If you thought the “Worship Wars” were bad, they pale in comparison to the century’s-long theological back-and-forth over which is more spiritual: unshaven or clean-shaven, beard or no beard.
Of course, most of the claims about the “spiritualness” of beards is rooted in sexist nonsense, but we won’t talk about that.
It’s good to have a sense of humor about ourselves, which is why I quite enjoyed this piece from Christianity Today: “The Wars Over Christian Beards.” It outlines the various comings and goings of Christian beards throughout Church history.
This tidbit from the early 9th century might be my favorite of them all:
Full beards come briefly back into style, but fall out of style by mid-century. This leads some older mid-century church leaders, nostalgic for beards, to associate shaving with immodesty. As one abbot wrote in 1043, the empire in Germany was besieged by “the shameful custom of the vulgar French … in the cutting of beards, in the shortening and deforming of clothing, execrable to modest eyes, and many other novelties.”
Good God, man, cover your face! I have made a covenant with mine eyes, but you’re well-groomed facial hair is not helping.
Half a century later, writers associated immodesty with beards, not shaving. One English Benedictine monk wrote, “Now almost all our fellow countrymen are crazy and wear little beards, openly proclaiming by such a token that they revel in filthy lusts like stinking goats.”
Honestly, it’s theological commentary like this (which is perfectly serious, thank you very much) that causes me to take today’s churchy commentaries on the spiritualness of this or that social trend with several grains of salt.
But back to beards.
All joking aside, if you’re going to wear a beard, just be sure to beard responsibly.
(Editor in Chief) is a poet whose work often centers around the relationships between nature and the city, loss and love, faith and protest. She holds an MLA in English Literature and an MA in African American Studies. In between her two Masters degrees, Renea took a "gap year" to study theology at the famous L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. L'Abri is also where she read the Harry Potter saga for the first time and fell in love with the characters and the story's triumph of sacrificial love. Renea leads an incredibly talented creative writing group at her church and spends a fair amount of time binging books and Netflix and swing dancing at the historic Sons of Hermann Hall.