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Was Kentucky snake-handler, Jamie Coots, a closet apostate?

Evangelical preacher handling several snakes to show his faith
Evangelical preacher handling several snakes to show his faith

In the February 17, 2014 Sioux Falls Argus Leader, there was an article about Jamie Coots, a Kentucky snake-handler preacher. This article was a shorter version of the article that ran in the Lexington Kentucky Herald-Leader on February 16, 2014. You can read the article from the Herald-Leader here.

Jamie Coots, 42, was the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name, a small church in Middlesboro, Kentucky, just over the Kentucky-Tennessee border and about 60 miles north of Knoxville.

Pastor Jamie Coots was the son and grandson of snake-handler preachers, and continued to be a snake-handler preacher even though Kentucky outlawed the practice in 1940. Coots had been charged illegally dealing in poisonous snakes in 2008 and 2013. He was fined $6,000 for the 2008 incident.

Snake-handlers believe that Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, instructed them to defy death by handling poisonous snakes to show their faith: Mark 16: 17-18: "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."

Which gives rise to the question I raised in my headline: If being a poisonous snake-handler shows the faith of a person, what does it show when that person gets bitten and dies? Doesn’t it, in fact, show that the person has lost their faith and no longer believes? Doesn’t it mean that Pastor Jamie Coots had become an apostate and no had faith in Jesus?

It also raised a question about poisonous liquids. Why do those who strictly follow the King James Version perform as snake-handlers and not as drinkers of poisons? Could it be that it is possible to be a snake-handler and not get bit? Or that even being bitten in many cases is not fatal? But that drinking poison is always fatal?

Three of the other five parts of Mark are easy to fake: casting out devils, speaking in tongues and healing. Watch Robert Tilton and his phony speaking in tongues. In videos of preachers claiming to cast out devils there is no evidence of possession before and nothing to show the absence of possession after except the word of the preacher who is taking credit for the casting out. All I will say about healing is that you will never see a preacher heal a missing limb, only illnesses that are invisible before and after the healing.

So there are a few preachers, like Jamie Coots, who are foolish enough to use snake handling as a way to impress their congregations (and increase the take in the collection plate). They are not foolish enough to drink poison. But their foolishness in thinking they can get away with being a snake-handler betrays them. They get cocky and attempt greater and greater acts of ‘courage’ by handling, as Coots was, more and more snakes. Coots was handling three rattlesnakes when he was bitten. He died a few hours later, in great pain, after refusing medical treatment. His loving family signed waivers so that EMS workers would not treat him or save his life.

RIP, Pastor Jamie Coots, 1978 – 2014.


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