Recently I have been thinking a lot about this Bearded Gospel Men thing. You may have noticed a decline over the summer and fall in output around here, and while there are a lot of factors which have contributed to that, one of the major ones was the feeling of being a bit creatively burned-out on all things beardy! I’m just one man, and really, how many beard jokes can one man make?
Another thing I’ve struggled with as I’ve thought about this Bearded Gospel Men thing is just how to view it in the first place.
All of this started as a Tumblr blog by Pastor Joe Thorn, just a joke, really. But it gathered momentum and eventually became what it is today, with over 23000 Facebook likes and a lot of followers. We began to offer not just joke memes, but blog content about the Christian life, church history and masculinity, and we received some great feedback from these. There was some controversy, too. Pastor Joe comes from the Reformed/Calvinist tradition. A lot of BGM followers were of the same persuasion, and although I am confidently Christian, I am neither Reformed nor Calvinist. As this began to show itself in the content , it ruffled some feathers and even angered some people. However, as BGM grew, we attracted more people from the entire spectrum of the Christian faith, from Franciscan Friars in Brazil to “Good ol’ Boys” in Alabama, and I think that’s awesome.
We’ve also gotten a lot of exposure in the “secular” bearding world. Our most popular meme (“Excuse me, miss. My eyes are up here.”) can be seen everywhere. (Usually it’s seen with our website info conveniently cropped away, but still!) We have a lot of followers who would not consider themselves Christian by any stretch of the imagination. And I think that’s awesome, too.
So my struggle has been centred around just how to look at this thing. Is it just a Christian version of another “secular” beard humour site? My gut reaction is, “Yuck! No!” But we do carry the word “Gospel” in our very name, so obviously the Christian faith is literally at the centre of who we are, and to relegate that to obscurity would be wrong too.
In some recent conversations, I’ve come to realize that Bearded Gospel Men is not a “Christian” thing, but a thing run by a Christian, and there’s a big difference. Think of the difference between a Christian Bookstore and a local used bookstore that happens to be run by Christians. We have just such a place here in the city where I live. It’s full of all kinds of books, and anyone who loves books loves to go there. Athiests, Christians, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists and bookworms of every variety love this little shop. There’s a great selection of books, the staff is helpful, and it’s got that lovely “used book” smell all about the place. They also have the finest selection of theology and Christian writings you’ll find anywhere. When my pastor friend from Canada comes to visit, he always makes a stop at this bookstore just to peruse their theology section. Something else that’s great about this bookstore is that they host a weekly book club where they read and discuss the work of The Inklings, the group of Christian writers which most notably included CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.
With this model in mind, I think Bearded Gospel Men is at its best when it’s operating like this little bookstore. Or, perhaps even more accurately, the Eagle and Child pub. The Eagle and Child was the pub where the aforementioned Inklings met every Thursday night to read their works-in-progress to each other over a pint and a pipe. There was (and still is) a room at that pub called The Rabbit Room, and this is where they would meet to discuss matters of faith and the creative process.
I’ve come to realize that Bearded Gospel Men is kind of like The Eagle and Child. It’s a pub. Literally, a “public house”, which happens to be owned and operated by a Christian, where absolutely everyone is welcome to hang out. If you just want to share a few laughs at the bar, you’re welcome to do that. If you want to sit down at a booth for some chit-chat and conversation, you’re welcome to do that too. If you want to take some time to talk about deeper things, pull up a chair at our blog and do that.
The bottom line is that this is a place where everyone is welcome, everyone is treated respectfully, and everyone leaves feeling a little happier for having come for a visit. We won’t ooze Christianese all over the place, but faith is smack dab in the middle of all this. If you want to engage in that portion, you are more than welcome to do so. If you’d rather not, you won’t be preached at. Likewise, good Christian men, you may hear a salty word or two from your pubmates (including your fellow Christians!). Take it all in stride. Love and respect each other. We’re all grown-ups here.
So, if you’re looking for a “Christian” version of another site, this ain’t it. But if you’re looking for a fun place to joke around with the option of some “deeper” discussions over in the Rabbit Room, then this is the place to be. And if you’re looking for a place where friends can meet, and maybe meet new friends, then belly-up to the bar, gents! This is just the place for you.