Holy Roller

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Holy Roller is a term originating in the 19th century and used to refer to some Protestant Christian churchgoers in the holiness movement, such as Free Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists.[1] The term describes dancing, shaking or other boisterous movements by church attendees who perceive themselves as being under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Holy Rolling is sometimes used derisively by those outside these denominations, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor in an uncontrolled manner. Those within related Wesleyan traditions have reclaimed the term as a badge of honor.

Description[edit]

Holy Roller refers to Protestant Christian churchgoers in the holiness movement, such as Free Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists.[1] Holy Rolling is sometimes used derisively by those outside these denominations, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor in an uncontrolled manner.[2]

Many individuals in the wider Methodist tradition are also referred to by others as Shouting Methodists due to the ejaculatory prayers congregants often utter during the service of worship, such as "Praise the Lord!", "Hallelujah!", and "Amen![3][4]

Similar disparaging terms directed at outspoken Christians but later embraced by them include Jesus freaks or, from former centuries, Methodists, Quakers, and Shakers.

History[edit]

Merriam-Webster traces the word to 1841.[2] The Oxford English Dictionary cites an 1893 memoir by Charles Godfrey Leland, in which he says "When the Holy Spirit seized them ... the Holy Rollers ... rolled over and over on the floor."[5] The term describes dancing, shaking or other boisterous movements by church attendees who perceive themselves as being under the influence of the Holy Spirit.[6]

Those within related Wesleyan traditions have reclaimed the term as a badge of honor; for example William Branham wrote: "And what the world calls today holy-roller, that's the way I worship Jesus Christ."[7] Gospel singer Andraé Crouch stated, "They call us holy rollers, and what they say is true. But if they knew what we were rollin' about, they'd be rollin' too." Decades earlier, in the notes for his 1960 album Blues & Roots, jazz musician Charles Mingus used the term, seemingly neutrally and as a simple description, to indicate his own religious upbringing.[8]

Usage[edit]

Politics[edit]

  • Gifford Pinchot in 1919: "Apparently no meeting for any purpose is to be tolerated except the Holy Roller meetings themselves. These theoretically and in fact ... The Holy Roller church in this community, as elsewhere, in its total influence promotes immorality. ..."[9]
  • The New York Times on May 2, 1923: "Bound Brook Mob Raids Klan Meeting: Thousand Hostile Citizens Surround Church and Lock In 100 Holy Rollers. ... Until the arrival of eight State troopers to reinforce the local police here at 1 o'clock this morning about one hundred members of the Holy Rollers were ..."[10]
  • Time on October 12, 1936: "When Jesus Christ first appeared to His assembled disciples after His resurrection, He told them that believers 'shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents' (Mark: 16:17, 18). To many a U. S. religionist of the Pentecostal or "Holy Roller" variety, the 'gift of tongues' has long been vivid reality.
  • Sarah Palin on January 19, 2016, referred to some in the crowd as "holy rollers" when she endorsed Donald Trump: "Looking around at all of you, you hard working Iowa families, you farm families and teachers and teamsters and cops and cooks, you rock and rollers and holy rollers! You all make the world go around and now our cause is one."[11]

Poetry[edit]

Music[edit]

  • Joe Hill's 1911 song "The Preacher and the Slave" contains the lines "Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out / And they holler, they jump and they shout".
  • In the 1969 Beatles song "Come Together", the line "He one holy roller" can be heard within the first 15 seconds, referring to George Harrison's (Hindu) religiosity.
  • The Scottish hard rock band Nazareth has a song titled "Holy Roller"—first officially released 1975 on Greatest Hits—which uses the term throughout the song's lyrics.
  • "Holy Roller" is a song by Country Joe McDonald from his 1981 album "Into the Fray".
  • "Holy Roller" is the fourth track on Apple released in July 1990 by Mother Love Bone
  • Holy Roller is a 1999 compilation album by Reverend Horton Heat.
  • The American rock band Portugal. The Man released a song titled “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” on their 2013 album Evil Friends.
  • Spoon's 2014 single "Inside Out" contains the line "Iej don't make time for holy rollers".
  • The 2014 Thank You Scientist song "Feed The Horses" contains the line, "I won't be your holy roller..."
  • "Holy Roller" is the title of the 10th track on the 2015 Awolnation album Run.
  • The phrase is also the name of the 9th song on The Amazons' debut album from 2017.
  • ”Traveling On”, a 2018 song by the Portland folk rock band The Decemberists, contains a reference to holy rollers.
  • "Holy Roller" is also the title of the 7th track on the 2020 album Walking Like We Do by The Big Moon.[12]
  • Holy Roller, a 2020 song by the Canadian metalcore band Spiritbox.

Television[edit]

  • In the 12th episode of the seventh season of The Simpsons, Team Homer, one of the rival bowling teams is named "The Holy Rollers."[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Snyder, C. Albert (1 May 2006). Spiritual Journey. p. 69. ISBN 9781600340161. Holiness means different things to different people. Our church, the Free Methodist, is a "holiness" church. One doctor said to me: "Free Methodists? I know about them; they are holy rollers. They used to have camp meetings near where I grew up."
  2. ^ a b "Holy Roller". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2010-09-14. A member of one of the Protestant sects whose worship meetings are characterized by spontaneous expressions of emotional excitement.
  3. ^ Armstrong, Chris (1 June 2003). "How John Wesley Changed America". Christianity Today.
  4. ^ Hudson, Winthrop S. "Shouting Methodists". Alaskan Dreams. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  5. ^ "roller, n1", definition 17b. The Oxford English Dictionary. (Account required for online access).
  6. ^ Fahlbusch, Erwin (2008). The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 438. ISBN 9780802824172. The "shouting Methodists" of the early 1800s, and the later Holiness or Pentecostal "holy rollers" in both Caucasian and African-American congregations, insisted that a genuine experience of God's glorious presence called for exuberant, bodily response.
  7. ^ "Why I Am a Holy-Roller", a sermon by William Marrion Branham, August 1953
  8. ^ "The first tune, 'Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting', is church music. I heard this as a child when I went to meetings with my mother. The congregation gives their testimonial before the Lord, they confess their sins and sing and shout and do a little Holy Rolling. Some preachers cast out demons, they call their dialogue talking in tongues or talking unknown tongue (language that the Devil can't understand)." Roots and Blues liner notes, Atlantic Records
  9. ^ Charles Otis Gill and Gifford Pinchot (1919). Six thousand country churches. p. 23. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  10. ^ "Bound Brook Mob Raids Klan Meeting: Thousand Hostile Citizens Surround Church and Lock In 100 Holy Rollers". New York Times. May 2, 1923. Retrieved 2010-09-22. Until the arrival of eight State troopers to reinforce the local police here at 1 o'clock this morning about one hundred members of the Holy Rollers were locked up in their church, the Pillar of Fire, in Main Street, surrounded by a mob of nearly 1,000 hostile citizens, several hundred of whom broke up a meeting held by the Holy Rollers to organize a Klan here last night. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  11. ^ "Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump". CNN. 2016-01-20. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  12. ^ "The Big Moon announce second album 'Walking Like We Do' details, share new track 'Your Light'". DIY. 11 September 2019. Archived from the original on 21 November 2019. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  13. ^ "Frinkiac". Frinkiac. Retrieved 2019-10-21.