Have you ever noticed a Jehovah’s Witness sporting a stylish beard? The chances are slim to none. When you see them out in public, they are always clean-shaven, and they do well to present a very traditional corporate look. So why is it that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have beards? Is it by choice, or is it a requirement? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses allowed to have beards?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are generally not allowed to have beards. By growing a beard, you will be viewed by their community as rebellious. You will be removed from any position of responsibility. The elders will likely have a meeting with you, using coercive persuasion to manipulate you into shaving. While there is little in their publications about beards, there is an “oral law” strongly enforced by the elders.
This rule about beards is nowhere to be found in print. However, it is for a good reason. Jehovah’s Witnesses already have a reputation for being a high control group, and putting this law in print would allow the public to get a glimpse of the level of control that the organization exercises over its members.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering why Jehovah’s Witnesses generally cant have beards, what they teach about beards, and what the Bible says about beards. Being a very personal issue, I decided to dig deep into this one, and what I found was partly interesting and partly shocking.
Why can’t Jehovah’s Witnesses have beards?
According to their publications, Jehovah’s Witnesses in most countries and cultures aren’t allowed to have beards because they say beards are associated with extremism or rebels against society. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, bearded members can be a matter of disturbance to the congregation and can stumble fellow congregants. If congregants are “stumbled” by a member’s beard, they will be expected to shave “for the sake of the conscience of others”.
The real reason Jehovah’s Witnesses cant have beards has a lot more to do with the outward corporate-like appearance of the organization and a way to keep the finger on the pulse of a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ willingness to obey.
ACCORDING TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, BEARDS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH EXTREMISM
In 1968, a statement in the Watchtower magazine suggested that a beard would detract from their message because “the majority” of people classify individuals with beards as extremists or rebels against society. They make this statement without backing it up with proof or a study. This is a false cause fallacy, where they “presumed that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.“.
When it comes to beards, Jehovah’s Witnesses present a false black and white argument, where having a beard means to look like a rebel, but in order to look like a Christian, one has to be clean-shaven, when in fact, other possibilities exist.
|“In recent years in many lands a beard or long hair on a man attracts immediate notice and may, in the minds of the majority, classify such a person undesirably with extremists or as rebels against society. “|
Watchtower 1968 May 12 p.288
The association of beards with extremists and rebels of society is unsupported in the real world, but rather is constructed and perpetuated in the Jehovah’s Witnesses publications by the use of images, anecdotes, and videos where good people are always presented to be cleanly shaven, and bad people have facial hair.
ACCORDING TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, BEARDS ARE A MATTER OF DISTURBANCE IN THE CONGREGATION
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that if a fellow “Christian” is stumbled by anything you do, you must stop that behavior. This includes what you eat or drink, how you dress, what hobbies you do, or wearing a beard. They cite 1st Corinthians 8:13 as their source for this so-called “principle”. The Apostle Paul said that he would never eat meat again if eating meat would stumble a fellow Christian.
|“But more helpful than a specific rule in this regard will be application of the principle behind the Biblical statement quoted above: “‘Conscience,’ I say, not your own, but that of the other person.” The same counsel applies when it comes to wearing beards or certain articles of clothing. In some locations people still view beards as identifying rebellious elements in society.”|
Awake! 1979 Apr 22 pp.27-28
What Jehovah’s Witnesses fail to mention is that Paul was referring to meat sacrificed to idols. Paul agrees that food is just food, and eating specific foods, even food offered to idols, is not wrong in and of itself. What Paul was saying is that if a fellow Christian is stumbled by the fact that the food in question was sacrificed to idols, then it would be better not to eat it so that they are not stumbled. He was not saying that he is giving up meat altogether.
|“Paul concludes his first argument about why the Corinthians should not eat food offered to idols. Though it’s not immoral, in and of itself, it might cause weak-conscience believers to sin against their own consciences by eating idol food when they mistakenly think it is wrong.“|
Bibleref.com Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:13
How does meat offered to idols relate to growing a beard? What part of having a beard is pagan? It doesn’t; in fact, the opposite is true. The practice of shaving has pagan roots and is a legitimate cause for “stumbling”. I would also ask, did Paul shave off his beard to avoid stumbling newly baptized Greeks who were cleanly shaven? Or, were newly baptized Greeks required to grow their beards to not stumble the bearded Jewish Christians?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are programmed to believe that beards are rebellious and are associated with extremism. This is done through subliminal messaging in their study articles, images, and videos, as I will explain later in this article.
