty’s heart sank when her son was born, the familiar cry of a baby’s entrance into the world replaced by phrases like “no heartbeat” and “no spontaneous respiration.”

Elizabeth says a botched delivery deprived her son of oxygen at birth, damaging his brain.

He was born “gray and dead,” she says.

There would be unanswered questions and a lawsuit, and pretty soon it would become clear that Lucas would never be like other kids.

Lucas has cerebral palsy, a condition suffered when a baby's brain is deprived of oxygen, usually at birth. The condition began to show its devastating effects more and more as he matured.

He never learned to walk, read or write. Even eating was a challenge. It looked like Lucas was destined to spend the rest of his days in a wheelchair, dependent on others for his most basic needs.

Though he has never spoken a word in his life, at age 5 he found a way to say anything he needed to. It would take him years to master it, but the machine he shied away from at first, slowly became his link to his family and the world.

Based on Mayan hieroglyphs, Minspeak allows Lucas to create full sentences by pushing a series of pictures.

If he wants to say the word food, he pushes the picture of an apple. If he wants to say eat, he pushes the picture of an apple followed by the picture of a man running, called the “action man.” If he just wants to say apple, he pushes apple twice.

It can get fairly complex to an outsider. A hamburger, for example, is apple + scale + treasure chest. Somehow, this all makes sense if you’ve never learned to read or write with words.

Lucas grew up going to an Episcopal church, but his mom says he never liked it all that much. He was antsy and easily irritated, and sitting quietly for hours not only was difficult, but practically ran counter to his genetic predisposition.

“His sister kept his hands down the whole time he was at our church,” Elizabeth says.

‘My calling is singing the gospel’

At the funeral for his son, John Woods was touched by the presence of Lucas and his grandfather, James Lear.

“I looked around the church and Mr. Lear was there. Lucas was there. That’s to show you an old black man like me has some dear, sweet white friends,” John says.

Afterward, John began coming to the McCarty house to sing gospel songs with Lucas.

“He really couldn't do much else,” John says. “We would sing songs like ‘God’s Got It All In Control’ ” - no doubt a message that, at the time, offered equal comfort to both of them.

John asked Elizabeth if he could take Lucas to Easter service at Trinity House of Prayer, where he was the music director. John had been saved at Trinity, and he hoped Lucas could be too.

At that first service, John carried Lucas, and because of John’s position as music director, they sat in the deacon’s box, a spot reserved for congregational royalty.

“The Trinity House of Prayer congregation are such a loving environment of peoples,” John says. “A man can be a sinner, a whiner, (but) when they bring him into Trinity House of Prayer he will feel nothing but pure and genuine love.”

The love Lucas felt most was for the music. He fit right in with the loud expressionism and theatrics, and adored the soulful singing. Trinity changed his image of church.

“Shouting, dancing, falling out and speaking in tongues is real church,” Lucas says through his device.

Trinity House of Prayer is known for its choir. Tucked deep into the fertile soil and God-fearing air of the Mississippi Delta, the church is nestled on a flat, barren landscape, one of hundreds in a region where faith is the answer to poverty and hardship.

The chapel isn’t much to look at - an old gray building surrounded by a graveyard of dilapidated vehicles and rusted-out farm equipment. On the inside, windows are covered in a clear red film, a cheap alternative to stained glass. And on a sunny day, the faded carpet and beautiful wood pews light up with a glow that can feel transcendent.

Most notably, Trinity’s congregation is all black – with one exception. Every Sunday for the past 15 years, Lucas has shown up, sometimes carried, sometimes crawling, but always ready to put his “foot on the devil’s head.”

It’s a bit of a peculiar sight, a white man in a black church, on his knees, wailing indecipherably, but passionately into the microphone in the corner of the choir stand. He knows every word, he just can’t say them, but that sure doesn’t stop him from finding his voice.

“My calling is singing the gospel,” he says.

A warm, cleansing oil

Four months before Lucas was born, John Woods prayed for the first time for as long as he could remember.

The hard crack of the pistol, pulled from his waistband and fired without aim on that balmy Father's Day in 1987, rang through his head over and over.

John didn’t know if the man he had shot was dead, but he knew he was in trouble. He and his wife, Mary Frances, cried together until a squad car pulled into his driveway and took John away in handcuffs.

