HP is a sauce of manliness. (Any attempt at facial hair must be applauded. Literally.)
HP is a sauce of manliness. (Any attempt at facial hair must be applauded. Literally.)
“The beard is a masculine ornament, given to us by God not for any practical purpose, but for our dignity.” – St. Augustine
(Roman Catholic brothers, consider skipping this post. I pick on you in it. And if you do not skip it, bear with me in love.)
This past Sunday I experienced something that made me realize, or at least form a theory for, why so few Roman Catholics have beards.
Think about it. This doesn’t prove anything, of course, but think about the Roman Catholics you know. Do any of them have beards? I can think of one or two of my own acquaintance, but overwhelmingly, they are clean-shaven.
Some of this, I believe, is connected with the roman-ness of the Roman Catholic church. Scipio Africanus, the man who defeated Hannibal, and scion of the mid-Republic, is said to have been the first Roman to shave. After him, the Roman fashion was always to be clean shaven, except for brief periods when imitating the Greeks might have been seen to have been fashionable. Shaving was a symbol of being Roman, usually over against being Greek, but also in comparison to the barbarian races.
Shaving was a rite of passage of religious significance for the pagan Romans, and a sign of manhood. Having a long beard meant slovenliness and squalor. The propensity of early Christians to grow a beard signaled two things: the eastern origins of their faith, and their willingness to be seen as other than Roman.
As Europe moved further into the Christian era, the barbarian Christians brought the beard back in. Men had beards. Warriors had beards. Knights had beards. Beardlessness was a sign of extreme youth, or of femininity.
Priests of the Western church began to shave. It became a symbol of celibacy. It became a symbol of control over the flesh and sin. Men have their appetites to kill and rut and grow beards, but the Roman priests overcame that through shavery.
According to a very interesting post at the Catholic Encyclopedia (the complexity of which will allow you to poke holes in this wee little post if you care to, although it will still hold water after you’re done):
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 excommunication the clerics who “like a layman allowed hair and beard to grow”, and Pope Alexander III ordained 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.)
This body is a body of sin; the beard is an unleashing of the body. Therefore mortify the beard.
Thus the scholars of the West, inspired to shave by their connection to a cultural Rome that Frankish kings and Saxon peasants knew nothing of, and driven to shave by their desire to overcome concupiscence, became the clean-cheeked representatives of our faith.
But none of this, I propose, is the reason Roman Catholics today are still shaven.
You may have heard that I have an awesome beard. A beard perhaps worthy even of El Cid, defender of Christians before the Moorish hordes, que en buenhora nació. His wife called him “the perfect beard”. His beard has a facebook page. Of his beard El Mio Cid himself hath said, “Thanks be to almighty God, it is long because it has had much loving care lavished on it. What reproach can you cast on my beard? All my life it has been my chief delight. No woman’s son has ever plucked it and no one… ever tore it.” Truly here, and not in the tonsured scriptoriums, was a paragon of Christian manliness in the Middle Ages.
But could El Mio Cid de Bivar, champion of Christendom, have taken the Lord’s Supper?
My mustache runs over my lip, as I’m sure the mustache of El Cid Campeador did. This past Sunday, as one of the elders at my church handed me the chalice and I dragged deep and full of the wine, I got to enjoy a second sip courtesy of all the wine still caught in my mustache.
Think that’s gross? It’s just being human. Any dude with a mustache runs his lower lip over his mustache after taking a quaff of any drink, be it beer or water. But you couldn’t do that with transubstantiated wine.
So this is not a theological argument. Well, it is, but barely. It’s an anthropological one. My point is this: only dudes who shaved could have come up with a doctrine like the Roman Catholic one of transubstantiation. It is a doctrine that tries to drag earth, kicking and screaming, all the way up to heaven. But isn’t it our belief that the Kingdom of Heaven comes down to earth? This very real wine very really is Christ’s blood right here and right now. It has come down to you, and you may drink it and feast with it. Also, this very real man very really is God right here and right now. He has come down to you, and you may drink and feast with him. And while you’re at it, grow a beard with him, as he surely did.
