This week on the Carolina Snowflakes Podcast we take a look at the history and legends surrounding the evangelical acts of taking up serpents and drinking poison, in our episode titled “Bible Belt Holdin’ Up My Pants”. What would compel someone to hold snakes and drink poison and have they lost their minds? Possibly. Snake handling is for sure an unusual practice and mostly illegal. Mostly. Believe it or not, it’s still happening within small congregations around the south and deep in Appalachia, where it first began.
We feel that to fully understand these practices it’s best to start with the definition of tradition. We look at what constitutes a tradition and how it differs from laws, practices and norms. Although used interchangeably, these terms are in fact, different from one another. At what point does a practice become harmful and how can a harmful practice be changed or improved upon without upheaval of the tradition it supports?
We do our best to answer this question by sharing stories of our own experiences of evangelical church-goings and how they affected our opinions today. We also tell a fascinating true story of Haywood County, North Carolina Sheriff, Jack Arrington, being bitten by a poisonous snake while trying to arrest a Holy Roller Appalachian preacher named Charles Prince. Prince believed the righteous would be protected from harm so he sure as heck wasn’t going to be taken down easily.
Given the dangerous nature of snake handling and drinking strychnine, we didn’t attempt to perform either act ourselves, but we did watch an interview with a Pentecostal preacher from West Virginia who does both of these things. He explains his rationale for supporting the practices and how it’s an integral part of his faith. We highly recommend you watch this interview too and we talk a bit about the YouTube channel where the interview can be found: Soft White Underbelly. It’s a great channel created by a photo journalist named Mark Laita. Laita has spent the last 3 years interviewing people who live on the fringes of society. Pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, KKK members, and more recently, people living deep in the heart of Appalachia. Check his channel out.
Lastly, since we’re on the topic of religion in the south we discuss life in the Bible Belt and the interesting competition between southern cities to be deemed the official “Buckle” of the big ol belt. There are a handful of cities who make a strong case for being the official “Buckle” of the Bible Belt, including our very own Greenville, South Carolina. Did you know everyone wants to be the buckle?
Listen today to hear all this and more!