Christian Men and Long Hair

Based on I Corinthians 11, a lot of Christians think men should not have long hair. St. Paul was a Roman citizen; he had the privilege or obligation of civic duty, unless excused. (He was by way of being a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish religious party.) Citizens wore their hair short; it denoted readiness for military duty. Short hair was becoming prevalent in the Roman world, as was the relatively new practice of beardlessness. Most men would have been too poor to afford barbers. Short hair and lack of beard were a sign of status.

Jewish priests and after them, Christian priests, continued to wear uncut hair and beards. It showed that they were not Romans, not part of the government, not soldiers. Orthodox priests for the most part do not cut their hair or shave their beards now. This is the 2000 year old tradition of the Eastern churches; they have never changed their policy. Some priests have adopted the custom of the Roman church and do cut their hair and shave; Anglican priests mostly do the same, although this was an issue when the Anglican church was coopted by the Roman about a thousand years ago.

So should Christian men cut their hair? Paul’s reminder to men that they should not have long hair probably referred to men who both shaved and wore loose long hair; they looked like women. There is a possibility that he was reminding them that they were not to look like male prostitutes, who affected a pubescent appearance. The real issue was that they were to take their place as men in the church, and not to dishonour the headship of Christ by appearing as women or adolescents.

Certainly long hair on men does not have to be effeminate, when worn with a beard and appropriately brushed. The  regulations of the Orthodox churches, unchanged over the millenia, make that clear. Vanity and womanly appearance, however, are not considered appropriate for Christian men.

Please consider and pray

We have a meeting scheduled with our bishop, in two weeks. I am wary of this meeting; we have not been active in the church in more than four years, and spent some time sojourning elsewhere. I asked to be received back into active ministry after Nicholas’s stroke, with the hope that I would be employed again in the one field where I am trained. I haven’t had a secular job in about thirteen years, and I doubt if I could find a job in this recession economy. I am not too proud to take a labor-intensive job, but there are few of those available! I have been trying to sell my Dodge truck, but no one has cash for such things right now.

I don’t think this is going to be the “welcome back” meeting. There are too many issues still floating around about our departure from parish ministry (after four years). It’s not as if we had wild lives as priests, or since – we have always lived very quietly, discreetly and since our time outside the parish, we have become more traditional and remained among the most conservative. We have not embraced any heresies or heterodox practices. Our sojournings were among the most traditional of the jurisdictions, and we did not officially join any of them. We did street ministry in what I think was a very effective way. Thee knows of the ministry of this blog, as well!

Will this be enough to welcome us back? Or will church politics, a lack of forgiveness among the people of our former parishes and an unwillingness to accept the changes of our lives prevail? I do not think the bishop himself is swayed by public opinion; he is an experienced  administrator, but he has to take into consideration how others will perceive us and will react.

Is this at all fair? I doubt that, but the church is just as affected by emotion and reaction as the world.

Please pray for us in this, that we will have willing hearts and good courage to hear what may be difficult, that the bishop (Claude) will hear the Holy Spirit in this, and that we will be directed to the best ministry for us and the people of God.

Wherever thee be

It has been a struggle for me for a long time to wait on the Lord, to accept His will when it doesn’t seem to be what I expected. This is the most difficult part of the Christian way for me. I have plans, and goals, and often they seem to be perfectly normal, very Christian, and obedient, in their way. Bu then the Lord sends me where I did not expect to go, to do something I didn’t really want to do.

After a summer offgrid and offroad, in a beautiful place, in the sort of life we wanted, we are back in the city. I am unable to get Nicholas’s medical care straightened out without access to a phone and the internet. Medical tests he may need would have been an hour or more away. We still have no reliable income, and the twenty-year-old son thought we should stay with him until we get matters in hand.

Which is good. But I didn’t want to come here.

Why is not the question to ask. Here we are, and things may be moving along. But there are more questions to ask.

Does the Lord have something to teach me here?

Does the Lord have a witness for me to make here?

As Christians, our presence is a witness, or should be! We should be visible Christians, known for our love, our faithfulness, our honesty, our willingness to follow Jesus wherever that may take us. I don’t believe we are called to blend in, to take a back seat, to be like everyone else.

Was I hiding my light under a bushel? Does the Lord of heaven and earth need me where He has put me? To whom am I a witness?

We’ve been attending a larger church than our previous parish, and although we know the priests there from years back, we were not close friends. (Our son is good friends with the younger priest, a dynamic and outgoing man of about thirty.) We have been soundly welcomed! Partly it is our visible witness of Plain dress, but it is also the culture of this church, to reach out to newcomers and spend time with them. One beautiful elder from South Africa said to us when she heard that Nicholas has health problems, “I am praying for you,” and she immediately raised her hands in prayer. Friends, I had been so discouraged the night before and even that First Day morning, and this woman who had never met us gave us her sincere and instantaneous prayer. I started to cry as the Holy Spirit moved through us. I have felt her prayer and encouragement ever since. I think the young people here in the house have felt it as well.

Despite the changes that came so suddenly, I am content now. The Lord Jesus gives us His peace no matter where we are. Remember our martyrs who went to prison, remember those who gave years of sacrifice behind bars and barbed wire for the faith. Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote so eloquently of the presence of God in a concentration camp, comes to mind, as well as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And we must never forget the holy martyrs of Russia, condemned to death camps in Siberia by the Communist government – bishops, priest, deacons, nuns and monks, sent to starve as they worked in remote areas, never to see their families again. They died anonymously, many of them, but in the joy of the Lord. If they could pray and live and worship in the worst of conditions, daily expecting death, how can we keep from singing?

