My Kingdom Hall Beard

by Amazing 14 Replies latest jw friends

  • Amazing

    In mid-1975: I grew a mustache while I was a Ministerial Servant (California bay area). I recall being asked to conduct the Book Study while my hair was growing. Several acted odd toward me because there was still an ongoing argument about whether having such facial hair was appropriate for men of good example. Why, mustaches were still considered somewhat worldly, though not specifically prohibited. Beards were totally out. Several other JW men, mostly those under 35-years old grew mustaches. One day we were called in to the back room by the Elders for counseling about this trend. Several, including me, shaved off our mustaches as a result. Then, I grew it back just before moving to Washington State in late 1975. Over the years, I sported a mustache off and on, but the grooming standards relaxed and it was really nothing for JW men to have them.

    Fast forward to 1992: We lived near Portland, Oregon. My family and I had just completed the Summer, where I failed to attend the JW convention in Corvallis, Oregon. I was growing a beard while I was fading from the organization. By late August, a friend in the Kingdom Hall died. She was one of the "odd ones" who the Elders tried to avoid because she was an emotional basket case. In the JW world, such odd ones are not really given love, except by a few who seem to strive to be Christian in spite of being JWs. I had studied with her son after he was released from the authorities in juvenial detention. He had been convicted of a crime as a minor and had to live several years in a state-run home. As a result he took up being a JW again, and she was extremely grateful, befriending our family because we did not avoid her. I was invited to the funeral by her son.

    Soooo, I showed up at the funeral with my full beard. It was well groomed, but moderately long and thick dark brown, flowing down about six to eight inches beyond my chin. The only other JW there with a beard was an ex-Elder from Canada who was himself fading away from the organization. As I walked into the Kingdom Hall, you could have heard a pin drop. While I had tried to resign my position, I was still technically on the books as serving, but in the newly created "holding status." The rumors were out in full force that I was not in full harmony with the organization, and that I was potentially bad association ... with apostate tendencies. I went up to several people to talk with them. They were beside themselves as to whether to greet me, shun me, or run to an Elder for advice ... which some did. Most actually talked with me after a brief moment of confusion ... and my assurances that I would not bite them. Conversation was on a "pleasant" level, light talk, and some even shook hands. But, as we sat down for the funeral talk (in reality a market presentation to non-JWs attending) I noticed that many eyes were on me, and not the speaker. It was as though I was sitting there naked, with my privates hanging out for all to see and ponder.

    What did I do with this unwanted attention? I sat there and concentrated on the speaker, while running my fingers through my beard ... twirling my beard hair around my fingers, and then grooming it out again ... over and over. One young lady who was studying was unaware that her parents had contacted me to help them find a way to get her away from the JWs. Her dad was too emotional and impatient. he wanted a magic answer, and he did not have patience to develop dialogue with her. After the funeral she finally spoke to me. I assure her that she oculd be a Christian without being a JW, but I also said that I do not judge her for being in the organization. I don't know if anyone heard me ... I don't think so ... but in time she left the JWs. I took the opportunity to say good bye to several, including some sisters who accepted my outstretched arms for a hug ... and yes ... my beard brushed up against their perfumed cheeks.

    Regrets?: I almost wished I had not attended out of respect for the dead JW woman. Or maybe I should have shaved back to just the mustache. My hair grows fast, so it would not have hurt my ability to have it again soon. ... Yet, it was an experience worth having, and one that I would not be able to repeat again. Since then I have never set foot in that particular Kingdom Hall, and my very last visit was to a Memorial I attended by invitation to another Kingdom Hall in Portland. I had shaved my beard weeks earlier for other reasons, and chose to partake as I had done for many years. I regret attending that Memorial and partaking of their emblems, because I knew it was a fraud ... but I just felt that at the time that it was still proper to openly show my Christian standing. I will never again partake at a JW Memorial because they do not honor the body and blood of Jesus Christ ... but instead, the Memorial is just another showtime for the GB to market their publications and belief system. The JW Memorial is not, nor ever really was about Jesus Christ as the Jehovah's Witnesses practice. The JWs seem to forget that the first so-called "memorial" was celebrated by 13 bearded men, one of them being Jesus Christ.

    Looking back: Even as a JW, I never agreed with the policy of discouraging facial hair. I always felt that a nicely trimmed beard was great, because it is a natural feature of being a man. I grew my beard back and it has been on my face since late 1993. It is all white now, so I keep it dyed medium brown. My head hair is still brown, so my dyed beard looks better. I also had no problem going to a door with a nice neat beard ... and wish I had done so to demonstrate the point that non-JWs really don't give a damn if a man has a beard and would think nothing less of someone who was preaching to them. For the Society, it is all about control. It is an outgrowth of Rutherfordism that they have not been able to shake ... being clean-shaven is now a marketing image, and an act that makes them feel better about themselves to themselves. It has nothing to do with representing our bearded Lord, Jesus Christ.

