"Snake Salvation," a new reality program debuting this month on the National Geographic Channel, focuses on "two pastors who lead congregations in the religious ritual of snake handling, often battling the law and society to practice their religious beliefs and freedoms."
"Snake Salvation" premieres Tuesday, Sept. 10 and follows the lives and leadership of Pentecostal Pastors Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., and Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church of Middlesboro, Ky. Coots, in his 40s, has long been a mentor to Hamblin, 22, and inspired him to start his own snake-handling congregation.
Based on previews of the two premiere episodes shared with The Christian Post ("Appalachian Hunt" and "Smoke 'em Out"), viewers will likely find themselves cringing (over a rotted human finger claimed by a snake bite) and shaking their heads in bewilderment (a believer seeks only prayer instead of medical attention after a venomous snake bite). In the end, though, viewers might simply find themselves resigned to displays of a faith that compels adherents to pick up serpents, drink poison and brandish fire in the name of obedience and a desire to display the power of God.
The foundation for this sect of holiness or sings following Pentecostalism is Jesus' words in the Kings James Version of Mark 16:17-18: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 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."
Read Snake-Handling Christians to Star in 'Snake Salvation' Reality Show and Snake-Handling Christians: Faith, Prophecy and Obedience for more information on the new reality show, as well as background on the movement of serpent-handling Christians.
In the meantime, read these 10 quotes from the premiere episodes of "Snake Salvation," in which Pastors Coots and Hamblin explain why practicing their faith must involve handling snakes. Also, both men set out on snake hunts ahead of hibernation season to make sure their churches will be well-stocked with serpents for winter services.
Episode 1: "Appalachian Hunt"
"The snakes that I use in my services are a danger meant to kill you. If they couldn't kill you, then there wouldn't be no point in having them." - Pastor Andrew Hamblin
"Taking up serpents is not a sign to the believers. It's a sign to the unbelievers of God's power that moves on the believers." - Pastor Andrew Hamblin
"To me, it's much a commandment from God when He said 'they shall take up serpents' as it was in the Ten Commandments when He said 'thou shall not commit adultery.'" - Pastor Jamie Coots
"I am terrified of spiders. Snakes, all day long; but spiders, ooh God Almighty..." - Pastor Coots shaken at the mention of spiders during a snake-hunt
"To me, if anyone gets snake bitten (and) they die, I still flip to the 16th chapter of Mark and in red letter in the King James Bible it stills says 'they shall take up serpents.' It's still there, it don't change." - Pastor Hamblin
Episode 2: "Smoke 'em Out"
"I made a promise to my people that there would always be snakes in my church. To go back on a promise is a lie, and to lie is sin. I will always have snakes in church no matter what it takes." - Pastor Coots
"I believe that if I did not take up serpents, that I could go to church for the rest of my life and die lost." - Pastor Coots
"I would not lay my life down for something I didn't believe in. I wouldn't risk leaving my family, my five children, my wife, my friends just all for a show. It's not a game, this is real." - Pastor Hamblin
"It's not that the handling of snakes don't mean anything. It's just the feeling that you know you're holding something in your hand that could kill you, and yet God has given you victory that it's not." - Pastor Coots explaining his faith to two women
"I do not worship snakes. That would be worshipping the creature more than the Creator. But I do believe that it represents good conquering evil when God comes by and lets them be handled, because the anointment of God takes care of you." - Pastor Hamblin
"Snake Salvation" premieres Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel. The faith-based reality show is a National Geographic Television (NGT) production executive produced by Jerry Decker and Matthew Testa, with Ted Duvall as senior producer.