The serpent is the classic symbol of the Devil in Christian theology. He tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the garden of Eden, leading to the expulsion from paradise. It is thus a common practice in rural churches across America to parade around with poisonous snakes in hand as a sign of religious conviction. Should a church-goer be bitten during the ceremony, it is because said person lacked faith, and not because snakes generally don’t like to be manhandled by wild-eyed zealots making a bunch of sudden movements while they dance around the room.
Snake handling has been banned in three states (Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky), forcing believers to swagger about with serpents in the confines of their own homes. To most, it is just not the same. Some ministers have also been said to use snakes that are not poisonous at all, but merely garter snakes, which are about as dangerous as your garden hose. For this to be true, however, one would have to first accept the ridiculous notion that the preachers are being dishonest and willing to pull the wool over their collective flocks’ eyes, and that’s just silly.