Hipster Hate and the Bearded Man

by Aaron Alforda6f965536fdee4911834c31293bf2691

Ah, the Hipster. You are so much cooler than the rest of us. How we love to hate thee.

You love old things in a way that seems to be a finger in the air to modernity, and you have an iPhone 6 1/2.

You purchase your western shirt at the thrift store for five dollars, and the plain white v-neck underneath it at Pretentious & Co. for 50.

You smoke American Spirit cigarettes because they’re all natural, destroying your lungs with no chemicals added.

You speak passionately about societal issues without lifting a finger to solve anything.

You feel superior to everyone around you, and it shows.

And, perhaps worst of all, you wear your facial hair ironically.

The Bearded Man finds this offence most egregious, because he does not want to be perceived as one of “them”. The Bearded Man should wear the beard simply because he likes it. But the Hipster, oh the Hipster! You know that moustache looks strange on you, and you know that we know it looks strange on you, which is why you call it “ironic”. But we both also know that you kind of think it actually looks cool, in a non-ironic sort of way. It hearkens back to the time of gentlemen, but now you’ve added a self-referential awareness that no gentleman would have had in the first place. It’s all so meta it’s just exhausting.

You are pretentious and self-righteous. You are the very embodiment of everything we despise. For all of these reasons and for so many more, we are allowed to hate you. And boy howdy does it feel good to hate you.

But there’s a catch, a catch that makes us hate the Hipster all the more: Hipsters hate Hipsters!

I’m definitely not the first person to write about this phenomenon, but it would seem that, hated as the Hipster is, he is everywhere and he is nowhere. I’m pretty sure I know one when I see one, but no one self-identifies as one. If no one claims to be a hipster, then what exactly is a Hipster?

A while ago I was in the midst of a conversation about said Hipsters, light-heartedly talking about what I hate about them. I was taken aback when my friend said, “But aren’t you a Hipster?”

I was a little offended, but the evidence was there: I like old-timey styles. I wear vests. I like wearing suspenders. Sometimes I wax my moustache into a handlebar. I’ve even worn a bow tie a time or two (though my beard length makes that somewhat pointless).

“What makes you not a Hipster?” my friend asked.

I’d always thought I was styling myself after a kind of bearded CS Lewis, but suddenly I was confronted with the truth: I was a Hipster! My defence was I didn’t love these things ironically, as “they” do, but I didn’t really have an answer beyond that. My only real justification was I shop at thrift stores not because it’s cool, but because I’m actually poor.

Speaking of thrift stores, it was two days later at the local Salvation Army when a man walked up to me and said in a thick, English-As-A-Second-Language accent I couldn’t quite locate, “Escuse me, I like you style. You look bery, um, cool. Like, um, don’t be offended, um, what is the word? Hipster?”

I smiled and sighed and sunk my bearded chin into my chest. There it was. Proof positive, from his strangely accented mouth to my own ears. I was a Hipster.

“Thanks,” I said, my pride getting a bit stuck in my throat as I tried to swallow it.

This revelation got me doing some self-evaluation. What is it that I hate in the Hipster? Pretentiousness? Hypocrisy? Their sense of superior coolness? Well, let’s see.

Pretentiousness. That’s the one where you want people to be more impressed with you than they should, when you try to put forth an image that gives people the impression that you are smarter, more cultured, more important or, at the very least, cooler than you really are. Yep. Gotta admit I have that one.

What about hypocrisy? Yes, pretty sure I’ve got that one well covered, too. I’m sure I have it by the very fact that I think I don’t. First rule of Hypocrite Club? Don’t admit you’re a hypocrite!

Feeling superior? Lordy, Lordy. Never do I feel so superior than when I’m standing next to one of “those” people. Stupid Hipsters.

If you can relate to any of this, then you guessed it: you might be a Hipster, too. Just name any aspect of the hated Hipster, or any group of people you find distasteful for that matter, and if you take off your sunglasses and stare deep into their reflective lenses long enough, you will have to admit to finding it in yourself. Let he who is without pretension cast the first stone.

Biker Dude who hates Hipsters: You are a Hipster.

