Home > Antichrist, Antifeminism, That's Too Catholic > “That’s Too Catholic” part 1: Shaving.

“That’s Too Catholic” part 1: Shaving.


The Augsburg Confession: WAYYYYY too Catholic.

I can’t tell you how many times people in my congregation have said to me that I was doing something that was “too catholic.”  9 times out of 10 whatever it was that was “too catholic” was a  very small departure from the baptist/methodist liturgical ethos and piety that is familiar to so many Lutherans. IE, “You made us stop singing happy birthday in the sanctuary (after 5 years.)  That’s too Catholic!”

So after awhile, I tried using “that’s too catholic” as a way of preventing changes that people asked for that I didn’t want, or in order to puncture people’s certainty that everything they like and were familiar with was not catholic, and eveything they didn’t like was catholic.

I decided to start adding this regular feature to the blog called, “That’s too catholic.”  I will either be describing things that Lutherans will frequently say is “catholic”, and how they’re not.  Or I will point out how a lot of things that Lutherans love and would complain about if you took them away are really originally from the Roman Catholic church.

Now, for our first example. When I grew a long beard several months back, all I ever heard was about how I should shave because I looked like I lived in a cardboard box.  Back then my best response was, “I’m trying to reach the young people, because beards are cool now.” 

Little did I know that when I was told to shave by someone shaking my hand outside of church and was told that my beard was like that of a bum, I should have made a deeply disgusted face and said, “Shaving?  That’s too catholic!”  [I have really tried this response in a couple of cases, but I’ve found it didn’t work any better than the “trying to reach the young people” thing does.]

See the post below.

http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-lutheran-beard.html?showComment=1347313021072#c2142108356610538089

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Lutheran Beard

Feel like doing something Lutheran for Reformation Day? Misplaced your copy of oppressive canon law and thus can’t toss it in the bonfire? You can metaphorically, yet more substantially, oppose the false pretenses of the Bishop of Rome (if you are a secular cleric) by growing a beard.
Exempla:

[Luther is the guy on the top.  He grew the beard when he was in hiding after he became an outlaw and was fair game to be killed by order of the German Empire.  The second guy is Martin Chemnitz.  He helped write “The Formula of Concord”, the final document in the Book of Concord, the confessions of the Lutheran church.  He is considered the second greatest Lutheran theologian in history after Luther.]

Apparently Lutherans grew beards in reaction to the canon law of the Pope’s church, which made it mandatory for clergy to shave.

So far as concerns England in particular it was certainly regarded throughout the Middle Ages as uncanonical to allow the beard to grow. A cleric was known as a shorn man (bescoren man, Laws of Wihtred, A.D. 96), and if it should seem that this might refer to the tonsure, we have a law of King Alfred: “If a man shave off another’s beard let him make amends with twenty shillings. If he bind him first and then shave him like a priest (hine to preoste bescire) let him make amends with sixty shillings.” And under Edgar we find the canon: “Let no man in holy orders conceal his tonsure, nor let himself be misshaven nor keep his beard for any time, if he will have God’sblessing and St. Peter’s and ours.” A similar practice obtained generally throughout the West and it was one of the great subjects of reproach on the part of the Greek Church, from the time of Photius onwards, that the Romanclergy systematically cut off their beards. But as Ratramnus of Corbie protested, it was foolish to make an outcry about a matter which concerned salvation so little as this barbæ detonsio aut conservatio.

The legislation requiring the beard to be shaved seems to have remained in force throughout the Middle Ages. Thus an ordinance of the Council of Toulouse, in 1119, threatened with excommunicationthe clerics who “like a layman allowed hair and beard to grow”, and Pope Alexander IIIordained that clerics who nourished their hair and beard were to be shorn by their archdeacon, by force if necessary. This last decree was incorporated in the text of the canon law (Decretals of Gregory IX, III, tit. i, cap. vii). Durandus, finding mystical reasons for everything, according to his wont, tells us that “length of hair is symbolical of the multitude of sins. Hence clerics are directed to shave their beards; for the cutting of the hair of the beard, which is said to be nourished by the superfluous humours of the stomach, denotes that we ought to cut away the vices and sins which are a superfluous growth in us. Hence we shave our beards that we may seem purified by innocence and humility and that we may be like the angels who remain always in the bloom of youth.” (Rationale, II, lib. XXXII.)

The kind of effeminate thinking in the last quote is the very reason that we should recognize the spirit of antichrist at work in Rome.  By extension, Durandus is arguing that men are more sinful than women.  But Scripture teaches that it is the office of men to lead spiritually, and that it was the neglect of this office that led to the fall into sin.  So why should clergy, of all people, want to look less manly and more feminine?  So they can be more like the woman who was deceived by the serpent?

Femininity and Christianity should not be synonymous.

