Monday, September 24, 2007

They Shall Take Up Serpents

A couple of friends have asked me about a statement on my Facebook profile. I had never listed my religious views until recently. I avoided stating my religious views because I find it difficult to condense my religious views into a single word or two. I could fill in the blank with "Christian." That would probably be enough, but Christian is quite a broad category and others might want to ask what particular sub-set of Christianity I adhere to. Even that is hard to answer as it all depends on which way one chooses to slice the "Christian pie."

I could have simplified things even further by stating that I am a member of the Church of Christ. Yet my heritage in the Church of Christ compels me to resist such a "denominational" identification. One of the more inspiring slogans of the Churches of Christ has been "Christians Only." In the earliest years of the Stone-Campbell movement, Rice Haggard and Barton Stone advocated that the name Christian was enough. I appreciate that sentiment.

Nevertheless, I did not want to leave the "religious views" entry on Facebook empty. So with my frustration building over my inability to define my faith and practice as a follower of Christ in a single word, I began to wonder if anyone could truly reduce their spirituality to one term. Then it struck me that the most honestly and simply labelled of any faith groups are those backwoods literalists the snake-handlers. They take the whole Bible quite literally - including Mark 16:18 which encourages the truly faithful to take up poisonous snakes without harm. No wiggle room here. This bunch truly believes that if God said it that settles it. I don't know if these churches accept the label "snake-handler" or if they find it derogatory, but somehow I don't think a person who regularly carries a live copperhead around in worship really gets offended by too much at all.

My Facebook entry is a sort of nod to the snake-handlers. I suggest that snake-handling has been overlooked for too long and more congregations should consider the practice. Forget the worship wars and the endless debates on contemporary versus traditional worship; just bring in the box of angry rattlers. I doubt that there would be too much concern about praise teams or clapping during hymns if we opened a box of cobras in the assembly. Preaching takes on new vistas when one considers snake handling. Who cares about the proper execution of homiletical moves when you are holding a cottonmouth above your head! Of course the greatest potential for snake handling is in the area of church discipline. Church members might strive to be more charitable and sober-minded when given the option of personal accountability or a dance with a diamondback rattler.

So, my sarcastic, self-imposed religious tag on my Facebook profile is simply a jab at any attempt to reduce one's Christian faith to a few words. No, I am not really snake handler. I couldn't do it. I am just not a good enough biblical literalist.


Cary said...

Chris Flanders had his as "post-foundationalist missional neo-restorationist catholic."

Chris Benjamin said...

See, I have no idea what Flanders means by that. Snake handler just gets to the heart of single-issue Christianity.

preacherman said...

I am glad you are posting again.
It has been a while since I have check your blog and wanted you to know that I have added you to my faves. and will be reading it as often as I can. I enjoyed reading your blog. If the snake handler is a go for it! :-) Love for you to check mine anytime; you are welcome anytime to comment on any discussion that is going on. Again , God bless and hope you have a great week.