I have tried not to think too much about Pentecostal snake handling. I preferred to pass by on the other side, accepting that, like The Rapture, it was just another obscure biblical reference blown out of all proportion by folks who’ve been drinking corn squeezings out in the hills for far too long while simultaneously immersed in a diminishing Deliverance gene pool. It also seemed like one more unfortunate conformation of that theological view of the USA as the four century dumping grown for all the religious nut, obsessive and psychos from the Old World. When, however, our buddy Richard at Dangerous Minds tells us a snake has turned around and bitten the handler, I sit up and take notice.
“Mack Wolford, a flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia whose serpent-handling talents were profiled last November in The Washington Post Magazine, hoped the outdoor service he had planned for Sunday at an isolated state park would be a “homecoming like the old days,” full of folks speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a “great time.” But it was not the sort of homecoming he foresaw.
Instead, Wolford, who turned 44 the previous day, was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He died late Sunday. Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them. He and other adherents cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
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The secret word is Slither