Protestant Pastor Dies Handling Snakes

YouTube Preview ImageSnake handling is still going on in the United States. This article reports the recent death of a pastor who was bitten by a timber rattlesnake. Apparently the pastor witnessed his own father’s death after a rattlesnake bite, but continued with the practice. I commented on the theological implications of snake handling a few days ago here.

The gist of the article is that snake handlers are only doing what all Protestants do–whether they are liberal and urbane sherry sipping Anglican bishops or gun totin’ hillbilly preachers from Kentucky. Whether they are nicely suited pastors in suburban American churches or  members of a wild-eyed apocalyptic sect.

That is to say–they follow an authority structure based on the Bible, their own interpretation and their own tradition–then they try to live by it.

Whether they handle rattlesnakes, discuss Calvinism, build a mega church, swim with alligators, write books about the Myth of God, speak in tongues or go to choral evensong after tea is–theologically speaking– immaterial.

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  • flyingvic

    What a terrible responsibility it is to have to make your own mind up!

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I think you’re being ironic and suggesting that there are some religious people who just go along with whatever their authority system tells them and don’t think things through for themselves.

    I was particularly thinking of the Anglicans I have known. What a dull, unthinking lot of zombies they all were. The media and the society around them tells them to ordain women so they do. The media and the society around them tells them to let homosexuals marry, so they do. They don’t really think things through or entertain any form of intelligent debate or make decisions themselves–just wet a finger and put it to the wind, and whatever way the societal wind is blowing– they trim the sails accordingly.

    To actually challenge the prevailing point of view! To have the courage to go against what the papers and the majority of society suggest! To actually be subversive and counter cultural–to put forward arguments that are intellectually sound, historically accurate, Biblically consistent and theologically profound–we’d have to leave that to the Catholics.

  • Christian

    The snake-handlers think they’re doing just fine making up their own minds.

  • flyingvic

    And now you’re the one being ironic – or perhaps you just mixed with the wrong crowd of Anglicans! Dull? Never! The ‘dull’ people are those who think that they’re right all the time! (Or who get into a mind-set that tells them that they simply must be on the right lines because they’re being counter-cultural. Or who are convinced that they are correct because they are being persecuted.) It is just possible, you know, that the prevailing point of view is the correct one!

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    My memory of Anglicans is that they were terribly conformist–very concerned about having the ‘right’ opinions so that they might ‘fit in’ with the ‘right set’–they were often witty and fun in a superficial way, but deep down terrified of committing a faux pas and holding an opinion that was subversive.

    But this is what one would expect from a state church. Erastianism breeds conformity.

  • flyingvic

    Like I said – you mixed with the wrong crowd! You should keep away from bishops!

  • flyingvic

    Yeah – and most people would reckon that they’d got it wrong. Does that then make the snake-handlers counter-cultural?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    LOL. Good one!

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    To tell you the truth, I rather admire the counter cultural aspect of the snake handling. I’d rather a snake handler who believed in the supernatural gospel, the miracle of the incarnation and the power of the resurrection than a smooth modernist who denied all those things.

    However, being counter cultural on its own, however, is not a guarantee of either sanity or “getting it right”.

  • Christian

    Wow, I’d say they are way counter-cultural.

  • Christian

    “most people would reckon that they’d got it wrong.” Yeah, most people would.

  • sarahlcc

    **groan** A great example of how taking one verse out of context can get you killed. At least he was living out what he claimed to believe based on his tradition of interpretation, however. May God have mercy on his soul.

  • jem

    Would this qualify the deceased snake handler as a martyr?