This creates a stigma against beards among Jehovah’s Witnesses, and growing a beard will undoubtedly offend members of the congregation. A stigma that is not based on the fact that beards have pagan ties to idols (like the meat that Paul was referring to) but rather because they have been convinced by their leaders that beards are not appropriate for Christians.
The truth about why Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t have beards
Controlling the minds of followers is the ultimate goal for cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Mind Control is no myth. It is a well-studied social phenomenon but is a lot more boring than what you might imagine. It does not involve torture, flashing images, captivity, etc., but rather its hours and hours of meetings, exposure to images, talks, and videos that use subliminal messaging to modify members’ thinking. A very subtle process that uses a system of influences to disrupt an individual’s identity.
There are three key elements to cult mind control when it comes to the issue of beards. Behavior Modification, Group Conformity, and Obedience to Authority, all of which play an essential role in the capturing of an individual’s mind.
GROUP CONFORMITY BY SHAVING IN THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
In cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, behavior is often controlled by requiring everyone to look and act uniformly. Every cult has its own set of ritual behaviors that helps to bind its members together. In the case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it includes ritualistic shaving.
Like growing a beard, acting independently is viewed as reabellious. It will expose the individual’s doubts about the organization’s leadership, raising a red flag to the elders that you need to be dealt with.
|“…[the] group vigorously reinforces certain behaviors by effusive praise and acknowledgement, while punishing non-group ideas and behaviors with icy silence.”|
Combatting Cult Mind Control, Page 71
BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION THROUGH SHAVING IN THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
The purpose of behavior modification is to disrupt an individual’s identity. This is done by imposing a new set of behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. If the leadership can manipulate an individual’s behavior (such as forcing them to shave), the individual will start to bring their thinking in line with their behavior. This is how cults can change the way people think.
At first, the individual will feel uneasy about the change in their behavior. Still, the more they do it, the more in line their thinking becomes with their behavior. Forcing people to shave is part of their behavior modification technique.
|“The leaders cannot command someone’s inner thoughts, but they know that if they command behavior, hearts and minds will follow.”|
Combatting Cult Mind Control, Page 61, Behavior Control
The Stanford Prison Experiment Similarities
In the case of the Stanford Prison Experiment, volunteer prisoners were required to wear dresses and place a stocking cap over their heads to emasculate the men. The men’s behavior immediately became more submissive as they held themselves more like women than men.
|“Our goal was to produce similar effects quickly by putting men in a dress without any underclothes. Indeed, as soon as some of our prisoners were put in these uniforms they began to walk and to sit differently, and to hold themselves differently – more like a woman than like a man.“|
Arrival — Stanford Prison Experiment
Much like Jehovah’s Witnesses being required to shave, these rules were a way of getting people to begin complying with the arbitrary, coercive rules of the organization.
BLIND OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY BY SHAVING IN THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
|“In any group that qualifies as a destructive cult, thinking of oneself or for oneself is wrong. The group comes first. Absolute obedience to superiors is one of the most universal themes in cults. Individuality is bad. Conformity is good.”|
Combatting Cult Mind Control, Page 80, Group Will over Individual Will
Complying with the group’s rigid requirements to shave shows that an individual is blindly obedient to the group’s leaders. An individual who rejects his elder’s counsel to shave fails to display absolute obedience and needs to be dealt with. Usually, they will be “counseled”, and coerced into shaving.
|“…All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive [from the Governing Body], whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”|
Watchtower 2013 – Seven Shepherds, Eight Dukes—What They Mean for Us Today, Paragraph 17
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about beards?
