Once known for its handling of live snakes during church services, Kentucky Flaming Bible of Hope Tabernacle Assembly decided to raise the bar on their faith Sunday morning by replacing live snakes with live grizzly bears.
Jimmy Snarp, the famed snake handling preacher of Kentucky Flaming Bible of Hope Tabernacle Assembly, released thirteen grizzly bears into the sanctuary during the 8:30 service. Snarp began a sermon about how those with true faith will be able to “tug at the hide” of a grizzly and walk away unscathed, but it was during the actual moment Snarp said the word “unscathed” that one of the grizzlies sunk its teeth into his right thigh. A videotaping of the church service retrieved by authorities reveals that after that, “pretty much all hell broke loose,” observed detective Phil Reedus, lead investigator on the case.
Emergency personnel arrived about 9:10 a.m. that morning. The entire church was leveled, nobody had survived and the bears had escaped through giant holes in the walls.
Locals claimed the church had handled many dangerous animals before but agreed that using bears was probably one of their worst decisions to date.
Pastors like Snarp believe that to “take up serpents” is a form of religious expression. In the King James Bible, Mark 16:18 says, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” Snarp wrote in a recent church bulletin, “I believe that part of the bible was a mistranslation. I believe it was meant to say bears. If we really want to prove how holy we are, bears are the way to go. We’re going to prove it this Sunday.” Snarp named the sermon series “An Overbearing Faith” which was intended to go on for three months and include several lessons including, “Ursinity and divinity”, “Grizzly grace” and “No Hibernation Under God”. It was during the introductory sermon, “Bearly Holy” that the mishap took place.
Snarp and his followers believe that God called upon them to release grizzlies into the church and tug at their fur. Even if attacked, they refuse medical treatment because they believe that their fate is in God’s hands.
But local authorities see the bears as a reckless and dangerous menace to public safety. Religious bear handling has been outlawed in most states since the incident. Kentucky Flaming Bible of Hope Tabernacle Assembly is not the first church to try bear handling. Several bear-handling practitioners across the country have died after being mauled, their congregations devoured, then the bears escape into the community to wreak more havoc. Not one on record has survived.
Kentucky Wildlife Resources Agency officials attempted to seize the 13 escaped grizzlies but the bears cleared a path of destruction through the surrounding area and escaped into the mountains.
Other churches have been inspired by Kentucky Flaming Bible of Hope Tabernacle Assembly and have proclaimed their own intention to “take up bears”. They believe this will prove that these congregations are the most in touch with the Holy Spirit, claiming that if Kentucky Flaming Bible of Hope Tabernacle Assembly had real faith they would still be alive today. But other evangelicals find the practice a sign of the end times. With so many bears being released and bear attacks on the rise, apocalyptic preachers are making bold claims that this could be the beginning of some kind of bear-filled armageddon.