photoI’ve had my ‘blues patch’ beard for almost a decade now, and even though it’s more common and popular now, many of my Christian friends ask why I keep such a beard, and even my wife wishes I would remove it so that I could have a ‘clean’ look. Since I’ve had to defend my preferred choice of facial hair many times, I’ve developed the following answers.

1. I hate shaving my chin

Actually, I hate shaving in general, but the chin can have some of the most gnarly and tough of all facial follicles, and with all of the angles, it’s easy to cut yourself or irritate the face. And I don’t even have a cleft. For women, I liken it to shaving your knees, not sure if that captures it, though.

2. It keeps me warm

Sure, California doesn’t get that cold, and my beard only covers my chin. I’ve had it cover more space, and whatever it covers is warm. That’s a plus.

3. I want to promote non-conformity, especially among Christians

One of the most pernicious, soul-killing forces in the world is the pressure to sublimate our true person in order to fit into society’s expectations, which are often superficial and crafted out of insecurities, not real values. The pressure to conform to a ‘clean’ image is even more pronounced in religious circles, and I think such conformity is contrary to how God raises up mature people.

In Christian circles, the negative view of the self and self-care, based in poor understandings of ‘self-denial’ in scripture, leads many to ignore or even hate their created self, as I discussed in Orthodox Heresies – 7 false doctrines of the Church. I want people to feel the freedom to differ, to express their uniqueness, and to enjoy being themselves, even as their brokenness is still contaminating and being removed from their created self as they are changed by God.

4. I want to promote the idea of healthy rebellion

Beyond merely resisting conformity, we need to be willing to take heat for being different, especially when we are different for the right reasons. There is a worldly wildness, which won’t come under any authority, but there is also a godly wildness, which is willing to disobey man’s laws and expectations in order to obey the higher laws and ways of God. John the Baptist was like that, and so was Jesus. I want people to be willing to offend both Pharisaical and worldly expectations. And a non-conforming beard is a nice, visible, and free statement to that end.

A little wildfire is better than no fire at all.

5. I am a little rebellious, and I’m OK with that.

Sure, there may be some not-so-spiritual reasons why I wear a beard, but until that comes to the fore in my spiritual journey, I’m OK with expressing who I am. I’m not working on myself, I’m exposing myself to God, and letting Him choose the agenda.

When God gets any of my many minor faults, I’ll deal with them then. Otherwise, I’m not going to kill myself trying to be clean and perfect.

6. I want to identify with those outside of acceptable society

Conforming people have lots of places they might feel accepted and comfortable. The hurt and angry, the rebellious and rough don’t have much hope of fitting into the sanitized world of business or church culture. I don’t want them to get the impression that they first have to clean up the outside, when really, God starts on the inside and works His way out.

Dead spirituality emphasizes external conformity, but God wants the heart. See

The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. ~ 1 Samuel 17:6

7. I enjoy the fellowship of manliness

Once, a woman challenged me, asking “Do you grow your beard to prove that you are a man?” “No,” I replied, “I grow it because I AM a man.” I’m not trying to prove anything, I just enjoy being a man, and enjoying the company of manliness and men.

As all many of us beard guys know, we have an instant, unspoken bond, esp. if we sport the same kind of unique beard. We suppose that we understand one another, and with regard to the beard, we probably do. It’s like being at a convention for your favorite hobby or interest – everyone there is connected, in affections, and often, in motive and spirit.

When I meet another beard guy, especially those who risk an unconventional or long beard, we share the following values about one another:

  • This guy doesn’t dig conformity
  • This guy is comfortable with a little lack of refinement
  • This guy appreciates the warrior spirit of manhood
  • This guy appreciates the value of healthy rebellion, and isn’t going to judge me

This may sound crazy to some, but I get a similar kinship with cat people – we know when we recognize one another that we share a common love. The beard is even more powerful because it is more closely attached to common values, not just affections, personality types, or superficial preferences.

Maybe this is all in my head. Bearded men, what say ye? Huah? Grunt? Yep.