HANDLERS ARE SINCERE
By: Don Boys, Ph.D.
Someone needs to say it so I will: religious snake handlers are nutty. Alright, so
they are sincere (one would have to be sincere to play with poison
snakes!) but it is possible to be sincere and a little nutty. In fact, some of my fellow
Baptists are a little nutty! Of course, that would be true of all entities: politicians
(in spades), media personalities (see previous parenthesis), doctors, lawyers, truck
drivers, school teachers, and the like.
I grew up in West Virginia, the only state where handling snakes is legal, and pastored
a church only two miles from a snake-handling church. We never had interaction with them
in any way! Im not an ecumenist anyway, although I am a lover of everyone and have
been and will be the first to speak up for anyones rights to personal
beliefeven weird ones.
Some uninformed or bigoted media people identify snake handlers as
Fundamentalists but that is ridiculous and almost laughable. Thats like
saying, The mainstream media are all journalists. (Stop laughing. This is
serious business.) Journalists should be honest, fair, and balanced. Fundamentalists
adhere to and teach the fundamentals of Christianity and snake handling is not one of
those fundamentals. The fundamentals are, in part, the incarnation of Christ, His virgin
birth, His physical resurrection, His divinity, His vicarious death, His second return,
and the inerrancy of Scripture.
The snake handling group uses the last few verses in Mark to justify their fanaticism.
Mark wrote that the newly commissioned evangelists would have special protection in the
event they were bitten by poisonous snakes or accidently drank deadly poison. That passage
reveals that all nature is subject to God as was exemplified by the Apostle Paul in Acts
28:5 when he was bitten by a poisonous snake yet was not harmed. Paul was not showing off
his ability, strength, power, or special relationship with Christ. The passage does not
mean that a disciple of Christ could announce to a crowd that the following night he would
drink a shot of strychnine and kiss a poisonous snake just after the evening offering!
Snake handlers are, in my opinion, flaky religious exhibitionists. Their sincerity
isnt the issue; hence they are bitten and sincerely die.
Such exhibitionists have been around for two thousand years. In the Middle Ages, they
were Roman Catholic flagellants who whipped themselves into a bloody, messy fury while
parading through the streets, and crazy dudes who never washed, cut their nails, brushed
their teeth, or worked a job. No wonder the Reformation exploded all over Europe.
In Luke 10:19 Christ promised, Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents
and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt
you. Those are not promised signs for future Christian leaders, but protection
against those threats as the first preachers carried out His orders to evangelize the
world. After the Bible was completed, signs were no longer necessary as suggested in Mark
16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and
confirming the word with signs following. Signs in the New Testament were to confirm
the truth of the Apostles message. Now that we have an authoritative Bible, signs
are no longer needed.