Snakes in Church

A pastor was arrested for his handling of snakes.

*snicker*

More than 100 snakes, many of them deadly, were confiscated in the undercover sting after Thursday’s arrests, said Col. Bob Milligan, director of law enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Most were taken from the Middlesboro home of Gregory James Coots, including 42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, three cottonmouth water moccasins, a western diamondback rattlesnake, two cobras and a puff adder.

Why so many snakes?

Handling snakes is practiced in a handful of fundamentalist churches across Appalachia, based on the interpretation of Bible verses saying true believers can take up serpents without being harmed…

The verse in question is Mark 16:18:

[The saved and baptized] will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

You remember that Stephen Colbert line about George W. Bush? “He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will.”

Yeah… sadly, even the death of one of Pastor Coots’ parishioners in 1995 — in his church at the hands (mouth?) of a snake — didn’t convince him to stop doing the snake services. It didn’t stop her husband from attending them, either — he died three years later at a different church after (wait for it…) being bitten by a snake.

Zoo director Jim Harrison had the money quotation:

“… A venomous snake isn’t a pet. You don’t play with it. If you do, you’re an idiot.”

Robert Paul Reyes of NewsBlaze amused me with this thought:

I wonder if any parishioner has ever exclaimed: I am M***** F******* tired of all these M***** F***** snakes in this church!

:)

(Thanks to Jason for the link!)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian[/tags]

  • Varda

    Shouldn’t we be encouraging these people the play with deadly snakes?

  • Ron in Houston

    Funny story

    My mother was made to go into one of the snake handling churches when she was a little girl. She was (and still is today) deathly afraid of snakes.

    It didn’t turn her into an atheist, but it did contribute to her raising me pretty much unchurched.

    So maybe I wouldn’t be an atheist today without those snake handling churches.

  • TheDeadEye

    Yeah… sadly, even the death of one of Pastor Coots’ parishioners in 1995 — in his church at the hands (mouth?) of a snake — didn’t convince him to stop doing the snake services. It didn’t stop her husband from attending them, either — he died three years later at a different church after (wait for it…) being bitten by a snake.

    Did they have any kids? If not, that’s the making of a pretty good Darwin award right there…

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    It’s amazing how many “biblical literalists” ignore Mark 16:18 without a trace of irony, usually dismissing it as “inauthentic” when pressed.

    Natural selection in action…

  • Skylar

    Damnit…that’s near me. If it’s any consolation, I live in Appalachia, and anyone who isn’t part of those churches thinks they’re just as nuts as we do :) But I’m still amazed and surprised they did a sting operation. I’ve never heard of them doing one before.

    And as tempting as it may be, I can’t swallow the idea of allowing some natural selection like that.

    However, I about fell over laughing when I read that snakes in a church quote!

  • http://www.skepticalmonkey.com Ted Goas

    Wow, handling snakes??? That’s a new one for me. I thought ‘Snakes’ had something to do with the Garden of Eden.

    But handling snakes in church is safe? Why snakes? Can the congregation jump off a bridge and be OK? What other crazy things will they do in the name of faith?

  • JohnB

    I say let ‘em play with the snakes. Some people only learn the hard way.

  • http://agnostiChicagOkie.blogspot.com DAM10N

    I’m fairly sure that particular passage wasn’t really from the gospel of mark but tacked on by later scribes. So even the literalists have an out here, but then again maybe we shouldn’t let that particular secret out just yet. I’m hoping to get the snake-handling meme incorporated into those big govenment prayer breakfasts.

  • Ken McKnight

    Isn’t Mr. Harrison (the zoo director) being a little judgmental about someone’s deeply held religious beliefs? I bet he’s one of those damned atheists! The next thing you know they’ll be mocking Catholic rituals. . .oh, wait. . .

  • Ron in Houston

    Ted Goas

    Um, they also drink poison. I think it’s diluted strychnine. However, I think because its so highly diluted and they drink it often their systems get accustom to it.

    And no it’s not safe. They go for heavily poisonous snakes, eastern diamondbacks, copperhead, etc. Many people get bitten and some die.

    Of course, if you’re bitten you can’t get treatment. Antivenin? No, that would show a lack of faith that God will save them.

    The greatest irony is that it raises a lot of constitutional issues. If a law is targeted at a particular religion then it would be unconstitutional.

    Is real life crazy or what?

  • Emily

    Question is, did the congregation ever drink Drano to see what happened?

    This is the next test, logically!

  • http://blog.crispen.org/ Rev. Bob

    @Ron inHouston:

    Someone should suggest they chug arsenic or mercury. Strichnine will give you a buzz, but heavy metal poisoning is forever.

  • http://blog.crispen.org/ Rev. Bob

    Good thing they didn’t have any swamp adders. I have it on very good authority it’s the deadliest snake in India and can slither up and down ropes and come when whistled for.

  • Siamang

    Rev Bob.

    Sweet Holmes reference.

  • Darryl

    How dumb or gullible do you have to be to continue handling snakes once you hear of some poor hick who died from handling a snake? Even these backward folks get word-of-mouth reports.

  • SarahH

    How dumb or gullible do you have to be to continue handling snakes once you hear of some poor hick who died from handling a snake? Even these backward folks get word-of-mouth reports.

    Unfortunately, extremists will simply dismiss the deaths as the results of insufficient faith in God. This kind of thing just keeps feeding itself. Being targeted by the police is just going to get most of them riled up and more passionate about their faith and practices.

    For those of you who keep comparing this to the cracker thing: this religious ritual is causing direct harm to those who practice it. There’s a strong argument to be made that respecting these people’s lives is more important than respecting their rituals. Communion doesn’t endanger its participants in a physical, immediate way.

    I really do think that they should be able to continue handling snakes if they want to though. As long as there are strict regulations concerning children, I don’t see why they should be stopped. There are some pretty danger extreme sports, for example, that have a real risk of death, but people still participate in droves, for the thrill. Taking extreme risks shouldn’t be illegal, whether the purpose is secular or religious, unless the practice is immediately harming unwilling bystanders or children.

  • ryot

    Death threats over crackers, church-sponsored gun-giveaways, and snake raids all in three days? Is this a joke or is the July heat exacerbating the crazy?

  • Larry Huffman

    Something else particularly funny about this is that the guy who founded this movement…George Hensley (there were several, but Hensley has been considered it founder since before his death), died from…..drum roll…SNAKE BITE!

  • Iztok

    Lack of education. That is what it is. It is easier to deal with black and whites but to really understand, one needs to truly seek knowledge.

    Another blog I am reading is trying to connect faith with morals but for some reason I think education is more important.

    What do you think?

    Link: http://janepope.blogspot.com/2008/07/whos-hurt-most-by-moral-failure.html

  • Gabriel

    I had relative in Missouri who did this. I haven’t seen them since I was a little kid and have no idea what happened to them. I feel very sorry for the kids. It seems that this would be a very clear case of child abuse that would place the childs life in immediate danger. I wondered in Bill Maher will have this in his movie. Damn I can’t wait for October.

  • John Morales

    You know, snake enclosures are pretty stinky.

    Just saying.


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