Tip News

January 18, 2019

Snake-handlers of West Virginia test faith with poison

Snake-handlers of West Virginia test faith with poison
'A timber rattlesnake, seen during a Pentecostal serpent handlers service at the House of the Lord Jesus church in Squire, West Virginia in May 2018' - By: AFP/File Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

The tiny community of Squire, West Virginia, near a coal mine in the Appalachian mountains is made up of a few scattered houses, a car wash, and one of the few remaining Pentecostal Signs churches.

With old fashioned apostolic gospel music echoing through the small wooden building, members of the congregation dance and spin in a trance as Pastor Chris Wolford reaches into a box and pulls out a three-foot long timber rattlesnake, a test of faith.

Swinging the snake over his shoulder he proclaims that God is present, and allows the snake to move around in his hands, before laying it across the lap of another worshipper playing the guitar.

Serpent-handling Christians believe taking up snakes, as well as drinking poison and applying flames to themselves is something they are commanded to do.

They take their scriptural mandate from the Bible's Gospel of Mark 16: 17-18 ( In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all).

"Now we don't believe that they won't bite us," says Pastor Wolford. "We know every time we go in the box that there may be a chance that we may get bit, and that we may die.

"But see, when I got saved, when I got in this, he put something in me that, to live for me is for God, and to die is for God."

Thirty to 40 worshippers came from all over West Virginia and nearby states for the special Memorial Day service, in honor of Chris's brother, Randy "Mack" Wolford, who was the previous pastor but died of a rattlesnake bite, his fourth, on the same weekend in 2012.

Their father, too, was a pastor and died of a snake bite when Chris was only young.

West Virginia is the last remaining state where serpent-handling is legal.

According to William Dinges, Ordinary Professor of Religion and Culture at Catholic University, "the act of taking up serpents is not something that is endorsed by any denomination."

"As far as the snake handling churches are concerned, what they do, even though this is disowned by other religious bodies, they believe this is a very clear biblical mandate by way of their literal reading of the scriptures."

Services build like concerts with the music growing into a frenzy of activity with drums, slide guitars, and keyboards telling the congregation when to get to their feet and call out in worship.

Serpent-handling only plays a small part of the service, some of which last almost four hours. The rest of the time members proclaim their faith, dance; preach, and take communion.

Traditionally kept within the family, many members of the faith are related or closely connected. A few outsiders trickle in and some have become followers as well, but overall it feels like an extended family.

There are an estimated 125 serpent-handling churches left. The movement is currently in decline, but it has waxed and waned over its 100 year history, and since the tradition is passed down from one generation to the next, it is likely to stay alive for many years to come.

Short link: https://tipnews.com/u/NTMzMDU=

See also:

Related articles

Trump, Pence lend support to thousands at anti-abortion demo

Trump, Pence lend support to thousands at anti-abortion demo

Thousands of anti-abortion activists rallied in Washington on Friday at the annual March for Life -- with the staunch support of President Donald Trump.Trump, who became the first sitting president to address the demonstration last year, appeared once again by

The Pences: defenders of Christian values in the White House

The Pences: defenders of Christian values in the White House

On page 11 of an application to work at a private Christian school in Virginia, teachers are bluntly asked to pledge to "maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct."It goes on to say banned conduct includes, but is not limited, to: "h

Rock and roll nuns to perform for pope in Panama

Rock and roll nuns to perform for pope in Panama

With millions of YouTube views and hits on Spotify and iTunes, a group of young nun rockers play one of their biggest gigs next week, and thousands of Catholics, including the pope himself, will lap it up.It may be rock and roll, but Twisted Sister they ain't

Houellebecq's Muslim France novel to be made into TV series

Houellebecq's Muslim France novel to be made into TV series

A television version of French novelist Michel Houellebecq's most controversial book is in the pipeline, its backers said Wednesday."Submission" has divided critics for imagining a near future in which sharia law is imposed in France after a Muslim preside

HELLO, PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO RATE THIS POST Snake-handlers of West Virginia test faith with poison

Sending comment Close