Darlings, I’ve been listening and watching these past few weeks to the goings on at the Campbell County Commission and other places and I’m gob smacked by what I’ve been hearing and seeing. For months, I’ve been raising a ruckus about not allowing people to speak at the Campbell County Commission Meeting and being subjected to the intolerance of many of our elected officials. But, something else has gotten my attention.

Normally, I don’t comment on religion in this column because I don’t think you can Editorialize about religion as to how some folks want to practice their religion, their struggles with their faith, and how they view their world through their faith. Editorials are for commenting and pointing out some things that may have gotten lost in the shuffle; not preaching regarding The Teaching.

I’ve kept to this philosophy until just recently, but when I was watching the news and Campbell County was mentioned and what they were reporting and showing was a church here that once again, has applied the use of snakes in their services as an example of their faith in God and testing their faith, as a literal translation from the Bible. This practice is as simple as it is complicated because these folks believe that their faith in God is stronger than the nature of the snake to bite you when you fool with it!

And when a request was made that our Campbell County Commission make an effort to have the law against this practice withdrawn by requesting that it be taken up in Nashville, it became a subject to be discussed in an Editorial. By the way, the request to do so, was not passed.

This Taking Up of Serpents or as quoted from Mark 16:17, 18; has been practiced, discussed, and talked about for years in this area. But it started long before that when the snake was made a symbol of Satan. I guess if you’re afraid of something, giving it a name is what you do. I’ve never been afraid of snakes, but I do respect the fact that they are, just as I am, God’s creation and they do have a purpose. And it seems that the purpose, by some, is to make them a symbol of an evil creation. Of course, I don’t believe that but that doesn’t make those, who do believe that, wrong.

Just as some folks believe that if you don’t believe in Jesus the Christ, the way they do, you are going to hell! When I hear that, all I hear is their fear and not mine and the only way they can be right is to judge me as being wrong. How Christian is that? Did Jesus do that to people? Well, some folks don’t believe that Jesus the Christ was born a Jew and that he spoke to people and tried to explain to them the difference between the Letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law. He spoke many times, in parables (a simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson). These parables, were not meant to be taken as something that was literal, a factual statement, but as a way of explaining something in terms that one could relate to.

It’s a known fact, the sincerity of some of those who have in the past, handled snakes, is genuine. And it’s also a fact, that many of these people have died as a result of being bitten by the Rattle Snakes they used in these services. It’s another fact, that people have been hoodwinked and scammed by some so-called preachers who have used snakes that had been defanged and their venom sacs removed. Others even injected themselves with small amounts of venom to build up a tolerance. I don’t believe that is the case here, but it does bring back a memory of my childhood, when my Mam Maw took me to a church in Duff to witness the taking up of serpents.

She explained that this was a test of faith. It being that God would not allow the venom to harm the handler of the snake if their faith was stronger. Well, we went and there a preacher jumping around with snakes in both hands and one of those snakes bit him almost in his eye. The preacher went down and I found out, that he was buried a few days later. Mam Maw took me home and I knew by her silence, that I shouldn’t ask any questions. It was weeks later and when we were out in her garden, a snake slithered between some tomato plants and when we didn’t react, the snake just laid there. Of course, I took that opportunity to say, “Mam Maw, I guess when that snake bit that preacher, God was speaking through the snake.” Mam Maw didn’t say a word as we both stood there and watched that snake, get a rodent that had been chewing on Mam Maw’s plants.

Because of so many folks being hurt, killed, and hoodwinked by this handling of snakes, eventually, laws were passed to prevent this practice. And what about the rights of the snakes? If they are a part of Creation, as we are, do they not deserve to be treated with respect and left alone and not to be used as a Symbol of Evil? Or as a test of true faith?

Are we really meant to test our faith in God with serpents, walking on fire, swallowing arsenic? Is such a test of faith God’s requirement or is that a human requirement?

It’s just a matter of learning . . . unlearning . . . and . . . relearning.

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