Snake handling

Julia Duin is a Christian journalist who is a real pro.  She has a long story in the Washington Post Magazine on West Virginia snake handlers.  What I appreciate is that she approaches these mountain Pentecostalists with utter respect,without a shred of condescension or ridicule.  She does, though, describe the desperate social context of these folks–the lack of jobs and young people, the rampant drug abuse in these rural areas–though this isn’t the cause of snake handling, which itself is in decline compared to more prosperous times.  Apparently, even these declining churches are trying church growth methods:  They now have electric guitars and drums.  I much prefer the rattlesnakes and strychnine.  Anyway, the profile is very Flannery O’Connoresque and very much worth reading:  In W.Va., snake handling is still considered a sign of faith – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    If you think snake handling is funny, it doesn’t hold a candle to speaking in tongues. Have you ever the movie Billy Madison where Adam Sandler starts talking gibberish? Well imagine something similar, except a lot of people join in, and you must act like they are saying something serious.

  • Michael B.

    If you think snake handling is funny, it doesn’t hold a candle to speaking in tongues. Have you ever the movie Billy Madison where Adam Sandler starts talking gibberish? Well imagine something similar, except a lot of people join in, and you must act like they are saying something serious.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I don’t think snake handling is funny! Nor do I think speaking in tongues is funny! I find them both terrifying. I guess I consider both of them to be more serious than much that passes for worship today, perhaps coming closer to the true incursion of the supernatural into the physical realm that I believe happens with the Sacraments.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I don’t think snake handling is funny! Nor do I think speaking in tongues is funny! I find them both terrifying. I guess I consider both of them to be more serious than much that passes for worship today, perhaps coming closer to the true incursion of the supernatural into the physical realm that I believe happens with the Sacraments.

  • Dennis Peskey

    I know it’s real; it is the power of God,” Wolford says. Really? Well, which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven – or arise and walk?” If Pastor Wolford wants to concoct a sideshow of snakes and poisons, what of the sinners that Christ came to save? Perhaps he should spend just a little time actually reading God’s Word – by the time he gets to Genesis 3 it should become apparent the serpent is not representative of God’s power; the protoevangelum clearly points to the cross where the Father demonstrates his will, fulfilled by his Son for us. Pastor Wolford is not doing the will of the Lord – he is but a charlatan doing the work of his father – the original serpent who has been crushed by Christ.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    I know it’s real; it is the power of God,” Wolford says. Really? Well, which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven – or arise and walk?” If Pastor Wolford wants to concoct a sideshow of snakes and poisons, what of the sinners that Christ came to save? Perhaps he should spend just a little time actually reading God’s Word – by the time he gets to Genesis 3 it should become apparent the serpent is not representative of God’s power; the protoevangelum clearly points to the cross where the Father demonstrates his will, fulfilled by his Son for us. Pastor Wolford is not doing the will of the Lord – he is but a charlatan doing the work of his father – the original serpent who has been crushed by Christ.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Kimberly

    The journalist did a wonderful job on the piece, but I can’t help feeling sick to my stomach at all of this. Yes, Jesus did say that believers would be bit by snakes and not be harmed–much like Paul–but never said anything to indicate that we should go out and purposely TRY not to get bit. What’s that Deuteronomy verse…”You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”? (Strange, I think Jesus quoted that when Satan asked Him to jump off the temple.) Lord, have mercy on the people who misuse and abuse your gracious promises and lead others astray!

  • Kimberly

    The journalist did a wonderful job on the piece, but I can’t help feeling sick to my stomach at all of this. Yes, Jesus did say that believers would be bit by snakes and not be harmed–much like Paul–but never said anything to indicate that we should go out and purposely TRY not to get bit. What’s that Deuteronomy verse…”You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”? (Strange, I think Jesus quoted that when Satan asked Him to jump off the temple.) Lord, have mercy on the people who misuse and abuse your gracious promises and lead others astray!

  • Tom Hering

    First, the flying snake logo. Now this. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    First, the flying snake logo. Now this. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. :-D

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    It just sickens me.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    It just sickens me.

  • Spaulding

    Also that part in Mark about drinking poison and getting bit by snakes questionable, whether it is originally in the text or not.

  • Spaulding

    Also that part in Mark about drinking poison and getting bit by snakes questionable, whether it is originally in the text or not.

  • mendicus

    Thanks for sharing this one, Dr Veith. An old friend of mine from Louisiana used to talk about snake handlers, but I thought he was speaking metaphorically about Pentecostals in general. Now I see.

    Sad — no mention of the Cross or forgiveness in the whole article. Not surprising, but sad.

  • mendicus

    Thanks for sharing this one, Dr Veith. An old friend of mine from Louisiana used to talk about snake handlers, but I thought he was speaking metaphorically about Pentecostals in general. Now I see.

    Sad — no mention of the Cross or forgiveness in the whole article. Not surprising, but sad.

  • Cincinnatus

    Home sweet Appalachia.

    Somehow, I understand this: Appalachia is a place that has needed and still does need a sign. Forgotten by the rest of the country and, in many apparent ways, forgotten by God. (The latter is not true, of course, but the perception is not absurd.)

  • Cincinnatus

    Home sweet Appalachia.

    Somehow, I understand this: Appalachia is a place that has needed and still does need a sign. Forgotten by the rest of the country and, in many apparent ways, forgotten by God. (The latter is not true, of course, but the perception is not absurd.)

  • Michael B.

    “Also that part in Mark about drinking poison and getting bit by snakes questionable, whether it is originally in the text or not.”

    Perhaps, but so is the story in John of the woman taken in adultery.

  • Michael B.

    “Also that part in Mark about drinking poison and getting bit by snakes questionable, whether it is originally in the text or not.”

    Perhaps, but so is the story in John of the woman taken in adultery.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Foolish to build doctrine on the spurious ending of Mark’s gospel.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Foolish to build doctrine on the spurious ending of Mark’s gospel.

  • Dust

    Does anyone know if Julia Duin is related to Steve Duin, who writes for the Oregonian in Portland, Oregon? He’s a very good and conscientious writer too….thank you!

  • Dust

    Does anyone know if Julia Duin is related to Steve Duin, who writes for the Oregonian in Portland, Oregon? He’s a very good and conscientious writer too….thank you!


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