Beards and Religiosity

Religion journalist Mark Oppenheimer begins a New York Times article on the religious significance of beards this way:

Go ahead, picture a religious Jew.

Now picture a Muslim cleric.

Now an Amish farmer.

What do they have in common? Beards. And not neatly trimmed beards, but, in the popular stereotype, long, unruly beards, which connote piety, spiritual intensity and a life so hard at study that there is no time for a shave. The scholar, the mystic, the terrorist, the holy man — they all have beards.

Now who is missing from that list?

Of course, we would not want male Druids to be viewed as in an anecdote passed along by Adnan Zulfiqar, the Muslim spiritual adviser at the University of Pennsylvania:

“I recall one gentleman who came back from a trip to Pakistan and remarked to me, ‘I learned one thing: the longer the beard, the bigger the crook.’ His anticipation was people with big beards would be really honest, but he kept meeting people lying to him.”

2 thoughts on “Beards and Religiosity

  1. “Now who is missing from that list?”

    That’d be us. I resisted growing a beard for some time after I became Orthodox, and I still try and keep it under control. The nasty beard is definitely common plumage on deranged converts, whereas most of the Old World types lean more towards close shaves these days (monks excepted).

Comments are closed.