Jehovah’s Witnesses demonize beards by applying subliminal messaging and undue influence (brainwashing) in their publications. Once beards are successfully demonized, members of the congregation will do all of the policing required. They will confront the bearded individual at meetings and gatherings. Members of the congregation will also complain to the elders about the bearded individual, claiming that it stumbles them.
The use of subliminal messaging to demonize beards is applied in Storytelling, Images, and Unwritten Oral Law that is delivered directly to the individual via social influence and so-called counseling sessions with the elders.
JEHOVAHS WITNESSES USE SUBLIMINAL MESSAGING, AND UNDUE INFLUENCE AGAINST BEARDS
It is essential to realize that the Jehovah’s witnesses are an established cult. We need to understand how cults use subliminal messaging and undue influence (also known as brainwashing) to manipulate their members into conforming. These methods are not as obvious as you might think. Hollywood has really distorted what brainwashing looks like. Mind control and brainwashing don’t necessarily include being handcuffed, tortured, and interrogated under bright lights. Instead, knowing how sensitive humans are to social cues, cults implement subliminal messaging as a much more effective method and one that is difficult to detect.
Today, brainwashing is a well-studied topic by thousands of renowned psychologists worldwide. Many high control groups use the methods today, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses use unwritten oral laws, images, and storytelling to send out subliminal messages that essentially brainwash those who have beards, into shaving, and the members of the congregation to view those who have beards in a negative light. One of many examples of this includes the following statement in the Watchtower study article.
|“Extreme hair styles can easily lead one into a trap of the Devil also, and cause others to stumble… From early youth he had let his beard grow…. He was invited to consider his appearance in relation to what he claimed to be, a servant of God. Not wanting to be responsible for even one person’s being stumbled so as to miss the way to everlasting life, this new Kingdom publisher shaved off his beard.”|
Watchtower 1975 Aug 15 p.500
HOW JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES USE SUBLIMINAL MESSAGING TO DEMONIZE BEARDS IN STORYTELLING AND IN IMAGES
Watchtower study articles are littered with accounts of people “coming into the truth”, and making huge sacrifices such as quitting alcohol, drugs. I seriously doubt the legitimacy of most of these accounts, but I won’t digress. I will point out that these accounts present perfect opportunities for Jehovah’s Witnesses to demonize whatever behavior they do not want, including growing a beard. In this 1989 Watchtower study article, beards are demonized by associating them with the use of drugs.
|“However, after the young man received the book, there was a remarkable transformation in the lad. He shaved off his beard, cut his hair, and stopped using drugs.” |
Watchtower 1989 Sep 15 p.32
The truth is that the young man did not shave because his beard is evil. Instead, he shaved because he was brainwashed to believe that growing a beard was wrong. He would also have been pressured by others who were brainwashed into a negative view of beards. No doubt he would have been “counseled” about his beard by the elders, who would persuade him that he must shave.
Another article in the 1998 Watchtower implied that shaving off your beard is visible “evidence” that a bible student is changing his heart for the better. Such a statement suggests that the reverse is true, that growing a beard means to change for the worse.
|“A Bible study was started with him, and as Bible truth began to affect his heart, the changes he made were visible to all. One of the first evidences of his change was that he cut short his long hair and shaved off his straggly beard.”|
Watchtower 1998 Jan 1 p.4
Another statement made in a 1973 Watchtower article strongly implied that a Jehovah’s Witness does not have the right to grow a beard in a similar way ancient Israelites did not have the right to shave. While they won’t outright put it in print, the message is clear, and make no mistake, this is a firm stance against beards for the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
|“Suppose that you, as a man, lived in Israelite times, under the Law, and did not like a beard. Perhaps you liked the way Egyptians looked, clean shaven. What would you do? Would you exercise your personal right to shave? No, for you would not have such a right. You would have to wear a beard, because the Law commanded all males: “You must not cut your sidelocks short around, and you must not destroy the extremity of your beard.” |
Watchtower 1973 Mar 1, Rights or Duties—Which? [screenshot]
UNWRITTEN ORAL LAW AGAINST BEARDS
On the surface, it seems there are no hard and fast laws about beards among Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, they have published statements that make it look like beards are acceptable for Jehovah’s Witnesses in some countries, but they fail to mention that the pressure to shave still exists.
Jehovah’s witnesses paint a (falsely) reasonable stance on the issue of beards by saying that “In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message.”, but what they don’t mention is that it’s up to the Elders to decide if beards are respectable in their culture. In reality, in the culture of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, beards are not viewed as acceptable and will not be formally allowed.
Are beards against the Bible?
Contrary to what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, the Bible portrays a beard as a God-given sign of gender distinction and maturity.
Beards are most definitely NOT against the Bible. In fact, the Bible portrays a beard as evidence of manly dignity. So much so that Israelite men were forbidden from shaving their beards. Today, most people would agree that women are being encouraged to look more manly, and men are being pressured to look more womanly, creating a very negative view of beards.
Despite the claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “no part of this world”, they very much seem to be in agreement with this so-called “worldly” point of view regarding beards.
MEN WERE REQUIRED TO HAVE A BEARD UNDER BIBLICAL LAW
Nowhere in the Bible did God ever command men to remove their beards; in fact, men were commanded the opposite.
|“27 “‘You must not shave the hair on the side of your head or disfigure the edges of your beard. 28 “‘You must not make cuts in your flesh for a dead person, and you must not make tattoo markings on yourselves…”|
Leviticus 19:27, 28 – NWT
It was a requirement for men to have beards under the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 19 verse 27 reads, “You must not shave the hair on the side of your head or disfigure the edges of your beard”. But Jehovah’s Witnesses will say that that “Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, nor are they obliged to observe it.” But if we continue reading on to verse 28, the same scripture reads. “You must not make cuts in your flesh for a dead person, and you must not make tattoo markings on yourselves….”. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain this stance when it comes to tattoos? No…
If Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that shaving is no longer considered forbidden for Christians, then why do Jehovah’s Witnesses use the same scripture to outlaw tattoos?
|“Significantly, the Mosaic Law forbade God’s people to tattoo themselves. Said Leviticus 19:28: “You must not make cuts in your flesh for a deceased soul, and you must not put tattoo marking upon yourselves. I am Jehovah.” … While Christians today are not under the Law of Moses, the prohibition it laid on tattooing is sobering.” |
Awake! 2003 Sep 22 p.26
What about the prohibition laid on shaving? How interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses view the prohibition on tattooing as “sobering”, but completely ignore the ban applied to shaving. All the while admitting that in those days, shaving was a religious practice among pagans.
Jehovah’s Witnesses strongly view tattoos as taboo and base their view on scripture at Leviticus 19:28. However, they conveniently ignore verse 27 of the same scripture forbids men from shaving off their beards. If the same reasoning for tattoos were applied to beards, then shaving would be taboo.
ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, SHAVING WAS A FORM OF HUMILIATION
|“So Haʹnun took the servants of David and shaved off half their beards and cut their garments in half at their buttocks and sent them away.”|
2 Samuel 10:1-19
In an attempt to humiliate Davids’s soldiers, Ha’nun shaved off their beards. This was taken so seriously that David ordered the men to stay in their place until their beards grew back before returning.
Furthermore, in Jeremiah 41:5, 48:37, and Isaiah 7:20 God’s Judgement is pictured to be something as serious and as humiliating as shaving off their beards.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE
Miska Wilhelmsson from miskawilhelmsson.com puts it this way: “Bible believing Christians certainly know there is much more than just sexual organs that are the difference [between men and women], and that God has called men to appear in a distinctively manly appearance, and women to adorn themselves as women.”
