Cable television is filled with stupid shows, from The Kardashians, truTV’s World’s Dumbest …, Bill and Giuliani, Housewives of Beverly Hills, Atlanta or whatever city, Bad Girls and a host of others. Accordingly, someone at the National Geographic Channel decided “stupid” was good TV fodder, so they started airing “Snake Salvation,” a reality based television show oozing in “double stupid.”
The promo reads accordingly, “In the hills of Appalachia, Pentecostal pastors Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin struggle to keep a 100-year-old tradition alive: the practice of handling deadly snakes in church.” Snake Salvation pastors are one homily away from being another Darwin Award winner, a website recognizing individuals contributing to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization via their own (unnecessarily foolish) actions.
The series follows Pentecostal Pastors Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., and Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church of Middlesboro, Kentucky. Coots has been a long-time mentor to Hamblin and inspired him to start his own snake-handling congregation. (Note to self: be sure to always get a good mentor.)
From what I understand, these whack jobs believe God commands them to dance around with Diamondback Rattlers and other assorted venomous snakes, following the Biblical teaching of Mark 16:18:
“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.”
I believe these types of pastors are missing, that in theory, we are not to put the Lord to the test (Exodus 17:2; Matthew 4:7). Yeah. I know, I know. The human race seems to challenge that concept on a daily basis. However … just as Jesus refused to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, so we are to not intentionally put ourselves in situations requiring God’s miraculous intervention. First Corinthians 10:9, while not speaking directly of snake handling in churches, says it best: “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes.”
The Buddha never placed unconditional demands on anyone’s faith. And for anyone from a culture where the dominant religions do place such demands on one’s faith, it’s simply wrong. We read the Buddha’s instructions, which advises testing things for oneself and seeing it as an invitation to believe or not.
One does not have to go looking for a snake in an effort to prove their faith. I don’t believe that’s what God’s about. Live your faith by helping the unemployed get employed, feed the hungry, help the homeless, help a child study for a difficult math test, love your wife and honor your employer and coworkers.
For snake based faiths, pastors and members alike, your actions are deeply rooted in ignorance.