A “FLAMBOYANT” Virginian pentecostal pastor who believed that the Bible instructed Christians to handle serpents as a test of their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, their trust in God alone would heal them – has died as a result of a rattlesnake bite.
According to this report, Mark Randal “Mack”Wolford, from West Virginia, whose serpent-handling skills were profiled last November in The Washington Post Magazine, hoped an outdoor service he had planned for last Sunday at an isolated state park would be:
A ‘homecoming like the old days’, full of folks speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a ‘great time’.
But it was not the sort of homecoming he foresaw. Instead, Wolford, who turned 44 the previous day, was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He died late Sunday, and now stands in line for a Darwin Award, which recognises individuals who contribute to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool by putting themselves (unnecessarily) in life-threatening situations.
Randall and other crazy believers in serpent-handling cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice:
And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
The son of a serpent handler who himself died in 1983 after being bitten, Wolford was trying to keep the practice alive, both in West Virginia, where it is legal, and in neighboring states where it is not. Last Sunday started as a festive outdoor service on a sunny afternoon at Panther Wildlife Management Area, a state park roughly 80 miles west of Bluefield, West Virginia. In the preceding days, Wolford had posted several teasers on his Facebook page asking people to attend. On May 23 he wrote:
Praise the Lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother.
About 30 minutes into the service, his sister said, Wolford passed a yellow timber rattlesnake to a church member and his mother.
He laid it on the ground, and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh.
A state forester, who was not authorised to speak on the record, said park officials were unaware of Wolford’s activities.
Had we known he had poisonous animals, we would have never allowed it.
The festivities came to a halt shortly thereafter, and Wolford was taken back to a relative’s house in Bluefield to recover, as he always had when suffering from previous snake bites. By late afternoon, it was clear that this time was different, and desperate messages began flying about on Facebook, asking for prayer.
Hat tip: Terry Sanderson
UPDATE: Yesterday’s earthquake in Italy claimed the life of parish priest in the town of Rovereto di Novi. He was said to have been killed by a falling beam when he went back into his church to save a Madonna statue.