It's like humanity hasn't learned a thing in the past 10,000 years. Here we have yet another Christian nut who blames the weather upon his gods.

Pastors See Message in Tornadoes

.c The Associated Press

SYLVAN SPRINGS, Ala. (AP) - Titled ``A Road to Nowhere,'' Pastor Billy Hobson's sermon was written to send a powerful message to the congregants at First Baptist Church this Easter Sunday.

On Thursday, as he surveyed the tornado damage in this small Birmingham suburb, his optimistic smile turned to tears when it hit him how much more poignant that message had become.

``I see the people work two, three jobs and all that overtime so we can buy our $150,000 houses and our new cars,'' Hobson said. ``And in one night, it's gone. That's a road to nowhere - and, yes, I think you can say it relates to what's happened here.''

The tornado, which claimed more than 30 lives and injured hundreds more, was the second this decade to hit Alabama during the holiest week on the Christian calendar. The Palm Sunday tornado of 1994 ripped through Goshen United Methodist Church at Piedmont, killing 20 people.

Pastors in the dozens of churches lining the main highways in the path of the wreckage saw a connection between the holidays and the tornado, which hit late Wednesday as congregations on the biggest church night of the week were breaking up.

``I expect the church to be full again tonight, full Friday night and full all weekend,'' said Steve Small, pastor at the True Life Baptist Church in Pratt City. ``As far as my spiritual message goes, it will be easy. God thinks there's something wrong. If you need the proof, look at what happened here last night.''

The Open Door Church at Birmingport, sure to stand as the lasting symbol of this tornado's power, was almost completely demolished during rehearsal for the congregation's Easter show.

After the warning sirens sounded, church officials herded the 60 congregants into the inside hall of the building. It was the only room still standing after the tornado ripped through, leaving the parking lot strewn with crushed cars and trucks, broken glass and uprooted trees.

``We were grouped up in that hall and we were praying, just praying for safety,'' said Phil Currie, the church's minister of music. ``When you look at what happened, that we all survived after this, you've got to have faith in God. God spared us last night. That's a message I'll take with me to Easter.''

AP-NY-04-09-98 1801EDT


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