News and Notes – 7/17/2008

Snakes in a church. The pastor of a church in Kentucky was arrested for the illegal possession of venomous snakes. Apparently, the church practices snake handling in its services. Wildlife officers confiscated over 100 snakes including 42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, three cottonmouth water moccasins, a western diamondback rattlesnake, two cobras and a puff adder.

Wrong house. Contractors razed the wrong house in Jackson, Mississippi after pranksters moved the demolition sign from the lot next door. Owner Annie Wilson is trying to get just compensation for the mistaken demolition of her house with everything in it.

Pay toilets. No, you don’t pay to use these toilets. The government pays you to use them. Dozens of people are lining up to use the toilets in Musiri, a remote town in India, where authorities are succeeding in keeping street corners clean with the new scheme.


  1. 3D says:

    It’s not very often that one American Christian reports on the problematic behavior of another American Christian. I think Ray’s humble post, about the snakehandlers, means more than what Ray’s neutral tone might suggest.

    Or am I imagining things?

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    3D – Now you’ve got me interested in what things you might be imagining!

    Although I do find the whole idea of snake handling in churches problematic and theologically misguided, my main reason in posting this particular piece is just that I found it interesting — especially the list of snakes involved! News and Notes is a regular feature on the blog where I post interesting tidbits I’ve found along the way. They usually have little to no agenda, although browsing through their archives would probably reveal some things about my personality and interests.

    As far as shortcomings in the American church, we have plenty. It is not a particular focus of this blog, but from time to time I post on things as they come up.

  3. Ray Fowler says:

    Hmmm, looks like this isn’t the first time I have included problem pastoral behavior under News and Notes. I just did a quick search through the archives and found this one too: News and Notes – 6/9/2007

  4. 3D says:

    Let’s just let my imaginings float off where they will… Still, I assumed that snakehandling derived from something penticostal in Acts. But that’s not true, the verse is from Mark — our earliest Gospel?

    “They shall take up serpents… (Mark 16:17-18)”

    It must be a fascinating context that caused Mark to include that.

  5. Ray Fowler says:

    Yes, you are correct, the basis for the practice goes back to the verses you identified in Mark. These verses also mention driving out demons, speaking in tongues, drinking deadly poison, and healing by the laying on of hands.

    Although driving out demons and healing are mentioned and attested elsewhere in Scripture, this is the only place where we read about handling snakes and drinking poison. Some people point to Paul’s experience with the viper in Acts 28:1-6 as a possible fulfillment of this verse.

    Interestingly, Mark 16:9-20 is one of the few lengthy portions of the Bible whose authenticity is disputed even by conservative Christians. Most Bibles will footnote this section with an explanation that it is not found in the most reliable early manuscripts.

    Even if the passage is authentic, however, I don’t think it is meant to teach us to pick up snakes or drink poison as a way of expressing our faith. The Bible also says we should not test God. This would seem rather to be a list of the various ways that God may miraculously preserve his people. Notice the word “may” – most of the disciples were martyred for their faith.

  6. 3D says:

    Good points, interesting. I checked my Scofield Bible (it’s what I’ve got), and indeed, it includes a footnote “not found in the two most ancient mss..”

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