Monthly Archives: April 2008

About Beards

To grow one, or not to grow one.  That\'s the question.A blog I recommend others read, because it is a valued cobelligerant in contending for Biblical sanity generally and in the area of sexuality in particular, recently posted something about beards. It was a snippet from an early Father of the Church, Clement of Alexandria, who offered these words:

But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women. For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreath their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks. This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women’s apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts.

… For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,—a sign this of strength and rule.

… This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature. In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man’s whole body. … It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.

Father Clement says a good many other things, which you can read for yourself at the CCEL site linked above. And, all that he says will keep the egalitarian chattering classes twittering for the rest of their lives.

But, I cite Clement here by way of showing how very, very far our culture has moved from its Christian foundations, and to suggest that something so simple as the grooming of body hair by both men and women in Christ’s church shows which way the spiritual winds are blowing.

Consider …

What pastor or christian leader would ever consider a sermon urging the men of his flock to let their beards grow out? If they will not preach sermons to their female parishioners on the womanliness of long hair, the shamefulness of short hair on women (remember, that’s the Apostolic judgment in 1 Corinthians 11!), how shall they ever screw up enough courage to grow a beard, or to urge their brothers to grow them?

Of course, there many reasons modern Christian leaders would offer to avoid the subject entirely. They would include

1. Legalism!! If we preach on the length or grooming of hair, much less of beards, we’d be preaching a legal code. How contrary to the gospel of grace. Right?

2. Majoring on minors!! Or, less than minors!! What about men who can’t grow beards? What about female cancer patients?? And, who’s to say short hair on a woman is shameful anyway??

3. Hearts are far more important than the hair!! God looks on the heart, not on the hair-length. Right?

These and similar defenses against preaching on head-hair are irrelevant to this question — does the Bible, does the New Testament, does the Law of Christ, do any of these have anything to say to Christians about hair length and hair grooming? I’d expect most modern Christians to give a resounding “NO!” to that question.

But, when you point them to such teachings in both Old and New Testaments, a modern Christian leader cannot explain why they are there in the first place. To explain them, he (and, more often these days, she) would need a Biblical theology of sex to explain things like sex-differentiating elements in grooming and fashion, things which both the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ have very clear things to say.

Clement trained his pastoral guns on fashions of dress and grooming that are pretty much the same as what we find today. He warned his flock to avoid the way the world corrupted women and emasculated men. First Century North Africa and Twenty-First Century North America had far more in common than anyone understands. Clement was a faithful servant of his Lord to preach all the Christ had commanded. Modern shepherds rarely do that any more, at least where the the commandments of Christ deal with things like dress, fashion, and — yes–hair length and its grooming, on both men and women.

By way of disclosure, I admit to wearing some form of facial hair since college days (high schools in my day did not permit any facial hair on men). I have worn a beard for almost 40 years now. My children (the oldest is now 25) have never seen me without a beard, except for a photo taken during Marine Corps boot camp, and they did not recognize me at all when they first saw it. The

If you’d like to see an entire website devoted to the subject of beards — their glory, their cultivation and maintenance, their lore, check out beards.org. As I pen this blog, it features the fellow at the right, seen in both his bearded and unbearded versions. Beards.org archives all the steps in between this version of Patrick and the bearded version below. In fact, you can see all the versions in between at beards.org, and find all you ever wanted to know about beards, and a lot of what you never dreamed there was to know.The

During my 40 years with a beard, I’ve seen beards go in and out of fashion. And, I’ve seen kaleidascopic variation in beard styles, lengths, and grooming. But, in no Christian community I have ever inhabited have I seen even the slightest acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit had any opinion at all about this topic, or that He had shown His opinion in Holy Writ.

That is what is the most startling about Clement’s pastoral exhortations. Most moderns will be shocked at the details of his teaching (he dares to criticize what we nowadays call “waxing” to remove all hair from the face, chest, and other parts of the body).

Beyond the details, however, is the larger framework from which the details take their meaning. It’s this Biblical framework one can sense in Clement’s exhortations. And, once you begin to perceive that framework and to think about the world in terms of it, the world around you begins to look pretty much as Clement was describing it in his day.

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Eleven Years Ago

Cheska memory

On the anniversary of the death of our third daughter Francesca Louise (aka Cheska), my wife sends out a remembrance to friends and family.  Here is the one she sent out this year:

Francesca died 11 years ago this afternoon. As you may remember I am making it my habit to write short memories about her on her birthdays and death days so that those of us who knew her will not forget what God did in and through her life while she was with us.

Last week I asked Veronica what she remembered most about Francesca. She answered rather quickly. “I remember that she forgot about herself and took joy in God.” Veronica went on to tell a story about a time with they were about 6 and 8. They had a big fight over a coloring book and parted in anger. But in only a minute or two, Francesca pursued Veronica and apologized, saying, “A coloring book is not worth fighting over.” Veronica is still visibly impressed by this show of love all these years later.

As I remember Cheska’s last months, there is one simple explanation for how she behaved. She was filled with the Holy Spirit. This explains her joy in tribulation, her quickness to reconcile with a sister, her diligence, and her many godly traits.