    Jim Whitney

  • OnTheWayOut

    On going to the funeral talk with a full beard, it would have been different if they knew
    already that you had it, but I think the shock was a bit distracting. Kind of like
    showing up in jeans and a t-shirt just to rub it in their faces. Do that at a regular
    meeting first, then it's no big deal.

    I showed up at a KH when I was moving to Chicago from elsewhere. I was going to
    be in transition for a few months before settling, but I would be at the same KH for
    3-6 months. They decided to use me as an elder. One brother approaches and says
    "You will have to shave that moustache. Our elders aren't allowed to have one."
    (None of them did have one.) I said "I am not so sure I want to be one of your elders."
    He cracked a smile and said, "Just kidding."

    That same cong. had a brother with a full beard. I spoke with him. He was on the fringes
    of the organization- not strong in the cult. He didn't go out in recruiting work and he didn't
    give talks. His wife was active. They spent so much time trying to get him to shave that
    beard. Not trying to help him spiritually, just trying to force him to shave. I said "If he
    is not living like a Witness, not preaching, then just let him be. What's the harm?"
    They actually backed off for years. I still know people there. He's inactive still, but they
    got him to shave the beard. What a cult.

  • JamieL

    I agree on a lot of points. Didn't all the early JWs have beards? When did it become considered not in good standing in the society? Or when was it considered to be in poor taste as a person of the world?

    I have heard many brothers (Obviously with beard envy, or goatee envy) express that many well known business mean have beards these days. I remember seeing Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard from Star Trek) on Conan Obrien and he had a full on nice beard. Very distinguished, I mean this guy is a Shakespearian Actor.

    After I was DFd and I got a new job in another city I stopped going to the meetings cause I was driving 2 1/2 hours a day for work and worked about 9 hour days, as you can imagine there was no real time for the meetings. I started to grow a beard and a liked it. The only thing is I cannot complete mine from my mustache to beard there is a gap, but it still looked good.

    Mine got curly after growing for so long and I tried combing it and getting it straight but at a certain length my hair just goes curly on my face. So I got a nice beard trimmer, and trimmed it to a good length of about half an inch, I let my neck hair grow in too (Mine grows almost down to my adams apple, I trim it up down there cause it's not very thick, so I shave it usually).

    Fast forward 2 months, I have not been to a meeting in a while, and I decide to go to memorial. Man, I had the same experience I walked in (I was born in this congo BTW, went there for 24 years. I mean I saw this congregation change form, shape, demographics, and be reborn a few times. And there are some who I have known all my life, nice people, nice older ones) But the looks. Wow. I've never seen the whites of so many peoples eyes.

    I sat over in the corner, and my brother was doing sound for the Memorial, he's a MS. I did get several pats on my shoulders, no hugs but I understand because the elders would immediately attack anyone for showing that much kindness. But it was a pretty good experience. I went to the KH for about 2 months with that beard and I finally shaved it.

    My friend Dan, who is my best friend and a witness, still talks to me. I went to see him after I shaved it and we talked for a while. He mentioned that since I'm balding and I'm kinda darker skinned for a white guy it kinda made me look like Osama (of course he was joking, but he was being half honest, he can always make me laugh) so I think with my face and my hairstyle it's a good choice to not have one.

    Anyway, similar experience on my end.

  • jayhawk1

    Jamiel, beards pretty much died with Charles Russell. Rutherford banned the beard and even shaved Jesus and other men of the Bible for a time.

  • Ticker

    Really enjoyed this story and some of the points you made. The one about people trying to be christian while being a JW really was an excellent point. Makes alot of sence. I feel sorry for these people who have had Watchtower prejudices implanted in them and they don't even realize it.


  • SirNose586
    It was as though I was sitting there naked, with my privates hanging out for all to see and ponder.

    That's just too funny.

    Funny how you could have nothing wrong with you in a "spiritual" sense, but the moment you have that beard, you are a terrible person. Thanks for the story.

  • brunnhilde

    I always thought that was one of the more blatantly stupid and pointless "rules" they had. My dad took a lot of flack in the seventies for having a moustache, but strangely enough, it was the one thing he refused to back down about. I love men with beards and think its really attractive.

  • mavie

    One of the first things I did after leaving Jim, I love it.


  • PaulJ

    Great story.

    I've never been a 'beard kinda guy' myself but I know they were frowned upon in my congregation.

    There would always be a visiting speaker or 2 that would turn up with a well-kept beard and the elders would all look a bit nervous.

    I did go thru a phase in the mid-nineties where i grew my sideburns really long (it was sooooo cool) but no-one said anything....

  • proplog2

    My son quit attending meetings (His wife is still a strong believer) . He grew a beard because it helps avoid a lot of confusion when he meets up with someone from the hall. It's a badge that officially says "I'm in a different place now". It avoids "fishing" conversation to see if you are still active or not - you can go straight to the small talk.

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