Holy Roller

Holy Rollers

Holy Roller is a derogatory term for some Christian churchgoers of the Methodist, Holiness, and Pentecostal traditions. The term is sometimes used derisively by those outside these denominations, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor in an uncontrolled manner. However, those within these Wesleyan traditions have reclaimed it 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.’ Gospel singer Andrae 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.’

Merriam-Webster traces the word to 1841. The Oxford English Dictionary cites an 1893 memoir by American humorist Charles Godfrey Leland, in which he says ‘When the Holy Spirit seized them … the Holy Rollers … rolled over and over on the floor.’ Similar disparaging terms directed at outspoken Christians but later embraced by them include ‘Jesus freaks’ or, from former centuries, Methodists, Quakers, and Shakers.

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