The Serpent and the Spirit: Glenn Summerford's Story

The Serpent and the Spirit: Glenn Summerford's Story

by Thomas Burton
     
 

“A snake handler convicted of the attempted murder of his wife by means of serpent bite is serving ninety-nine years in prison. The reader is gradually pulled into an increasingly complex story as Thomas Burton allows the many individuals involved in this event to tell their stories. Readers are less likely to find themselves concerned with what “really

Overview

“A snake handler convicted of the attempted murder of his wife by means of serpent bite is serving ninety-nine years in prison. The reader is gradually pulled into an increasingly complex story as Thomas Burton allows the many individuals involved in this event to tell their stories. Readers are less likely to find themselves concerned with what “really” happened than with larger issues they too will become involved in. this is more than a story about the headline ‘preacher tries to murder wife - with rattlesnakes!” it is a story of individuals struggling with their faith and their fate under the steady gaze of their God.” —Ralph W. Hood Jr., winner of the American Psychological Association’s William James Award in the psychology of religion

In this comprehensive, multilayered set of narratives, the story of Glenn Summerford’s fall from grace is told by its participants, through interviews, court documents, and other primary sources. Free of either prejudice against or romanticizing about the snake-handling Holiness religion, this book presents an absorbing story of a fascinating group of people, while allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about Summerford’s guilt or innocence. The Serpent and the Spirit is a startling commentary on truth and its representation, religion and its expression, humanity and its flaws.

Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the winner of the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award.
 

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Burton (Serpent-Handling Believers) sets out to uncover the facts of the Scottboro, AL, criminal case of snake-handler preacher Glenn Summerford and leads us on a journey through the complexity of the human condition. In 1991, thinking she was going to die from the snake venom coursing through her veins, Darlene Summerford asked her sister to call an ambulance. Suicide notes were found at her house, but her husband, the head preacher at the Church of Jesus with Signs, was accused of forcing his wife, at gunpoint, to thrust her hand into a rattlesnake cage kept in the shed behind the house. Glenn, a previously convicted felon, was sentenced to serve 99 years in prison. Through a series of monologs from individuals involved in the trial and other information from the court proceedings, Burton drags the reader through the heavy drinking, infidelities, and troubled lives of the characters, and we are asked to ponder whether justice was done while relying on the faded memories of the participants. Eventually, this story of attempted murder through the snake-handling Holiness tradition made national headlines, but this text does not help clarify the issues. An optional purchase for legal and larger religious collections.-L. Kriz, West Des Moines P.L., IA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781572332461
Publisher:
Univ Tennessee Press
Publication date:
06/28/2004
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the winner of the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award.

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