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. Here’s a question of sacramental theology for you. Do you want to be like the angels, or do you want to be like our Lord Jesus?
We are meant to be glorified humans. If we begin to reject our humanity, we will twist our glory and come up with all sorts of weird ideas.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
When we mortify the flesh, we are to mortify our members, our arms and legs. These arms and legs are things like fornication and covetousness. We pluck those eyes out. This is very physical.
The new man is also very physical. Your new man may or may not be circumcised, but he certainly has bowels. And these are bowels of mercy.
We are not to cast aside all that is physical. We are to save it. We are to save men and their beards and their appetites. And if our priests tell us that it is best to not mate, we’ll be all weird when it comes to sex. If our priests tell us that this bread and wine is not so base as real bread and wine, we will become either aesthetes or drunkards.
And if our priests act like it’s best no to have a beard, we’ll go beardless.
It is perilous to despise that which Jesus glorified. And we all do it. This has been a history of one weird scorn that developed in one corner of Christendom, and how it becomes part of a complex of ridicule for that which God has chosen to glorify. Ridiculing and despising that which God has glorified is what the world does. In this way the church is like the world.
If we despise wine, we will hate fellowship. If we despise sex, we will hate women. If we despise beards, we will hate brotherhood and masculinity. If we despise feasting, we will hate weddings and life together.
Don’t be like the angels. Figure out what sort of human Christians are supposed to be, and do that. Do I write you a new commandment, that all men must have beards? I do not write a new commandment, but an old commandment I write you. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
So I urge you, but do not command you: Grow out your beard, you son of a King! When he appears, we shall be like him! And if there’s beer at the right hand of God, my brother, I’ll buy the first hundred rounds if Jesus is clean-cheeked.
Danielle Mead Skjelver wants to tell you all about it. You can find an entire paper authored by her on Luther’s scatological expressions at German Hercules: The Impact of Scatology on the Definition of Martin Luther as a Man 1483-1546.
Apparently in medieval and Reformation Germany, poop jokes made you more manly.
Introduction: The writings of Martin Luther are among the most studied in the world. With words sublime, he gave the Christian God back to the common man, and yet Luther also spoke with shocking cruelty and vulgarity. Martin Luther’s employment of vulgarity, and specifically scatological vulgarity, in his writings and speech has drawn criticism, embarrassment, and accusations of psychological instability. But there was power in coarse language, for Martin Luther’s combative use of scatology defined him as a virile male in sixteenth century Germany. Brash and full of bravado, the scatology of Martin Luther lent him the appearance of fearlessness. Scatology in many societies is associated with the beer hall and the military, two bastions of masculinity (analogous to today’s ‘locker-room talk’). Even among elites in the Europe of Luther’s day, scatology was not unusual. This was particularly true in German speaking lands. In a time of strong proto-nationalism, his combative and demeaning brand of scatology, which was leveled against not only a spiritual but also a foreign enemy in the Papacy, secured for him the definition of virile German male. In spite of his emaciated condition from years of fasting, and later in life in spite of corpulence, and even in spite of his public proclamations that he proudly helped his wife wash diapers, Luther was ever the man in the eyes of both allies and enemies. His virility was largely the product of his aggressive use of scatological language, for in demeaning his enemies, Luther diminished their virility. His adversaries, however, vilified his character in such a way that their attacks emphasized Luther’s masculinity.
Ah, Christian husbands. Sweet, sweet Christian husbands. Caught up in the carnival of oversexualization and shame that is our society, trying to navigate your marriages, your wives, your sexual sins and hangups, and your immense horndogginess, all at once.
That’s awkward. Also, I feel awkward about using the word “immense” just now.
May I suggest that your marriage could use a little more rock n’ roll? You know, from a Biblical perspective. And make that rock hard. Make that roll smooth.