Redneck-and-Proud Dude who hates Hipsters: You are so very a Hipster.

Guy Who Runs a Website About Facial Hair: You’re so Hipster it hurts.

It seems there has always been someone in society we love to hate. Before the Hipster, there was the Yuppie. Before the Yuppie, the Hippie. Before the Hippie, the Beatnik. And before the Beatnik… the Hipster. It all comes full circle. I suppose it doesn’t take too much digging to figure out why there’s always somebody to look down on. I don’t have to deal with my own flaws if I think that someone else’s are worse than mine. What was it That Guy said about splinters and logs?

Speaking of That Guy, he did exactly the opposite of what we are so prone to do. Rather than labelling people and finding reasons to despise them, he saw their individual humanity and loved them. More than that, he happily accepted the derogatory labels others put on him: Drunkard. Glutton. Sinner. He let himself be hated to the point of accepting death.

So, it would seem that the moment we hate someone, or feel disgusted by a certain cultural group, or merely look down on someone, that is the moment they look exactly like Jesus. Conversely, it’s only when we can admit our own hypocrisies and failings that we can be delivered from them.

Does this mean we can never have a laugh at how ridiculous the Hipster can be? Perhaps not, as long as we have the humility to admit we’re laughing at ourselves. Because, Lord, help us, we’re all Hipsters in need of a Saviour.

Beards In Action: We Really Did It!

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One January day a few months ago, I said to my friend and fellow YWAM worker Chris, “I’ve been thinking… What if we hosted an outreach team from the Bearded Gospel Men community?”  “Let’s do it!” said Chris (who immediately began to let his beard grow). We had a specific week we’d need to slot it into, and it would be short notice to pull a team together, but we figured if we even got just a few guys out, it would be worth it.

So I put out the call (and kept harping on you guys!), and two friends came out to join us: Jacob Johnson from Portland (aka Beard Central) and Josh Seehorn from Athens, Georgia. We spent a week together serving people from the low-income and street community here in Modesto, and in a word, it was awesome. There are so many stories to tell from this time, and over the next couple of weeks you’ll hear some of them. For now, suffice to say that it was extremely cool to see new relationships form between our volunteers, us, and the people we serve.

Although we called it the ‘Beards In Action’ week, we wanted to let this week be focused not just on the actions of serving, but on making those actions opportunities to engage people in relationship, to get to know their stories and who they are. It’s a very good thing to serve people, but real change comes to both parties when we get to know one another. And that’s what has been great to see this past week. 

It was cool to see Josh, who just completed running and hiking across the entire country, engage people wherever he went. He loves meeting folks and beginning conversations, and his openness and friendliness with people was great to see. It was also a true blessing to see Jacob’s warmth and gentleness with each person he met and in each situation in which he served. Both of these Bearded Gospel Men are awesome guys, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them.

I also want to give some thanks to someone who was not able to join us, but  who was present nonetheless.  Doug at CanYouHandlebar (www.canyouhandlebar.com) graciously sent us the gift of several of his excellent products, along with a whole bunch of his Wisdom and Initiative Beard Oils to give to bearded friends we met along the way. It was so cool to be able to tell a friend who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to have the luxury of something like beard oil about my friend back in Michigan who wanted to send along his greetings and a gift. I think in particular of our new friend “Grizzly”, who is currently homeless. When I gave him some oil, he got the biggest smile on his face and said, “Wow, man. You really made my day!” So thanks for that, Doug!

We were able to partner with several ministries throughout the week, and you should go check them out. Advancing Vibrant Communities (www.vibrantcommunities.org), The Vine House (www.lovemodesto.com/less-fortunate/vine-house-ministries), and Love Modesto (www.lovemodesto.com) are all doing truly inspiring things in our city, and it was a pleasure to work alongside each one of them. I’d encourage you to find out what may be happening in your own city, and see if there are some opportunities to serve.

And of course, I couldn’t talk about the Bearded Gospel Men ‘Beards In Action’ week without mentioning the Third Annual Northern California Beard and Mustache Competition! This was a fun night (even if it did go a bit long, with too few chairs!) of celebrating all things beardy, and meeting some really interesting people. Josh and I both entered the competition, and although our beards are big, there were beards even more impressive than ours! But we had a good time with each other and the people we met, and that’s really what it’s all about.

