Holy Roller by Julie Lyons

Holy RollerHoly Roller: Finding Redemption and the Holy Ghost in a Forgotten Texas Church by Julie Lyons (WaterBrook Press, June 2, 2009), 256 pages

Julie Lyons heads into the South Dallas ghetto one night in search (this time) not of the latest murder or drug bust blared over the police scanner, but of a church, where addicts are freed and miracles performed.

What she finds is much more than the page-one story she pitched to her editor without a lead; she finds a new church home, a family.

This book is equal parts:
1. journalistic accounting of a church no stranger to miracles and healing;
2. memoir of a church;
3. autobiography of a woman who grew up in the (conservative, white, evangelical Protestant) church but didn’t find her church home until she committed herself to a charismatic black congregation; and
4. sermon/condemnation of the evangelical church in the United States.

The book feels very lacking in gray — it’s very black and white and seems to indicate, at least at points, that her church, Body of Christ Assembly, is the only church, that all other denominations are wrong and at least possibly dead, that even other Pentecostal churches are likely messed up.

I’m curious who Lyons’s intended audience is for this book. She explains some pieces from her childhood church experience that I found very obvious and not in need of explanation — sword drills, “The B-I-B-L-E” — and left some pieces from her current holy roller church experience unexplained — why is the pastor’s wife called the First Lady?

I was disappointed by how little the book dealt with Lyons’s journalism profession; I would like to have seen more conversation about it.

Regardless of the questions I raise and the opinions-stated-as-near-facts that I doubt, I am glad to have this snapshot of church life as successful, but also as difficult.

I am glad she found a church where she fits, where she sees God working. I am sad that she’s convinced he’s not working in any church remotely like those she grew up in.

Julie Lyons is an award-winning writer, editor and investigative reporter who for 11 years was editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer, an alternative weekly newspaper owned by Village Voice Media. She has a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in English from Seattle Pacific. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son. Read an interview of Lyons.

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3 responses to “Holy Roller by Julie Lyons

  1. Pingback: Words from my reading 715 « Word Lily

  2. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Saturday Review of Books: July 18, 2009

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