Category Archives: My Thoughts

Redundancy and Handling Snakes

As usual, while I work I've got something playing on the second monitor and just listening to it while I work. Sometimes it's music, sometimes YouTube, this time it happened to be Netflix and the only season of the show Snake Salvation.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Snake Salvation was a National Geographic series about two churches in Appalachia where Snake Handling is practiced. 

Wikipedia says this about the belief:

Snake handling, also called serpent handling, is a religious ritual in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., usually characterized as rural and part of the Holiness movement. The practice began in the early 20th century in Appalachia, and plays only a small part in the church service. Practitioners believe serpent handling dates to antiquity and quote the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke to support the practice:

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

Another passage from the New Testament used to support snake handlers' belief is Acts 28:1-6, which relates that Paul was bitten by a venomous viper and suffered no harm:

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

I'm a firm believer in everybody being able to worship, or not worship, as they see fit and while I can't see myself ever voluntarily picking up a snake, much less a Rattlesnake or Copperhead, I don't see that practice as being any more unbelievable than some things others do or want done in the name of their beliefs.

But I digress…

In this particular episode Pastor Jamie Coots and his son Cody had went on a snake hunting trip so he could barter them and clear a debt to a snake salesman (who knew there was such a thing) he'd purchased from in the past.

Then Cody said something that struck me as being both redundant and a lot about how a different viewpoint really changed the way something was perceived:

"The more you do for him [God], the more he'll do for you. God worked it out to where we got all the snakes we needed and everybody was happy."

I immediately thought right then, "I don't have any snakes at all and still have all I need."

Redundancy and in the eyes of the beholder.

By the way, the reason there was only season of Snake Salvation was because Pastor Jamie Coots was bitten by a snake he was handling and died before the next season was filmed. After being bitten he refused medical treatment because of his beliefs. I don't say this in a mocking way because he stood by his convictions and carried them through to the end. While I may disagree with what he believed, that doesn't mean I'm right or he wasn't right and I have to respect that he believed even in light of what happened.

When Snake Salvation became available on Netflix I happened to be right in the middle of reading a book on the practice, thinking it might play a part in one of my books one day. I'm still pretty sure that I'd like to visit one of the churches and see a service although my wife indicated that might be a trip I'd take by myself.


Oh Muse, Where Are Thou?

I saw one of my Facebook friends, an English writer named Ian Woodhead (great horror stories) mention the other day how grateful he was that his muse had returned and I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Sometimes when you write it is easy. When I'm working on my Noah Chance series I always refer to it as Noah, Spencer and Jennifer coming to visit, and when they do the words just flow. The story goes in directions I didn't anticipate and when finish for the day I'm always surprised at how much I've done.

At other times I know it is me writing because each word is forcibly pulled from my mind and placed onto the screen. I find myself distracted easily, getting up to make multiple trips around the house, checking the mail, making a snack or something to drink, anything to keep from having to put the next word/sentence/chapter into the program.

It's not that I don't like writing when it's like that, it's just that it isn't as much fun! I find myself having to think about things, plot out what's going to happen, what my characters are going to say, and what to name the new guy in the book. Not so when the muse is present, everything just leaps forth.

The book I am working on now (mostly) Louisiana, should be easy for me because I love the topic, love my home state, and have read and studied it so much I shouldn't have any problems.

I think one issue is that when you're writing a novel that spans several hundred years and spread out across an entire state, you just start getting to know a character when it's time to leave them and move on so they never really get to do the writing for you.

Lesson learned!

I'll put an ad on Craiglist for any unemployed muses and hopefully one will show up. A good one, not prone to disappearing for weeks at a time and one that likes my topics and doesn't try to distract me into writing something else.

Hope it works! My self imposed middle of May deadline for this book is rapidly approaching.

Has Anyone Ever “Earned” the Right to Use a Racist Comment?

When I wrote The Bottle Tree, my comment on racism and the interaction between races, it was because of some events I witnessed and some segregation that was being self imposed by different groups. Anyone that knows me know that I am not a racist in any way. There are people that I don't like and actions that I don't like, but it really doesn't matter whether the people are white or black or brown or yellow. 

There are cultural differences between segments of the population and I, personally, believe that rather than these cultural differences being torn down or don away with they should be celebrated. Blues music, for instance, one of my loves wouldn't be the same if it wasn't for the black jook joints from which it sprang or at least evolved. Yes, I said black rather than African American, I'll discuss that in another post in the future.

But before I get too far off on a tangent, let me explain why I am writing this post.

I recently became fascinated with WW2. To me, that period in time represented the best and worst of humanity and was an era when America stood for something.

It's gotten to the point where my wife recently walked into the living room, looked at the television and said, "Are you watching a war movie again?"

I've watched Band of Brothers more times than I can count and never tire of it. This topic is one that the more you learn, the more you want to learn. The Monuments Men just came out and we went to see it on opening day. We've become at least a little desensitized to the heinous acts committed by the Nazis against Jews and other races they deemed inferior, but the scene of them using flamethrowers on great works of art just because they couldn't have them brought the mindset of those people into another light.

My wife had an uncle who lived in Louisiana and came to the hospital when our beautiful and smart baby daughter was born all those years ago. I remember seeing him on a few occasions and someone mentioned he had been on the Bataan Death March. I didn't ask anything about it although he did mention it one day when I was commenting on a Toyota that I liked.

"I'd never buy anything made by the Japs," was all he said.

In the small town where I live now, a woman used to work for me and she told me that her father used to own a gas station and she can remember him going out to the pumps and telling people who pulled up there in Japanese made cars that he wouldn't serve them. She said it was because of WW2.

On my first trip to Hawaii, in the October following the September 11th attacks, we visited the Arizona Memorial, one of the absolutely most emotional places I have ever been. You stand there at the railing, looking at the oil occasionally bubbling up, seeing the ship below you and you can't help but be a little choked up.

While I was on the memorial, there was an older Japanese man (from Japan as opposed to being an American of Japanese descent) who kept walking back and forth from one rail to the next, peering over before moving to the other side to do the same. I noticed an older American man, sporting some kind of hat and patches that indicated he'd been in the service, watching this Japanese tourist do this. The men were of an age that both could easily have served in the war.

" I can't see it, where is it?" I heard the tourist ask in very heavily accented English.

The American looked at him for a second, then said, "On the bottom, right where you Japs left her."

He then turned around and walked off, getting on the tour boat and leaving.

Were these men racist? I can't say, although they certainly look at things with a different viewpoint then I would.

This next part is going to surprise some people that know me but it's my opinion that someone who was on the Bataan Death March, or at Pearl Harbor at the attack, or any of a hundred different situations have earned their right to have their own viewpoint. In their case, I don't think the behavior is because the people are of a different nationality but more because they had personally seen people of that nationality commit brutal acts, and perhaps even suffered them, in the name of their nation.

That's a different thing entirely from me watching a movie and feeling that way, or feeling that way about someone who looks different than me just because they look different than me, or feeling that way about a religion whose members have never personally harmed me in the name of their religion.

But that's just my opinion.