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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Heaven Come Down 

Last night, after watching the March of the Penguins, which was entertaining, KT came across documentary that captured my attention. After watching it for a few minutes, I asked him what was the name of it. It was Heaven Come Down.

Heaven Come Down is a documentary on a branch of the Pentacostal denomination that not only do these fire-and-brimstone preaching, speak in tongues and spirit-filled dancing/movements but they also handle serpents, drink strychnine and dance with fire. The focus is limited to Pentacostal churches in the Appalachian area, such West Virginia and Tennessee.

Of course, the main focus of the film were these Christians' handling of serpents during church services. Heck, even in their own homes. And these aren't snakes like garter snakes. These are venomous snakes like rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and diamondbacks. Many of these Christians have been bit...repeatedly. A few have died.

When they get bit, their hands or other parts of their bodies are swollen. They break out in sweats. They vomit. They pray. Other people surround them and pray with them. But as soon as the tingling starts to fade, they jump right back into snake handling.

These people do this because they believe it is Biblical. According to Matthew 16:16-18:

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

However, one preacher of a similar denomination did show concerns over these Christians. If you do it so often, then that line of rationalization or responsibility fades. The handling of serpents is dangerous, where a few of them have died. The drinking of strychnine is also dangerous. One of the serpent handling preacher somewhat agreed. He stated that one should not handle snakes if not isn't ready to meet the Maker. He said, if you get bit, you better know where you're going, witout a doubt. He was referring to the Heaven or Hell destiny.

The thing that bugged me about the whole snake thing was that these Christians knew it was against the law. In some states, such as West Virginia, it is illegal to own a snake. So, during a case which involved the police, these Christians hid the snakes. It was sorta hiliarious because it looked like they were smuggling drugs.

The documentary not only show the spritiual side of these Christians but also showed that some Christians fall out of faith and even get in trouble with the law. One preacher had a suit filed against him by his ex-fiance (ex-wife) for molestation of the 4 children. He was eventually charged with sodomy. His wife was like, I love him and he needs more than ever. O....k!

For the first 8 years of my life, I was raised in the United Pentacostal Church (UPC). (Some use PCI or UPCI.) This branch also does fire-and-brimstone preaching, speak in tongues and dancing. No snake handling or strychnine drinking. As a Deaf kid, everything was vividly stimulating and peculiar. The one thing that used to scare me were these "slain in the Spirit" moments. Being slain in the Spirit is when a preacher lay his hand on people and they would fall back on the floor, still praying.

Oh man, I could write a week's worth of postings on my UPC upbringing. Anyways, after my dad quit the military, we returned to the States from Germany. From there, my parents tried to find another Pentacostal church. However, I think that my mother was tired of the strict guidelines that the UPC had on Christian living. My mother liked make-up and hated having her hair up in a bun. So, we started attending a non-denominational Bible-believing church. It was still a Pentacostal church but not one under the UPC branch.

Anyways, as I was watching the documentary, I could understand their rationale for doing some things. Yet, at the same time, I was conflicted about some of their practices. Their Christian talks brought back some memories. Anyways, I truly think that if I wasn't raised UPC, this whole thing would've gone right over my head.

Anyways, I would suggest you check out this documentary if you have the Sundance channel.