The Theology of Human Suffering - Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans 15 Years On (video)

By Templeton Staff
August 02, 2021
Exploring the character of the people that lived through the disaster and how their faith helped them to rebuild their communities.

In August of 2005, as the world watched on, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. This video explores the character of the people that lived through the disaster and how their faith helped them to rebuild their lives.

“Hurricane Katrina was a particular event where human flourishing was catastrophically interfered with,” says Dr. Roger Abbot, Research Associate for Natural Disasters, The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge. 

The people of the city experienced great suffering in the aftermath of the Category 5 storm. There was no electricity, and the water was not suitable for drinking. Basic goods that society takes for granted became scarce.

Is this our fault? Do I have the strength to carry on? The massive quest for survival became a test of faith for the region. Dr. Roger Abbot conducted nearly 150 interviews with residents, post-Katrina, and found that even though their entire communities were shaken, the one pillar that remained constant was the faith in God. His project, The Theology of Suffering: Natural Catastrophes and Hurricane Katrina, sought to explore the tragedy from three angles: How did the hurricane impact the survivors' relationships with God, the community, and the natural environment.

First-hand accounts of the suffering from local spiritual and community leaders—Charles Duplessis, Cynthia Willard-Lewis, and Ken Taylor—offer a glimpse into the harsh realities that befell the affected area. The societal scramble that occurred had a lasting impact on the residents and largely through faith, those that chose to rebuild have managed to reset their positions in life. Their successes have inspired the world.

Highlights from this installment of our award-winning “Stories of Impact” video series:

  • Enduring the loss of shelter, belongings, and items passed down from previous generations was a terrible blow to the people of New Orleans. The devastation of these losses of property and memories was replaced with a newfound emphasis on human contact. 
  • Cynthia Willard-Lewis witnessed the power of connections. ”All of those personal things, through your tears, you let that go. You begin to reprioritize human relationships, family, spoken word, emails, phone calls. Those things that speak of my connectivity to you become important.”
  • Though his church was destroyed in the hurricane, Ken Taylor understood through it all that “we live in a fallen world that has disasters.” He has an “unshaken faith that God is with us even in those disasters.”

Read the transcript from the full interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay featuring: Dr. Roger Abbot, Research Associate for Natural Disasters, The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge; Charles Duplessis, Ken Taylor, and Cynthia Willard-Lewis, local spiritual and community leaders.


Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” videos by journalist and senior media executive Richard Sergay feature human stories and critical perspectives on breakthroughs about the universe’s big questions.The inspiring narratives and observations in these award-winning videos portray the individual and societal impacts of the projects that bring to life TWCF-supported research.