For years, Pentecostal Pastor Jamie Coots, who is the star of a reality show on National Geographic called Snake Salvation, preached to his followers that those who were true believers of God wouldn't be harmed by poisonous snakebites -- an idea that he interpreted from a passage in the Bible. Over the years, Coots -- whose father and grandfather also handled snakes -- fearlessly handled all types of serpents, including copperheads and rattlesnakes. He lost part of his finger to a snakebite and witnessed the death of several churchgoers, yet continued to spread his message. He died this weekend from a snakebite, after refusing to receive treatment from doctors.
On his show, Coots and other believers can be seen grasping the snakes by their tails and the middle of their bodies. I know close to nothing about serpents and even I remember learning as a child that you should only hold a snake at its throat -- um, assuming you ever need to actually hold one. In a practice that is illegal in most states, Pastor Jamie danced with snakes and spoke in tongues while holding them.
He's been in trouble with the law for his practice, as well. Last year, Coots traveled from his Kentucky home to Tennessee, where snake handling is against the law. He was given one year's probation for transporting venomous snakes with him. In 2008, he was arrested for letting 74 snakes shares his home.
74 snakes! Can you imagine?
Coots had a wife, who was also a believer, and planned on passing on his snake handling practice and church to his son, Cody.
As someone whose beliefs are quite different from those of Pastor Coots, I have a very difficult time understanding how he could stand by and deny himself the option of medical treatment. I have an equally difficult time understanding how his wife or son watched this happen. But there is something noble about Coots, I must admit. He, literally, died for his beliefs. He was the real deal.
Here's a video clip from Coots' fascinating show, Snake Salvation:
Have you ever heard of snake handling? What do you think of Pastor Coots' beliefs and refusal to seek medical attention?
Image via YouTube