An edited portion of a transcript of the ‘Encounter’ program on Radio National
And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, 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.
Kerry Stewart: And it emerged in the Appalachian Mountains; why there, do you think?
Ralph Hood: What it needed was a charismatic figure to model that behaviour, to start the ritual, and in Whiteoak Mountain, right here outside Chattanooga Tennessee, one of the licensed preachers in the Church of God, George Hensley, was out in the wilderness, pondering the Gospel and he saw a rattlesnake and was thinking of the verse in Mark 16, and he picked it up, and he was amazed that he was not bitten and was not harmed. And so he went back to this church, and began to preach that one could be obedient to God, handle serpents and do it with immunity.
Mark Brown: My name is Mark Brown, I live in a little community called Parrotsville, Tennessee, and I attend the House of Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.
Kerry Stewart: Do you have to be anointed to handle the snakes?
Mark Brown: We feel like you do. There’s some in the faith that they like to do it just by faith, but we teach our children and our congregation that they need to have the anointing of God to perform the works of God. And that’s just not in serpent handling, but in praying for the sick, you need to be anointed in order for the Lord to be able to move for people, and drinking poison or even some members, we handle fire, we teach that they need to have the anointing of God to do these things.
Kerry Stewart: So what happens when someone is bitten in a church service?
Mark Brown: Most of the time when someone’s bitten, whether they’re harmed or not harmed before we really know we’ll gather around and pray for him, and when there is harm, we’ll continue to pray and if they get sick, we’ll go back to someone’s house and they’ll stay there. We all stay with him till they get better.
Kerry Stewart: And if they don’t get better, how do you explain the death?
Mark Brown: We just feel that that was their appointed time to die, and whether it was through serpent bite or car wreck or a heart attack, that was just their time to leave this world.
Kerry Stewart: And you’ve had a very close experience of that. Your brother and his wife both have died from snake bite, haven’t they, in a church service?
Mark Brown: Yes.
Kerry Stewart: And so is that very hard to come to terms with, a close family like that?
Mark Brown: No, it’s a grievous time. We hate to lose anyone, and death at a young age, but the grief is more of missing them than the idea of how they left this world.