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3 Bumps

'Serpent-Handling' West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite

A "serpent-handling" West Virginia pastor died after his rattlesnake bit him during a church ritual, just as the man had apparently watched a snake kill his father years before.

Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford, 44, hosted an outdoor service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia Sunday, which he touted on his Facebook page prior to the event.

"I am looking for a great time this Sunday," Wolford wrote May 22, according to the Washington Post. "It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good 'ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers."

Robin Vanover, Wolford's sister, told the Washington Post that 30 minutes into the outdoor service, Wolford passed around a poisonous timber rattlesnake, which eventually bit him.

"He laid it on the ground," Vanover said in the interview, "and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh."


At what point does it go from being a sign of one's faith, to just a really bad idea? I mean the EXACT SAME THING happened to this guy's dad. Aren't we supposed to learn from our parent's mistakes, especially when it's deadly!


Asked by KristiS11384 at 12:36 AM on May. 31, 2012 in Religious Debate

Level 45 (208,469 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (20)
  • I've been to snake-handling churches when I was younger and living in Ky.
    Wanted yo see what it was all about...I was young and dumb and those snake handling, God fearing people are CRAZY!
    Speaking in tongue, handling poisonous snakes! WTH! CRAZY I TELL YOU!

    Answer by PMSMom10 at 12:51 AM on May. 31, 2012

  • I was going to make the exact same comment as luvmygrlz - Scripture says that we should not put the Lord to the test. @adnilm - what I've heard people say is not so much that people are evil if they get bitten, but that they didn't have enough faith - a very dangerous way of thinking! It's almost like "I double-dare you...are you skeered?"

    @PMSMom - I don't think you can equate speaking in tongues with snake-handling. There are many Christians who pray in tongues but do not put the Lord to the test by doing stupid (yes, I did say that) things like handling snakes. Even if you don't believe that praying in tongues is real, you would have to agree that it is not harmful like snake-handling or drinking poison.

    Answer by Iamgr8teful at 12:16 PM on May. 31, 2012

  • This practice is about like jumping off a cliff and expecting to grow wings. You don't test God (Luke 4:12)

    Answer by luvmygrlz at 12:49 AM on May. 31, 2012

  • And here we have an example of natural selection at work.  


    Answer by beeky at 5:56 AM on May. 31, 2012

  • The belief is based on this snippet from Mark. Theirs is a literal take on it. You are dealing with barely educated people, practicing what their parents did. They believe if they are bit and die, they must have been evil.
    Mark 16:17-18

    King James Version (KJV)

    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

    18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
    And from Luke

    Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
    It's also illegal in most states

    Answer by adnilm at 8:56 AM on May. 31, 2012


    Answer by FreeForAll at 1:13 AM on May. 31, 2012

  • gotta say when i saw this on Yahoo! my first thought was pretty cold. if you do stupid things its going to come back to bite you (pun intended). God's not going to protect you from your own stupidity. this man had a brain and he chose not to dumb...

    Answer by okmanders at 2:14 AM on May. 31, 2012

  • but this is the first time I remember seeing it make the news, at least in the past few years.

    There probably aren't a lot of them left to make the news. Herd had to be pretty thinned out by now.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 4:24 AM on May. 31, 2012

  • It's happened a lot around here (I live in VA about 1.5 hours, maybe, from where he died) back in the day. I've lost count of the number of stories my grandparents told me about people they KNEW dying because of this exact thing, but this is the first time I remember seeing it make the news, at least in the past few years. I think some might have made local news, but never like this. I've personally never understood the snake handling churches. I believe in divine intervention, but I don't think any deity is going to save you if you intentionally do something stupid to basically test their ability to save you, which IMO is what this is. It's like jumping off a building, or setting yourself on fire. He really should have learned from his father's mistake, IMO.

    Answer by Mrs.BAT at 3:35 AM on May. 31, 2012

  • Forest Gump had it right: "Stupid is as stupid does."

    Answer by ldmrmom at 10:39 AM on May. 31, 2012