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Following pastor's death, young people feel poisonous snakes help them grasp faith

Recommended by Alicia Purdy

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, June 6 2012 1:14 p.m. MDT

Our take: After West Virginia Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford died recently after handling and subsequently being fatally bitten by a rattlesnake during a church service, a new generation of snake-handling Christians has emerged, breathing new life into an antiquated faith practice. In former days, snake handling Christians kept their practice largely to themselves. However, the new generation wants to not only share their risky faith, but also to help reverse laws that prohibit handling poisonous snakes in church.

Andrew Hamblin's Facebook page is filled with snippets of his life.

Making a late-night run to Taco Bell.

Watching SpongeBob on the couch with his kids.

Handling rattlesnakes in church.

Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., is part of a new generation of serpent-handling Christians who are revitalizing a century-old faith tradition in Tennessee.

While older serpent handlers were wary of outsiders, these younger believers welcome visitors and use Facebook to promote their often misunderstood and illegal version of Christianity. They want to show the beauty and power of their extreme form of spirituality. And they hope eventually to reverse a state ban on handling snakes in church.

Since the early 1900s, a handful of true believers in Eastern Tennessee and other parts of Appalachia have practiced the so-called signs of the gospel, found in a little-known passage in the King James Version of the Gospel of Mark.

Read more about Snake handling Christians on USA Today.

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