According to John, he heard his sister's husband had beaten her with a pipe, and John wanted to get even. He tracked the man down at a diner to give him a piece of his mind, the gun in his waistband providing punctuation for each cautionary sentence.

But according to John’s description in Pearson's "Year of our Lord," his brother-in-law didn’t take too kindly to the threat. He chased John down a road and pulled out a .25 automatic. He got off two shots before the gun jammed, and before John knew it, he’d shot back.

John wouldn’t find out for sure until he was in his cell that the man was dead, but he had felt the life leave his brother-in-law the second he shot him.

It was in the Sunflower County Jail where John found God. As he sat there in a cold cell, a cellmate told him to turn his life over to the Lord.

John’s life had been far from charmed. Plagued by drugs and alcohol, he now found himself sharing a fate suffered by all too many poor black men in the Delta. But on one of those sleepless nights, John prayed, and that’s when he says he felt it.

“It was like a warm oil being poured down from the top of my head, running slowly down my body, and every place it touched it was cleansing me.”

It was when John got out of jail that he says “old Jimmy Lear” took a chance on him, made him his "oxygen man," always telling John not to worry and “keep moving.”

John would drive around to each pond and put a long stick into the water and check the oxygen levels. The job required him to check the oxygen nearly every hour around the clock, so sleeping was in short spurts spread throughout the day and night.

It was during one of these naps 15 years ago that John had a strange dream. In the dream, Tony, the oldest of his four sons, had crashed his truck, and John was consoling him. John awoke to the phone ringing. It was his wife Mary Frances. Tony had fallen asleep at the wheel coming home from work at 4 a.m.

“God called him home.”

Crawling into the choir stand

Despite being told he’d never be able to walk, Lucas has found his own way, slipping out of his wheelchair and onto the floor at Trinity House of Prayer, where he shuffles around on thick knee pads as if in a state of constant reverence.

Drawn to the music, it was only a matter of time before Lucas crawled up into the choir stand. Not only was Lucas the only white member of the church - and definitely the only member with cerebral palsy - until last year he was also the only man in the all women’s choir. A young man has since joined him.

Trinity’s pastor, Willie B. Knighten, tried to heal Lucas at one of his first services. Lucas says it was the only time he felt uncomfortable at the church.

“I only felt funny when the preacher laid hands on me the first time,” he remembers.

It’s the soft spot within many people that makes them wish Lucas normal, but the hand of God hasn’t taken away his condition.

Still, to nearly everyone who attends Trinity, it’s a small miracle each time Lucas crawls into the choir stand on his own every week to sing. In a small way, he has been healed.

Lucas is a lot like any 25-year-old single man. He likes cars, he loves surfing the web, and the No. 1 thing on his mind at any given time is women. He wants a girlfriend - specifically one, he says, who is “an outgoing sweetheart, who does not smoke, has never had children but wants (them) and is a Republican.”

Lucas’ access to the outside world is a bit limited. Because of his handicap, going anywhere can be an ordeal. He refuses to use a power chair, instead relying on the push of a friend, relative or stranger.

A few days each week, Lucas works at his father’s restaurant in nearby Indianola washing dishes and cleaning. When Lucas was 6 years old, his parents got divorced. It’s no secret that the difficulties of raising an impaired child strained the marriage.

The job gets him out of the house he shares with his mother, something that’s important for a young man whose body is disabled but whose ambition knows no limits. Lucas wants to start his own cleaning company, and during the announcements following a recent service at Trinity House of Prayer, Lucas asks for the microphone, holds it up to his machine and slowly types out the message that if anyone is looking for work, he’s hiring.

Church is the one time a week Lucas knows he can get out of the house, and at Trinity House of Prayer people won’t look away when he comes down the aisle.

“Lucas would be at church every time the door opened if he could,” his mother says. “But we just usually go take him on Sunday. And that's the most important part of the week for Lucas … getting to church on Sunday.”

Lucas has found other ways to connect. He has an e-mail address and a Facebook account, but for years his favorite hobby has been jumping on the CB radio he keeps in the family room. Most of the truckers know him by now. His handle is “Teddy Bear,” and he starts each interaction the same way: “Is there a pot of coffee on?”