So what began as a little idea to get a couple guys together from the BGM community turned out, in the end, to be even better than I could have hoped. Which of course means you should stay tuned and be ready for the Second Annual Bearded Gospel Men ‘Beards In Action’ week next year!

 

Beards and Burritos: The Plan Comes Together.

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Do you long for action? Excitement? Burritos?

Well get ready, cuz here it comes! The Bearded Gospel Men “Beards In Action” outreach experience is happening!

You may have read last week’s blog entry about the idea for this project, and I’m happy to say that things are starting to come together for this unique outreach experience. We have set the dates of the trip for Sunday, March 30th through Sunday, April 6, 2014.

If you’re hearing about this trip for the first time, let me bring you up to speed. The BGM ‘Beards In Action’ trip will be a one-week trip focused on outreach to the street community of Modesto, California. It will be hosted by Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Modesto (this is who I work for when I’m not creating funny pictures of beards). YWAM Modesto is focused on reaching out to, and building relationships with, the poor and homeless. We’ve hosted dozens of teams over the years, and participants have often told us that this was one of their favourite outreach experiences ever.

So what will this week look like?

Because we’re focused on building friendships, your outreach experience will be oriented toward creating meaningful points of contact with people. We create these opportunities in a variety of ways. We usually begin the week with a good ol’ fashioned cookout on Ninth Street, where much of our ministry as YWAM Modesto happens (For an extremely cute description of our ‘Ninth Street Café by my friend Chris’s little girl, click here!).  This is a fun, relaxed way of connecting with people, and I can honestly tell you that some of the relationships that began with an outreach team hosting a Ninth Street cookout have been long-lasting and truly life-changing, for both team members and residents of Ninth Street.

Throughout the first half of the week, we begin to get to know specific people from the street community, and as the team gets to know their stories and their needs, we provide opportunities in the latter part of the week to re-connect and serve them in practical ways. This looks a little different with each team, and is often a chance for the team to get creative in how the team can serve. In the past this has included repairing a disabled man’s trailer and its dilapidated roof, working on someone’s car, or simply treating someone to a “day out” who would otherwise have no means of taking break from the street.

We also make sure you get to experience some of the cool things that our part of California has to offer. This may be a day trip at the end of the week into San Francisco, or Yosemite National Park. Whatever it is, it’s always a fun day spent together.

Of course, because this is a Bearded Gospel Men trip, we have to make ‘Beard Life’ part of the experience! On Saturday, April 5, we’ll be attending a beard competition in Sacramento! This is sure to be a fun night, and you will have the option of entering the competition yourself and representing the Bearded Gospel Men team!

Of course there’s another crucial element that will be a big part of this week, which will be experienced each day of the outreach. This part of the trip is what previous teams have dubbed “The Modesto Food Tour”. This involves places like Modesto’s unique Taco Truck Row and its world famous burritos (For more on these burritos, click here!) We will do our best to help you gain at least five pounds on this trip! (That’s the YWAM Modesto Weight-Gain Guarantee®!)

As for the cost of the trip, we will be looking at various ways of fundraising in order to lower the cost for each participant. At this point however, with no extra fundraising, the cost is only $340 per person for the full week. This includes two “in” meals a day, an “out” meal each day, accommodations, ministry supplies, fuel and other expenses. There’s just no better value for your buck!

We are aiming for at least 5 participants, and we’ll be capping the team at 10. So far we have two confirmed participants, including the inimitable beardsman and cross-country hiker Mr. Josh Seehorn.

If any of this tickles your beard, or if you have any questions, please drop me a line at beardedgospelmen@gmail.com. Remember, your beard longs for two things: adventure and burritos. The BGM Beards In Action Outreach experience will bring you both!

 

(To donate toward the trip, click here:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=7USJFAFL2U5J6)

Beards In Action: The BGM Outreach Experience!

