USA Today has one of those news-of-the-weird stories about the family of a Kentucky snake-handling victim that's suing a local hospital for failing to provide their loved one with adequate care following a divinely inspired run-in with a rattler. As the paper tells it:

About a year ago, Linda Long was attending the East London Holiness Church in London, Ky. That's one of a handful of churches in the country that practice snake handling, which is exactly what it sounds like it is -- congregation members handle venomous snakes in the belief that the faithful will not be harmed.

Long was bitten in the cheek by a rattlesnake and died -- and now her family is suing the hospital where she was brought for treatment.

In a suit filed earlier this month, Long's family alleges employees of a London, Ky. hospital ridiculed Long when she was brought there after the attack and failed to treat her in a timely manner. She later was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where she died....

Whatever the merits of the case, I gotta admit I was surprised to learn that snake handling still goes on at all in this country and--while thankfully rare--is no longer confined to the most poverty-stricken, ass-backward regions of Appalachia.

The practice is grounded in a verse from the Gospel of Mark:

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

Just something to think about the next time one of your more devout friends is lecturing you on the glories of biblical literalism.  

Have a happy and serpent-free weekend.

--Michelle Cottle