John Woods, now Bishop John Woods, has moved on from Trinity to be the associate pastor of a church down the road. He and Lucas still get together, singing their favorite gospel songs just as they did 15 years ago. Lucas’ favorites are “I’ll Fly Away” and “I’ve Got To Run.” Between songs they talk about life and the Lord.

When John asks Lucas if he’s been saved, he shrugs. Despite the music and the love of Trinity’s congregants, he hasn’t quite made his peace with God. It’s a familiar struggle for many, but when you draw a hand like Lucas’, making sense of it all can be even more challenging.

Lucas may still be on a search for God, but the boy who was born without a breath has found his “oxygen man” - and John has found the son he lost.

When they speak of God, John tells Lucas, “Don’t worry, you’ll find him one day.” But Lucas seems content to find his solace “in the music,” and he’s happy as long as he can convince folks of one thing: “I want people to know I am more than a boy in a wheelchair.”

Editor's Note: Nashville band Sleeping Bulls provided the song “Jean Baptiste” from their upcoming album “The Least Banquets” for the video.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith & Health • Mississippi

soundoff (1,300 Responses)
  1. MN

    It's great that this disabled man can find some respite from his otherwise painful world in a place where he feels accepted and free to express himself. It doesn't matter if it's a church, a library or a doctor's office- he's finding happiness in this world. It doesn't matter if he believes in a mythological spirit (or what our personal beliefs are in science or religion), he is happy. It's much better than slowly decaying in a sad room with no purpose. This man feels human through this experience, and I am happy that he does.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Ding

      Couldn't have said it better myself. This encapsulates the story perfectly.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Pirate

      Ignorance is bliss!

      July 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  2. George

    Both of these men's stories are actually the same. Both of them were searching for acceptance and understanding. They are men of different pasts, but both were absolutely lost. Their both wonderful stories of how a great and loving God will meet you right where you are, as long as you are willing to follow Him. It tells us that God has not abandoned us. Yes John went to jail and Lucas has cerebral palsy, but as God said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient unto you." Sometimes what we want to get rid of the most would allow us to go outside of the will of God. God is an awesome God and I know people will start ranting over what I say here, but God uses every situation in our lives to bring us closer to Him. It's up to us whether or not we'll come to Him. John and Lucas have made the right choices by following God. If it were not for Joseph being sold as a slave, he never would've been able to be second in charge under Pharaoh. If David had not been a good shepherd for his father, he would have never made a good shepherd for Israel. The Bible is full of people who had messed up and had fallen short of the glory of God, but God used them because of the obedience and willingness of their hearts. Many people do not believe that God is a good God or that He even exists at all. All I can say is prove Him! See for yourself. Don't take anyone's word for it. Don't read the books that people write to disprove Him. Take a look for your self. C.S. Lewis and many others set out to prove God did not exist only to become believers. My prayer for all people is to come to an understanding that Jesus is Lord and that there is no other way to the Father except through Him.

    My prayer for Lucas is that someone will tell Lucas that the music gets sweeter in Heaven and that he doesn't want to miss Heaven's choir.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Pirate

      The LORD then gave these further instructions to Moses: 'Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you forever. It helps you to remember that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest. I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.' (Exodus 31:12-15 NLT)

      July 20, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Pirate

      Killing the Good Samaritan

      The ark of God was placed on a new cart and taken away from the house of Abinadab on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab guided the cart, with Ahio walking before it, while David and all the Israelites made merry before the Lord with all their strength, with singing and with citharas, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.

      When they came to the threshing floor of Nodan, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God to steady it, for the oxen were making it tip. But the Lord was angry with Uzzah; God struck him on that spot, and he died there before God. (2 Samuel 6:3-7 NAB)

      July 20, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  3. Matt Marshall

    What an amazing story.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  4. kenberthiaume

    very bizarre...i put up a nice comment and these cnn people erase it. I think god is an utter delusion but I wish this guy well anyway...sad that he needs a delusion to grasp onto...why won't god heal him? Cause Adam bit that apple huh? Sure, makes a lot of sense. If this delusion keeps him going, more power to him.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • LearnURstuff

      It was actually Eve that bit the apple. Try getting your "facts" straight before you use them for your poorly planned agenda.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • kenberthiaume

      nope adam bit it too...read your cult book.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • LearnURStuff

      <--- not a christian but, thanks for asking.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Pirate

      Eve bit that apple first but shared it with Adam, so he is correct.
      Kill Sons of Sinners

      Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)

      July 20, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  5. Matt

    Great and awesome god. Step 1, create disease. 2, give disease to baby to make life hard. 3, give him oppotunity to sing in choir praising Me. Yeeeeeehaaawww, Intelligent Design!

