If The Bible Said to Jump Off a Bridge, Would You?

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The correct answer to that question is no. And yet for over a century now there has been a small minority of church leaders, mostly in the rural south, who handle extremely poisonous and deadly snakes almost daily as a part of their religious practice. These pastors have been in the news lately, thanks to the death of a man named Jamie Coots, a snake-handling pastor from Kentucky. His cause of death? You guessed it, bit by a poisonous snake! The Coots family has been handling snakes in the name of Jesus for four generations and even with this tragic death, the family says they will continue to do so.
While playing with deadly snakes might not seem like the best way to show devotion to religion, it is actually grounded in a Bible verse. Most snake-handlers quote Mark 16:18 as their reasoning for taking up the practice, which says, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” Snake-handlers believe that they by drinking poisons and handling dangerous reptiles they are in fact expressing their faith in God, relying on his power to keep them safe. This is also why they will refuse medical treatment when they are ravaged by the effects of the poisons, even when their lives are in danger. These dangerous conditions are what led to ownership of poisonous reptiles being outlawed in many states, including Kentucky in 1947. Snake-handlers and their supporters claim this is an infringement upon their first amendment right to freedom of religion, but considering how well this law is upheld they haven’t much reason to be upset.
While I’m certainly a supporter of all freedoms, I think that maybe there’s better ways to show your religious devotion to your religion rather than playing with deadly reptiles. Maybe try helping out at a soup kitchen, giving clothes to the homeless, or going to a normal church that doesn’t have any poisonous snakes.

By: Ryan Lewis

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