All too often I use this blog to think through things that are perplexing me. This means I air my dirty thinking out in public at times. I am musing on the length of young men’s hair today. I am now the happy leader of about 350 kids in sixth through twelfth grades who live in a culture that is constantly changing what it calls “cool.” How do I lead young people beyond the pop culture into the culture of the Kingdom where they can actually be free of the slavery to the “cool?” The following are the disparate thoughts that are running amuck in me head:
- What is the relationship between our grooming, clothing, and general appearance (which would include piercings, accessories, tattoos, etc.) and our inner life? I know from Scripture that the inner dictates to some extent the outer. Out of the heart flow all the issues of life.
- But then the words of Christ come in to leaven that passage: It is not what is on the outside of the cup, but what is in it that defiles it.
- Of course then we are instructed that we can only look upon the outside, God alone can look upon the heart, and that perplexes me further because I am not sure that it is inviting me to judge the outer appearance, but rather allow God to judge. But I am in a place of leadership, and leadership requires judgments according to where and how to lead those being led.
- So l then come back to the outer accoutrement of a young person’s appearance and am not even sure what it indicates. Does a young man with long hair equal a young man with a sin issue that I need to address by having him cut his hair? And what constitutes long?
- It seems to pull up the tension or differences between morality and taste. I don’t know if I can build a case for long hair having moral significance. If I attempt to proof text this from 1 Cor. 11:14, then my wife should be at church with a head covering every week. I am not convinced this passage is teaching more than taste.
- And yet the purpose of a good education must include the heightening of taste. We should be teaching our students to love God, others, and themselves enough to love the best things, which may include appropriate or mannerly grooming, which may include hair that distinguishes the men and the women.
- And so now I am at the point, just with men’s hair length, of having to determine if I am fighting a moral or cultural battle and if that battle is one that I must “fight” or one that calls for my own humility, compassion, and love.
- And I get to the same place with many other issues. Defining the right length of dress for young ladies, and if tattoos are “wrong” and if so many other issues of appearance are taste or morally binding is very difficult.
- I am not suggesting that taste is all subjective, as I don’t believe it is. But I think it falls in the area of Beauty, and beauty is less objective than Truth or Goodness. I have been reading a great book lately by Roger Scruton simply entitled, “Beauty.” He argues for this distinction between Beauty and the other two ultimate values that bends on Beauty being “a matter of appearance, not of being” (pp. 4-5).
And I read back over these other nine thoughts and wonder how to lead young hearts to love the good and what hair length, holes in the skin, etc. have to do with such. They have something to do with it. I know that. I am just not clear on the principle at the root of it. What affection needs properly ordering so that we can at least humbly hope we are leading rightly? And when I unearth that principle, will it cause me to grow my hair long?