Even if you have found yourself in the hollers of the Appalachian Mountains, you still may not have come across one of America’s snake-handling churches. While it’s estimated that there are about 125 churches that use snakes during their sermons, most are tucked away in rural areas and serve small congregations that have been involved in the churches for generations.
The churches use the venomous snakes to show their devotion and trust in God, and are inspired by the biblical verse in Mark 16:17-18, which reads: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
These types of churches aren’t usually in the public eye — except when a pastor is bitten.
Cody Coots is a fourth-generation snake-handling pastor at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Name church in Middlesboro, Ky. In a new documentary, “My Life Inside: The Snake Church,” which premiered on Friday on the YouTube channel Barcroft TV, Coots is seen holding a snake during one of his sermons, which generally has 14 parishioners in attendance each week, when the serpent suddenly bites his ear.
His father, Jamie Coots, was 42 years old when he was handling a rattlesnake at the church in 2014. He was bitten on the hand and died “within probably 10 minutes,” according to Cody.
In the documentary footage, Cody continues to preach as blood rushes out from his ear. He tells his congregation to “keep playing” their music. “I’m not worried at all,” he says. “God’s a healer, I’m not worried.”
Then, Cody begins to choke and asks to be taken to the mountaintop, where he says God will decide whether he lives or dies. Instead, a man named Big Cody carried him out of the church and drove him to the hospital.
Doctors told Cody that he could have been “killed,” as the snake was close to severing his temporal artery. He is reportedly reevaluating his life after the incident.
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