|Water Moccasin (by Geoff Gallice)|
You may not want to go so far as to seek "snake salvation" - but you may rest assured that Pentecostal snake handling is not only safer than football, but also safer than rock-climbing and hang-gliding.
Thus spaketh University of Tennessee/Chattanooga Professor Ralph Hood when interviewed by Julia Duin of The Wall Street Journal for her article "'Snake Salvation': Inside the World of Christian Serpent
Duin reports that Pentecostal Pastors Andrew Hamblin and Jamie Coots believe in the literal truth of these words from Mark 16:17-18 (KJV): And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
In keeping with this belief, their worship services include the likes of "timber rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads." These hissing vipers are initially kept within "glass-covered snake boxes near the pulpit." Once the Spirit gets rolling, out come the snakes - "sometimes in clumps of three or four wriggling bunches."
If you're getting the creepy-crawlies just reading about this, you might not believe that fatal bites are actually quite rare. In fact, there have been only 100 known snake-bite fatalities within church circles during the past 100 years.
Nevertheless, not all Pentecostals handle snakes. Duin mentions that there are some in the movement "who thoroughly disagree with the snake handling."
Copyright September 14, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved