Grania Spingies of Atheist Ireland called my attention to a new article in the “Lifestyle” section of The Washington Post: “Why I watched a snake-handling pastor die for his faith.” It’s about the death of Randy Wolford, a snake-handing Pentecostal preacher who was done in by one of his rattlesnakes (I posted about this on May 30). The author is Lauren Pond, who was on the scene of the fatal bite because she’s doing a documentary on snake handling. Apparently neither Wolford nor his family wanted paramedics to be called—I suspect they would have saved his life—until it was too late. Pond also decided not to override the family’s wishes and call for help.
Wolford wanted to die. A pity for him he doesn’t get to go to heaven, and an even greater pity that he’ll never know he didn’t make it. Extinction is extinction.
“His faith is what took him home,” said his sister Robin Vanover, 38.
. . . Mack’s family has accepted his death as something that he knew was coming and something that was ultimately God’s will. The pastor believed every word of the Bible and laid down his life for his conviction, they said. For them, his death is an affirmation of the Signs Following tradition: “His faith is what took him home,” said his sister Robin Vanover, 38. . .
In my mind, Mack’s situation was different from that of a starving child or a civilian wounded in war. He was a competent adult who decided to stand by what he understood to be the word of God, no matter the consequences. And so I’ve started to come to peace with the fact that everyone in the crowded trailer, including myself, let Mack die as a man true to his faith.
Grania added this editorial note, which I have permission to post:
The nauseating aspect is how much the reporter tries to find something good and positive in this tragedy, because you know, faith is good, and unwavering faith must be even better. Even though she is clearly troubled by the stupid and primitive practices of this church, she feels she has to write positively about deep convictions and how this has helped her “understand” – although she never elaborates what “understanding” she has gleaned from watching a man die an agonizing death while his family stood around sadly.
People respect the mere word “religion” so much that they fall over themselves trying to praise a nonsensical belief that not only led a man cause his own senseless and needless death, but paralyzed his evidently loving family to stand around mutely when they should have been trying to save him.
He didn’t die for his faith, he died for his stupidity. There isn’t anything praiseworthy about it.
There’s a short gallery of photos about Wolford taken by Lauren Pond (who wrote the article), showing him in action in healthier days, along with several photos after he was bitten, some taken immediately after the strike and some when Wolford was close to death a few hours later. Here are three that show the price of faith: