published Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Snake-handling believers find joy in test of faith

Andrew Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., says serpent handling is “the closest thing to heaven on earth that you could get.”
Andrew Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., says serpent handling is “the closest thing to heaven on earth that you could get.”
Photo by The Tennessean /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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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.

Read more at the Tennessean.

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