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Some of you may or may not know that “The Proprietor” of Bearded Gospel Men does not run this website and Facebook page as a full-time job.  My “real job” is as a Youth With A Mission (‘YWAM’) missionary.  YWAM is an international, ecumenical Christian missionary and humanitarian aid organization that is represented all over the world and involved in hundreds of expressions of outreach and ministry.  I am connected with YWAM in Modesto, California (www.ywammodesto.org). We are a small team dedicated to building meaningful friendships with the street community, with the Church and with Jesus, while introducing everyone to each other.

You may have read the story I wrote about my good friend Arley, who passed away this summer.  (If you haven’t, you can read that here.)  The shortest version of the story is that Arley was just another drunk in the park when I first met him, but through the long, slow work of friendship and the Holy Spirit, his life was dramatically changed.  Not only did he become a dear, close friend, but he also began to reach out in kindness and love to others.  He could easily identify with their feelings of hopelessness, because he had lived there himself. He knew what despair felt like, but he also knew what it felt like to find hope, and to find the love of a Saviour.

My friend Bob is another example of someone who’s life was dramatically changed by the power of friendship. Bob made the miraculous journey from living in profound isolation and two bottles of Jack Daniels a day, to being a joy-filled man in love with God and his local church community.  I mention Bob because of how we met him.

South Ninth Street is an extremely neglected part of town where there are several “residential motels” (not unlike the motel portrayed on the show Breaking Bad). On Ninth Street, addiction, mental illness and despair are common. We as YWAM Modesto fell in love with this place. Since we couldn’t afford to rent out a building on Ninth Street to run a drop-in centre, we came up with the ‘Ninth Street Café’: an outdoor, impromptu café we started hosting each week. We found a nice, wide-open spot on the sidewalk next to the bus stop, set up some tables and chairs, and began serving coffee and donuts right there on the street. For years now, people have come down to hang out with us and be refreshed through smiles and friendship.

Several years ago, a group of Canadians were with us. They were from my home church in Ontario, and they were here for a week of outreach to the residents of South Ninth Street. When we have a team with us like this, we like to host special events for the people of Ninth Street, events that we couldn’t necessarily pull off with just our own small crew. That week, we hosted a big barbecue, serving burgers and cold drinks to whoever came by. Bob, who was living at one of the motels, came by that day. He was so moved by what we were doing that he went out and bought ice cream for everybody. One of the Canadians struck up a conversation with him, and they talked for hours. This was the first time I’d met him.

Later, after the Canadian team had returned home, Bob lost his job. We began to see him more often at the “Ninth Street Café”, and we began to develop a meaningful friendship with him. He began to share more of his life with us, and we began to share more of our lives with him. I found out that he absolutely loved fishing, but that it had been years since he went because of his current circumstances. So one day we went fishing together. Simple things like this slowly became what was, in the end, a life changing friendship for all of us. To make a long story short, Bob came to open his heart to friendship and to God, and eventually went to a 30 day recovery program.  He has been clean and sober for 3 1/2 years now, and is an active and integral part of a local church community. (Actually, he’s currently one of my roommates at the house where I’m living!)

I share Bob’s story because I want you to know that being part of a short-term outreach team really can completely change someone’s life, including your own. When a team comes to serve with us here in Modesto, they are coming alongside an ongoing ministry. We do not do “in-and-out” events. A team that comes to work with us is helping us to develop further and deeper relationships with the people we seek to serve in an ongoing basis.

So here’s where you come in. Imagine a team like that, serving alongside our ministry, made up completely of gloriously bearded gospel men!  The possibilities are truly wondrous to ponder!  With that in mind, you are cordially invited to be part of the very first official Bearded Gospel Men “Beards In Action” outreach team!

We’re hoping to get a group together to come here to Modesto in late March or the first week of April.  Yes, that’s  soon, but it would seem to be our available “window” as YWAM Modesto to host such a team.

The team would be hosted here in Modesto for five days to a week (probably over a weekend, so as to cut down on the ‘days off’ required to come out), and work alongside our team in ministry to the street community of Modesto.

We’ve hosted a lot of teams here over the years, and it’s always an extremely fun and rewarding time of making connections and friendships with the street community, as well as each other, while learning about the nature of poverty and homelessness in America and what the average person can do to help. If you’ve not had a lot of experience with reaching out to the poor, it’s a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak. If you’ve had plenty of experience in that area, it’s a chance to experience it in a different context.

We try to make everything completely relationship based.  This is not an “evangelistic” outreach (though you’ll have ample opportunity to share your life and your faith with people), nor is it merely a work/project based outreach (though you’ll have the opportunity to bless people in very practical ways).  It’s a week to make friendships and connections, and to be changed by them as a result.

Also, there’s a lot of food.  Taco trucks, man.  They’ll change your life. I guarantee it!

The week also includes a “day out”, either to San Francisco or Yosemite National Park or another nearby and awesome California location.  If we can work out the timing, it’s even possible that we could participate in a beard competition night in San Francisco or Sacramento.  Now that could be a lot of fun!

We’re hoping to pull together a small team of between 5 and 10 men.  The cost for the week would be about $300 to $340, which would include housing, groceries for two meals a day and an “out” meal each day.  The rest would go to outreach costs for the YWAM team, including fuel and outreach supplies (i.e. food for a Ninth Street barbecue and any other special events or projects we would do that week, as well as our day out).  How you get here would be up to you.

It really is a very fun and meaningful week to be part of.  And it would be awesome to actually meet some of you guys face to bearded face. As a side note, it has been statistically proven that taking part in one of these teams will vastly improve and even cause the appearance of facial hair! If an experience like this is something you think you would like to be part of, please send us an email at beardedgospelmen@gmail.com and we can begin to work out the details.

Don’t be too quick to say No just because of cost or distance! There are always possibilities for group fundraisers! Take some time to consider it, and if the idea seems to stick with you, then you should probably drop us a line. As Francis of Beardsisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary, use beards!”

Bearded Gospel History: St. John Chrysostom (347?-407)

by Timothy Braun

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You know you have the gift of preaching when everyone calls you golden-mouth.

John of Antioch was the most renowned orator of his generation and is still considered by many to be the foremost preacher in the early centuries of church history.  So eloquent were his sermons that people called him chrysostom, which is Greek for “golden-mouthed.”

Personally, I’m also rather fond of Johnny Golden-mouth because, like myself, he had a short, tidy beard and… how shall I say this… a, um, “hereditary tonsure.”

John’s father died while he was young and he was raised by his mother.  He received a good education and was trained as a rhetorician.  However, upon completing his education John retreated for a time into a monastic lifestyle.  He submitted himself to various forms of asceticism, eventually even to the point where he damaged his body so badly that he needed to return to Antioch.

At this point John began participating in his local congregation.  His gifts as a reader and speaker were soon noticed and, after being both a rector and deacon, was made a priest.  John’s sermons quickly became famous.  He would most often preach through the books of the Bible and his speaking was in high demand.

Do you not know what great result the cross has achieved? It has abolished death, has extinguished sin, has made Hades useless, has undone the power of the devil, and is it not worth trusting for the health of the body? It has raised up the whole world, and do you not take courage in it?

Yet for all the fame attributed to him, it became a point of frustration for him.  While people would come from miles around to hear his eloquent teachings, it infuriated him that people would yet walk away unchanged.

Hearing profits nothing unless it is accompanied by practice,” he would exclaim.  Or, “What is the use of exhortation or advice, when you do everything merely by the force of habit, and do not become a whit more zealous in consequence of my teaching?

He once blasted his congregation for not attending church services because the summer heat was too hot.  “I am ashamed of them, believe me: for such excuses are womanish!

He was, indeed, a fiery personality.  He was constantly railing against the wealthy for neglecting the poor and calling for reformation within church leadership.  Predictably, he was hailed as a hero among the masses while making more than a few enemies amongst those he challenged.

John’s fame and reputation spread so widely that, very much against his will (some even call it a kidnapping), he was consecrated as Archbishop of Constantinople.  Even with this appointment, John continued to live an ascetic life, giving the vast majority of his income to the poor and to the setting up of hospitals.  He continued to preach against affluence knowing full-well that members of the royal household were part of his congregation.

