Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review: Holy Roller by Julie Lyons

Holy Roller was a bit different that I had anticipated. Author Julie Lyons takes readers from the birth of a small Black Pentecostal Church in a crime ridden neighborhood through twenty years of fascinating spiritual growth.

By far the most interesting parts of the book were the beginning and the end. Near the beginning, she profiles the healing power and prayer as it works miracles in the lives of the residents of South Dallas; her spiritual leader, Pastor Eddington included. The last several chapters of the book take the reader on a missionary journey to Botswana, where AIDS is an epidemic. Demons are fought, lives are changed, but still the battle is not over.

In the latter beginning to middle of the book I felt the subject matter derailed into TMI. We learn that Julie suffered same sex attraction and she even talks about her desire to masturbate as well. She writes about a trip she took to Belfast which didn't really connect with the rest of the book.

This book will probably offend a lot of people. Obviously, gay people will take offense that the author feels that homosexuality can be healed by the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals might take offense at the authors portrayal of their churches as, "I had always gagged on the phoniness, hypocrisy, and indifference to the spiritual issues with which people struggle. How could evangelical churches judge liberal Christians for not taking God and the Bible seriously and then belittle Pentecostal Christians for taking God too seriously?" A lot of generalizations are made throughout the book about "white" people and "black" people and the various types of churches they attend. Those type of generalizations made by the author are hard to dismiss. Later the author states, "Their (white persons) tendency to objectify color takes some interesting twists. Too often, for example, white Christians view black Christians, particularly Pentecostals, as being innately spiritual, as if spirituality comes naturally to black people because of their ethnic or racial heritage. Whites seem to think that blacks have an elemental connection with primitive religious practices best suited to their supposed childlike beliefs." I think the author is bound up in some childhood beliefs she must have inherited from her family, because I don't think that way and was pretty offended by those statements. I would hate for a black person to read that and actually believe it.

Although I do have some criticisms of the book, overall, this was a really fascinating look at the inner workings of a small black Pentecostal church and their work, their members, their struggles, and their triumphs. Overall, I enjoyed the book and getting to know the life stories of the individual characters.

For Christians not familiar with Pentecostal churches, this book will prove very enlightening and brutally honest. Julie Lyons is an excellent writer and a gifted storyteller. She writers her truth from the heart, and doesn't hold back.


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