The Independent Baptist War Against Long Hair on Men

gerencser boys 1989

Nathan, Jaime, and Jason Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1989

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (I Corinthians 11:14)

According to many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers, 1 Corinthians 11:14 is clear: it is shameful and against nature for a man to have long hair. The late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, made it his life’s mission to rid American men of what he considered effeminate long hair. In a sermon titled, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Hyles stated:

God pity you people who call yourselves Christians and wear your long hair, beard and sideburns like a bunch of heathens. God, clean you up! Go to the barber shop tomorrow morning, and I am not kidding. It is time God’s people looked like God’s people. Good night, let folks know you are saved! There are about a dozen of you fellows here tonight who look like you belong to a Communist-front organization. You say, “I do not.” Then look like you do not. You say, “I do not like that kind of preaching.” You can always lump anything you do not like here.

In the booklet titled Jesus Had Short Hair, Hyles made the connection between male hair length and homosexuality. In Hyles’ eyes, men with longer hair were more likely to be sissified, weak homosexuals. Hyles wrote:

It is very interesting that as the trend toward long hair increases, the acceptance of homosexuality increases. This is not to say that long hair and homosexuality always go together, but it is to note the fact that both are on the rise in our generation. Several of the major denominations have now accepted homosexuals. In some cities there are churches for homosexuals pastored by avowed homosexuals. At least one major denomination has ordained a homosexual preacher and others are considering following suit.

IFB preaching against long hair on men found its impetus as men began to grow their hair longer in the late 1960s and 1970s. Hippies had long hair and were anti-establishment. IFB preachers viewed long hair on men as a sign of rebellion against parental and religious authority. As anyone raised in the IFB church movement knows, rebellion is considered a grave sin, one that is never to be tolerated by parents or churches. This view of rebellion led to the establishment of IFB group homes, places where frustrated parents sent their children to be cured of rebellion. Sadly, children sent to these homes often returned to mom and dad emotionally and mentally broken. In some instances, these rebellious children had been physically and sexually assaulted.

In the IFB church movement of the 1970s, the four big sins were: long hair on men, short skirts on women, pants on women, and rock music. Youth directors waged holy wars against these sins and pastors frequently excoriated church teenagers over their unwillingness to obey the rules. While the days of hippies, Woodstock, and free love have faded into the pages of American history, many IFB preachers still preach against long hair, short skirts, pants, and rock music.

There are numerous unaccredited IFB colleges and Bible institutes in the United States. With few exceptions, these institutions strictly regulate how  men must wear their hair. I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-79. Midwestern had a strict standard concerning hair: short, off the ears, no long bangs, short sideburns, no facial hair, and a tapered neckline. This standard was strictly enforced, and men who let their hair grow too long were told to get a haircut. Ignoring this demand resulted in suspension.

While some IFB preachers, churches, and colleges have adapted to the times, many have not. Midwestern Baptist College is one such institution that still thinks it is 1976. Here is Midwestern’s male hair standard, as published in their 2013-14 student handbook (PDF):

Men are to be neat in appearance and dressed properly at all times. The hair is to be cut over the ears and tapered at the back above the collar. Sideburns are to be no lower than the middle of the ear. Hair must be no longer than the middle of the forehead in front. Men may not have facial hair unless approved by the Dean of Students. Such facial hair must be neatly groomed at all times. Faddish, worldly hairstyles will not be tolerated. The final decision as to the appropriateness of a hairstyle will rest with the Administration.

