Despite the recent snake-bite death of WV Pastor Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford, snake handling in some Pentecostal churches is on the rise again, especially with youth.
USA Today reports,
Andrew Hamblin’s Facebook page is filled with snippets of his life.
Making a late-night run to Taco Bell.
Watching SpongeBob on the couch with his kids.
Handling rattlesnakes in church.
Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., is part of a new generation of serpent-handling Christians who are revitalizing a century-old faith tradition in Tennessee. . . .
For more than a century, serpent handlers have had a turbulent relationship with outsiders. Churches popped up around charismatic preachers, then faded after controversy or bad publicity. When the practice became illegal, true believers went underground.
Until last year, serpent-handling churches were in decline, said Paul Williamson, professor of psychology at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., who studies serpent handlers. . . .
Bites are rare because timber rattlesnakes and copperheads would rather flee, said Vince Cobb, a herpetologist at Middle Tennessee State University.
While the snakes can’t be tamed, they can become used to being handled. A gentle handler who doesn’t make fast motions near a snake’s head is unlikely to get bitten.