The Catholic Encyclopedia goes on:

In spite of this, the phrase barbam nutrire which was classical in the matter, and was still used by the Fifth Council of Lateran (1512), always remained somewhat ambiguous. Consequently usage in the sixteenth century began to interpret the prohibition as not inconsistent with a short beard. There are still many ordinances of episcopalsynods which deal with the subject, but the point upon which stress is laid is that the clergy “should not seem to be aping the fashions of military folk” or wearing flowing beards like goats (hircorum et caprarum more), or allowing the hair on their upper lip to impede their drinking of the chalice. This last has always been accounted a solid reason in favour of the practice of shaving. To judge by the portraits of the popes, it was with Clement VII (1523) that a distinct beard began to be worn, and many among his successors, for example Paul III, allowed the beard to grow to considerable length. St. Charles Borromeo attempted to check the spread of the new fashion, and in 1576 he addressed to his clergy a pastoral “De barbâ radendâ” exhorting them to observe the canons. Still, though the length of clericalbeards decreased during the seventeenth century, it was not until its close that the example of the French court and the influence of CardinalOrsini, Archbishop of Beneventum, contributed to bring about a return to the earlier usage. For the last 200 years there has been no change, and an attempt made by some of the clergy of Bavaria in 1865 to introduce the wearing of beards was rebuked by the Holy See.

As already noted, in Eastern lands a smooth face carries with it the suggestion of effeminacy. For this reason the clergy, whether Catholic or Schismatic, of the Orientalchurches have always worn their beards. The same consideration, together with a regard for practical difficulties, has influenced the Romanauthorities in according a similar privilege to missionaries, not only in the East but in other barbarous countries where the conveniences of civilization cannot be found. In the case of religious orders like the Capuchins and the CamaldoleseHermits the wearing of a beard is prescribed in their constitutions as a mark of austerity and penance. Individualpriests who for medical or other reasons desire to exempt themselves from the law require the permission of their bishop.

So as a good Lutheran, I can’t allow any bishop to tell me how long my beard can be.  I’m almost required to grow a long beard.  And am I going to let the women around me tell me how long my beard can be?  No, no, no.  We must stand firm in the freedom with which Christ has made us free men.  Thus, I’m going to grow a sweet beard not only for Reformation but maybe all the way to Easter.  No razor shall touch my face, except maybe a little bit on the sides so that it grows down instead of out, because my beard got kind of round last time.

It’s funny that in Eastern lands a smooth face carries with it the suggestion of effeminacy.  You know, if we weren’t used to men trimming or shaving off their beards all the time, it would look effeminate to us too.  Kind of like it would look masculine to us for women to wear pants all the time if we had lived a few decades ago when you could still see women wearing dresses.  I’m afraid dresses are going to become extinct.

At this point the deeply moving writing of Clement of Alexandria on this matter needs to be heard:

To such an extent, then, has luxury advanced, that not only are the female sex deranged about this frivolous pursuit, but men also are infected with the disease.  For not being free of the love of finery, they are not in health; but inclining to voluptuousness, they become effeminate, cutting their hair in an ungentlemanlike and meretricious way, clothed in find and transparent garments, chewing mastich, smelling of perfume.  What can one say on seeing them?  Like one who judges people by their foreheads, he will divine them to be adulterers and effeminate, addicted to both kinds of venery, haters of hair, destitute of hair, detesting the bloom of manliness, and adorning their locks like women….For their service the towns are full of those who take out hair by pitch plasters, shave, and pluck out hairs from these womanish creatures.  And shops are erected and opened everywhere; and adepts at this meretricious fornication make a deal of money openly by those who plaster themselves, and give their hair to be pulled out in all ways by those who make it their trade, feeling no shame before the onlookers or those who approach, nor before themselves, being men.

In other words, the classical world was full of what we now call metrosexuals.

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 enwreathe 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 this is a meretricious and impious form of snare.  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.  So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets; and so high a value does God set on these locks, that he orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honored gravity of countenance with grey hairs.  But wisdom, and discriminating judgments that are hoary with wisdom, attain maturity with time, and by the vigour of long experience give strength to old age, producing grey hairs, the admirable flower of venerable wisdom, conciliating confidence.

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.  Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man.  And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth.  Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females, animals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect.  It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.  But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word,) if it is to attract men, is the act of effeminate person,–if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society….

….Rather we ought not to call such as these men, but lewd wretches, and effeminate, whose voices are feeble, and whose clothes are womanish both in feel and dye.  And such creatures are manifestly shown to be what they are from their external appearance, their clothes, shoes, form, walk, cut of their hair, look.  “For from his looks hall a man be known,” says the Scripture, “and from meeting a man, the man is known: the dress of a man, the step of his foot, the laugh of his teeth, tell tales of him. ”

… Lions glory in their shaggy hair, but are armed by their hair in the fight; and boars even are made imposing by their mane; the hunters are afraid of them when they see them bristling their hair.

…Of the nations, the Celts and Scythians wear their hair long, but do not deck themselves.  The bushy hair of the barbarian has something fearful in it; and its auburn colour threatens war, the hue being somewhat akin to blood.  Both these barbarian races hate luxury…I approve the simplicity of the barbarians: loving an unencumbered life, the barbarians have abandoned luxury.  Such the Lord calls us to be—naked of finery, naked of vanity, wrenched from our sins, bearing only the wood of life, aiming only at salvation.

Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” Book 3, Chapter 3 (p. 275 f. in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2)

I guess here is where I have to give the caveat that you are free in Christ to shave and dye your hair or whatever.  However, I do think Clement has some points here that we shouldn’t brush off so easily–about the sin of vanity, for instance.  About the order of creation and the wickedness of trying to invert it.  But I’ll save it for another post.

Just be a real Lutheran and grow a beard.

http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-lutheran-beard.html?showComment=1347313021072#c2142108356610538089

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