Mark 16:17-18 (King James Version):
17: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18: They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Many snake handlers refer to this, and other, Biblical quotes to justify the taking up of snakes. Rattlesnakes and copperheads seem to be the creatures of choice and these deadly serpents are an integral part of their church services. As is ranting non-sense syllables—-the speaking in tongues part. Not to mention that they typically avoid medical help when such help is needed. Sometimes taking strychnine in the belief that this will add another layer of protection against the venom. After all . . . any deadly thing . . . shall not hurt them . . .
Don’t think that snake handling is a thing of the past or is relegated to the backwoods of the South. Though most still thrive in Appalachia, there are over a hundred such churches and they stretch from coast to coast.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, actually, a lot. Snake handlers have died from bites, when a visit to the ER could have saved them. But religion is a powerful motivator and often over-rides common sense.
Jamie Coots, the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky: http://abcnews.go.com/US/snake-handling-pentecostal-pastor-dies-snake-bite/story?id=22551754
And one Glen Summerford, pastor of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following, attempted to murder his wife with a rattlesnake. The story in chronicled in the wonderful American Book Award winning and National Book Award nominated book SALVATION ON SAND MOUNTAIN by Dennis Covington.
Glen Summerford: https://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=1095-hartman
My third Samantha Cody thriller ORIGINAL SIN deals with such preachers. Sam visits her old friend Tennessee CV Surgeon Lucy Wagner and both find themselves entangled with the patriarch of a snake-handling church. And everything goes wrong.
Dr. Lucy Wagner was on top of her game. The only cardiac surgeon on staff, a new pediatric cardiac unit dedicated to her, and an impeccable reputation not only put her at the apex of the local medical pyramid but also garnered a few powerful enemies. Such is the nature of jealousy and greed. Turf wars can get ugly. Still all was good until the day old John Scully, the spiritual founder and leader of a local snake-handling church, died on her operating table. Fainting spells, nightmarish dreams, and patient after patient succumbing to some violent psychosis followed, putting her career, and her life, in jeopardy. Aided by long time friend and ex-boxer, ex-cop Samantha Cody, Lucy must reach deeply into her family’s past and into her own soul to find the strength to confront old and very powerful forces she never knew existed.
More Info on ORIGINAL SIN: http://www.dplylemd.com/DPLyleMD/Books-SCody.html