May 08, 2009

Show Me Your Faith

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, in North Alabama, 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 which 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 political correctness is going to have to draw the line, somewhere.

I know, exactly, where I'd like it to start, but for me to say would not be politically correct.

~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."

James 2:18
New American Standard Bible


Sam said...

I was born and raised in Tennessee, and once met some "Snake Handlers". They also drank poison. Invited me to one of their "gatherings". I didn't ask them if I could bring a shotgun, but I did decline the invitation. I don't like being around any type of snake...regardless of my faith.

Just a few years ago, my former boss took his wife to a week long "personal improvement" deal in Hawaii. They are not crazy, but they did walk barefoot across a 10 yard bed of hot coals, and did not get burned.

Mind over matter? Faith? Same thing? I don't know, but my Juju tells me to stay away from things that might harm or kill me.

That's where I draw my line.

Great post. Comparing foot washing to snake handling is so true. I get the point.

Have a good day, ma'am

GUYK said...

"The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people."
John Stuart Mill

Jan said...

Sam...walking on hot coals? Yikes!!

If I ever came across a snake, I'd be hard to catch! :)

And yeah, most of the snake-handling churches drink strychnine, too, I think.

I guess they do take the Bible, literally.

Thanks..I'm glad you liked the post, and glad you got the point I was trying to make, too!

Jan said...

Guyk..great quote, thanks!

I've always wondered how fair some rights are, if they violate the rights of others.

k said...

Happy Mother's Day, Jan.

Desert Cat said...

Well my religion requires me to handle snakes while smoking a doobie with one foot in a wash bucket and the other foot on a bed of coals.

Now accommodate me!

povertyflatsusa said...

Jan, I have been out of touch for a few days due to power outage here from the "inland hurricane" we had Friday morning.
I am a native of the Smokey Mts of East Tenn. I have seen lots of rattlesnakes and visited many churches, but never one that practiced snake handling. However I must admit that I have witnessed some really strange practices in some small rural places. I try to practice Biblical instruction to be kind, gentle and loving to my fellow man. But all that changes quickly when they try to hand me a snake!!
In Genesis 3:14-15 the Bible says God put emnity between man and the serpent. If it was good enough for then, it's good enough for now. For me, NO SNAKES !!
Have a blessed day. DM

Jan said...

K..thank you!

We had a nice quiet day, here, and not much cooking! :)

I'm afraid I didn't get around to the blogs to wish everyone a Happy Mother's Day, but I was thining of everyone.

I hope you and Walter are feeling better..well, I know you have to be feeling better than you were, and for that, I'm thankful.

Thank you for dropping by!

Jan said...

DC..while you'd probably be hauled off to jail for even suggesting such a thing, we know at least one group that seems to be getting its demands matter how offensive or inconvenient they may be.

Jan said...

In Genesis 3:14-15 the Bible says God put emnity between man and the serpent. If it was good enough for then, it's good enough for now. For me, NO SNAKES !!

DM..I couldn't have said it better, myself! LOL

Welcome back!

Susannah said...

GUYK quoted, "he must not make himself a nuisance to other people" & then DC said, "...Now accommodate me!" BINGO!!

I certainly get your point, Jan - & their comments bring into perfect focus. IMO, Political Correctness IS the nuisance to which GUYK is referring. Except it only used to be a nuisance, now it has become a matter of life & death: "You shouldn't profile mid-eastern men between the ages of 18-40! That wouldn't be PC!" Uh, I'd rather be P in-C than DEAD!

Jan said, "I know, exactly, where I'd like it to start, but for me to say would not be politically correct." I know how you feel, sweet one, & I'm assuming you wrote this tongue-in-cheek...But some folks use this very rationale as justification for remaining silent. I did that for too long, & started my blog as a way to buck that notion entirely (after having several letters-to-editor of my hometown liberal newspaper). One of my early posts is even titled, "Just Say It."

We must change our thinking, & then our behavior folks. And we must SPEAK!

Enjoying your blog, Jan. I'll be back!

Jan said...

Nabeel said...

the test of faith that I admire, have always been kept private i.e. they were not done in front of hundreds of people and not done with a motive of advertising.

May 15, 2009 9:49 PM

Jan said...

Nabeel..forgive me, but I inadvertently deleted your comment, so I copied and pasted from the email which came to my inbox.

Unfortunately, I deleted my reply to your comment, too, so here it is:

Nabeel..yes, I agree that it should never be exploited, in any way. Unfortunately, it is, many times, in the most disheartening way, and causes many to turn away.

Thank you for dropping by my blog..feel please welcome to come back.

May 15, 2009 10:20 PM

Jan said...

Here's Nabeel's interesting blog:

Nabeel's Cosmos

Jan said...

Susannah..thank you so much for stopping by my blog!

I, very much, appreciate your comments..thanks for linking to the story, too.

I visited your blog, and from what I've read, so far, it's pretty interesting.

I'll be a regular visitor!

Thanks, again!