As a loyal, faithful son of the IFB church movement, from the time I was a child until the late 1990s, I had short hair. As an IFB preacher, I thought it important to model the hairstyle God approved. While I didn’t preach very often on men having long hair, my short hairstyle made it clear to church members where I stood on the matter. Not only was my hair a testimony to the notion that the Bible condemned long hair, but so was the hair of my three oldest sons. Jason, Nathan, and Jaime spent many years looking similar to children who were either being treated for lice or recently released from a Nazi prison camp. Not wanting to spend money on haircuts, we bought a pair of clippers and periodically gave them buzz cuts. No protestations allowed. Sit down, buzz, next. I am sure, at the time, they hated me and I don’t blame them.

charles spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon, a 19th Century English Baptist Preacher

Over time, my views on hair began to change. In the early 1990s, I grew a beard, much to the surprise of my fellow IFB preachers. By then I had distanced myself from the more extreme elements of the IFB church movement, and I began fellowshipping with Calvinistic-oriented Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptist preachers. These men, refugees from IFB churches, didn’t have as many social hangups. While they were still quite Fundamentalist, these preachers spent little time preaching on things such as male hair length and facial hair. Charles Spurgeon was one of this movement’s patron saints and he had long hair and a beard. I thought at the time, if Spurgeon had long hair and a beard, it must be okay for me to do the same.

Last Saturday, Polly and I drove to Newark, Ohio to visit her parents. While there, my IFB mother-in-law asked me about my hair. Since last October, I have let my hair grow. It is longer now than it ever has been. Mom, who attends a church that is anti-long hair on men, asked, So you are growing your hair long? I replied, Yes. She responded, Why? And with nary a thought, I replied, Because I can. I am sure she is disappointed that I am letting myself turn into a hippie. She later asked if I planned to put my hair in a ponytail like my former brother-in-law does I told her I didn’t plan to let my hair grow that long.

As it stands now, my hair has quite a bit of curl on its extreme ends, an unexpected result. I am not sure Polly likes my hair this long, but we have a hard, fast agreement: we don’t criticize each other’s hair styles. While we do, at times, defer to one another, both of us are free to wear our hair as we wish. Now that we have cast off the shackles of Fundamentalism, we are free to do what we want. As I have mentioned before, Polly and I missed out on the freedoms of the 1960s and 1970s. Both of us were members of hardcore IFB churches that strictly regulated dress, hair styles, and conduct. Now that we are no longer emotionally and mentally bound in IFB bondage, we are, to some degree, living, for the first time, the 1960s and 1970s. On the plus side, we are much wiser than we were 40 years ago. On the negative side, we also have bodies that are 40 years older. Oh to be wise and young!

How about you? Did you grow up in a church that strictly regulated dress, hair style, and behavior? Were you compliant or rebellious? If you were rebellious, how did the church and your parents respond to your rebellion? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Note

Previous post on this subject, Is it a Sin for a Man to Have Long Hair?

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13 Comments

  1. Kerry

    I am quite sure the date on the picture is wrong…1899? My I was not aware color photos were in fashion that year! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for catching this. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Brian

    Grew up going to a non-IFB church. It’s been a while but I think it was considered “Conservative Baptist Association” (is that a thing?). At any rate, my mom always had short hair and wore pants. CCM and the NIV were fine too, but not secular rock, of course. As they have gotten older, they have moved on to more and more conservative churches. I think it’s mainly because they hate contemporary worship more than anything else. Now they go to a super IFB church. Think socially awkward teenage girls hiking and playing basketball in long denim skirts. It’s weird. But my mom is still wearing pants and short hair. I wonder if the rest of the church gives her the side eye when she walks in.

    Reply
  3. Karen the rock whisperer

    My Husband’s dad was a Navy NCO. In proper Navy style, his sons grew up barely knowing they had hair. In fact, both Mom-in-law and Dad-in-law have trouble telling photos of the boys apart, unless they’re together; proper little copies of Good Conservative Children, they were.

    Both boys experimented with longer hair when they were old enough to insist on a preference. When I met Husband in college, he sported a head of curls not dissimilar to Tom Baker (the actor who played Dr. Who at the time). This then-boyfriend, who I knew and loved as a jeans-and-plaid-shirt guy with curly hair, decided to update his look for his first professional summer intern job interview. He appeared on my doorstep, in a three-piece suit with a short haircut, and it took me a moment to recognize him!

