Hamblin and other handlers say the Bible tells people to obey the law. So he wears a seat belt while driving, obeys the speed limit and files his taxes on time.
But he won’t give up serpent handling, which he says is a command from God — even though Tennessee outlawed it in 1947 after five people died of serpent bites at churches in two years.
“It is the closest thing to heaven on earth that you could get,” he said.
Of course the article is interesting… it’s trying to frame itself as, I don’t know, accepting? “Just covering the story”? It brings to mind Robert Orsi’s contact with the “repugnant other.” And It’s interesting how the article also tries to couch itself in issues of “freedom of religion” - they should be allowed to practice their faith, although it’s been outlawed. Blurring issues of faith, politics, and practice.
Snake handlers - they’re just like us, only different!
Among the 50 or so people at the picnic were Adam Gibson and his wife, Ashley, both childhood friends of Hamblin.
Like him, they didn’t grow up in the serpent-handling movement. They first attended a service in November after Hamblin agreed to do their wedding.
Gibson used to think serpent handlers were crazy. But during a service he knelt at the church’s tiny altar and prayed for God to save his soul.
On New Year’s Eve the onetime scoffer took up his first serpent, a 4-foot-long canebrake rattler.
“It’s a great feeling to know that God is on your side,” he said.
Gibson hopes more people will join the church.
“I would like to let everyone know if you don’t have a home church, come to the Tabernacle,” he said. “We believe in the Bible, we believe in the signs — and if you come out we will treat you like family.”