Snake 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.