    Reply
  4. Reverend Greg

    Just don’t do a man bun, Bruce, or I will lose all respect for you, lol!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      No worries, Greg. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Ian

    I always had short hair. When I say short, it was even short by IFB standards. I was always mocked about getting run over by a lawn mower. My dad believe short meant short and there should be no question if my hair was short.

    That has carried over into my adult life. I hate my hair touching my ears. I tried to let my hair grow out and I just couldn’t stand it. I keep my hair short now because it is what I want, not because I think I will become sissified. There are plenty of gay men with short hair and a lot of straight men with long hair and beards.

    In fact, I wonder what Jack Hyles would have thought about the Green Berets and SEALs who are deployed and have long hair and fluffy beards. Was he a better soldier because his hair was short and theirs is long? It has been like that for a long time, too. Back in the early 80’s there were plenty of special operations types sporting pony tails and earrings, due to the fact they had to blend in. I guess those sissy men wouldn’t have been welcomed at his church. Would he have considered them any less patriotic because of their grooming standards?

    Overall, it is just a way to keep people under oppression. The Jesus Jack Hyles worshipped had short hair and blue eyes. In reality, I think Hyles and his kind would have been surprised to meet Jesus and see that he looked nothing like the pictures we have today.

    Reply
  6. Tim McGaha

    My hair and I are no longer on speaking terms. We always had a troublesome relationship. It never behaved, except when cut very short. When my widow’s peak and bald spot joined forces, that was when I said “It’s not you, it’s me,” and shaved it all off.

    Reply
  7. E. J. Kane

    Ah, but, ‘What saith the scriptures’?

    In my Fundamental circles facial hair is allowed, after all, Christ had a beard did He not?
    We are not to grow our hair while in-term in the college, and we are to carefully maintain hair in all cases.

    I think a man who wears long hair is simply a sissy, doesn’t matter if we are in 2017, 1217 or 2817.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Why would such a powerful deity as yours be concerned with how people wear their hair?

      Define sissy.

      Reply
    2. Brian

      The point of this viral Christianity is to remove choice and free will from people, Walk, talk, dress a specific way defined by almighty gawd and interpreted to your fallen nothingness by the local preacher of your choice. E.J. Kane is not a thinker. He is a dull feeler with his antennae all stuck up his own rear view. When I had hair I let it grow sometimes and then sometimes chopped it.
      You know, E.J. Kane, Gerencser was of a similar opinion to yours some years ago. The difference between Bruce and you? Bruce was able to question himself and honestly confront his actions. I think a man who calls somebody a sissy for having long hair is a bully, I thought in the late sixties, the days of long hair, and I think it today. Frankly saying such ignorant things makes a man appear quite dull. Please tell me this is your idea of a joke.

      Reply
    3. Larry Kinsler

      Where is ” I think ” in your King James Bible? Your opinion, at the Judgement Seat Of Christ, will burn in the ” wood, hay, stubble ” category. The Bible does not condemn longer than deemed appropriate by some hair on men, and to condemn where the Bible does not condemn is to go beyond , and add to, the Word. You do know what happens to those who add to God’s Word, don’t you? What we need is a New Testament passage that has the God of your Bible condemning hair on man after exceeding a certain, Biblically defined length. Anything short of this is simple handed down tradition from man, and is not worth a ” hill o’ beans “.

      Reply
      1. Brian

        I never suggested what I said was in the Bible. I said that a man who calls somebody a sissy for having long hair is a bully. As are Christians who quote scripture to prove that being a bully is a good thing and not worthy of disdain. Preachers spend their time bullying for God but the fact that ‘God said’ does not make bullying right or correct.
        I am already in Hell, Larry. My proof is fundy Christianity and Islam, to name a few virus strains.
        And that hill o’ beans you speak of is one of my primary foods. I love beans, Larry. They are tasty treat and keep me regular, You KJV is processed food, Larry. It’s kool-aid and Kraft Dinner. It’s Jesus in seven minutes flat with cheesy stuff on top.

        Reply

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