Each of these songs can be your guide through different times and phases of your walk with wifey. Share these with her. These are for couples. Some are more directed toward husbands, some more toward wives. As always, there are no accusations, but mutual support and encouragement.
1. Keep Your Hands To Yourself, Georgia Satellites
During certain times you might want to keep your hands to yourself. For example, during the gentle phase many call “courtship”, and the less pious call “dating”, during which this song is clearly set.
No hugging, no kissing until you make her your wife.
Once she is your wife, this song can also be helpful during your brief times of mutual sexual abstention, as prescribed in 1 Corinthians 7:5, for devotion to prayer. Always remember, however, St. Paul’s admonition that this should only be for a brief time. It is always good to “come together again”. And I think you know what I mean.
Please don’t nag your woman. Men are always in peril of being sexual “drippers“, all the while believing that their wives are the only nag in the marriage. If you’ve memorized the “Can We ______?” in Mark Driscoll’s sex book, you might be in danger of being a dripper. Consider keeping your hands to yourself for a time.
2. Abracadabra, Steve Miller Band
Husband, let your woman know a) that you want her, b) that her deeds in the bedroom are appreciated, and that c) her deeds in the bedroom are effective.
Your wife should know that you want to reach out and grab her. Every wife wants that from her husband all the time. Obviously you both have other things to do besides grab each other, but a standard part of the Christian marriage package that a husband should give his wife is the confidence that he desires her. You know, like a burning flame full of desire. Appreciation and gratitude to God and wife are the order of the day if one wishes to let the fire get higher.
Once the wife knows she is wanted and appreciated, she is better able to make the husband say “you make me hot, you make me sigh. Keep me burning for your love…” Because it’s not about some sort of technique or ancient Eastern secret. It’s about love and enthusiasm. It’s about kindness and consideration. You know, mature married stuff.
3. I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl, Nina Simone
Okay, this isn’t really rock n’ roll. But it belongs here anyway.
O husbands, have you complaints about the wife of your youth? Pray to God for mercy and realize that everything is your responsibility. Yours. You aren’t to be your wife’s accuser before God; you’re to be her advocate. You can’t worry if she’s taking care of her end or looking after your “needs”. So…you better start giving.
Give her some sugar in her bowl. Give her some honey deep in her soul.
What’s the matter, daddy? Come on, save her soul. I ain’t fooling. Now that’s a theologically profound idea. It might even provide an insight into the always difficult 1 Timothy 2:15.
In your entire marriage, and in your chambers, o husband, you be the generous one. Give her some sugar. Right in her bowl.
4. Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band
Why wait until the middle of the cold dark night?
Everything’s a little clearer in the light of day. Be open, be communicative, and make love all day. And those of you who know me know that I cannot have used the phrase “make love” casually, since I view its use as a euphemism as deplorable. “Make love” is still listed in Merriam-Webster as to “woo or court” before it’s listed as to “neck, pet, engage in sexual intercourse”.
So make love to your wife all day, send her texts, make phone calls, do favors, speak sweet nothings, whatever. Consider yourself to be in a never-ending state of wooing; win your wife every day.
Do this, and your sky rocket might be in flight afternoon, evening, and night. Maybe even in the morning, before you’ve had your coffee, which is difficult but worth doing.
5. Squeeze Box, The Who
There are principally two things that Christians can learn from this tune (I say “principally” because the rich lessons that can be extracted from this subtle work are surely myriad).
First, regularity and frequency must be an important part of any marriage. For the mommy and daddy in this song, that meant all night, every night. That, it seems, was what their marriage required to be healthy. That might not be the way for all couples, but each should find their own rhythm. Where Afternoon Delight reminded us that hubby should always be in woo mode, Squeeze Box might serve to remind wives not to make their husbands work too hard.
Second, in a non-creepy way, it’s a family affair. Squeeze Box is about a mommy and a daddy. I’m not saying that you should make it so that the kids can’t sleep or that the neighbors are kept awake by the “music”. Modesty is meet and right.
