When it comes to snake-handling, I have a pretty simple rule about it:
Preacher Jamie Coots, however, was among those who had a different view on the matter. He was among those who believe the Bible -- notably Mark 16:18 (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.) -- encourages people to handle snakes.
Apparently he hadn't read Proverbs 3:21, which beseeches folks to use some common sense. And common sense says you don't play with poisonous snakes.
Coots not only played with venomous snakes, but he did it in church and encouraged others to do so. During his career of warping gullible minds into believing snake-handling holds some degree of importance in God's eyes, he was bitten three times. The third time was the charm -- a timber rattler did him in with a bite on the hand right there in front of the congregation.
Of course, in a further spitting upon Proverbs 3:21, he refused treatment for the bite as always. Stupid is as stupid dies.
But if there's one thing at which America's stupid folks are amazingly proficient, it's getting their own TV shows. Coots' show was "Snake Salvation" on the National Geographic Channel, though it lasted only one season before National Geographic realized these folks were as uninteresting as they were stupid.
It never ceases to amaze me how folks can zero in on one tiny passage from the Bible and make it the end-all, be-all of their faith. Whether it's the Westboro Baptists of the world with their anti-gay obsession, snake handlers or those wrapped up in trying to convince people the world is 6,000 years old, they're missing out on a whole lot of passages that could do this world some actual good.
Perhaps instead of cherry-picking the few passages on gays, snakes, shellfish, killing infidels and capital
punishment, folks could peruse the more than 2,000 verses about caring for the poor. It seems God may be a bit more concerned with helping the poor than whether George Takei is married to a man.
I can't take credit for counting those 2,000 verses. An acquaintance of mine, Shane Claiborne, is a Christian theologian and best-selling author who leads an intentional Christian community in Philadelphia called The Simple Way. Among his many books is "Red-Letter Revolution," which has the subtitle "What if Jesus really meant what he said?" (Now, there's a scary thought: Instead of just worshiping Jesus, Christians might be expected to actually follow His teachings.)
In the book, Shane asks a simple question that guides his work: What would it look like if Jesus were in charge of my block, of our city, of our country, of our world?
If you're a church or a Christian, that's a good question to ponder as you go about your business. I don't think Jesus would be investing in fancy sculptures or protesting outside a soldier's funeral. I suspect He'd do his preaching under a tree and spending His time helping people in need. He might even remind folks that riches and wealth are nothing to be proud of and should be used to benefit others. He probably wouldn't be cool with America's new pastime of demonizing the poor and glorifying the rich. Oh, and I very much doubt He'd be juggling snakes.
But I must admit that Coots' snake-handling may have ultimately done some good -- the average IQ in Kentucky went up a couple of points this week.
-- Connect with Chris Johnson at Facebook.com/KudzuKidWriting.