Beards by Jeff Crocombe


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  • Beards by Jeff Crocombe

    1. 1. G. W. Colcord H. W. Hall G. H. Bell J. M. Aldritch J. Q. A. Haughey W. H. Littlejohn
    2. 2. At the 1866 General Conference Session on May 17 a series of resolutions passed by the Battle Creek Church were read.
    3. 3. These resolutions included the following statement: R. H. Cogshall “We hold that in the matter of shaving and coloring the beard, some of our brethren display a species of vanity equally censurable with that of certain of the sisters in dressing the hair; and that in all cases should they discard every style which will betoken the air of the fop; but while we have no objections to a growth of beard on all parts of the face, as nature designed it, yet where any portion of the beard is removed, we think the brethren greatly err from the sobriety of the Christian in donning the mustache or goatee.” H. W. Gibbs
    4. 4. This was not the only occasion that such an issue was raised at the Church’s highest levels. In 1857 the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, not only included articles on theological or other topics being discussed by church members, but also answered questions sent in by subscribers. One topic that came up for discussion several times was whether or not it was proper for a man to wear a beard. J. H. Waggoner R. F. Andrews
    5. 5. Editor Uriah Smith responded to one query: “In view of the feeling which is growing up on this subject throughout the country as evinced by the many unshaven faces which one everywhere meets, and considering moreover that some of our correspondents have expressed themselves quite warmly in favor of this reform, if reform it may be called, it may be proper for us to say a word on the subject at this time. We would say then that we must beg to be excused from taking any interest in the question, or discussing its merits or demerits in the REVIEW, we cannot look upon it as Bible question. Like that restriction which would exclude swine’s flesh from the list of our eatables, whatever other plea may be urged in its favor, we think it cannot be made to rest upon Bible ground. We do not regard that book as imposing upon mankind at the preset time any restriction on these subjects. Then let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
    6. 6. “If a person is fully assured that shaving is incompatible with health, we would not of course have him do anything to injure his constitution; and if he thinks that the sympathy between his eyes and his upper lip is such that he cannot shave the latter without injuring the former, we see no other way but that a mustache must develop itself. Though in our opinion the views which many take on these points stand much in need of confirmation.” Uriah Smith
    7. 7. “Again, as to its looks, and the plea that has been advanced, that to shave was to mar the divine beauty of the human visage as God designed it, we must remember that all have not the same ideas of beauty, and that in the eyes of many a projecting mustache and flowing beard, are as apt to make a man look like a rough goat as a venerable patriarch, and perhaps more so. We only say, let every one endeavour to form correct views of propriety and abide by them; and if under these circumstances they can feel free to make a meal of pork steak, or brandish a razor, we have no objections to offer. Upon these subjects, until they shall assume more importance than we can at present attach to them, we design to be neutral; and neutrality, now-a-days, is silence.” Review and Herald June 25, 1857, p64.
    8. 8. James White D. D. Whitney Apparently Smith’s only real concern was with those who wanted to make a religious test out of something that the Bible was silent on, not whether or not a man grew a beard. Another time he wrote, “We care not whether a man wears a beard or not. The Bible says nothing against it and it says nothing for it” Quoted in Eugene Durand, Yours in the Blessed Hope p120-121. J. B. Whipple J. O. Corliss
    9. 9. Not all Adventist leaders agreed with Uriah Smith’s viewpoint. In 1868, John Norton Loughborough in his Handbook of Health had strong words for men who shaved: “Another, by no means slight, evil inflicted on the surface of the body, is in shaving the beard. Nature requires its growth. If you think you must shave, do it in cold soft water. Better still to keep the razor off your face.” John Norton Loughborough presents here not a biblical argument, but rather a medical/ scientific one, albeit one for which we know has no supporting evidence.
    10. 10. Apart from her descriptions of God, Jesus, and various Bible characters as being bearded, Ellen White makes only a single reference to beards. In an 1882 Signs of the Times article she encourages Adventist men to shave before the Sabbath begins. It should be noted however, that her husband James sported a quite impressive beard himself for much of his adult life.
    11. 11. However, in the 1865 book How to Live, edited by James and Ellen White, non-Adventist physician Russell T. Trall is quoted positively: “That the natural clothing of an unshaven beard is a protection against affections of the throat and lungs, I have no doubt. But if we will render ourselves preternaturally susceptible by shaving, we would not aggravate the susceptibility by binding up the neck with tight clothing.”
    12. 12. On April 5, 1923, the editor of the Review Francis McLellan Wilcox commented that the editorial staff had received “numerous letters,—so numerous, indeed, that we have long since ceased to peruse their contents,—decrying the present practice of shaving, and advocating that every man should let his beard grow”. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Review column, “Bible Questions Answered” dealt with the issue three times in response to questions submitted by readers. On each occasion the author— Calvin P. Bollman—concluded that there was no biblical prohibition against shaving. He did however, on one occasion note that “there are faddish styles of shaving that are inappropriate
    13. 13. In the early 1970s, a similar issue surfaced. The May 18, 1972 Review carried a “Homemaker’s Exchange” column which solicited the opinions of readers on the related issue of long-haired sons. Opinions varied from “the length of one’s hair is a matter of individual taste, as personal as a choice of ice-cream flavors” to “since the long haired fad started with those of questionable reputation, I do not see how Christians can condone it.”
    14. 14. At some point most Seventh-day Adventist schools and colleges have introduced a dress- code containing a statement on facial hair and hairstyles. To take just one example, in 1973, Helderberg College (South Africa) changed their policy to allow College students “to grow short, neat moustaches” while only senior students were, “permitted to wear short neat beards.”
    15. 15. In 1985, one Review reader saw the issue of a lack of church growth as directly related to the growth of a minister’s facial hair: “If they want our churches to grow, let the pastor’s and ministers shave and clean- up”. Some readers responded in support: “Amen! to the letter about no beards for pastors”. Others were critical of this proposed connection: “My dad is a minister and he has a beard. I think he looks better with a beard than he did without one. The church grew just as well when he didn’t have a beard as when he didn’t have one.”
    16. 16. It is difficult to find recent discussions of facial hair in Adventist literature—the issue seems to be regarded as of little consequence currently. Of course, discussions of numerous other lifestyle issues remain heated. An examination of changing Adventist attitudes toward facial hair and of other standards of behaviour in the Church reveals to us that our understanding of these issues is strongly influenced by cultural factors of time and place. While we may laugh at our predecessors’ discussion of facial hairstyles—at a General Conference Session no less— we can also learn from Uriah Smith’s 1858 statement on the same topic: “We care not whether a man wears a beard or not. The Bible says nothing against it and it says nothing for it. If a person thinks that health or convenience, one or both, demand the undisturbed development of his beard, we shall regard him no differently on that account from one who does not do this.”
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