Death By Snake Bite: NPR’s Snake Handling Pastor Passes Away

For Snake-Handling Preacher, 10th Bite Proves Fatal : NPR

Pastor Jamie Coots, the NPR featured snake handling, Pentecostal preacher from Kentucky has died.

The cause of death is, ironically, poison from a snake bite — the kind that was common place in Pastor Coots’ worship services.

Pentecostal pastors find Biblical support for this practice in 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.”

Coots’ death highlights several tension points in Christianity and American culture:

1. Is this a healthy example of respect for religious liberty?  Although Kentucky made snake handling illegal (to prevent this very thing), they usually do not prosecute violators when handling is done for religious reasons.

2. Is this denominational interpretation of Mark 16 an example of faithful hermeneutics or superficial reading?  There is considerable debate from form-critics who argue that verses 17 and following were later add ons that should not be included in the Canon of Scripture.  Should other Christians fault Coots and others for simply taking the Bible at face value?  Could we not conclude that Coots is being more faithful to the Bible than those of us who point out Biblical teaching against homosexual behavior while letting practiced greed go unchecked?

3. What should be included in/excluded from regular worship services in the local church?  One of the flash points of debate within The Church is what should be and should not be included in regular worship?  What about songs?  What about meals?  What about preaching?  What about teaching?  Who is to say that a worship service with 4 musical songs and one 30-minute lecture/sermon is the “Biblical” way to order worship?  Why not add a meal?  This seems to be the picture of worship in Acts 2.  Why not include snake handling?  This seems to be normative in Mark 16.

Food for thought.

About Doug Hankins

Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a good book, or drinking some hot tea. Doug's first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.
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