I spend most of my youth and young adult years in Pentecostalism. So did my wife. In fact, my wife grew up in southern Alabama where snakes are plentiful and snake handlers can be found.
So another snake handler dies by snake bite. Sad.
This poses a serious theological problem for snake handlers. It is believed that a true believer can safely handle poisonous snakes without being harmed. But what if a snake handler is harmed? What does this mean? Hence the cartoon.
I interned at her home Pentecostal church for a summer before we were married. It was fantastic, as in fantastical. One day the pastor took me on a journey one day through the swamps and bayous until we came to this small church in the wild where he was to speak along with other preachers. They waved their hankies. There was red paint splashed everywhere symbolizes the spilt blood of Christ. There was shrieks, shouting, sweating and swaying and shuffling on the floor. What a wild night that was! I’ll never forget it.
But I want to make something clear: many of those people will go down in my memory as some of the sweetest, most down to earth, salt of the earth people I’ve ever met.
Including snake handlers!
Some years ago I read Daniel Radosh’s book, Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture, and he concurs. In fact, he conceded that the snake handlers he met were sweet people with some strange (to him) ideas and practices. That’s all.
Lisa and I left Pentecostalism during my seminary years. We left that behind. But we didn’t leave behind the memories of the wonderful people we met, loved, and were loved by.
Why not check out The Lasting Supper? We are a diverse mix of people with strange ideas too. No snakes allowed though.