The lies we tell ourselves

I was over at another site, reading what Christian women thought of modest dress. Of course, they all thought they were modest in dress – I wouldn’t disagree there – but the big question kept coming up, about where do we draw the line at femininity. Do we wear make-up? Style our hair? Wear jeans, silk, heels, jewelry?

Obviously, since I’ve been called to be Plain I don’t do any of that. And the reason is that I knew I was telling myself lies. I liked the thrill of nice new clothes, the sensuality of makeup, the luxury of jewelry. I didn’t need any of that. People take me seriously now, probably more than back then, when I had a title and a professional career, but I looked like every other professional woman. It was a lie I told myself, that I needed those worldly goods.

I take myself more seriously now. I spend no time at the mirror (well, enough to get the cap on and brush my teeth) which gives me more time to look at the state of my soul. (It’s not a job for the weak at heart.) Less face time with the mirror, more face time with my Lord.

So I’m not the glamour girl I once was. And it would be bordering on ridiculous now, to start patting on the firming creams, the concealer, pouring on the “cover the grey” dye, and let’s not go there concerning the undergarments to lift and shape.

Under the unifrom Plain dress, just like almost every other Plain woman who ever lived, I am myself. It shows through now in a way it never did when I wore the mask and costume of a successful career woman.

May the Lord bless us in our journeys.

Another minor observation…

…which is concerning tag surfing on wordpress! I can, in management mode, check out what other bloggers have posted under the same tags. I consistently look for “anabaptist, mennonite, amish” but I had taken off Quaker a while ago, so I added it back in. Oh, yeah, that’s why I removed it – I get lots of recipes using Quaker Oats!

I took off “anglican” as well because mostly I got a bunch of Sunday sermons and ID pictures of smiling men in chasubles. Note to priests: Don’t post pictures of yourself in a chasuble. It is one of the least flattering of clerical garments, the liturgical fashion equivalent of the late-1960s poncho.

Stepping up to the Plate…

…is a baseball metaphor, but for traditional women, it probably is the dinner plate, and it is dirty.

Drawing on the answer I just gave to one of Sarah’s comments, I’d say that a lot of modern women are opposed to the traditional way of life. It’s messy, it’s boring, it’s even humiliating to them. They fear becoming drudges. Modern television advertising seems to reinforce this view. We’ve got better things to do than mop the floor, clean the tub, or cook meals. As for that horror called “doing the dishes,” that’s something close to torture.

Are we really stigmatized by housework? Or is it just a status signal if we don’t have to do it ourselves? Hiring a maid or a cleaning service says, “I can afford leisure,” or “I’m too important to care for my house.”  As for having the husband and children do the housework so Mom doesn’t have to – isn’t it stigmatizing them? What it is, really, is a signal that the woman has control of the family, that the others do her bidding, that’s she’s nobody’s fool or servant.

Well, if that makes everyone happy, I guess it’s fine. But it doesn’t.

Don’t think I’m opposed to women working at jobs outside the house, or that men should never do housework, or that the kids should get off scot-free. Women sometimes must work to keep the family together, or they have jobs that contribute a lot to the community. I like that women have careers that matter. I’ve known many older women who were kept home from school to work in the house because their families did not think girls needed education. (I’ve known a few men in traditional farm families who were pulled out of school at a young age because they were big enough to plow!) I believe that everyone has a right to education, whether it is in a community school or at home.

But I also believe that the traditional family works. We see it time after time in the traditional communities, where the family is  a unit within the larger group related by blood and faith. It’s far from perfect; children still go astray, married couples still fight, there may be alcoholism, mental illness, hearts broken by innumerable causes. Yet the whole community is there to support people in trouble, loss and grief. The members of the community know what is expected of them in a time of travail. Yes, in those times women tend to gather in the kitchen, making sandwiches and coffee, while the men stand on the porch after the chores, talking seriously. But each gender group gets some work done in their own way, with peer support.

Out here in the larger world we don’t have that traditional framework of support. We can’t even rely on our own families to help us when we are in dire need. They are often overextended financially and chronically – that is, they don’t have the money or time to help. How did we ever get here from the early church, where Christians took in other Christians, even strangers? Two thousand years ago, Christians sold their property, jewellry, and household goods to provide for the poor and sick. They shared everything as necessary – see the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, verses 42-47. There weren’t just a few who did this; the apostles had just baptized some three thousand people!

This was not a revolution turning over all the old ways, for Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law, not destroy it. The old ways of the Jewish culture still worked for early Christians, following the changes concerning kosher and circumcision. The Law was fulfilled; the old family structure kept intact and the old community ways preserved.

In a world where everything happens in a mad rush, where patience is not a virtue but commonly seen as laziness, where respect and dignity are for the weak, and where family life is nothing but internal competition, the traditional way looks outrageous. The mad are calling the sane crazy. No matter how many self-help books we read, Christian or otherwise, advising us to slow down, take thought, be careful, we continue to drive around like we are being chased. We make frantic numbers of phone calls; we spend hours surfing the internet for information, all for some elusive proverbial gain we never realize. We ask for world peace but because we have no peace of heart we try to get that peace by force.

It may seem like a huge leap of logic to go from washing dishes to world peace, but it isn’t really. If we take our God-given place, if we accept the true gifts of God while rejecting the false gifts of the world, if we are concerned for our neighbours as well as ourselves, we will find peace. We find it in the love of God, and in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.