As reported in the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader on Feb. 16, 2014, Pastor Jamie Coots of The Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, KY died on the evening of Feb. 15, 2014 at home after being bitten by a poisonous snake. This church is an offshoot of the larger Pentecostal Church. Coots said that he practices handling poisonous snakes to prove his faith in God and Jesus.
Coots became unresponsive after being bitten on the hand by a large rattlesnake while leading a church service. An emergency squad was called. Coots refused treatment and died at his nearby home about one hour after the squad arrived. Coots routinely handled rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouth snakes, which are all potentially deadly.
Coots’ handling of snakes is based upon a passage in Mark 16: 17-18 that states the following:
"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 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.”
Coots had stated on the National Geographic television show Snake Salvation that if he were bitten he would go home and let God either heal him or let him die. He told the emergency squad members that he would not go to a hospital because it would be a denial of his faith. He died at home.
Does God really care if a human being proves his faith to a scripture written in the Bible approximately 2,000 years ago? Spiritualists believe that God loves everyone, and the proof is in how we treat ourselves and each other. The Christian Spiritualist Temple practices spiritual healing at every service.
Spiritualists do not believe that it is necessary to handle snakes to show love or faith in God. Spiritualists do not condemn Jamie Coots or others that follow biblical scriptures. Spiritualists are not likely to follow Coots’ example. The commandment in the Bible that resonates the most with spiritualists is given within Luke 10: 25-28 when Jesus answered a lawyer’s question regarding the greatest of the Jewish laws:
“…and he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself. These two commandments replace all of the law and the prophets.”
There is a history of proving love of God through a willingness to sacrifice oneself or another to show loyalty to God, to appease God for some drastic wrongdoing, or to try to gain favor with God. This practice is not limited to Judaism or Christianity. The Mayans at Chichen Itza threw people into deep wells to drown in order to appease their God(s). The Druids sacrificed people so they could watch how they died in order to gain knowledge. In no case do spiritualists believe that God wants someone killed.
If you stand in a dark place on a clear night and look up at the stars, can you imagine that God actually cares if a person sacrifices their life to prove anything to God? The Creator of All That Is, also known as God, is totally unknown and unknowable, but it seems unlikely that this Infinite Intelligence sees merit in destroying part of the creation. It is very unlikely that God can be bribed or gives credits for self destruction.
For those that have had near-death experiences, they nearly always relate that the only thing that matters to the beings they meet is how the person that died treated their selves and others. There is no merit in suffering, sacrificing, or posturing before God. All that counts is the Golden Rule, and how well it was applied to loving one’s self and others. It is that simple.
Jamie Coots’ son Cody vows to take up his father’s mantle and continue snake handling in their church. Cody also wants his children to follow in their grandfather and great grandfather’s footsteps. While this may prove something to the congregation about faith, it is dubious that God really cares one way or the other. You can see Jamie and Cody Coots practicing their faith in the attached video.
God shows love for every being, without regard to race, religion, sexual preference, or willingness to die to prove that the person loves God. In the infinite universe, it is more likely that God just wants us to be good human beings that love ourselves and each other than to be handling snakes and drinking poison.