The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism

By Ralph W. Hood, Jr.; Peter C. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Fundamentalism among Religious Serpent-Handling Sects

The Bible says, “They shall take up serpents.” Honey, it
means what it says, and says what it means…. It won't
change for me. It won't change for you. Amen. Thank God.
It won't change…. I don't care what you try to do, the
Word of God is still the same.

—KINGSTON SERVICE VIDEO (1995)

As we have noted in Chapter 1, understanding fundamentalism from an intratextual perspective requires us to consider the manner in which fundamentalists come to their sacred text and interpret absolute truths—unwavering certainties that together construct a worldview filled with meaning and purpose in life. Based on this concern, the principle of intratextuality allows us to examine fundamentalism not only among the more obvious groups, but also among those that have been marginalized by the host culture and ignored too often by fundamentalist scholars. Yet we would suggest that these atypical groups are precisely the ones that, though not militant in a combative sense, protest most strongly against modernity in seeking to maintain certain textbased absolutes that provide them with uniqueness and identity. Among such groups are those noted for their ritual of handling venomous serpents in religious services (Hood, 1998; Williamson & Pollio, 1999). For these serpent-handling sects (SHSs), the fundamental of serpent handling is an incontrovertible requirement interpreted from scripture that is accepted and practiced by enlightened believers of Jesus. They maintain this revealed truth against all opposition from the larger society, other religious groups, and even the laws of some U.S. states wherein they reside (Hood, Williamson, & Morris, 2000; Kimbrough & Hood, 1995).

Using the principle of intratextuality, we examine this uniquely

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