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Anorak | With The Serpent Handlers Of America’s Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By God’s Sweet Love

With The Serpent Handlers Of America’s Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By God’s Sweet Love

by | 17th, February 2014

Pastor Jamie Coots With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

 

PASTOR of the day is snake handler Jamie Coots from Middlesboro, Kentucky. Last Saturday night he was bitten by a snake and died. Pastor Coots, who preached at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church in Middlesboro, held the belief that poisonous snakebites do not harm believers as long as they are anointed by God.

Do the snake handlers trust God’s enough to dice with death?  Coots did:

“Takin’ up serpents, to me, it’s just showin’ that God has power over something that he created that does have the potential of injuring you or takin’ your life.”

Many people have died.

In 1995, a woman was bitten by a snake in his church. She refused to go to the hospital. She died on Coots’ couch while church members prayed over her.

 

 

In 2012, Mack Wolford of West Virginia’s Wolford’s House of the Lord Jesus church, succumbed to a yellow timber rattlesnake bite – just as his serpent handling father had done in 1983. “His faith is what took him home,” said his sister Robin Vanover.

Adherents to snake handling see the bites as a sign of God’s love, citing the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament:

“And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

It’s not always death by snake. At other times, believers have taken a tincture of strychnine and water.

 

PA 11550501 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

The Rev. Atlas Johnson, 25, Holiness Church preacher, in his mountain cabin, seriously ill from a snakebite in Norton, Virginia, July 25, 1952. Johnson clung to life, still without medical attention which he has steadfastly refused. He was bitten four times by a diamond-back rattlesnake during a snake-handling religious service on Sunday.

 

In 2013, Coots featured in a National Geographic show:

 

 

Coots was the third in his line to handle serpents for divine love. He expressed his hope that his son, Little Cody, would carry on the cult. Said Coots:

“He has been bit five times by cottonmouths, and he has already told me, ‘Dad, I’ll never go to a doctor’.”

 

PA 11550445 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Snake handler cult is shown during service of the Church of God on Virginia-Kentucky state line at Harlan, Kentucky, Sept. 12, 1948.

 

PA 11550529 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

The congregation listens as Rev. Joe Turner proclaims an emotional message of faith to his people from his pulpit in the Jesus’ Church at Camp Creek, West Virginia, April 6, 1973. They are members of a snake handling sect, belonging to the Perfectionist Holiness movement which still flourishes in Appalachia. Snake handling cults have gone underground in many states, but there are a number active in West Virginia where it is still legal.

 

Thomas Burton wrote on the snake handers:

Since most of us tend to seek simple, concrete explanations for phenomena, it is easy to view one aspect of serpent handling rather than the whole and, consequently, either to romanticize or brutalize the people and the practice. One can feel after attending a service that it is completely irrational, wild people running around, falling down, quivering, uttering strange sounds; drinking deadly poisons; taking venomous serpents (giant and tiny ones, coiled, extended, limp, knotted together, rattlers, cottonmouths, copperheads, cobras) and staring at them nose to nose, wrapping them around their necks, wearing them on their heads, pitching them, carrying armloads of them, shaking them, petting them; displaying arms tattooed with snakes, hands atrophied by bites, fingers missing, clothing embroidered and etched with snakes — or feel the same sense of the bizane after going into homes and seeing live deadly snakes in closets and adjoining rooms, pictures framed on the wall of people with handfuls of rattlers, photo albums of disfigured bodies from venom poisoning, or a huge frozen rattlesnake taken out of a freezer by a relative of a person whom the serpent killed during a funeral service for yet another snakebit victim.

 

PA 11550563 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Rev. Shiloh Collins, 39, conducts his Holiness Church meeting in the front room of the home Forester Asher, where an estimated congregation of about 100 drifted in and out during the evening. Rev. Collins reads from the Bible the passages that prove he should have no fear of snakes in Manchester, Kentucky, July 5, 1959.

 

Apparently serpent handling sprang up during the first ten years or so of the twentieth century in East Tennessee, and certainly from this state it was  widely disseminated.

 

PA 11550407 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Charles H. Hall, left, of Fort Payne, Ala., and Harmon Hatfield, of Fyfee, Ala., read from the Bible at the Berrien County Courthouse in Nashville, Georgia, Sept. 14, 1961, where Hall is on trial for life in the snake-bite death of Lloyd B. Hill. Hill died after being bitten while handling a rattlesnake during a faith ceremony at the New River Holiness Church in Berrien County in August 1960. Hall was pastor at the time. Hatfield, also charged with murder, is not on trial at this time.

 

 

Jimmy Williams, who also died in the signs (in his case, drinking strychnine) took a somewhat different stance. He pointed out that the verse in Mark said “they shall take up serpents,” not “they shall not bite.” He also felt that, if one died in following God’s Word, one would be doing just what the apostles did: “If you can keep your mind right on the Lord, well, God will move for you every time regardless of what it is. If a serpent bites you, you have to keep your mind right on the Lord; if you get your mind off the Lord, you’ll swell up. Well, there have been people that died from serpent bites, but if you keep your mind right on the Lord, well, God will recover you. You won’t have to suffer too much. But there’s always been people who suffered for the gospel’s sake. Just glad to be  counted worthy.”

 

 

PA 11550509 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Rev. Shiloh Collins of Holiness Church shows the skeptics that the snakes he handles in his services are venomous in Manchester, Kentucky, July 5, 1959. With a match he opens the mouth of a rattle snake and shows the fangs. Rev. Collins held services in a remote section of Kentucky hills 20 miles from Manchester.

PA 11550497 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

One of the women attending services of the Church of God near Harlen, Kentucky on the Virginia-Kentucky state line, Sept. 12, 1948, trembles and gestures to musical accompaniment. In the background snake handlers show their faith.

PA 11550517 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Back in the remote section of the hills southeast of Manchester, Kentucky, Holiness Church meeting was held. James Estep demonstrates his faith by handling four rattle snakes without fear, July 5, 1959. The meeting was held in the home of Forester Asher at a community called Blue Hole on the Clay and Leslie County line.

PA 11550512 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Snake handler cult is shown during service of the Church of God on Virginia-Kentucky state line at Harlan, Kentucky, Sept. 12, 1948.

PA 5846997 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Members of the Pentecostal Church of God, a faith healing sect, surround a woman who has “Got the Spirit ” as a man holds a snake above her head in Evarts, Ky., Aug. 22, 1944. Although a Kentucky statute passed in 1940 forbids the handling of snakes in connection with religious services, this sect revived the ritual after the recent death of native of the region who was bitten by rattlesnake.

PA 16853328 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

22/08/1944

PA 11550399 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Rev. Oscar Hutton of St. Charles, Va., shows his faith as he holds copperhead snakes in his hand and two rattle snakes crawl over his shoulders. Hutton attended service of the Church of God on the Kentucky-Virginia state line near Harlan, Kentucky, Sept. 12, 1948.

PA 16853329 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

Members of the Church of God, a faith sect, recently revived rites at which they handle poisonous snakes. Although a Kentucky statute passes in 1940 forbids the handling of the snakes in connection with religious services, the meeting was held after the recent death of a native of the region who was bitten by a rattlesnake, This photo shows members surrounding a woman who has “got the spirit” in Evarts, KY., Aug. 22, 1944.

PA 16853332 With The Serpent Handlers Of Americas Pentecostal South: Photos of A Gruesome Death By Gods Sweet Love

 

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Posted: 17th, February 2014 | In: Key Posts, News, Strange But True Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink