It’s plain to see—for goodness’ sakes—
That showing faith by handling snakes
Shows God you’ve got the will it takes
To follow and obey.
The bible says to show the “signs”—
No need to read between the lines—
Just show your faith as God defines;
There is no other way.
You’ve read the book; in Mark 16
A test of faith is clearly seen—
No doubt to what the verses mean;
You simply must believe.
Your faith is strong; these are your rites,
You have salvation in your sights,
And if by chance the serpent bites…
We all shall surely grieve.
A fascinating article at CNN’s Belief Blog, on the recent death of a snake handler. My parents lived for a while in a county where there were snake-handlers; if memory serves, there was a custody battle between grandparents, after both parents had died of snake bites. One set of grandparents were snake-handlers; the other were not, and of course the snake-handlers had a good claim that the parents would have chosen them…
So I have a bit of a fascination with these people. This most recent death was a Mack Wolford, at a very young 44 years of age. Wolford was an advocate of snake-handling–worried that the tradition was dying out (with its practitioners, apparently)–who travelled across the region promoting the practice. His death has left believers shaken.
“It devastated me,” one Tennessee serpent handler confided to me about Wolford’s death last week. “It just shook my very foundation. But (handling snakes) is still the Word of God.”
Vicie Haywood, Wolford’s mother – whose husband died 29 years ago from a rattlesnake bite during a worship service – is heartbroken. But she has no doubts about the righteousness of serpent handling. “It’s still the Word, and I want to go on doing what the Word says,” she told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
The comments at the site have, predictably, invoked the name of Charles Darwin. This disappoints me. As ludicrous as the tradition is, I cannot cheer the death of a fellow human; life is too precious. Even the life of a snake-handling fool.