    July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Shannon

      I love you.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • flfx

      Anyone can criticize, as most fools do.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Mike in Maine


      I thought I should tell you. 1 Corinthians 1:27

      Have fun!

      July 20, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • kenberthiaume

      It's all part of His Perfect Plan ™! Or wait, maybe it was the devil that did that to him...but through prayer and salvation he will be healed! Well, not as in made to not be brain damaged (that would be too EASY)...instead he'll find "peace", yeah, that's the ticket. Pure insanity.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Pirate

      I second that – quoting one of my favorite websites, evil bible d com:
      Infinite Punishment for Finite Sins

      God is perfectly just, and yet he sentences the imperfect humans he created to infinite suffering in hell for finite sins. Clearly, a limited offense does not warrant unlimited punishment. God's sentencing of the imperfect humans to an eternity in hell for a mere mortal lifetime of sin is infinitely more unjust than this punishment. The absurd injustice of this infinite punishment is even greater when we consider that the ultimate source of human imperfection is the God who created them. A perfectly just God who sentences his imperfect creation to infinite punishment for finite sins is impossible.

      July 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  6. John

    Moral of the story is we all need forgiveness.Sin is sin.We all need the mercy of God.This man is on a quest to find that.Judge yourself.We are all sinners in need of a savior.You won't be able to say to God on the day of judgment,well at least I didn't shoot my brother in-law,therefore I should be allowed into heaven.You'll give an account for your life.I'm counting on grace,not because I deserve it,but because of the high price that Jesus Christ paid on the cross.A debt I could not pay.

    July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Ding

      I'm pretty sure the moral of the story is acceptance.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • kenberthiaume

      nothing you say is objectively true. Everyone needs "salvation"? According to whom? And why are they credible? How would you know if your book was completely false? You wouldn't. You're told to believe it so you can't question it lest you go to hell. It's a closed minded system of idiocy.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Pirate

      Kill Men, Women, and Children

      "Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple." So they began by killing the seventy leaders. "Defile the Temple!" the LORD commanded. "Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!" So they went throughout the city and did as they were told." (Ezekiel 9:5-7 NLT)

      July 20, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Frogist

      @John: I'm with Ding on this. I don't know where you got forgiveness. Please explain. You didn't mean that Lucas did something he needs to atone for, did you?

      July 20, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  7. kenberthiaume

    why does cnn keep erasing my posts? THey're not objectionable in any way. Cnn is crazy.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Bible Clown

      If ten or so people report you, it auto-erases.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  8. bob

    Because life is precious, and God, and the bible...

    July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • David, CA

      Life yes. The rest is your opinion.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Bible Clown

      Life's great. The other two, not so much.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  9. whoa

    This is the largest strings of negative comments I've ever seen on a CNN article for something that was just meant as a little inspirational story. I'm sorry the story was liberal enough for your obviously-biased tastes, you bigots. I'm not a 'believer' and haven't been involved in a church since I was a kid, but I was a cameraman when these people came to the B.B. King museum in Indianola, MS, and it was a sweet story. It's nothing that will ever change my beliefs, but I saw that it worked for Lucas, just as belief in such things works for many others. And this is NOT some Southern phenomenon...Religion is everywhere. Stop blaming the South for all the problems of this country! Jesus effin' Christ.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Ding

      Whether you're religious or not, I thought this was a pretty good "feel-good" story. I think the tag line of "black daddy" is a bit misleading, at least to me. It's more about a kid being accepted and finding a place of comfort. How can you bash that? I don't care if he's worshipping Lady Gaga, the kid feels good about himself, not really the place to bash Lady Gaga.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • kgriggs0207

      Mainly these are just trolls looking for a response and to upset people. This story is easy prey for them. Readers can show their support for Lucas and this story by clicking on the "recommend" button on the top left of the story.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  10. John John

    The idea that mythology and fantasy and the "giant being in the sky" that cares so much about how we praise him even exists in a modern culture is a sign that education is severely lacking.
    For those who think that is church bashing, yes it is. Fantasy is fantasy and you cannot live in a dream world and expect civilization to advance.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Doe

      I agree.. But who are YOU to judge?

