Recently there’s been a drastic decline in the numbers of snake handling pastors. Don’t guess why. The theology has been profoundly hermeneutically dodgy and even savvy pagans are out doing them in their fancy snake charming gimmicks. However in a renewed bid to show off to the rest of the world and to other lesser endowed Christians the snake handling fundamentalists are out again to drum up support and to underline the difference between the “haves” and the “have nots”. You see…
NASHVILLE – Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., is part of a new generation of serpent-handling Christians who are revitalizing a century-old faith tradition in Tennessee.
While older serpent handlers were wary of outsiders, these younger believers welcome visitors and use Facebook to promote their often misunderstood — and illegal — version of Christianity. They want to show the beauty and power of their extreme form of spirituality. And they hope eventually to reverse a state ban on handling snakes in church.
Since the early 1900s, a handful of true believers in Eastern Tennessee and other parts of Appalachia have practiced the so-called signs of the gospel, found in a little-known passage in the King James Version of the Gospel of Mark:
“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.”
While other churches ignore this passage or treat it metaphorically, serpent handlers follow it literally. Their intense faith demands sinless living and rewards them with spiritual ecstasy — the chance to hold life and death in their hands.
It began with a tingling
Brother Micah Golden felt it first while standing in the parking lot with other worshipers, waiting for church to start during a three-day revival in early May. It began with a tingling in his hands that spread over his body. Then he began to moan and pray.
“There’s still an anointing from heaven. Glory to God,” shouted the 22-year-old convert, holding the first syllable of “Glory” out for 10 or 12 seconds and stomping his feet. “He’ll still let you do the signs of God.”
I get many twitches in my left little toe and sometimes my nose tingles. Could that be God nudging me to look for an asp or rattle snake too?
If the authenticity of my salvation depends on my being able to do something or work out a “form of righteousness” then my faith in Christ is in vain. If of all people or if only for this life I have only hope in Christ’s completed work on the cross, then I am to be pitied more than all men.
But if salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and to the glory of God alone then I urge my snake wielding show men to look to what scripture alone says (that the gospel of Christ’s vicarious death is enough for me). If we look to or lean on our works to prove our righteousness then we are like the GALATIANS:
Galatians snake handlers! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit…because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Gal 3:1-5
For further reading on Mark 16 :9-20 (see here and here). I am actually still looking for a group that quotes the same verse in it’s entirety and drinks fizzy poison for breakfast (in the name of Jesus to boot) to prove their righteousness.
Strange, but works righteousness by any name still stinks!