Christian Men and Beards
I promised this post on Susan's blog in one of my comments on her long hair post.
I have a beard, and I am not Jewish nor Muslim. I am a Christian. To explain this anomaly will require a bit of work.
There are several reasons why I have a beard. Probably the most important reason is the gender confusion so prevalent around us. Beards are helpful in this regard. Whatever the Bible says about cross-dressing (and it says something! It's quite negative.) leads me to believe that no one should ever have any difficulty, in looking at someone, in determining the sex of that person. It always makes me feel rather weird if I'm looking at someone, and I can't tell whether that person is a boy or girl.
I will artfully dodge (was that a musical?) the question of the gender of God (I don't think it makes a huge difference in my argument), and simply point out that God created man, male and female created He them. He did not create a sort-of-man, and a kinda-woman. They were male and female, and no question. There are passages in Leviticus which prohibit a man putting on women's clothing, and I believe vice versa, but I'd need to look it up. Evidently, God views the distinction between men and women to be important.
I have never in all my born days been accused of being effeminate, even before I wore a beard. So you might object saying that I didn't have a need. Ah, but other men might not have such an easy time of it. Wearing a beard might encourage others to do the same, who might benefit by the added distinction. In addition, the beard provides insta-recognition. No one has any question about me. I liken it to driving a car: don't drive so that other people can figure out what you're going to do next, make it obvious. I'm making it obvious.
The next reason I wear a beard is because it's so amazingly easy to care for a beard compared with shaving. At least, it is for me. I realize many men out there don't grow their facial hair fast enough to warrant shaving every day (and that is the way God made you; don't you dare be ashamed of it!). For them the rewards are not so great, and in addition, the growing of a beard would be so time-comsuming, and the beard would look so terrible in the meantime, that I can fully understand your reluctance. There is no Christian requirement here!
It takes me ten minutes to shave properly, and that has to happen every single day or I get 5:00 shadow that is as rough as sandpaper. Beards are soft, but stubble is extremely unpleasant. I do shampoo and condition my beard right along with the hair on top. I also comb it. But that really takes very little time; on the order of a couple minutes for everything. I have to trim my beard once a week or so. That takes about ten minutes. So overall, I save a goodly bit of time from my beard, which I can then apply to blogging about it.
Probably 99% of the men in the Bible had beards, especially those men of Israel before the time of David. David, we believe, imported iron technology from the Philistines (plundering the Egyptians). Before that, it would have been prohibitively expensive to have iron tools such as razors for shaving. In addition, "tearing the beard out" was a sign of mourning, and shaving your beard was also. We know Jesus had a beard, because of the prophecy of "plucking out the hair," which probably refers to a beard.
Another reason for wearing a beard, which I could wish was otherwise (at least, in terms of the general distaste), is the apparent distaste for beards amongst the gentler sex. For me, this has the distinct advantage of scaring women away. Since many women dislike beards, I am safe from women who think that appearance is everything, and are only interested in "cute guys." My beard, I am nearly convinced, saves me from some embarrassments in this regard. Not that I think I'm extraordinarily handsome without it; I don't think I'm ugly, but that's as far as I'll go.
I think beards, well-kempt ones (the only ones I'm considering in this post), look distinguished. I think my beard gives me an air of authority; I think this helps me with my bus driving. I hear all these horror stories about things that happen to some bus drivers (fights on the bus, water balloons through windows, various other things). None of them ever seem to happen to me.
Now what are the objections? Principally, I hear that the ladies don't think beards look nice. Well, that's certainly something to consider. I've heard several ladies claim that beards cover facial features they would rather see. But really, ladies, is the appearance of a guy really so very important? You are not so visually oriented as we men are. I understand that because men are visually oriented, and always will be, the appearance of a lady is always important to her. The opposite situation is simply not true. My appearance is not all that important to me. I try to look presentable, simply out of politeness, but I do not spend enormous amounts of time with my appearance.
People might think that beards are warm in the summertime. Not really. In fact, I almost think beards make you cooler. The reason? Beards increase the surface area-to-volume ratio, making it easier to exchange heat with the environment. Thus, unless the summer-time temperature is above 99 degrees Fahrenheit or so, a beard is not going to make a man much warmer to any measurable amount. Interestingly, beards also do not significantly insulate a man in the winter, either. I have found my beard to be insignificant when it comes to my temperature.
I suppose one other objection might be dinnertime, and the "flavor-saver", as a fellow beard-wearer fondly calls it. This is simply a matter of keeping the hair around the mouth well-trimmed, and using napkins, and being a bit self-aware. Nothing all that difficult, really.
All-in-all, I find the advantages (mostly time) outweigh the disadvantages greatly.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Suppose I get married, and my wife wants me to get rid of it, right? Guess what? I get rid of it! After marriage, my body belongs to my wife. However, I might very well try to cajole her into liking it and letting me keep it. If the end result is dislike, then the beard goes. There are many things more important than beards. Including time I could be spending doing things other than writing about beards.