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July 17th, 2012
11:53 PM ET

"They shall take up serpents" Pastor preaches fire and snakes

In the heart of Appalachia, this church practices Christianity much differently than most. They dance with deadly snakes as part of their service.

CNN’s Gary Tuchman visited these serpent-handling preachers in Tennessee. Andrew Hamblin, a 21-year-old pastor, says he knows the practice is illegal in the state. “If someone was to get bitten I know the authorities would come in on us and probably shut us down,” he tells Tuchman. “But now if it’s their appointed time to die there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.”

The Gospel of Mark 16:18 says “They shall take up serpents…” and that is the reason these churches do so literally. Pastor Mack Wolford of West Virginia died after receiving a snake bite in one of these ceremonies. His father died the same way 30 years ago.

Hamblin has been bitten four times in the past two years and says he’s prepared to lose his life to a snake bite if god determines that’s how he should go. “I thought about it,” he says to Tuchman, “but that’s why it pays to be ready spiritually.”

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