“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.”

If the above quote from Mark 16:18 is LITERALLY true, then I guess it means that Pastor Coots was not one of “them” (meaning, apparently, he was not enough of a believer).

From the New York Daily News:

Pastor Jamie Coots, the star of “Snake Salvation,” was bitten on the right hand at his Kentucky church, Middlesborough police said.

The Pentecostal holy man refused to go to the hospital or accept any medical treatment, police said.

Coots, whose show appeared on National Geographic’s television channel, believed snake handling was a commandment from God and a viper’s bite was God’s will.

“When I first started church I said if I ever went to a hospital or a doctor over a snake bite I would quit church,” Coots said in one episode.

He had previously survived a bite that cost him most of the middle finger on his right hand. Instead seeking medical attention for the gruesome injury, he let it rot to black, exposing a quarter inch of bone before it broke off.

He kept the stub of the finger in a glass jar for his wife.

“To me it’s as much of a commandment from God when he said, ‘they shall take up serpents’ as it was when he ‘thou shall not commit adultery,” Coots said on the show of snake handling.

Coots was just as resolute on Saturday, according to police.

Unless I am misreading Pastor Coots, apparently if you are bitten and you die, it means you didn’t believe. This strikes me as deliberately impenetrable thinking. It also strikes me that people who handle snakes in these rituals are deliberately testing God. Assuming God’s existence, how is God to be expected to respond to such a deliberate challenge? And as was pointed out earlier, why aren’t they testing their faith (per the same Bible quote) by drinking strychnine or arsenic? If it won’t hurt them any more than handling snakes, why aren’t they willing to give it a try?

The answer, I think, is that handling snakes is less dangerous than drinking poison. The church’s snakes are kept in cages, and are fed and handled regularly. This tames them down and makes them far less likely to bite than, say, a wild, freshly caught rattlesnake. I’d call bullshit, but these days, disagreeing with any opinion said to be grounded in religion can evoke strong reactions. I’d rather let these folks just test their faith, as long as they don’t insist I do so.

And as if snake handlers weren’t bad enough, there’s deliberate workplace inflexibility which does not allow clocks to be adjusted in my local gym. After repeated complaints about the clocks being wrong (including an incident when I thought I had six minutes till closing because of the damned clock in the shower room), I was told that it is “not the job” of the regular gym staff to adjust the clocks. That, they claim, is the job of the maintenance staff (meaning the nighttime cleaning crew), but the latter don’t consider it their job either, so the clocks get more and more off.

In other words, it is no one’s job. And these days, employees are not allowed to do what their job does not tell them to do.

Initiative must be punished. (Hey, at least the snake handlers have that!)