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.

A short observation concerning the dressing of hair

We were at church on Sunday in a larger parish than our usual home church, so I got to see the backs of more heads than most First days. I was suddenly struck with a deja vu thought: Do women realize that from behind, it looks like they all go to the same hairdresser? This was so literally true in one church we used to attend that it was stunning! Quite obviously the local beautician gave everyone the identical cut! Even in this larger community the layered, waved and lacquered look was prevalent. Ladies, just because we are over thirty does not mean we have to wear helmet hair.

And how is that “uniform” hair style any different from wearing your hair long, pinned and covered with a cap? One of the principal differences is that I spent pennies on my handmade caps, (and if one has to purchase them, it is a cost of $10-$15 per cap, with maybe a need of three caps) while many women spend upwards of $50 a month on hairstyling. And it takes me minutes to brush, pin and cover my hair rather than twenty minutes or more to comb, style and spray it into place. I don’t need special sleep caps or pillow covers to protect the ‘do, either. As for haircolour – God gave me what is suitable to my complexion, and soon it will match my husband’s handsome silver mane. It seems strange that he is completely grey and is younger by six months, while I still have most of my natural chestnut brown. I am enjoying entering my “sage” years, and the less time I spend on my personal appearance (beyond clean, neat and modest) the better. Vanity is time wasted. It is time spend thinking about ourselves and not others.

Exploring the Christian cyberworld

We all know any nutbar with a computer can jump online as an expert anything, and people will just believe it. The internet is the newest way to spread urban legends, hoaxes and strange prophecies. Christianity has always been plagued by this sort of thing. The pre-modern version of the internet, after all, was the church door, where all kinds of notices and news were posted. People hung out in the church porch to idle and gossip. Markets were usually in the church yard or at the market cross just beyond the church. The old fellers who no longer worked hung round, the young fellers with a day off met up with friends, and the women of all ages  too a few minutes or more to exchange greetings and news with neighbours. It was  a great place to start a rumour.

I tell thee this by way of warnign thee to be discerning. Discernment can be simple common sense, but for Christians it can be and should be more. When we hear something we think may change our lives, when we have decisions to make, then we have to approach it with three other cautions: What does the Bible say? What does the Christian community say? What does my heart in prayer say? All these cautions give us the opportunity to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Common sense, Biblical intepretation, community contribution, and the word of the heart may each fail separately if we emphasize one too much over the other, but when they come close to agreeing, or two or three cuations agree closely, then we may with confidence know that the Lord has given us an answer of peace.

I came across all this while looking at sites on Christian headcovering. We all know the Bible passages well; if not, any one of these sites will direct us and even furnish a suitable pericope in a favourite translation! What struck me is that ninety percent of these sites are written by men. If there’s one field of theology where women should take the lead and expound it must be about headcovering!

I suppose some of this is from the question of headship. If a man is head of his wife, and Christ head of the man, then the man should be ableto tell the woman when to cover, how to cover, and why to cover. But this is not the sort of obedience God meant us to follow. God tells us He wants us to be obedient, but the decision is ours. We aren’t ordered to obedience with wrathful vengeance. A woman is first of all to be a Christian, and to follow Christ. She is in Christ the equal of her husband. Her Godly wisdom may even exceed his, and the husband needs to honour this, listen to his wife, consult her on family and business matters, and sometimes concede the decision to her for the good of the family. I am in that situation right now. Nicholas is still suffering from the damage caused by his stroke, and he knows that he does not always understand the situation completely, so a lot of decision making is left to me. Still, I talk to him about decisions, ask his viewpoint, and even ask him what he thinks we should do.  But he’s willing to let me decide.

So why do men weigh in with a lot of opinion on what God means for women? Why isn’t this a woman’s theology? In the matter of family obedience, a woman must first agree to the marital relationship. She cannot be ordered into it, and once her agreement is secured, then the issue of obedience arises. Of course, I believe women are under the headship of their husbands. I believe women should be obedient to their Christian husband, just as he must be always mindful of the needs of his wife and family, and put them first. And while men may have opinions on the dress of Christian women, it is the women themselves that St. Paul addressed, not their husbands. He reasoned with them, made his case, pointed out their obligations. He didn’t say to the men, “Make your wives do this!”

I am glad to see that many women make the decision concerning headcovering for themselves, and even that those whose husbands do not like it are willing to obey. I would like to see more women write about this important subject, for that is what will carry weight with other women. Some may even present good arguments for not covering!

No Hurry?

This is just a short comment, I guess. Ever have the conviction that you just need to wait for something, that waiting is the right thing to do, that all the rushing around and decision making are going to get you nowhere?

All I want to do right now, under great conviction, is wait for God’s work to be done.

It’s really apparent to me that I need to be at home with Nicholas. He still needs a lot of help getting things done, and his vision and balance are still so poor. He sleeps a lot. Some basic chores, such as food prep, are beyond him right now. Yet so many people (including my own little conscience, socially conditioned as it is) say, “Why aren’t you working? Do you expect something for nothing?” And yet I am doing so much. We just need to get through while the government sorts out all the disability pension stuff – and that’s an insurance plan, not a handout. (Please don’t anyone say that again to me or this hardwon, prayed-for self-control is going to CRACK!) I feel like a new mother who has laid aside all her career expectations to care for her child at home. (“Are you just going to waste that degree?”)

It is very difficult for me to just quietly accept all the criticisms I’ve been hearing. I need to get tougher, I suppose. Shrug it off and do what I think is right.

Right now, that’s doing not much of anything active, making the necessary phone calls and not panicking.

And praying.  (I’ve been sleeping better at night, so God must think I don’t need those extra three hours of prayer!)

So please, no more nagging out there. No more, “Get off your (***) and do something!” I am doing something, and I am not required to report what to anyone I know of. If anyone wants to do something to help us, start with prayer.