Andrew Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., holds up two rattlesnakes during a church service. For more than 100 years, small Pentecostal churches in East Tennessee and other parts of Appalachia have handled poisonous snakes and drunk strychnine during their services.
Now they may make him a religious liberty crusader.
Officials from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency raided the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollete on Thursday (Nov. 7) and seized 53 venomous snakes — including timber rattlesnakes, copperheads and several exotic breeds.
They cited the Rev. Andrew Hamblin, the church’s pastor and co-star of the National Geographic series “Snake Salvation,” and plan to charge him with 53 count of violating a state ban on possessing venomous snakes at a court hearing on Friday. Each count carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
Tennessee has banned serpent handling in churches since 1947; state wildlife regulations allow zoos and schools to own poisonous snakes, but not churches.
Hamblin says state law violates his congregation’s religious liberty. He and church members believe the Bible commands them to handle serpents in worship, based on a New Testament passage in the Gospel of Mark.
We’re on the wrong track here. First, why now after he has already done his TV show and handled snakes? Where were the cops? This is like a reality show on robbing banks or rape where months later they decide to arrest the perp. What if someone dies from trying this after seeing the show because they believe it’s OK because it was on reality TV? If snake salvation isn’t really sufficiently dangerous to wait for months to initiate charges…
Oh… wait a minute…
We should remove these heinous, upstart, religion-hating laws and encourage this faithful worship. Let’s go ahead and test this religion. Let people handle poisonous snakes and drink strychnine all they want. If their faith is true they will live and be saved. It’s a free country and we know this isn’t self harm because the bible says they are protected.
It’s all about religious liberty. Even if some die they had their choice. Choice and consequence are essential to free will, choosing Christ. It’s what it’s all about. You must choose faith. You must choose Christ. The leap of faith must be real or the faith is filled with charlatons. That’s the whole point. To make that leap of eternity with certainty.
Nor should handlers be trained. Ignorance of snake handling is the greatest proof that it is god’s will they be saved. Hell, if you’ve been trained, where’s the faith, where’s the salvation. That’s just being a lunch-room snake handler.
Since no atheists, wait, uhhh, 2 maybe 3, have been allowed, umm, voted, into political office there should be a faith test to be certain some atheists, or other unfaithful, haven’t snuck through the system. Every politician should handle a snake or drink strychnine to prove they are worthy of office. If they can’t be saved by Christ why would we want them voting on laws or representing us?
Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religion in Latin America. We can use faith as an immigration test. Rather than those huge fences, we have border stops where prospective immigrants can play with the snakes and drink the potion. I’m sure it’s no problem as stated in the gospel of Mark. We want real faith in our nation founded on faith.
It would also save so much money as there are already many poisonous snakes in the area. Why spend hours stripping a car looking for drugs or illegals. A quick sip or grab and if they live they are on their way! If not, we didn’t want them. And there’s no problem with lack of space to bury those few who fail. If some do fail, too bad, they were immoral anyway and would make lousy citizens. It would also save prople from that awful process of naturalization–no one nows that stuff anyway.
Instead of prayer in schools we could have a real profession of faith. What good is prayer? Anyone can do it. But handling snakes or drinking strychnine. Now, there’s a true believer. Instead of entrance exams and report cards students could play with the snakes. I bet students will work a lot harder in their studies knowing they have snakes to answer to.
Yes, I suppose some people will be deathly afraid of snakes and might accidentally die of fright before their possible salvation. To prevent this the drinking of strychnine can always be accepted as a substitute. You can do one or the other. Or both if you are a real show off.
This would eliminate all those iffy issues of Pascal’s Wager, that duplicitous, evil betting on god. What’s the point of waiting till your deathbed to repent? If you want to bet on your salvation, grab a snake, drink a brew. Find out now. Let’s end this conundrum of uncertainty! Quick sip and you’re good to go.
The best part is even if you are not saved, you’ve died but you will now know for sure. No more worries, doubts, questions of grace or predestination. Don’t worry. Hell, isn’t really brimstone and fire, it’s just not being with god. It won’t matter because at least you’ll know. The fires of doubt will be gone forever. It’s time we got back to the fundamentals and tested our faith!
Jim Newman, bright and well