But modesty is a glorious and strong thing, very different from shame. Marriage is fundamentally a sexual relationship. That is what it is. It is the only Biblical sexual relationship (depending on how one uses the word “sexual” I here add distractingly). Your neighbors should know that you’re married. Your kids should be confident that mommy and daddy love each other. They may not understand it now, but when they’re older and trying to figure out how to play the squeeze box in their own marriages, they’ll look back and see how you made music, and whether or not you loved it. You’re teaching your kids about music right now, whether they hear you occasionally from the other side of the house or not.
So if nothing else, do it for the kids.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Robert Anson Heinlein (July 1907 – May 1988)
Via Rooted Man.
Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me fame is creating what might be his most enduring contribution to human civilization: a study of what it takes to be manly and handsome, or “mansome”.
This past weekend I listened to a Greenville Country sheriff’s deputy talk about his trips to a local place to wax his chest. I was dismayed to hear this; I’d had no warning, it wasn’t like this guy was a body-builder. And did you know that there’s perfume specifically designed for the male groin area?
How much grooming does “mansome” allow for? Does this count as mansome?
This is my pops. He’s a pretty impressive dude. He’s the life of the party. He drinks great wine, and brings plenty for all. He tells terrible jokes and everyone thinks they’re hilarious. He smokes great cigars, and brings plenty for all. His beard is white. The Most Interesting Man In The World modeled his look on my dad’s.
People, he got his doctorate at M. I. freakin’ T. Do you hear what I’m saying?
My dad rocked the beard hard when he was at M.I.T. He was no baby-faced undergrad, so his situation was different from that of most young men who come into M.I.T. But surely he will be concerned to hear this news: beards at M.I.T. are under attack!
Thankfully Naveen Sunkavally has come to the rescue. Thank you Mr. Sunkavally.
Typically those who complain against beards are the very people who can’t grow them in the first place.
A beard (for men) is like a well-endowed midsection: You’ve either got it or you don’t. And those who don’t have it sometimes descend into furious, animated mudslinging that masks an inner frustration.
You’ve probably known these types of people. These always paw their chin insistently and consistently trying to eke out of their peach-fuzz a semblance of the real thing. At night, they probably take a magnifying glass to their faces and look in the mirror trying to spot and nourish the slightest bit of growth. And then in the morning, after a night of frustration, they awake fresh and ready for a new day of mudslinging.
The rest of the article is a wonderful exposition of the virtues and applications of beard in daily life. Read it to see how helpful to individual and society the beard can be.
At the end Mr. Sunkavally tosses in a completely gratuitous slam which I here include, because I also enjoy talking trash about white people: “Extremely light-skinned males may, however, look ridiculous with beards.”
This is a straight reblog from Rooted Man.
Mickey Mantle (October 1931- August 1995)
(photo: Mantle flings his batting helmet after terrible at-bat in 1965)
Came across this quote over at The Whole Garden Will Bow (whose excellent byline is hip est corpus). Blew my mind.
“The trap of reputation, for example. In this scenario, having garnered a considerable reputation or level of acclaim, one becomes paralyzed by the dreadful thought of losing it all by doing something… undignified. Uncool. This is a trap. Reputation is a trap that will turn you into a lifeless marble bust of yourself before you’re even dead. And then of courses there is reputation’s immortal big brother, Posterity, worrying about which has driven better women and men than you into the asylum. All these things… reputation, posterity, cool… should be tested to destruction by a course of deliberate sabotage. As the often-illuminating Escape and New Musical Express cartoonist Shaky Kane once remarked, “Don’t be cool. Like everything.” If you find yourself in danger of being taken seriously, then try to do something which undermines or sabotages that perception in some way. If your talent is of any genuine worth, it should be able to weather squalls of unpopularity and audience incomprehension. The only thing that might seriously endanger either your talent or your relationship with your talent is if you suddenly found yourself fashionable.”
― Alan Moore (of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame)