Jamie Coots, pastor of Middleboro Kentucky's Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name and one of the stars of the National Geographic Channel program, Snake Salvation, died on Saturday from a rattlesnake bite. Pastor Coots was bitten during evening services in full view of his congregation and lost consciousness shortly thereafter. He was then taken home where he later passed away without ever regaining consciousness.
According to Local 8 Now news, Middleboro emergency medical services were called to the Coots residence and recommended that he be taken to the hospital but the family rejected their advice. When the EMS people returned an hour later, Coots was dead. His son, Cody, explained:
"If he had lived and woken up in a hospital bed, he would have blamed every one of us. He was a firm believer; he would not go to a hospital. He always told us, you get bit, you either die at home or God brings you through."
Cody Coots will take over his father's duties at the church and yes, they will continue handling venomous snakes as part of the service.
The gospels of Mark and Luke are used to justify the practice:
And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall 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. (Mark 16:17-18)
Behold, I shall give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
While some may find only irony in the manner of Pastor Coots passing, Friendly Atheist blogger, Hemant Mehta, offers another, more disturbing, interpretation of the tragedy:
Handling poisonous snakes is dangerous, but Coots' faith convinced him that no harm would come from it.
Seeing a doctor in the event of an emergency is common sense, but Coots' faith prevented him from accepting that help.
It's not that he represents so many Christians, because he obviously doesn't, but that he's a perfect example of how faith fucks you up: it can cause you to ignore common sense even when it's staring you right in the face.
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National Geographic Channel's "Snake Salvation" http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/snake-salvation/