The practice of snake-handling is a relatively new concept from southern Appalachia. Its base lies in Mark 16:18 "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." It teaches a showing of faith in Jesus Christ rather than a statement of faith. The earliest churches I have found record of were in Tennessee and Alabama around 1920. They began the practice of picking up snakes, most often poisonous (using a non-poisonous snake sort of defeats the whole purpose) and parading around the church with them as a sign of faith. Their belief in God ultimately keeps them safe from the venom of the snake, though not the bite. Even so, snake bites are a rare occurrence during their ceremonies, probably due to several reasons. Snakes raised by the parishioners from hatching are likely to adjust to being picked up quickly, and over time may come to enjoy it. This can be used to its full advantage to impress newcomers to the church when a poisonous snake seems to be lunging after a faithful member, in reality only wanting to be held. Their loosely organized churches have highly fluctuating memberships and consist of little more than chanting pslams, and singing old folk hymns. Of most of the southern Christian sects, the snake-handlers seem the least involved with the bible itself. Though most of their words of praise and indeed, their faith and sect come from the bible, they do not tote it around, as others might, preferring instead, to let their actions speak their faith.
Several of the churches while trying to stay relatively low key within their area, have attracted the attention of media nationwide for their "bizarre" manner of worship. The most widespread media attention came in 1991, in Scottsboro, Alabama when the pastor of The Church of Jesus Christ with Signs Following, the Reverend Glen Summerford attempted to use his poisonous snakes to murder his wife. The case garnered national attention from two TV news magazines: ABC's 20/20 and A&E's City Confidential.