A young man, in one of two Presbyterian Churches I pastored, hunted and bagged rattlers for them on occasion, and told me of a time when he had a full sack lying on the floor of his home - he kicked and poked it around, then brought it to the church, and when the time came to "prove your faith" with snakes, the snakes were so angry, they bit everyone!
Snake-handling to prove faith is a fascinating folk practice with a decided "political" flavor.
In a nutshell, if you're bit and die, and they loved you, then it was simply the Lord's time to call you home.
If they didn't like you, you died because you didn't have enough faith.
Either way, whatever happened, there was a "reason" for it that allowed the snake-handling worldview to remain intact. Nothing could sway the faith of the faithful. Whatever happened - oh well, they had a way of incorporating it into their worldview.
Such are the diehard Republicans who confessed to the world the power and the glory of their god who would sweep Romney/Ryan into office!
A god who would cleanse the nation of Roe v Wade, do away with terrible communist unions, put a lid on uppity women and people of color, rid our schools of evolution, do something about all those free-loading illegals and plunge us into the glories of religious war against all those dadgum Muslims!
Well, it didn't quite turn out that way.
It seems that America, rather decisively, said No!
So, here's the deal.
These folks prayed for god to intervene and save America. They believed it was doing to happen.
Well, this is clearly of the devil.
It can't be god's will.
Or, it might be god's judgment on a godless nation.
What they cannot accept is that it might simply be god's answer to their prayers, to intervene on behalf of the nation, for the sake of the future, for what is right and good.
Oh no. None of that.
Obama is a socialist, and worse than that, a man of color who likes gays. He isn't even an American.
In reality, there is no change looming on the horizon for those who handle snakes. Whatever happens, their worldview goes on, unchallenged, unchanged.
They're angry at the devil, that's for sure, for spoiling their plans, and angry at the godless people around them who choose the ways of wickedness.
This backwood's ignorance has been brewing for 200 years, ever since the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, through the Scopes Trial of 1925, Billy Graham in a Los Angeles tent, 1949 - and so on. With Graham, it emerged from the woods of America and soon took center stage.
What with megachurches and TV (fundamentalism was a phenomenon waiting for TV), it blew across the American landscape like a hurricane. Add to that private schools and home-schooling, and for the last 50 years, along with Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan, a virulent form of christianity, a pro-capital, America-first, brand of faith, a faith full of hatred and violent images, an anti-science faith, has been shaping faith and culture for millions of Americans.
It will take a long time to root this out of the American mindset. It will retreat, and we'll see many of the megachurches close their doors and sell their campuses to community colleges, so that real learning might occur in those buildings mostly built on ignorance, fear and unrelenting pride.
Yet, this kind of junk is always part of human DNA - call it original sin, if you will, but in some form or other, it will re-emerge, ready to take on the demons of the world, offering a brand of faith, "bigger, better, brighter" than others, and willing to lead this nation, or other nations, into insanity once again.
Like those snake-handlers in West Virginia, nothing can sway their faith. Whatever happens, they have a reason for it, a reason that leaves their crazy faith intact!