National Geographic Channel’s addictive reality series Snake Salvation features snake-handling pastors Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin as well as their dedicated congregations, who, if they are of age, are also welcome to participate in the more-than-a-century-old tradition of faith-based Russian roulette by “taking up serpents” (as mentioned in the Book of Mark) in the form of potentially deadly venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads.
One distinction that becomes abundantly clear after watching just a couple episodes of Snake Salvation is that these people believe that God will protect the righteous from the venom (unless it is his or her time to go), not from being bitten. Most all of the main characters have numerous stories of being bitten, including Pastor Jamie Coots’ harrowing and graphic tale of being bitten on the finger and then watching it slowly turn black and fall off! (He now keeps it in a jar just in case someone stopping by is curious to see it, like, say, a National Geographic Channel cameraman.)
*SPOILER ALERT* So far in the first season there have already been three people who have been bitten and survived, two of which were caught on camera. Pastor Jamie Coots’ dad (and veteran snake-handling preacher) ‘Papaw’ Greg Coots had his hand bitten while handling copperheads in church during the episode aptly titled “Bitten In Church.”
The other bite occurred while the men were on a snake-hunting trip to Louisiana looking for cottonmouths. (Surprisingly — to me anyways — is that just about half the series is centered on the fact that these churches have a hard time keeping live venomous snakes on hand for their services, due to the facts that these snakes usually do not live long in captivity, they are relatively rare, and they are illegal to transport. Actually, I believe they are illegal to keep in some states — technically.)
Anyways, a group consisting of Pastor Jamie Coots, Pastor Andrew Hamblin, Jamie’s son “Little Cody” Coots, and “Big Cody” are in the swamps of Louisiana looking for cottonmouths when it is revealed that, contrary to their skills in church, their snake-handling abilities “in the field” might could use a little work:
Here are a series of screen grabs of the moment Little Cody was bitten, which was the result of some very ungraceful “snake handling” on the part of Andrew. (I suppose it’s a little easier to be careless handling a poisonous snake when it’s at the end of a pole.)
If you’re curious to watch the rest of the episode, in which Little Cody suffers through the after effects of the bite (both from the snake venom and the venomous reaction from his wife back home, who isn’t exactly a fan of the fact that her husband likes to take up serpents) it is titled “Swamp Hunt” and can be watched online at NationalGeographic.com if your cable provider is AT&T, U-verse, Midcontinent, optimum, WOW! or xfinity. (You can also watch the episode “Bitten In Church” in which Papaw Coots is bitten during a service.)
Snake Salvation airs on Tuesday nights with back-to-back half-hour episodes starting at 9/8c on National Geographic Channel.