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One of the highlights of last weekend’s conference was learning about the laws governing snake-handling. This dangerous practice is relatively widespread in the Appalachian region, in spite of documented bites and deaths.
As an old professor with a long white beard described his efforts to defend snake-handling preachers, the room hung on his every word. Why allow people to play with poisonous snakes? In his mind, we should because we don’t over-regulate dangerous, secular activities like rock climbing or bear hunting.
I loved hearing his perspective, because, as a journalist seeking more page views, I regularly have to resist the temptation to find really weird faith practices and point them out for people to gawk at. But, as the professor noted, that doesn’t lead to more understanding, and it also doesn’t acknowledge all the weird things I do that I’d rather not see featured on the front page.
As Alec Ryrie, author of “Protestants” says, “Condemning ugly beliefs is easy, but it is also worth the effort to understand why people (believe) them.”
FRESH OFF THE PRESS FROM ME
TOP RELIGION READS
The search for Aaron Rodgers, ESPN the Magazine
‘Nats Mass’ packs the pews (and then the stands), National Catholic Reporter
In Amish country, the future is calling, The New York Times
JUST FOR FUN