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Here is a short interesting article worth reading. It gives an account of wife and husband who were bitten by snakes at church and then died. It is worth noting that the deceased's family said that the father died of a heart attack.

All Thinks Considered is regarded as one of the top radio news programs in America. In 1992, they did a segment on the practice of snake handling. Take a look at their website that covers the segment, entitled They Shall Take Up Serpents

Dennis Covington has written a book on the subject, entitled Salvation on Sand Mountain. Click on the link to read an introduction to the book. It offers some great insight.

The following is an excerpt from the web site:"In October of 1991, Glenn Summerford attempted to kill his wife Darlene by forcing her, at gunpoint, to stick her hand into a cage with an angry canebrake rattlesnake. Glenn Summerford was at that time pastor of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following in Scottsboro Alabama. Members of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following regularly practiced snake handling, speaking in tongues, laying on hands, and ingestion of strychnine, and Summerford had 17 rattlesnakes in cages behind his house, for use in church services."

Snake Handers: More Than Meets The Eye. This a very well done essay. It gives social and economic background, and quotes a snake handling expert.

Holly Rollers and Snake Handlers

There is a description of Smokey Lonesome's childhood and his parents towards the beginning of the book. Part of what we learn is that his mother is a "Holy Roller" and a "Snake Handler". Let's take a brief look at what this means and the culture fundamentalist Christian religions and of snake handling.

The Christian religion says that there are three entities that are separate and yet not separate: The Father (God), The Son (Jesus) and the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit.

In one of the books of the New Testament, the Book of Acts, Jesus promises his followers that after he leaves (dies), they will be comforted by the Holy Ghost and will recieve the same gifts and abilities that Jesus had, such as healing and prophecy. The Book of Acts talks of a fire from heaven coming down and touching Jesus' followers, and that they then become filled with the Holy Ghost and are able to use these gifts. So, today, when the Spirit touches one or fills them, they are being touched by and are communicating directly to God, as God and the Holy Spirit are part of the same entity. This happeing is a fulfilling of the prophecy and promise given in the Bible.

The day this happened, about 2000 years ago, is The Day of Pentacost, and the believers that closely follow this belief and incorporates it into their daily worship are called Pentacostals. This branch of Christianity is based on literal interpretations of quotes from the Bible, e.g.,
"...The day of Pentecost was fully come they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The signs were the sound of a mighty, rushing wind; cloven tongues like as of fire sat upon each of them; and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance..."
-- Act II, 5 - 10

Stay with me, here. There is a bit of new vocabulary, but the ideas most likely sound somewhat familiar, as ecstatic worship (the entering of a god into the worshiper) is a part of religions world-wide - from Hinduism to Matsu-worshipers.

aka Holy Rollers
In a Pentacostal church service, believers are filled with the (Holy) Spirit. They dance in the spirit, speak in unknown tongues, touch-heal, and prophesize. Theirs is a strict, literal belief from the Bible, including beliefs that it sinful for a woman to cut her hair, for a man to wear long hear, to wear jewelry, and to wear make-up. Many also believe that Christmas trees are sinful.

The church services are usually informal, one of the members delivering a sermon when the Spirit moves them to. The service does not follow the strict form of more conventional churches. At any moment, anyone can get up and sing a hymn, make a comment on what the Lord has done for them in their lives recently, or begin to speak in tongues.

Pentacostalism: from the Virginia University Religious Studies Department, an in-depth description of Pentacostalism, complete with the Bible quotes that supply the foundation for their beliefs.

Why the name "Holy Roller?" One explanation of the origins of the nickname is that the
"...[believer has] Uncontrolled emotional behavior [that] often accompanies the speaking in tongues..."
-- Encarta, Pentacostal Churches

This behavior was dubbed "rolling" in the aisles of the church, and hence the monkier Holly Roller was created.

In a Pentacostal church service, believers
are filled with the (Holy) Spirit.
They dance in the spirit, speak in
in unknown tongues, touch-heal,
and prophesize.
photo: Steve Shelton

The Pentacostal and Charismatic Churches
of North America logo.

The flame illustrates the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament in the Bible describes
the Holy Ghost coming to Jesus' followers
in the form of a fire on top of their heads.

Snake Handlers
"Today about 2,500 Pentecostals practice snake handling."
-- Christianity Today

A complete description of Snake Handling, from the Univeristy of Virginia's Religous Studies department. Includes quotes from the Bible supporting the practice.

Carl Porter, pastor of the Church of the Lord
Jesus Christ, has been handling snakes since
1971. Though bitten a dozen times, he
continues to advocate snake-handling.
When he opened his church 25 years ago
only 15 people attended; there are now
about 100 in his congregation.

Can you imagine holding this in your hands
and dancing around with it? I can't! But people
do all sorts of crazy things for religion.
What about the practice in Taiwan of sticking a
long skewer of wood through you cheek??!!!!


A salute to each of these websites!
Each website that you and I casually visit for a few seconds
or for many hours is the result of love, sweat and dedication,
not to mention many many hours worth of keyboarding.
I thank these webmaster for their unselfish efforts to share
themselves with the world and the internet community.


Note: All efforts have been made to give correct and proper credit. If you see
a source that has not been credited, please let me know and I will make every
effort to correct the oversight.

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