January 06, 2008
I was thinking recently about religion, and the personal beliefs and convictions held by some--beliefs and convictions which to those holding them, are as natural as breathing, but may seem bizarre to others.
In the various religions that I have read about, heard about, and experienced at one time or another, they have been as normal and practical as anyone could want, and others have been somewhat confusing, as far as what they preached and practiced. Others, which I must admit were more "read about" than personally experienced, seem downright bizarre, and scary, but when it comes to personal convictions, they are just that--personal. To each his own, and far be it from me to try to change them. I know what I believe, and what my personal convictions are, and I don't want anyone trying to change them for me, either.
One of the strangest of these various religions that I have heard about involve the snake handlers, which are mostly found in Appalachia, and particularly around Sand Mountain where I lived for awhile as a little girl, and then again for awhile, years later.
A few years ago, I became interested in a case involving a preacher, Reverend Glenn Summerford, the pastor of a church whose members believed in, and practiced the ritual of "taking up serpents" or snake handling. At the time, there were at least three churches on Sand Mountain who practiced it. It seems that the pastor became suspicious of his wife, and according to reports, forced her hand into a box full of rattlesnakes until she was bitten. He was convicted of attempted manslaughter, and sentenced to 99 years in prison.
As bizarre as all this sounds, the people who practice snake handling are not crazy, but very dedicated in their adherence to practicing what they believe, and this belief is based on a verse of scripture found in Mark 16:17-18 which says:"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 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."
They are fervent in their belief, and they take this scripture, literally. They feel that if their faith is strong enough that they will not be bitten, and if they are, that it will not kill them. As strange as it may seem, there have been but few deaths in all the churches which practice snake handling, and when it happens, they believe it was because their faith was not strong enough, or that they had not waited until the Lord moved on them.
There are laws in most states, other than Georgia and West Virginia, which prohibit the practice, with small fines, but they are not usually enforced because it is seen as a religious practice, and that is, after all, what all the hue and cry is about lately--freedom to practice any religion we choose. I guess it just depends on which side of the fence you're on when it comes to something like this--whether you approve, or disapprove.
I've wondered, since some are requesting special areas for foot washing to satisfy followers of Islam, if they will have to start providing sections containing cages of rattlesnakes in public areas, too--you know, so that those who like to handle serpents can practice their beliefs? And don't forget the religion that is based on smoking marijuana, or the one which sacrifices chickens, or the one...oh, I know, I know this is beginning to sound ridiculous, but I was trying to make a point, which is that we do have freedom of religion in this country, and freedom of speech, but sometimes we just get so carried away, that we don't know when to stop!
~But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
New American Standard Bible
Posted by Jan at 2:16 AM