Pentecostal, Holiness and Evangelical Christians are a funny bunch. Despite being in the minority as far as Christian denominations go, they are incredibly entertaining and lively compared to other more drab forms of the religion. Some of the reasons why this is the case are because they are known to speak in tongues – a jibber jabbering, scat-style of speech that no one else understands. They place firm belief in personal experience with God and they also engage in a tradition of ‘snake swinging’.
You see, Pentecostals believe in the inerrancy of the bible. This means that they take the words that are written 100% literally. So when the book, in the Gospel according to Mark (16:17-18) says the below, they take it literally. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
The act of Snake Swinging was popularized sometime after 1910 when converted Pentecostal preacher George Went Hensley began using live snakes in his services. The practice, which remains very much isolated to redneck areas of the United States continues in the minority to this day. The video below shows a preacher wildly swinging a rattlesnake around his head whilst babbling incoherently. The congregation absolutely love the show and you can tell that half of them are just there for the thrill of the chance of a bite. Well, the preacher, who is also the son of preacher is not really respecting the snake, happy in the knowledge that God will protect him.
Ironically the man’s father died of a snake bite performing the exact same stunt. Well, somewhat predictably, the snake strikes above the man’s ear. He continues awhile with blood pouring down his face. But after some time the venom takes hold and he begins vomiting and screaming. He is rushed to hospital, aided by a man in overalls and a red shirt, fresh from the farm.