The other day I saw a news headline that said:
“Young snake handlers say they grasp the power of faith.”
My first thought was, “Please let them not be from the south.”
As a resident of the Bible Belt, you kind of always hope that “interesting” news like this is happening somewhere else. Seriously, would it kill Maine to take on just one of these weird evangelical stories? How come we in the south have to hog them all?
But let’s be honest, there was no way that story was not about the Bible Belt. I grew up in Massachusetts, and I didn’t know snake handling existed. Lobster handling? Mussel handling? Chowda’ handling? Yes. Snake? No.
So I quickly changed my thought to, “Please let them not be from Tennessee.” This thought is less about national perception and more about me not wanting to be in close proximity to amateurs who are illegally (and casually) transporting pit vipers. I’m weird like that.
But, nope, the church in question is in Tennessee. So being the journalistic blogger I am, committed to getting to the heart of a story through research and careful analysis, I grabbed my “press hat” and called my friend Matthew Paul Turner. Together, we spent 6 months embedded in the snake church. It was slow work at first, people look at you weird if you show up at a church on a Sunday and just yell, “Where are the snakes? Get to the snake part! Snakes! Snakes! Snakes!”
In the months that would come, though, we would both grow a lot. Matthew proved to be great at timber rattlesnakes. He’s got this little Ace of Bass song he sings to them that really seems to relax the snakes. Me? I was more of a diamondback guy myself.
Ultimately, we both ended up leaving the church because there wasn’t enough “meat.” It was a snake seeker friendly church. Lot of garter snakes, very little cobras. I wasn’t getting fed. I need deep Bible and black mambas. Not casual worship music and corn snakes.