Perspectives: The power of faith versus Oklahoma twisters

OPINION – A common theme is emerging from the coverage of the deadly tornado this week in Oklahoma. It is found in the expressions of faith being made by the storm’s survivors.

Many of those interviewed openly thank God for the many lives that were spared despite near total destruction along the tornado’s path.

One particularly poignant video shows a family emerging from their storm cellar to view the devastation. With remarkable composure, a person can be heard to say, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

These expressions of faith are troubling to some who find any acknowledgement of God offensive. But to me, they make perfect sense.

It was 25 years ago that I served as a missionary for my church in Southwest Oklahoma City. I found the people there to be generous, down-to-earth, and steadfast in their faith in God.

The expression that “there are no atheists in foxholes” probably has a related principle regarding people who live in Tornado Alley.

It was during an Oklahoma tornado in early spring of 1988 that my own faith received a considerable boost.

My mission companion and I were returning to our apartment one afternoon when we noticed that the skies had darkened dramatically. The people standing along the highway looking toward our destination had already heard the warning sirens. But we hadn’t.

As we got closer to our apartment, the wall cloud that hung over our neighborhood was so apparent that we stopped the car and took pictures. By the time we arrived in our parking lot, the clouds above us were beginning to rotate and an eerie greenish glow shone through them.

As I stood snapping pictures of an approaching funnel cloud, a neighbor called out to us that we were under a tornado warning. Since we lived in a second story apartment, taking shelter there was not an option.

Suddenly the air got deathly still and our neighbor called us over to the mailbox alcove to take shelter. We were sheltered on three sides, but still felt very exposed. In a matter of seconds the wind went from nothing to over 100 mph and it seemed that every loose item was flying up into the air. Roofs were coming off nearby buildings and trailers were being turned over just across the street. There was nowhere to go.

The power of the storm was beyond comprehension and the noise was deafening. I’ve never felt as helpless as I did at that moment.

The only thing left to do was utter a silent prayer for help.

What happened next is difficult to describe. But the second I bowed my head — before words could even form in my mind — it was as if my Creator had picked up His version of the Red Phone and was listening intently. The connection was as real as anything I’ve ever experienced.

A wave of peace and assurance washed over me and though I didn’t know what the ultimate outcome would be, I knew that I was being watched over.

I later learned that my mission companion and my neighbor were likewise praying at that moment and had very similar experiences. Within a few minutes, the storm had moved on leaving golf ball-sized hail and considerable damage in its wake. Thankfully, there was only a single fatality.

The gratitude that we felt and expressed afterward was a lot like what the survivors of this week’s storm are saying.

Nothing that I experienced could be reproduced by science. But it opened my eyes to two very important truths. The first is that life was never intended to be free from danger and chance. The world is filled with natural forces that are beyond our control.

The second truth is best expressed by Victor E. Frankl in “Man’s Search For Meaning” when he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This is what we are seeing in those survivors in Moore, Oklahoma, who have been stripped of their earthly possessions but who remain rich in what matters most.

They choose to exercise faith. They choose to be grateful because their hearts are focused on something more important than mere things.


Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • A Prayer May 23, 2013 at 8:03 am

    “Please God, stop sending these tornadoes.” 24 dead. 13,000 homes destroyed.

  • Alvin May 23, 2013 at 8:19 am

    I’ve heard there are “no atheists in a foxhole” or there are “no atheists in a burning building” but the one I can relate to is ” I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” I have enormous faith towards the teachings of my religious beliefs but I simply don’t have enough faith to even consider being an active practicing atheist. It just couldn’t be an option.

  • Ken May 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Religion and faith are for weak minded people. Just answer one question for me…How did “God” come about? No one has seen nor spoken to “God”. Alvin thanks for proving my point.

  • Bretticus May 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Thanks Bryan. I haven’t experienced the awesome power of a tornado, but I have had similar experiences where I felt protected and calmed from an unseen force in dangerous situations also. I’m proud to live in a country where we can still make our declarations of faith. May that never change.

    • A Prayer May 23, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Why did god send all those tornadoes to Oklahoma? Why does god send those destructive tornadoes to that region every year. 2 years ago, one of god’s tornadoes killed 158 in Joplin. Why not send them somewhere else for a change, say to Utah?

  • Ron May 23, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Not an atheist, but I don’t think God micromanages the weather and decides who lives and who dies. I mean, come on. Did those elementary kids who perished fail to say their prayers the night before? For a guy who prides himself on being a logical thinker, Bryan, you have one big blind spot.

  • Pheo May 23, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Bretticus, I don’t think you have to worry about your right to practice your faith being taken away. We live in a country where being an atheist basically disqualifies you from elected office. And no one except maybe for the most crazy militant atheist would want to take that your right in the first place. You might not be able to always express your ideas with complete immunity from ridicule, but that’s the price of living in a nation with freedoms of speech and religion.

    Alvin, I’m curious what an actively practicing atheist would look like. Atheists don’t believe in God. That’s it. There’s no atheist dogma or ritual. Saying that someone is a practicing atheist would be like me saying that I’m a practicing non-golfer.

