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Picking Up Snakes For Jesus!

Aug 17, 2007
Challenges to our faith come in different ways for different people, but I'll admit to a decidedly lack of faith when it comes to creepy, slithering things that bite! That lack of faith comes from my belief that I'm wise enough not to tempt God with foolish activities.

Down here in the South, there's a curious phenomenon that I call picking up snakes for Jesus. It's definitely not for everyone and usually occurs in small churches that have very little, if any, affiliation with national organizations. Understandably they do not have a large following.

To those of the serpent sect, holding a poisonous snake is an outward expression of their faith in the Lord. Followers of this notion quote the New Testament in Mark 16:17-18, in which Jesus Christ says, "And these signs shall follow them that believe in my name; shall 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."

Now, I have enough faith in Jesus Christ for two people, but my belief system is unbelievably small when it comes to being in the same room with a rattle snake! On the one occasion I've had to witness such a spectacle, I graciously bowed out, giving the sick grandmother excuse for not being able to attend such a gospel meeting.

Snake handling in the south was still alive a couple of years before the tragedy of 911. The ritual of picking up snakes in a church service was flourishing in some small congregations, even though there was a law banning the practice. For the most part the preachers involved in such unlawful dealings, gladly paid the fines of $150 to $500 if levied, rejecting governmental authority in favor of a higher command.

The last news I'm aware of about serpent handling in church was from my local newspaper less than ten years ago. There had been a death by rattlesnake in a town close to where I live. A week before, an acquaintance of mine told me about a visiting preacher coming to his church soon, with a truck full of cages that held rattlesnakes, adders, cobras and a couple of other dangerous reptiles. It seems that there was a circuit of churches in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee that welcomed such an event to prove their faith in Jesus. My faith in God is great, but I don't believe that God wants me to cuddle a cobra.

Less than ten years ago this circuit riding preacher was holding a revival in a small church with only about 75 in attendance that fateful night. This reverend was billed as having been bitten over 20 times with his belief in Jesus so strong, that the serpent's venom was not powerful enough to kill him. He must have had an off night in the faith department.

This night, after beseeching the Lord to keep him protected from the snake's bite, he
Released a 4 foot timber rattler from its cage, picked it up and with great passion, began preaching of God's great love and redemption. The timber rattler, obviously not impressed with the message, bit the preacher on a finger of his left hand as he was waving it in front of the snake.

Not allowing such a petty thing as a deadly snake bite deter him, the good Reverend continued to preach his message for about 15 minutes before collapsing in front of the pulpit. At this point it wasn't clear as to how the rattler got back in the gage. Either the preacher had the presence of mind to get him back in the cage, a member of the church came to the rescue and trapped it or someone killed it with a shovel. This part of the story was never reported.

The congregation prayed over the man until the ambulance came, but to no avail. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Perhaps his faith was lacking that night, or maybe God expects us to use our brain and not purposely tempt a snake to act like a snake.

This is not my kind of faith. I have a belief that God will be with me through all kind of perils not of my choosing. If I choose to play with a snakeknowing the dangers, then I have to put my faith in myself. I'm much too smart to do that!
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:
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