Century Marks

Century Marks

Snakes in the pew

Snake Salva­tion, a reality show featuring snake-handling Pentecostal preachers, is scheduled to begin airing this month on the National Geographic Channel. The series will feature Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tennessee, and Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Kentucky. They are among a handful of believers in Appalachia who practice the so-called signs of the gospel, found in Mark 16. Coots said the series will feature scenes from church services in which worshipers handle snakes, as well as the everyday scenes of people living out their faith (RNS).

Banned therapy

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law barring licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight. Christie said the health risks of trying to change a child’s sexual orientation, as identified by the American Psychological Association, trump parental choice in this case. Christie reiterated his belief that people are born gay and that homosexuality is not a sin, a view inconsistent with his Catholic faith. In June, the leader of Exodus International, a Christian ministry that worked to help people repress same-sex attraction, announced the closing of Exodus (AP).


More than 60 Egyp­tian churches have been attacked, vandalized and in some cases set on fire since the bloody attack by security forces on Islamist camps in Cairo last month. The military regime is blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for these attacks against Christians. However, a high-ranking Western official said there’s little evidence of that. The attacks in some cases involved Islamist vigilantes working with thugs. Most of the attacks on churches have been in the Nile Valley. Some of the attacks seem motivated by revenge against Christians for their support of the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi (Washington Post, August 20).

Outreach problem

Some questions that visitors to churches aren’t asking, but that churches are trying to answer anyway: How soon can I get involved with your committees? Will you please single me out in front of all the people during worship this morning? Will you please send some “callers” by my house and interrupt me while I fix dinner? Does this church have weekly meetings, rehearsals and other activities that will consume most of our family’s free time? I need more paperwork! Can you give me a folder filled with glossy pamphlets, old newsletters and denominational statements of belief? (Ministry Matters, August 13).

Keep hope alive

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former archbishop of Buenos Aires and now Pope Francis, was accused during Argentina’s dirty war of not protecting leftist clergy, some of whom were killed by right-wing death squads. After that period, Bergoglio tripled the number of so-called slum priests, opened new chapels for them and paid to repair soccer fields in their neighborhoods. He visited them frequently, arriving alone on a bus. Recently, Pope Francis telephoned a drug rehabilitation center that was celebrating its fifth anniversary and left this message: “Don’t let them steal your hope” (Chicago Tribune, August 18).