Phobia of snakes
Salvation on Sand Mountain is a story about Dennis Covington; the author of the book and it speaks about his findings as he goes from covering Glenn Summerford’s trial. Summerford is accused of attempted murder as he tried to kill his beloved wife using poisonous snakes. In his whereabouts at the mountains, he experiences a snake handling church in Appalachia, and things turn bizarre when he meets the irresistible world of unshakable faith. He is introduced to the world of holiness snake handling, and his journey into the mysterious faith begins. Afterward, he discovers that he has found his people within the strange faith, but he must come back to reality where he belongs. Covington advises people to step out of their comfort zone and explore new experiences as he had done on the Sand Mountains. According to him, knowing where you come from is a good thing, but it is worse to remain there (pg.237).
The biggest issues in the book are the practices of snake handling and strychnine drinking. Snakes are considered to be extremely dangerous and vicious animals that can cause havoc to a man; however, in the book we see daring people playing with snakes in the name of religion. Covington explains just how easy it seems to handle the poisonous snakes at the sand mountain as he narrates his experiences in a sequential manner. At first, he had a phobia of snakes, but his fear went with the wind when he reached the mysterious mountain. He was attracted to the region by a shocking revelation that a known pastor attempted to murder his wife by unleashing venomous snakes on her. As he is through with his pursuit of the case, he does not go home but rather begins a new search for his roots. All this begins with a simple research on the practice of snake handling and discovers that he has a mutual relation with the strange people. In the book, we see him confessing that he has found solace in the practice of snake handling and that he belongs to the sect. The story provides significant teachings about the need to control our curiosities and not engage in dangerous activities to fulfill them. Dennis found himself deep in the religion while he was to attend only one of Pastor Summerford’s church services. In the process, his curiosity grows by the day as he digs deeper into the roots of snake handlers and even tries to trace his family members in the cultic religion.
How Covington handles the issue of snake handling and strychnine drinking
Initially, Covington did not believe in the practice of snake handling and poison drinking as he termed them as despicable trends. His views were that humans were not supposed to interact with the dangerous and devilish creatures as it was taboo. He believed that drinking snakes' poison was perilous for humans and that the practice should be abolished with immediate effect. He sinks deep into the cult to source more information about the matter and learns about the history of the sect, how its practices came into existence, and why the members have managed to retain them over many years. This is important as he will have credible information to support his views about the vice; thus, it makes the book more interesting because the reader can directly relate to the author's experiences. In his findings; Covington explains that the adherents of these unbiblical practices are aware of the dangers that they are exposing themselves, but they are compelled to obey (pg.230). According to the Scriptures, Paul was bitten by a venomous snake but survived the ordeal; however, the situation was accidental, and probably God had plans for him. Thus, handling and drinking snake poison is an act of tempting God and is punishable according to the Scriptures.
Dennis Covington presents straightforward and correct facts about the despicable practices and argues absent engaging in such activities as they amount to tempting God. Mark 16: 17 – 18 says that knowingly putting oneself in danger is tantamount to putting God in trials, and this is a sin according to the word of God. Dennis accumulated sufficient evidence to prove that indeed the said allegations are true and against the expectations of real Christians. When he involved himself in the practices, he felt the real danger that he was exposing himself. He risked been a victim of the vicious snakes and suffering of poisonous bites or die of food poisoning from the effects of drinking strychnine. Perhaps, he even witnessed the death of some members when he was serving the sect.
Assumptions that influenced Covington’s arguments against the practices
Covington had strong beliefs in Christianity and worshipping God in the rightful ways, he, therefore, found it disturbing that some groups of Christians were tempting God. He aimed to do a story about the rogue Christians that found peace in handling snakes and termed it as seeking the signs of God. His arguments are totally against the way that women are treated in the sect, and he does not approve of the harsh circumstances that women are subjected. For instance, he confesses that God knew what He was doing when He released him back to the wider world and from the cultic religion (pg.236). In the same page, he argues that it is good for one to know where he or she has come from, but it is suicidal to remain in the same place. In this context, Dennis meant that for him to know that somehow he had a connection with the followers of Glen was important, but what was more critical to him is finding himself and doing what was right. His experiences within the cult expanded his knowledge about Christianity and made his faith stronger. He knew that true Christians do not place themselves in life-threatening practices and wait for God to rescue them; hence, he opposed Pastor Glen's teachings.
The book is relevant as it creates a positive influence on the readers about various practices that collide with Christian values. Snake handling has been a sensitive topic in the religion of Christianity with the majority of believers agreeing that the practice is a taboo. It is evident that most people have no idea about the existence of this despicable practice before reading the book and only come to find out through Covington's research. The same case applies to me as I did not know that there exists a Christian group that draws solace from drinking snakes poison and handling snakes. To admit the truth; I have watched people handling snakes in most films and documentaries, but never in life have I ever heard of people drinking what I have spent most of my life running from, snakes' venoms. This makes the book more exciting since most readers get the chance to visualize the author's experiences.
On a scale of ten, I would rate the book at seven due to its well-incorporated features; the author has maintained a good flow of the story throughout the entire book making it enjoyable to read. The themes such as that of handling the snakes and strychnine drinking are unique because it is unlikely to find a book that describes such practices. The most interesting feature about this book is that the author who is also a journalist becomes part of the story that he is narrating. This is an excellent style of telling a story as the reader will get a touch of reality from the author's experiences. The book cover is also attractive to the viewer and provides a clue to the reader on what to expect from the content. However, the author does not provide sufficient solutions to the problems that he presents. Conclusively, the book is recommendable to curious and adventurous readers who are searching for unique and breathtaking pieces of stories.
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