According to the Bible, man and woman are both created by God, each with their own unique features, including men having beards. Beards are also highly esteemed in the Bible.
|“In reply he said: “Have you not read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female”|
Matthew 19:4 – NWT
|“A woman must not put on the clothing of a man, nor should a man wear the clothing of a woman. For anyone doing so is detestable to Jehovah your God.”|
Deuteronomy 22:5 – NWT
Evidently, the Bible places a strong emphasis on gender distinction, and a beard is no doubt one of the main differences between men and women. Men grow beards naturally, and it was even a requirement for men to have beards under the Mosaic Law. Furthermore, a man imitating a woman is viewed as detestable in the Bible.
Jehovahs Witnesses admit that there is a requirement for gender distinction but ignore the fact that shaving removes one of the identifying features between a man and woman, his beard. This textbook “double-think” is “a process of indoctrination whereby the subject is expected to simultaneously accept two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.”
|“To be what God created them to be, men must be masculine, and women feminine. Why? Because in addition to man and woman having been made to complement each other physically, they were to complement each other through masculine and feminine qualities. “|
Watchtower 1997, June, Male and Female He Created Them, Paragraph 2.
SHAVING HAS PAGAN ROOTS
Shaving was forbidden for Israelite men. This was likely due to the pagan rituals of the surrounding nations that included shaving as part of their pagan religious ceremonies. It is also likely that shaving was not allowed because they were not supposed to disfigure what God had created to be the natural state of man.
|“They should not make their heads bald or shave off the fringe of their beard or make cuts on their body.”|
Leviticus 21:1-24 – NWT
Pagan Egyptian priests were required to shave, and shaving was promoted by the Roman Alexander the great. Pontius Pilate was also cleanly shaven while Jesus wore a beard.
JESUS WORE A BEARD
To Christians, the Bible portrays Jesus as the perfect example for Christians to imitate, and Jesus had a beard. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be followers of Jesus but stop dead short of allowing men to have beards.
You will be hard-pressed to find a Jehovah’s Witnesses sporting a stylish beard, and if you do, the chances are that he is not in good standing with his congregation.
While Jehovah’s Witnesses paint a soft and reasonable stance against beards, the truth is that the requirement to shave is heavily enforced. Those who fail to comply will be subjected to so-called “Shepherding visits”, where the elders will coerce the offender into shaving.
This rule is not easily found in print but is deeply engrained as an oral law among the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Make no mistake, growing a beard is considered “worldly” and taboo in the Jehovah’s Witness community.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that their stance on this issue is because beards are associated with extremism and “rebels against society”. However, this view is entirely unsupported in the real world.
Jehovah’s Witnesses also teach that a bearded member can cause stumbling in the congregation but base this on a principle where Paul would not eat meat offered to idols if it would stumble a fellow Christian. They make this link, but fail to demonstrate how a beard is linked to pagan idols like the meat Paul was referring to.
The truth is, the requirement to shave is a form of cult behavior control, one of the elements of mind control presented in Dr. Steven Hassans BITE model of cult mind control.
In cults, group conformity is vital to remove an individual’s independence. This includes ritualistic behaviors such as shaving. Members are not allowed to think for themselves and demonstrate blind obedience to orders they receive from the leadership.
As part of the cult indoctrination, Jehovah’s Witnesses are subjected to hours of exposure to talks, anecdotes, images, and videos where shaven people are associated with the “good guy”, and people with beards always assume the role of the “bad guy”.
Contrary to the stance of the Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding beards, beards are not against the Bible at all. In fact, beards are portrayed in the Bible as God-given signs of gender distinction and maturity. So much so that Israelite men were forbidden from shaving altogether.
Shaving was also seen as humiliating among the Israelites. Having a beard was an essential distinction between men and women. Furthermore, shaving has pagan roots among the Egyptians and Hindus, and lastly, Jesus had a beard.