      July 20, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • WelcomeHome

      John, We are waiting for you to finally evolve. Your monkey breathe is offensive.

      Darin wants his book back. Somehow, you have proven him wrong. Go figure.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Hoosierguy

      Now I respect your right to not believe in a "god" but to say that to do so shows a lack of education is being bigot. I happend to have a MBA and belive in the Lord does that mean I am uneducated I think not, what it is a a conscious decision on my part to believe in something that you don't and deserves the right to be respected just as I respect your right to not believe.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • JOHNNY

      at least john knows how to proof read, welcomehome.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • JOHNNY

      hoosier, whats your MBA in? religious studies?

      July 20, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Bruce

      John John, civilization has survived for thousands of years, and will continue to survive, with a variety of different fantasies and myths.

      If someone reads religious scripture and is inspired to love others selflessly (like we see happening in this very article), that is fine with me. They can read Harry Potter books for all I care.

      Whatever gets people together in loving social relationships, whatever touches the universal ideas of what it means to be human–that is what makes for great fiction, and also for great civilizations. It's when we demythologize and dehumanize the masses in the name of "objectivity" and "reality" that we lose touch with our humanity. It's then we see just how cold and heartless we can become.

      No, don't take away fantasy. Fantasy is what makes us human.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Frogist

      @Bruce: I like what you said. However the opposite is also true. Focusing on the fantasy and ignoring the reality of who and what humans are is also dehumanizing. When we separate ourselves from that reality, holding ourselves to impossible and arbitrary standards, we also become cold and heartless. There needs to be balance.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  11. Clint

    What a great read, love this story! I live in Mississippi now and this just touches my heart. I think it would make a great movie! So glad Lucas has a good life and wonderful that John has helped him!

    July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Pirate

      Kill Old Men and Young Women

      "You are my battle-ax and sword," says the LORD. "With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens. With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers. "As you watch, I will repay Babylon and the people of Babylonia for all the wrong they have done to my people in Jerusalem," says the LORD. "Look, O mighty mountain, destroyer of the earth! I am your enemy," says the LORD. "I will raise my fist against you, to roll you down from the heights. When I am finished, you will be nothing but a heap of rubble. You will be desolate forever. Even your stones will never again be used for building. You will be completely wiped out," says the LORD. (Jeremiah 51:20-26)

      (Note that after God promises the Israelites a victory against Babylon, the Israelites actually get their butts kicked by them in the next chapter. So much for an all-knowing and all-powerful God.)

      July 20, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  12. JOHNNY

    i really just don't understand. so there is a man with magical powers? that you worship when you die? that guides the universe? and he hears my thoughts? ... sounds kind of made up. but why would someone make up such a thing?

    July 20, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • John John

      Power trip

      July 20, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • kgriggs0207

      If you're genuinely interested in this story and would like to show your support, you can scroll up to the top and (on the left side of the screen) press the "recommend" button. The "trolls" are bent on taking this in a different direction, please ignore them.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Bobby

      Why not believe in such a thing? How can you not believe in anything? I take it you're an atheist. When you believe in something, whether it be God or someone/something else, it gives you hope for something after life. It gives you the courage and mindset to do what is right because you know you will be somehow rewarded. Why not believe in something? It doesn't have to be God necessarily, but anything! I don't understand atheists. I'm not saying I'm better just because I'm a Christian. I'm saying that there is nothing wrong with the belief in something rather than nothing.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • JOHNNY

      atheist i am not. i just choose not to be concerned with what happens after death. i believe in something, and that is the unity of our human species. focusing on what happens after this life gives people a pretty big blind spot into creating a world for our children. i personally don't care what people believe in, but when a book that people reference as the word of god states "the man who says he will unite all of the people" is the anti-Christ, then you should be smart enough to take a deep hard look into what you are actually choosing to believe in. basically you are part of a group that believes a segregated human race is a good route to go.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Bobby

