Snake Handling



I just read a great book called Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington. He's a journalist who reports on, and eventually gets caught up in, Snake Handling in Alabama. It's fantastic! Tomorrow I'm preaching at the Episcopal Church I work at, and I've decided to bring a box full of rattlers!

I really like the ecstatic and mystical religion thing. It may seem funny, but it's actually part of why I enjoy being an Episcopalian, and enjoy liturgy. I came to a point in life where I didn't trust religion that drums up too much emotion, so moved to a denomination that I perceived as rational and dry. The problem, of course, is that sustainable religion isn't rational and dry. Liturgical worship, it turns out, is organized to help you ascend into the mystical and ecstatic experience of God just as much as snake swingin' is, just in a bit safer environment, and with less screaming and tongues speaking. A priest recently referred to Anglican Spirituality as a stream, with the goal being a dissolution of self into the community. In Anglicanism (as in much Islamic worship and Catholicism) one joins the community in a repetition of the same actions and words from week to week: ritual. Ritual may be a bit boring at times, but the eventual goal is an experience of transcendence. We Episcopalians lose sight of that quite frequently, but it can be a very powerful experience. Not, maybe, as powerful as tightrope walking across the back of a Diamondback, but still.

Comments

holy ghost power wes said…
I remember you mentioning the book, but didnt know that it dealt with Sand Mountain. The area incompasses a lot of Northeastern AL, and is a pretty good agricultural spot. My grandfather was a U.M. pastor with an appointment in Fyffe, AL, which is on Sand Mountain--so my mother spent some of her younger years in that area. From the stories that my uncle tells, it was quite a time and place to live as a kid. No snake handlers in my family.
Jackie said…
How did the snake handling go yesterday?
Tim Mathis said…
Unfortunately I couldn't get my hands on any rattlers for the service, so I had to handle Garter Snakes. Needless to say, the congregation was less than impressed, so they questioned my baptism in the Holy Spirit. Feeling threatened, I fled the church in tears. Not the first time, but certainly the most humiliating. I'll be back with cobras and strychnine though, so I'll soon prove my faith.

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