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  • The Beard Battle

    Ward Church Pastor Scott's Blog 6 years ago

    This summer, while on sabbatical, I grew a beard. No big deal. Just a lazy, summer luxury. I’d rather grow hair on the top of my head, but that option is no longer available to me. I have called my beard my “grow-it-where-you-can” project.

    The beard is an experiment. I have not decided yet if I will keep it. For fun, we invited the congregation to vote through the Ward Church App. At the time of this writing, 57% voted “Yes, I like the new look!” and 43% voted “No, it must go!” Not exactly a landslide election. Beards have always been controversial, and, it turns out, a beard on a pastor is about as polarizing as the current presidential candidates.

    For many people throughout history, beards have been a big deal. The law of Moses (Leviticus 19:27 and 21:1-5) commanded men not to trim the corners of their beard, and some writers advocate that this holiness law still applies to all men, not just to Orthodox Jews. Many of the Reformers grew long beards, possibly to signify their break with Catholic clergy, who were traditionally clean shaven. Nineteenth Century Baptist minister Charles Spurgeon famously advised his students that growing a beard was “a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.”

    According to the History Channel’s website, Abraham Lincoln, the first bearded president, popularized beards for the United States in the 19th Century. In the early 20th Century, beard popularity declined again as World War I soldiers were required to be clean-shaven. Beards came back on the scene in the 1960s with the hippie movement. During this period, many Christian institutions prohibited facial hair. Moody College, for example, banned facial hair for students for several decades, even while a portrait of the thickly-bearded founder Dwight L. Moody hung prominently in the main hall. Now beards are making a comeback as a fashionable trend, even at Moody College.

    I have never been big on fashion. I grew my beard mostly to save time. I have learned since that beards do not actually save any time. Bearded men may not have to shave daily, but they have to trim their beards regularly and clean the sink before their wife sees the mess. I have clogged my sink twice and have started to purchase Liquid Plumber in bulk at Costco.

    Now, that I have a beard, I kind of like how it looks. I think it rounds out my head and adds a masculine touch. On the other hand, some people have told me that my beard makes me look “older.” Some have said that it makes me look “distinguished” (a nice way of saying “older”). And some have said simply, “It looks terrible.” I suppose I should be happy that people feel so free to say how they really feel.

    The future of my beard remains uncertain. I think I’ll keep it, at least for a while.  For me, it has been more than a fashion experiment. It has been fascinating cultural experiment. Beard on!

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