      Why not believe in such a thing? How can you not believe in anything? I take it you're an atheist. When you believe in something, whether it be God or someone/something else, it gives you hope for something after life. It gives you the courage and mindset to do what is right because you know you will be somehow rewarded. Why not believe in something? It doesn't have to be God necessarily, but anything! I don't understand atheists. I'm not saying I'm better just because I'm a Christian. I'm saying that there is nothing wrong with the belief in something rather than nothing. It's better to believe in something than nothing.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Normon

      Perhaps you misunderstand, Atheists don't 'believe in nothing' or 'don't believe in anything.' Technically, atheism usually refers to the lack of belief in a god or gods, or in other words, "...in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings." (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40634/atheism)

      Being a denial of one belief does not prevent other beliefs, for example the belief that humans can overcome their petty differences and cooperate in building a better life for all people. However, such beliefs are not implied by atheism, which is just the rejection of beliefs in god, but individual atheists may have such beliefs. Only as an example, one can reject the belief in leprechauns, and yet still believe in fairies. Hope that helps.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  13. cindy

    I believe in God and I believe in choices.I also believe there are consequences whether "good or bad" for those choices. I don't think I have the right to make choices for someone else any more than they have the right to make choices for me.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  14. Melissa

    Atheists might be more persuasive if they didn't always come across as bitter, condescending d-bags.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Misha Gastonai


      It's hard to respect atheists (though I do) when they seem to be anything but respectful of others views.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Steve Thomas


      What are atheists supposed to say? Belief in God or gods is, quite frankly, ridiculous. These people, like so many of their fellow Americans, live a provincial and blinkered existence. It is time to face reality: there isn't any God!

      July 20, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Lets be honest, you dont want to be persuaded.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • vlad

      name calling people just because they don't share religious beliefs. wow how Christian of you

      July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Normon

      I agrree... same with Christians... but then they're supposed to be above that aren't they.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • vlad

      we're condescending because you people ignore all evidence and logic to preserve your goofy beliefs, your beliefs aren't rooted in logic or reason and it's frustrating to talk to people like that, especially when they want to spread there goofy beliefs to everyone

      July 20, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • JOHNNY

      two wrongs make a right huh melissa? you're being condescending yourself. athiests aren't disrespectful, that's just what jesus tells you at sunday school....

      July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Andrew

      I don't think it's that Athiests are d-bags. I think it's that, similarly to most vocal religious people, most vocal Athiests are d-bags. It has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with people who like to be loud.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • EmeraldCity

      For example, as you appear to be right now? Got it.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Scott

      I have to say I'm not a believer but it does make me cringe to see people attacking these people. I am very lucky to be physically healthy and mentally sharp. Others are not so lucky and if they find something that helps make their journey a bit easier than more power to them. I have friends who are religious and friends who are not. Neither side tries to change the other–we agree to disagree because we respect each other. I do agree that some religious people can try to push their faith onto you, but have found that generally a firm "no thank you, I'm not interested" is enough to make them stop.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • WhereToNowDC

      Hey, how about the Christians believe what they want to believe and the Atheists believe what they want to believe, and you two just leave each other alone. I'd tell you which camp I'm in, but don't feel like getting abuse from the other side 🙂

      July 20, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Steve Thomas

      Sort of like you, Andrew? Are you a loud d-bag? Me thinks so...

      July 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Way to get on my good side, Missy! A big whack with the Clown Hammer© for you. Suppose I slithered up to you and smiled "You know, you'd be cute if you didn't look like a big bottle of d ouch e?" You'd probably think I was being condescending, and right now I am. Try not to commit the sin you are decrying next time and we'll do better.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. God

    I. Am. Going. To. Puke.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • kgriggs0207

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. Other readers hopefully can see that you have nothing to add to the conversation and similar posts are simply meant to distract from the story. Please ignore the trolls.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Bible Clown

      Please aim at Libya.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  16. kerri

    to all those who are bashing religion... I believe in God.. I worship in my own way.. .I think that it is wrong to go on a public forum and disrespect something as important as the belief in God. I am also from Mississippi and I am sure that you will have something ignorant to say about that. I can assure you that I am neither ignorant or stupid. I also bathe, brush my teeth, and wear shoes.. I have a college degree and work for a law firm. I think that it takes a person with no sense of self purpose and a very low self image to write some of the things that you have... As I am sure that you will reply to this comment with numerous negative and disrespectful comments, it makes me sad to know that your lives consist of nothing more than sitting infront of a computer and insulting others. I am sure that anyone with common sense could see that it is nothing more than an attempt to make your selves feel better for your own short comings... It must hurt to put your foot so far in your mouth that it is now coming out of your rear end.. thats right folks, us southern christians can also be complete jerks...

