Serpent-Handling Believers

Serpent-Handling Believers

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by Thomas Burton
     
 

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In some remote churches in East Tennessee and nearby states, Jesus' words in the sixteenth chapter of Saint Mark are taken literally: "and they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." Members of these churches describe themselves as Pentecostal-Holiness, autonomous groups of Christians with strong traditional religious… See more details below

Overview

In some remote churches in East Tennessee and nearby states, Jesus' words in the sixteenth chapter of Saint Mark are taken literally: "and they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." Members of these churches describe themselves as Pentecostal-Holiness, autonomous groups of Christians with strong traditional religious views and a fundamentalist approach to biblical interpretation. Their strong faith is based largely on personal experience. Handling serpents and fire, laying on the hands of healing, speaking in tongues, and drinking poison are seen as acts of Christian obedience that demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit. In the past these very religious people have often been distorted by the media as members of a "snake religion" or a "snake cult" because of their unorthodox beliefs and practices. Thomas Burton seeks to present a more balanced view of this generally misunderstood group in this in-depth study of serpent handlers and their religious culture. Using both oral history and scholarly research, Burton traces the evolution of Christian serpent handling from its apparent beginning in East Tennessee and explores legal and ethical issues associated with this and other unorthodox practices, allowing participants to speak for themselves through personal interviews. The result is both a dramatic presentation, through vivid photography, and a thorough analytical insight into the serpent handlers' culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
Melding oral history with scholarly research, this remarkable book explores the controversial practice among some Christians of handling poisonous serpents as an act of faithful obedience. Dramatic photographs and interviews introduce readers to some of the devoted practitioners. Burton's respectful approach does not prevent him from asking hard questions, however, as he analyzes the history of the practice and accompanying ethical and legal issues. Having produced three documents on serpent handling, Burton (English, East Tennessee State Univ.) here, too, distills the salient issues while giving readers a glimpse of the serpent-handlers' culture, as they understand it. Highly recommended.-- Cynthia Widmer, Downingtown, Pa.
Booknews
A sympathetic account of a small number of fundamental churches in east Tennessee. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780870497889
Publisher:
University of Tennessee Press
Publication date:
04/28/1993
Edition description:
1
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.30(d)

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