Unfortunately, John’s enemies united against him and in 403 AD, he was deposed and banished.   He was briefly reinstated but eventually exiled.  He died on the shores of the Black Sea in 407.  After his enemies died John Chrysostom was posthumously pardoned and made a “Doctor of the Church.”  Today he remains one of the legendary preachers in church history and a central figure in the Eastern Church.  Remarkably, approximately 600 of his sermons and 200 of his letters still survive today!

In honour of this Bearded Gospel Man I leave you with the manliest quote I could muster:

For this name Man, we do not define according as they who are without define it, but as the Divine Scripture has bidden us. For a man is not merely whosoever has hands and feet of a man, nor whosoever is rational only, but whosoever practices piety and virtue with boldness.

Let us go forth as True Men, boldly living lives of piety and virtue!

Sources:

Chrysostom, John (2013-03-25). The Selected Writings of John Chrysostom. Fig. Kindle Edition.

131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Mark Galli & Ted Olson, ed)

Why A Bearded Gospel History? My perspective on (bearded) Church history

by Sir Timothy Braun

 

 

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My father was a wandering Aramean…” ~ Dt. 26:5

In the book of Deuteronomy it describes how the people of Israel, once they had inherited the Promised Land, were to come “to the place the LORD your God will choose” (Dt. 26:2 ff.) and offer back to God their firstfruits, the first and best of what God had blessed them with.  As they made their offering they were to recite a brief history beginning with Jacob, a wandering Aramean whom God renamed “Israel,” and following through the people of Israel’s slavery, God’s acts of deliverance, and so on.  It was important to God that as his people they remember their own history in relation to Him.

That’s one of the things that I love about the Bible: it tells a story, our story.  And the scriptures are always unflinchingly honest.  Our story isn’t always a pretty one.  It seems that, more often than not, the stories we have recorded are there not as a model telling us what to do so much as a model of what not to do.   There are triumphs and there are failures.  There are moments of glory and joy and there are moments of pain and devastation.

And here’s the thing: it’s all part of the story.  To edit or to ignore certain parts of it is to rob the story of its truth.  We cannot pick and choose which parts of the story we want to claim or which parts of the story we might want to reject.  It’s all there and it’s all ours.  We are God’s people.  This is our story.

My father was a wandering Aramean.

And yet, for some reason, once we get past the book of Acts most Christians seem to lose sight of the story.  But the story is still there and it’s still ours.

Much like the story of Israel our story as the Church has its high points and its low points.  There are moments of joy and of sorrow.  There are people we would like to praise and people we would like to vilify.  But just as Israel couldn’t pick-and-choose their own history, neither can we as the Church.  It’s all part of our story whether we like it or not.

Israel split between north and south.

The Church split between east and west.

Israel persecuted her own prophets.

The Church has persecuted those who sought to reform her.

It’s all a part of who we are.  We cannot isolate ourselves from our own history.  That doesn’t mean we love all parts of the story.  It doesn’t mean that we condone or endorse all of Church history.  Far from it!  It simply means we own up to it, call it for what it is, and learn our lessons as we seek to live Christ-like lives in the here-and-now.

So as we walk through our Bearded Gospel History let’s keep this in mind.  We’ll encounter Catholics & Orthodox, reformers and counter-reformers.  There will be evangelicals and mainline-Protestants.

It’s inevitable that we encounter those we consider heroes as well as those we might be tempted to consider villains.  They are all a part of our story.  It doesn’t mean we agree with everything they ever said.  We don’t condone or condemn them in any ‘official’ way.

Our goal is nothing more or less than to encounter men throughout history who have made significant contributions to our common story.  And since this is Bearded Gospel History, our criteria are simple.  We start with the Faith (could this person uphold the Apostle’s Creed?).  Then we move on to the beard (did they sport proper facial hair?).  And, really, that’s about it!

Yes, we’ll probably end up hearing from people who advanced ideas that we wrestle with.  But remember, our father was a wandering [and bearded] Aramean … who wrestled with God Himself (Gen. 32:22-32)!  Wrestling isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

And so I encourage you: embrace the story.  Embrace the beards.  Embrace the Gospel.