    July 20, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • God

      Why is it so important? Who cares, keep it to yourself.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Alex

      Well said.

      July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Person

      And why couldn't you keep your reply and your thoughts to yourself as well?

      Do you ALWAYS have to tear people down with your words? Does it satisfy you?

      July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • nostupidity

      Who fooled you, you poor thing, into believing that the belief in god is important. It's important to you but not to the smart ones!
      I worship chicken and believe it's a really important belief system, however, every day millions of them get slaughtered and eaten, that is definitely showing no respect towards my god but nobody cares and nobody is trying to comfort or respect me, what do you think i should do?

      July 20, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Bilbo

      So why do you believers cry at every funeral? What happened to this spirit's journey up to the heavens idea? Rejoyce, dance, and be happy for the deceased is in a much better place.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      kerri, I too do see the "Blasphemous" Animosities of Aggregation in seeing those who denegrate Others with Cemencies of Unconditional and Atheistic Anomalies. The rather Childish Nature of Individualisms' beckoning does not only resonate with those who want to find commonality but those who Furl the Flag of Christiandom and are yet themselves but as children wanting to be pampered into retributional Clemency WITHOUT Partaking in Profuse Slanderings.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Bible Clown

      Right, and you held it together until the end, then the temptation to snarl for Christ was irresistible. Jerk. Do ANY of you Christians actually think you will be held to account for your misdeeds?

      July 20, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      I insult people on CNN between doing things in the real world. It's my hobby. Between my last two posts I changed into my super suit in a phone booth and stopped a bank robbery.

      July 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Frogist

      @kerri: And what do you consider "bashing"? Saying that we don't agree with your assessment of reality? Asking questions about things that don't make sense about your faith? That's not bashing. I think it is very important for you and others to rememeber that just because you hold a belief dear does not make it exempt from scrutiny and criticism. As long as personal attacks are off the table, it is not bashing! Just because you feel hurt by someone else's critique does not make it bashing. Also, maybe your point would have more weight if you didn't turn around and hurl personal insults at those around you while you ask that you get respect. You say southern Christians can be jerks? Yes, you've proven that. And upheld the stereotype of the nasty, ent!tled, bigoted Christian while you're at it. Was that what you meant to do?

      July 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • GoSolar

      While I totally respect your opinon- and your right to voice your opinion at that- and I do actually agree with you about the sadness of people's negativity, I think it is time that somebody told you that it is of NO surprise to ANYBODY that a "Southern Christian" can be a jerk. In fact, after living in each main geographic region of mainland American, I can say with little-to-no hesitation that Southern Christians were some of the rudest, most judgmental people I encountered. Of course, this is a blanket statement and by no way encompasses every single Southern Christian, i find it laughable that you think people don't expect ths

      July 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  17. Peter E

    It is a sad testament to America's continued racism and segregation that half a century after the Civil Rights movement and MLK Jr. this is still considered news: that whites and blacks intermingle. Why are we still defining people by the color of their skin?

    July 20, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  18. Guest

    You must not have ever visited BROOKLYN...a church on every corner and even a few in between.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  19. purnellmeagrejr

    Now if he was a white black supremacist – a la Dave Chappelle – that would be a story.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  20. Karyn

    What a beautiful and inspirational story. ...We really need more of that good stuff in this world to turn down the cynics in us. Thank you for writing it and sharing it! It was just what I needed today.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Eric

      Thank you Karyn. Your message is appropriate to the story. This is a great story about people connecting and getting though life with dignity and compassion.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Appreciate2

      Thank you, Karyn. Enough said.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Dino B

      Thank you Karyn. We need more positive people like you and less people like, say 90% of the rest of the worthless idiots who post here.

      July 20, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Laughing

      @ Dino

      Do you include yourself in that arbitrary 90%? Just because you tried to hide an insult in a compliment doesn't make it any less insulting.

      July 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • WOW

      Karen well said...such a wonderful story!!!

      July 20, 2011 at 2:00 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.