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On February 15, 2014 Middlesboro, Kentucky resident, James ‘Jamie’ Coots died from a rattlesnake bite.

This is tragic.
I do mourn for his family’s loss.
And, therefore I don’t want any hate mail on that front!

That being said, I can’t help but think Coots got what he deserved.  The third generation Pentecostal snake handler suffered snakebites on eight separate occasions prior to the fatal bite.  The ninth bite was the one that finished him off.  NINE TIMES?  That’s one year short of a decade.  That used to be the number of planets in our solar system before some loon decided Pluto didn’t count.  That’s the number of innings in a four and a half hour baseball game.  That’s the number of lives a cat is supposed to have.  According to Greek mythology that’s the number of days it takes for an anvil to fall from heaven to earth, and nine more to fall from earth to Tartarus – a place of torment in the underworld.  That’s a lot of times to get bitten by a venomous reptile, and decline medical attention, all in the name of God.

Even the snake charmers in India are questioning Coots’ sanity at this point.  After all, while the cobras the snake charmers deal with are MORE venomous then rattlesnakes, they generally aren’t being HANDLED.  In addition, cobras have a limited strike range.  While “dancing” they can only “strike” straight down, as high as their head is off the ground.  Cobras lack the ability to lunge at their prey, a fact that I’m reasonably confident snake charmers exploit when choosing how far away from the snake to sit while they play their flutes.  Given the fact that a rattlesnake’s “strike range” is close to half it’s body length, this dude Coots is in an entire different league of lunacy.

Without further ado, I have a disclaimer for you.  Far be it from me to judge anyone’s religious beliefs…

BUT…

Since the dawn of man (LITERALLY) snakes have been bad news.  It began with the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  Then there were the snakes that plagued the Israelites in the wilderness after they complained about the manna from heaven.   In Greek mythology Medusa was described as someone with a “monstrous woman’s face and living serpents in place of hair”.  Snakes have always been bad news.  With proper care and respect for their space, they make great pets.  However, I have to take issue with a “church” (used in the loosest sense of the word) that requires the handling of serpents as part of your worship to God.

Certain scriptures just weren’t meant to be taken literally.  If God wanted you to handle poisonous animals, Steve Irwin (AKA The Crocodile Hunter) would still be among the living.  That being said, I feel more sympathy for Steve Irwin.  He did what he did, and he did it to HIMSELF!

Coots not only handled poisonous snakes, but he dragged other people into his backwoods homebrewed gospel, resulting in the death of 28-year-old Melinda Brown, of Parrottsville, Tennessee in 1995.  She died after being bitten by a 4-foot-long timber rattlesnake at Coots’ church.  The victim’s family disputed accounts that Brown had been holding the snake that bit her, and disagreed with witnesses who said she refused medical treatment as she suffered the effects of the venom for two days at Coots’ home.

Bottom line being, Coots is a kook.  This is someone who has spent too many years alone in the mountains.  I don’t wish to stereotype but I have a theory that there is a direct correlation between how many poisonous snakes you’ve handled in the name of God, and how many bluegrass concerts you’ve been too.   No offense to bluegrass fans, but places like New York City, Chicago, and LA don’t have these problems.  They may have LOTS of other issues but snake handling preachers ain’t one of them!

My name is Jonathan Turrell, and that’s my two cents!