    The problem with giving credit to God for saving these lives is that if he was able to intervene, why not save the other innocents? Or better yet, why not just stop the tornado from happening in the first place? The fact that he had the power and didn’t exercise it makes him kind of a jerk.

    When those poor kidnapped girls were found after 10 unfathomably terrible years, many people praised God. This would be the same God that knowingly allowed them to suffer for 10 years. If it was Superman instead of God that knowingly sat by for 10 years while these girls suffered, I guarantee that we wouldn’t think he was a hero for swooping in to save them 10 years later.

    As far as the whole atheist-in-a-foxhole trope, that has been resoundingly refuted. Pat Tillman was most definitely an atheist to the end, to name one example. Google “Oklahoma tornado atheist” and you’ll find what happened when Wolf Blitzer asks an atheist if she thanked the Lord for a decision she made that saved her toddler.

    The bottom line from my perspective is that God is your team leader, and you have to support the team. He gets all the credit and can do no wrong, and if I say otherwise, I’m insensitive and oppressive in most people’s eyes. I hope that we can get to the point in this country where people of faith can stop getting so threatened when people around them have the audacity to disagree with them.

    • Alvin May 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      What does an active practicing atheist look like?? Well, there are countless active atheist’s all over the news and lobbying state legislatures every day. They have been credited with removing prayer from schools and other public places. Actively striving to remove any hint of religion from public eye like cross’s on the sides of roads, 10 commandments posted in public, forcing us to not say “Merry Christmas” anymore. Take “In God we trust” from the money and other documents. Scaring merchants into not displaying christmas type displays. Do I need to go on? That’s what I mean by an active practicing atheist. Most can’t just sit around and “not believe” anything. No, they must force their anger at those who want to practice their faith by spewing their hate towards them whenever they can. I guess that’s part of “their” 10 commandments. They pick the 10 most annoying things they can do to attack Christian believers. What’s wrong with practicing our faith?? Leave us alone. Sheeesh

      • Pheo May 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm

        You poor, picked-on theist. Can’t force your beliefs on other people anymore.

        I’d like to see what forcing you to not say “Merry Christmas” looks like.

        And when did “In God We Trust” get taken off the money? The truth is that “In God We Trust” was ADDED to paper money during the 1950s. “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Changing the words “one nation indivisible” to “one nation under God indivisible” turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why couldn’t you just leave all of us non-believers to not believe in peace? But no, you had to push all these changes through because you felt threatened that people didn’t see the world exactly your way.

        I’m happy to let people believe what they want, but forgive me if I get a little worked up when people try to pass laws to force their beliefs on me.

  • Chris May 23, 2013 at 11:51 am

    We can never know how many people who died in the tornadoes also bowed their heads to pray as the funnel cloud approached.

  • Roy J May 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I bet Edmund Burke was thinking about the tornado when he wrote that book “On the Beautiful and the Sublime”…and now that I think of it, I bet that pillar of cloud that the Israelites were following looked like one too…just saying.

  • Ash May 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Oh Pheo, you are my hero.
    I about fell off my chair laughing when I read “practicing athiest”. I am an athiest through and through, have been since I was old enough to decide for myself. I have never “practiced” any sort of athiest-related anything, as that just does not exist.
    I praise the woman who was being interviewed by Blitzer. She was so sweet and eloquent, she did not “go off” on him like most believers think athiests do. We are not crazy extremests, although there are always the crazy ones in any group of people (including republicans, democrats, white people, Muslims, the list goes on and on). We are people just like you, with morals and standards.
    It blows my mind to sit back and watch people of different faiths talk to one another about their views in a calm and respectful manner. As soon as an athiest adds their thoughts to the mix, the claws come out. Why is that?
    I do not blame one person in this whole world for believing in a diety, regardless of which one it is. To each his own. I do, however, blame those who put others down for their beliefs. Those are the people who start wars.
    As far as the tornadoes in OK go, they hit about 90 miles from the majority of my family. I was terrified and saddened to the core to hear the news. My father, who is a believer, asked me how God could let all those children die. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” is not an answer, it’s a way to side-step a legitimate question without a legitimate answer.
    Thankfully, everyone in my family and all of their friends are fine. Too bad God isn’t there to clean up this mess and console the families of the children he so willfully took from them. But the real people, the tangible souls, are there to help one another. The people of this country are banning together to donate millions of dollars and endless supplies to help those who have been affected. THAT is who we should be thanking.

  • philiplo May 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Really, Bryan? No atheists in Tornado Alley?
    Wolf Blitzer found that not to be true, as he embarrassed himself (again) in this short interview:

  • A Prayer May 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    I think we should thank God we have an administration that led to a speedy response by national guard units and first responders… unlike the previous administration which after devastating storms and disasters allowed homeless and injured people to wait for days for assistance.

  • pete May 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Also, please do not put the war on christianity on the shoulders of atheists. You have to remember only a small percent of the worlds population celebrates christmas. Yes, maybe some atheists attack the whole merry christmas thing, but i bet other theists (Jews, muslims, hindus, sikhs, etc. etc.) who dont celebrate christmas, are fighting against the whole merry christmas thing too. not just atheists.

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