The Beards of Ministry: Revenge of the Clean Shaven

The Beards of Ministry (c) Leadership Journal 2013

The Beards of Ministry (c) Leadership Journal 2013

The Puritan.
The Goat Pharaoh.
The Spurgeon.
The Boy-Band Church Planter.

No. These aren’t the names of dance trends that have failed to make the rounds of YouTube, they’re the creatively-titled styles of beards that make up a list compiled by the Out of Ur blog.1 TJP’s resident bearded one, Brendan Busse, reflected on a religious beardedness not too long ago. And even though Catholic priests and brothers aren’t wearing nearly as many of these beards as our Protestant brethren, teasing about the style worn by ministers/pastors in these days of facial hair madness never gets old.

Here are my top three:

1.  The Patchtivist.  Characterized by splotchy growths of hair on the cheeks and chin, the Patchtivist style fits well with “standing in solidarity with the urban poor, or shooting a documentary on Christian bourgeoisity.”  I will now start calling my brother Jesuits (who may or may not also wear too much flannel) patchtivists.  They will not like this.

2.  The Guru Goatee.  It’s the standard goatee that says “neat, but with a slight ‘bad boy’ flair.”  Have to say, though, I wish more of my actual guru’s wore this goatee, though.

3.  (My favorite) The Perennial Youth Pastor.  With the modified soul patch extending to the end of the chin, it’s all too easy to imagine all the “skate shoes and superhero t-shirts” that could be matched with it… although maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to make superhero jokes with what some of my brothers have been writing about… Just kidding, Paul.

Top three aside, I have to admit that I feel left out of this list, as my style – I call it The Clean Shaven – has gone missing amongst the host of beards. Does having a hairless face make you any less evangelical as the Patchivist or any less holy at the Puritan? Maybe scraping a razor across my face every morning is hindering my ability to preach the Gospel? A good friend and fellow scholastic studying in Rome, Mike Rogers, SJ, shaved off his Guru Goatee when he served Mass with Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s.  Was he any less ministerial? Are we clean-shaven any less cool?

I say no.

Yes. Beards are historic and carry within their whiskers a sense of maturity and wisdom. Every male in the Bible seems to have a beard. Charleston Heston portrays Moses as having a very stately Spurgeon.  Psalm 133 speaks of oil running down the beard of the priest Aaron.  And it doesn’t take too much effort to imagine the beard someone like Noah or Abraham had. Yet, no one imagines Adam, the first Man, as having a beard. And the early paintings of Jesus (as well Michelangelo’s Jesus in the Last Judgement) actually depict him beardless. Really, though, aren’t all men that have beards really just trying to cover up some deep hurt or wound within?  I think that’s got to be it.  And the greater, fuller, or thicker the down, the darker the inner pain.

I suppose at this point I should come clean and state that I don’t have a beard not so much out of choice, but out of the simple lack of any actual capacity to grow one.  Sure. I’ve toyed with the idea, letting my stubble grow out a bit (and was once coerced into growing a very whispy mustache), which only revealed large empty patches under my jawline and on my cheeks. But in the end I’m happy to be clean shave.  I stay looking young and fresh, and food particles never accumulate on my face.

Trends will come and go.  Today, facial hair is in. Tomorrow, it’ll be out.  Tonight I go to bed uncool. Yet, there will come a morning when I’ll wake up, and we’ll look at those who let the hair on their faces grow and they’ll be ones on the uncool list, while my Clean Shaven will top the charts of a new Non-Beards of Ministry chart.  In fact, I have to get to work on that right now.

Editor’s Note: cover photo by sea turtle via Flickr.

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  1. One, it’s a great name for a blog.  Two, FYI this is the blog of the Leadership Journal, a mag published by Christianity Today.  Great work by them.

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