Snake Charming and the Theology of Deceit
January 13, 2016 | by: Dave Maniquis | 3 Comments
Posted in: Theology
Now here’s the scene: folks strolling through those bustling bazaars or markets in the enchanting East. And suddenly they come upon one of those “dude of dudes” in the realm of herpetologists--the snake charmer. With a tiny wooden flute this guy choreographs the dancing snake with music. A highly venomous cobra! You’ve probably seen depictions of these snake charmers playing the flute and the charmed cobra mesmerized by the music.
Perhaps you’ve wondered if it’s the tonal quality of the sounds or ancient tunes handed down through the generations. Could these guys make their scaly dancers sway back and forth through some insight into what really turns them on? Maybe, just maybe, cobras respond to the smash hits of a Taylor Swift or a Katy Perry. Maybe, just maybe, these feetless creatures are still “getting down” to the oldies-but-goodies of a Beyoncé or even a Britney Spears. Come on now, there’s no accounting for taste. The tantalizing question is: do the flared-neck beasts really enjoy dancing?
Well, as it turns out, it’s all just a trick; one big con-job. Our slithering friends don’t even hear sounds. Professor Harry Greene of Cornell University’s herpetology department explains what’s going on, “they are alert, and watch what’s moving. If the flutist sways, the snake sways, following him.”
How have the famed snake charmers perfected their craft at conning their audience? If you watch one in action it does become evident. As the charmer plays his pipe, he sways his body in time to the tune he plays. It’s this movement that the snake copies; perhaps waiting for the opportune time to strike. The scientists at the London Zoo found that if they swayed their bodies in time to a rhythmic beat, the snakes were quite willing to stand up and accompany their movements. However, experiments pumping pop music through musical pipes to motivate their slithery contestants to perform met with little success. Sorry Kanye, though they might try to hop, they’re just not hip.
But there’s more. It’s not even that dangerous for the snake charmer for any number of other reasons. First of all, the cobra’s striking range is limited to the extent to which the snake is reared up. So the charmer knows how far to sit back. Second, many of these charmers remove the Cobra’s fangs, venom glands, or even sew the snake’s mouth shut. When the snake dies from malnourishment, a charmer merely goes out and catches another one.
So, they’re not grooving to the beat after all! It may as well be a stick in the snake charmer’s hand or a toothpick in his mouth since the music is purely effect for the entertainment of the audience. Translation? They’re duped!
Scripture teaches and depicts Satan as the master of deceit and lies from the very beginning of the creation of humanity. As Jesus so chillingly rails against the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 NIV)
Satan in Genesis is depicted as a serpent. Now whether Satan was appearing as a serpent, possessing the serpent, or suckered Adam and Eve into thinking he was a talking-reptile is beside the point. The theological issue is that the first human beings were charmed by the master charmer by allowing their minds and hearts to drift to the promise of something better than what God had promised them (Gen. 3:1-15 NIV). There was something more entertaining.
How are the shenanigans of the enterprising snake charmer and his poor sidekick in the basket a picture of the master charmer—Satan himself? Scripture teaches that it can apply to the indiscriminate; including the Christian (1 Peter 5:8). You can be a passive audience allowing yourself to be sucked in to the clever lie that only the dazzle of this world, current pop trends, moral relativism, or fleeting allurements will satisfy a hunger in your soul for meaning. (1 John 2:15-17 NLT). Worse, you can actually become a ravenous participant; always moving to strike at anything or anyone who gets in your way to self-fulfillment outside of Christ. Whether you’re listening to soundless music or swaying to a stick, the end result is the same—duped.
God the Father’s purposes for the creation of the world still hold as it did for the first human family. Jesus Christ has lovingly and graciously ensured those purposes come to pass for the Father and His people. The Spirit has come to indwell God’s people so they can discriminate between what advances and honors God’s purposes in a charming world that so often “speaks with forked tongue.”
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matt. 6:33 (NLT)
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.