Chapter

The Media and the Man

Ralph W. Hood Jr. and W. Paul Williamson

in Them That Believe

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780520231474
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942714 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520231474.003.0003
The Media and the Man

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This chapter provides biographical details of George Went Hensley, the man generally credited with the emergence of religious serpent handling. It follows Hensley's conversion, his revelation of serpent handling, his ministry as an itinerant preacher, his influence on the development and spread of serpent handling, and his eventual death from a practice that he loved so dearly. While it has been accepted that Hensley's influence in spreading serpent handling among numerous churches it is unlikely that he had the degree of influence that is often attributed to him. One reason is the simple fact that serpent handling was more readily accepted in areas where it was an established part of time-honored folkways. The chapter concludes that a wider lens is required in placing George Went Hensley within a tradition that not only denied his credentials but also came to deny the endorsement of the religious ritual so much associated with his name.

Keywords: George Went Hensley; serpent handling; itinerant preacher; time-honored folkways; religious ritual

Chapter.  6449 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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