That took me for ever to read (I have to scroll back and forth with my browser) but I enjoyed it, very informative. I'm not converting just yet but I can see where they're coming from for sure. I was raised Pentacostal myself and grasp the concept of protection and healing by the Holy Spirit. I found the socio-economic side of the history especially interesting. The suggestion that they used these rituals to demonstrate that God is on their side and not on the side of the "evil capitalist" mine owners made me wonder if the modern snake handlers form part of the pro-capitalist religious right in America. I saw a documentary done in the '70's about some Kentucky miners that were trying to unionize. The owners hired scabs to replace them and used bats, clubs and guns to penetrate the workers picket line. I didn't think much of it at the time but these workers were constantly praying and calling on God to help them and there families to overcome the company's "gun thugs". I wonder now if some of the workers might have been snake handlers. Even if they were not, their faith and their circumstance, even their geography was very simillar. If the modern snake handlers are now Republicans at the voter's booth I find this to be very conflicted. It doesn't jive with the idea of also having miner's union meetings at the local church as those workers had. I know you've dug up a lot of info already, SCR but I'm hoping you can further enlighten me on the political beliefs of this very interesting group of people.
I feel a little light headed... maybe you should drive...