Isaiah 11:6 speaks about the peace of the kingdom in which a little child will lead wild animals. In Mark 10:15 Christ says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Francesca the child is our example of faith and life.

 

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Vile, Mindless Idiocy

 

 

Two things incline a Christian’s heart toward eternity – the lure of heaven and its glories, and revulsion with the world we are departing. The lure is usually fainter, for our glory is unimaginable for our world-darkened minds. But, revulsion with this world is usually never very strong, and so the Scripture exhorts us against loving the world.

 

Two things this week increased my revulsion with the world. If you can’t stand feeling revolted, go away until I post something else.

 

I expect many of you have already encountered the first thing I’ll mention: a story in the Yale Daily News which reports a Yale senior art student’s “performance project” in which she purports to inseminate herself repeatedly with a syringe, and then to induce a series of abortions on the results of her inseminations.

 

Yale officials insist it’s all a farce. The art student insists it’s for real, that university profs and deans supported her project, and she’ll show you video to prove that she’s not making it up. Supposedly, everyone’s outraged, even those who endorse abortion.

 

In the latter case, I wonder why. If an art student at an Ivy League university can conceive such a thing, enlist support of faculty and deans, and carry it out; if she can go forward with plans to “present” the record of her achievements as her senior project – well, what does that tell us about the political, cultural, and spiritual environment in which all this is going on?

 

Second thing I ran across is even more horrific, though most folks won’t think so. It comes from the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a story  about young evangelicals defying political/cultural stereotypes. The money quote runs like this: “I’m not for gayness, but everyone deserves to have a great life. I’m not for killing babies, but I’m pro-choice.”

 

The mind boggles.

 

How about:

 

“I’m not for hari-kiri, but the self-disemboweling community deserves to have a great life just as much as anyone else.”

 

I wonder what this nonstereotypical evangelical would say to this:

 

“I’m not for bombing abortion clinics, but I don’t condemn those that do.”

 

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Next Time She’ll Wear Skirts

Putting her foot down

 

Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal is one of the few commentators to consistently analyze the “gender dynamics” of the Democrats’ presidential primary in this election cycle. In her June 27, 2007 column, Noonan put her finger squarely on Hillary’s problem: “Hillary Clinton doesn’t have to prove she’s a man. She has to prove she’s a woman.”

Such irony!  Feminism has triumphed in Hillary Clinton. She epitomizes the fundamental feminist premise, namely that there is no essential difference between men and women, and what differences we see are “merely biological” or socially engineered by men to keep women in their place. To overturn these socially engineered hobbles on females, women must show that they can do the “man thing” just as well as any man.

 

So, Hillary Clinton, in Noonan’s words, creates and projects the persona aptly styled “a person with breasts.” Noonan used that image again in her recent column, commenting on Clinton’s penchant for pant suits that project the same image: “a small blond man with breasts.”

 

Clinton might have done otherwise. Indeed, she has done otherwise when it served her immediate (and narrow) purpose. Even Chelsea joined her in wearing a head-covering – that quintessential marker of femininity and compliance with social convention (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1ff) – when she met Jordanian King Hussein’s widow Queen Noor in 1999.

 

 Noonan, interestingly, thinks that the next time Hillary runs for President, she will do for her American audience what she formerly did for her very tiny Islamic audience. Noonan makes this prediction :

 

At some future point [in the 2008 Democratic primary cycle] Mrs. Clinton will leave, and at a more distant one she will try to come back. But more than one cycle will have to pass before she does. She’ll need more than four years to shake off the impression she made in 2008. And this is how you’ll know she’s making another bid for the presidency. She will wear skirts.

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Death By Blogging

 

On April 6, 2008, the New York Times ran a feature story by Matt Richtel which reported the following:

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

 The feature was a fascinating one.  Check it out.

The dead bloggers Richtel spoke about were blogging in the subject area of technology.  And, while Richtel’s observations about blogging generally were insightful, I think most of his insights have nothing to do with blogs like this one.  I observe:

1.  Blogging in the subject area of “gender issues in contemporary Christian theology” is pretty low-stress stuff.  I monitor about 50 or 60 blogs in this subject area.  I assure you that none of them can possibly generate heart-attack inducing stress.  For one thing, their output and frequency of update are simply too low; for another thing, their readership … well, who (except a few bloggers) get that excited about these issues?

2.  Though it is statistically likely that I will exit this world via a heart-attack (since I’ve already had one of them back in 1995), it will be the merest coincidence if that heart-attack should occur at the time I’m working on this blog.  Indeed, this blog competes very poorly with stressors in my environment. 

3.  So, you are safe reading this blog, and I am safe posting to it.  In fact, it’s probably when I am not posting to this blog (since last November, for example) that I am most likely of all to have a heart-attack.

After a hiatus spent stressing over other and far more mundane things (ministry administration, the holidays, the trials and fortunes of family members, income-tax preparation; the usual culprits), I am takingup the blog again, and this post will be the first of (perhaps) a goodly stream of them extending throughout the Spring and Summer. 

Thanks to my readers for checking in.  All is well. 

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