Middlesboro, KY— A well-known preacher of a sect of Pentecostals that handles poisonous snakes has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake during a service. Jamie Coots, star of the reality show “Snake Salvation” on the National Geographic Channel, died earlier this week from the snake bite after reportedly refusing medical treatment, due to the belief that “true believers, anointed by God” would not be harmed by the snakes.
Members of Coots’ congregation were in shock. “I just can’t wrap my head around it,” said 48-year-old member Barbara Purvis. “I always thought his faith was unquestionable. Maybe he was just having a crisis that day? That’s the only way I can rationalize it.” Purvis told reporters that she had not ever personally handled the snakes, out of the belief that her faith wasn’t as strong as Coots’. “Maybe that means he was just like us,” she said.
“He was one of the best handlers I’d ever seen,” said fellow preacher and snake handler David Brown. “He was even bit in eight separate incidents by snakes and lived. I don’t know if something rocked his faith that day that allowed this to happen, but true believers shouldn’t be harmed like this. Maybe he read something about the situation in Ukraine right now or Africa most days.” As he left, Brown told reporters candidly that he was glad he wasn’t handling snakes today as he was now, “thinking too much.”
Coots’ particular branch took up snake handling after interpreting this passage from the Gospel of Mark literally, “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.” Though speaking in tongues and faith healing practices are quite common among fervent religious sects like Coots’, snake handling is somewhat limited, with “[drinking]any deadly thing” done in almost zero services.
As of press time, the rattlesnake that bit Coots is still crammed in a box with other snakes and is reacting fearfully and aggressively to those who try to pick it up and yell about Jesus.