What Is Holy Laughter?

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Holy laughter is a phenomenon that occurs at certain Charismatic gatherings. Some participants (from a handful, to almost the whole audience at times) find themselves laughing uncontrollably for no particular reason, sometimes even to the point of falling out of their chairs and rolling on the floor in convulsions of laughter.

Holy laughter can occur no matter the topic being addressed by the current speaker from the pulpit - even when the speaker is expounding on such matters as Eternal Judgment and Hell. It is taught in such settings that this is a supernatural manifestation which indicates a special in-filling of the individual by the Holy Spirit.

Although this phenomenon has been reported in isolated instances for the past one hundred years or so, holy laughter first attracted widespread attention in the early 1990s as one of the typical manifestations involved with the Toronto Blessing movement.


The most prominent individual connected with this type of behavior was South African evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, who styles himself "Joel's Bartender." This is a reference to the prophecy in the Bible in Joel 2 regarding the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

And afterward it shall be that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions.

And also I will pour out My Spirit upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth - blood and fire and pillars of smoke. (Joel 2:28 - 30, HBFV).

Those who are overcome with Holy Laughter at Howard-Browne's meetings are viewed as being "drunk with (or in) the Holy Spirit," and some do behave as if physically intoxicated, to the point that they are unable to drive home from meetings.

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Dictionary of Biblical Words

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