Friday, September 28, 2007

Snake Handlers

I recorded the History Channels special called Hillbilly: The Real Story, it's a special about "mountain folk" of the Appalachian mountains. These people are generally called slow, stupid, and out of touch and this special tries to show the positive side of these people. The reason I wanted to watch is because I grew up on the out skits of Appalachian Mountains and I at times consider myself Appalachian. I grew up in a town with coal piles, a town where the past was iron. Hard working town that sets in Ohio valley. A couple of the places they shot, I had been too, I also did not need the subtitles to understand everyone.

The one part of the special I was hoping they did not go into was the Church of Science or as they more commonly known, snake handlers. Back in the early 1900s George Went Hensley was reading the bible and came across Mark 16:18

they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it
will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they
will get well."

He then saw a snake and picked it up and that was that. I know it probably was a little more complicated than that, but that's a rough idea of how it began. They feel they can pick up poisonous snakes and God will protect them from the snake and it's deadly venom. It doesn't stop there, they will also drink strychnine and arsenic to prove they have God in them. To top it off they will also take fire and run their hands through it.

I've always know about snake handlers, I remember stories that my mom would tell of a church in Ironton that was a snake handling church. In Ohio it is illegal to use snakes for religious services and the church had the police show up multiple times. In a college sociology class at Ohio University Southern I had a professor who did research on snake handlers, he told of story of one church that was told not to bring out the snakes. They had uniform officers in side waiting to arrest the minister if they pulled out any snakes. Well the service started, no snakes, then things started to get hopping and the snakes crate was brought out and dumped on the floor. The officers bolted out the door.

I do not agree with the snake handler's thought on Christianity, but it is interesting that even though there have been deaths, even children have died from snake bites, that the guy featured in the story has been bitten almost 170 times! I guessing he has started to build an immunity towards certain venom, but there has to be some mind over matter there. That same sociology professor told a story where a woman was in a "trance" and he thought "I wish that lady would pick up the fire and use it." She looked at him, went over to the fire brought it over towards him and started to wave her hand through it.

Maybe there is something there, but I'm on the side that they are not looking at the greater picture. They picked one small thing out and based everything on that one aspect, not the whole. I know many people do not know of snake handlers, but those who do usually refer to them as stupid inbred mountain people and for this I don't like the snake handlers. Snake handling has been banned in ever state but one... West Virginia, once I heard that today I just shook my head, it had to be West Virginia, that's all they need is to still have that stigma still alive.

Maybe I am part of the greater problem and look at them as foolish, maybe I need to be more tolerant. I don't know, I just don't want to be in a church and hear, "Bring out the snakes." I will be like the uniformed officers and bolt out the door.


djl said...

Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf***ing snakes in this motherf**ing church!

Schattenjager said...

Umm, since I handle snakes everyday does that make me a priest or bishop of some kind? ;-)

J Dog said...

I would say, pope of snake town.