National Geographic had a reality show called Snake Salvation which followed the snake-handling adventures of Pastor Jamie Coots. Snake handling is an old Pentecostal Appalachian practice, drawn from a couple passages in the Gospels, that recommends holding venomous snakes as a test of faith. Well, this particular snake-handling Pastor, who had already lost a finger from snake bites, has now died… from a rattlesnake bite.
Aside from the obvious object lesson this provides in practical cause and effect (you know, like: “Sleep with dogs, rise with fleas.”), this will also, I’m sure, be used to discredit Christianity.
It’s always the outliers that are under scrutiny. Let’s not make normal average churchgoers the source of our general perspective on Christianity. That would be too obvious. Instead, let’s take a really close look at duck-call millionaires, homeschoolers with three hundred children, or snake handlers. That’s a fair representative sample, right?
A classic example of this narrow selection was Bill Maher’s Religulous. By interviewing some of the most ignorant believers in the world (juxtaposed with carefully selected gaffes from the less ignorant), Maher hoped to make religion (and Christianity in particular) look stupid.
But a lot of these people would have been stupid no matter what. No matter how you are indoctrinated—into atheism or Christianity—chances are you will sound ignorant if you aren’t well-educated. I could probably collect a few hundred atheist morons to interview if I felt like making atheists look stupid (that is, if they didn’t do a good enough job of that on their own).
Who knows why National Geographic ran this TV series with Jamie Coots. Did they want to make Christians look stupid? I don’t know. Perhaps they just thought controversy makes for good ratings. One way or the other, Jamie Coots is dead now. Let the strawmen arguments commence.