The Serpent Handlers
 
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The Serpent Handlers [Paperback]

Fred W. Brown , Jeanne McDonald
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1, 2007
Church members who take Mark 16: 17-18 as a central tenet of their faith call themselves Signs Followers. Previous accounts of the Signs Followers focused on the sensational aspects of the religion: picking up poisonous snakes, drinking strychnine, speaking in tongues.

Within these churches are several families whose history in the tradition stretches back as far as the religion itself, which dates only to 1910. In The Serpent Handlers, the authors use extensive interviews with the participants to tell the stories of three of the most prominent snake-handling families the Brown family of Cocke County, Tennessee, the Elkins family of Jolo, West Virginia, and the Coots family of Middlesboro, Kentucky.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Fred Brown, a feature writer with the Knoxville News-Sentinel, is a member of the Scripps Howard Hall of Fame. Jeanne McDonald is a recipient of the Tennessee Arts Commission/Alex Haley Fiction Fellowship and a Washington Prize for Fiction. They live in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: John F Blair Pub; 2 edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895873524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895873521
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Following the Signs January 2, 2008
Serpent handling is a controversial practice that is often sensationalized by the media. However, the adherents of the Signs Following churches generally avoid publicity. That is what makes this book so special: The believers speak for themselves in telling their own true stories in their own words. What emerges are real people and an impressive testament to an enduring tradition conveyed in moving personal accounts of individuals who are prepared to risk their lives for what they believe is obedience to the Word of God. According to Kurt Rudolf in Gnosis: The Nature And History of Gnosticism, there were Gnostic sects like The Ophites (also called Ophians or Serpentinians) and the Naassenes in the early Christian era who had some unusual views of serpents but they cannot be considered as forerunners of the Signs Following churches that follow a strict interpretation of the Bible.

Believers who take Luke 10: 19 and Mark 16: 17 - 18 as a literal part of their faith call themselves Signs Followers and are found mainly in the Appalachian mountains and the southeastern states like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio. Serpent handling is not the only sign; others are handling fire, healing the sick, taking poison and casting out demons. It is important to know that the taking up of snakes and performing the other signs are not attempts to prove anything but is done to confirm the Word of God. This is repeatedly emphasized by many of the interviewees.

These independent churches are in various ways connected to three great strands of American Protestantism: Holiness, Pentecostalism and Fundamentalism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Serpent Handlers: Three Families and Their Faith tells the stories of three families of the Signs Followers faith - a branch of Christianity originating in 1910, whose members take Mark 16: 17-18 as a central tenet of their belief. Known for the sensational aspects of their belief - picking up poisonous snakes, drinking strychnine, and speaking in tongues - Signs Followers have often been negatively portrayed by the media, and . Journalist Fred Brown earned their trust through longstanding respect, and offers The Serpent Handlers as a counterbalance. Great pains have been taking to present the stories of the serpent handlers in their own words, without extraneous or editorializing, though each individual's memoir is prefaced by with a summary of who he or she is and his or her role in the movement. A "must-read" primary source highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more about Signs Followers and their faith.
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5.0 out of 5 stars so interesting January 10, 2014
By Rose
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This was a fascinating book in which you gain insight into those who truly believe in this practice. They came to feel real and dear to me though I can't say I'm greatly inclined to go out and try their brand of religion.
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