This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1997, Volume 14, Number 2, pages 313. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.
The cover of this book touts that it explains the holy laughter movement and provides “guidelines to distinguish genuine renewal from human- induced phenomena” by “a charismatic insider uniquely qualified to critique the movement.” The cover also states the author has an M.A. degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary who is “presently studying at the University of Durham, England.”
The book is formatted into two parts of five chapters each: part I describes the contemporary holy laughter movement, and part If places it in historical context, from Old and New Testament references through the 18th- and 19th-cenuiry revival movements to the present. There is no subject index, but each chapter contains many footnotes citing sources. There is an “Index of Ancient Sources,” which consists of references to passages from 25 Old Testament and 24 New Testament books and 6 non-Christian sources.
The first chapter, “The Laugh Heard Around the World,” describes an interview of a leader in the “Toronto Blessing renewal” on a Florida FM station in 1995. During the interview the announcer “started weeping and fell to the floor,” followed by the station manager and another studio worker. The “chain reaction” spread through the studio and to the listening audience. Some in cars along highways “pulled off the road.” Others “poured into the church and studio area” where they “wept and fell to the floor.” Some reported visions and hearings and local pastors considered it “a genuine move of God” (sic). Small children were “slain in spirit and lay on the floor “up to two hours.” The congregation of the interviewed leader grew from 600 to “as much as 1300.”
This book is well referenced with sources mainly from within the movement. It does not seek to bring to bear observers from the fields of religion or psychology from outside the movement. This exerts a bias in favor of the movement which may disappoint some readers who seek to place it in the broad context of religious ritual and theology and psychological research and concepts.
Frank MacHovec, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of the Self
Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1997