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The central text is Mark 16.17-18 from the King James Version of the Bible: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. Given the plain-sense meaning of the text Mark 16 suggests that five signs will follow "them that believe": Casting out of devils Speaking with new tongues Taking up serpents Being unhurt after drinking poison Healing the sick According to the snake handling churches four of these signs are "mandatory" and one is "conditional." This teaching is also derived from the plain-sense hermeneutic. Four of the five signs--casting out devils, tongues, taking up serpents, healing the sick--are connected with the words "they shall." Which is read to be an imperative/command. One of the signs breaks this template and begins with "if" making the practice of this sign--drinking poison--optional or voluntary. Most snake handling churches do provide poison--often strychnine or carbolic acid--in their service.
"The animals that I've seen that have come from religious snake handlers were in bad condition," says Kristen Wiley, curator of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, a facility in the town of Slade that produces venom and promotes the conservation of snakes. "They did not have water. The cages had been left not cleaned for a pretty long period of time. And the other thing we noticed is there were eight or 10 copperheads in a container that was not very large." Snake-Handling Preachers Open Up About 'Takin' Up Serpents' RELIGION Snake-Handling Preachers Open Up About 'Takin' Up Serpents' What's more, she says there was no fecal material in the container, which indicated the snakes were not being fed. Riley says a snake that may be dehydrated, underweight and sick from close confinement is less likely to strike than a healthy snake. Moreover, the venom it produces is weaker. She says snake-handling preachers who don't take care of their snakes are "setting themselves up for a safer encounter during their services when they use a snake that is in bad condition to begin with."
"I think most snakes, a rattlesnake or a copperhead, if you are gentle with them after they've been in captivity and [you] pick them up gently, they won't bite you. So, it wouldn't matter what [your] religious belief was," Gibbons says.
originally posted by: GeauxHomeYoureDrunk
I would like to believe that it's because of the power of the Holy Spirit, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case.