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In American English, Holy Rollers refers to Pentecostal Christian churchgoers. The term is commonly used derisively, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor or speaking in tongues in an uncontrolled manner.
It is generally considered pejorative, but some have reclaimed it as a badge of honor, 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 Charles Godfrey Leland, in which he says "When the Holy Spirit seized them ... the Holy Rollers ... rolled over and over on the floor."
- 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. ..."
- 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 ..."
- Time on March 4, 1929: "In the village of New Hampshire, Ohio, the Rev. Ray Dotson, 'Holy Roller' Methodist, so wailed and shrieked, so frothed and grovelled, that he got Fred Conrad, a 200-lb. traction worker, all worked up."
- 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."
- In the 1969 Beatles song "Come Together", the line "He one holy roller" can be heard within the first 15 seconds.
- "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."
- "Why I Am a Holy-Roller", a sermon by William Marrion Branham, August 1953
- "roller, n1", definition 17b. The Oxford English Dictionary. (Account required for online access).
- Charles Otis Gill and Gifford Pinchot (1919). Six thousand country churches. p. 23.
- "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."