As much as I enjoy poking fun at my own faith I don’t think that this is a funny story. I mean, people are actually dying from snake bites. Yet the madness continues.
Latest snake handling death cases
Over the summer John David Brock, a member of Mossy Simpson Pentecostal Church, was bitten by a snake during a service in July. He refused medical treatment and went about his way. Shortly after he passed.
Unfortunately, it was not the only time such an event happened. Pastor Jamie Coots, pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church, was bitten in 2014 and he also passed away hours later from his snake bite wound.
Also, in 2014, Pastor Mack Wolford passed away from a snake bit after not receiving treatment for his bite. Crazy enough, 3 decades earlier, his father also died from a snake bite!!
Where snake handling started
One might wonder how such a crazy tradition started. Believe it or not, there is a scriptural basis for such a practice… kind of. It really depends on how one would go about interpreting Mark 16:15-18.
15He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they 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.”
This is why the context here matters. When this was spoken by Jesus he was right about be taken up into heaven. Mark does not contain the same text of the Great Commission as in Matthew 28. In Mark this was the version of the Great Commission chosen to record.
But what was Jesus saying to his disciples? Are believers supposed to handle snakes and drink poison? No of course not. He does suggest that if the events DO occur that they would have level of protection from them. But He never encouraged them to go do these things to themselves. Jesus was really describing more of a safety net of sorts for those who believe, not a promise that He will heal them from all stupidity.
Why it needs to stop
There is a difference between God enabling His believers to spread the gospel and God healing people from stupidity. Just as most parents would encourage their child to be bold and take a risk, knowing that they (as parents) can offer a level of protection and support to accomplish the goal; Jesus is protecting His followers while on the risky job of completing the work He left for them.
For more information on snake handling churches I suggest watching the National Geographic documentary, “Snake Salvation.”