Let’s Talk About Beard-Gate

by | Aug 29, 2022 | Men's Corner | 28 comments

Desiring God on Beards
Merchandise is Here!

Why is the Desiring God website writing about beards?


Sheila here! 

My husband Keith got fired up in the last few weeks looking at what was happening in the comments, so he wanted to share some thoughts with you.

So here he is!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not anti-beard. I really like mine! And I am particularly pleased with how it looks at the moment since I just got it trimmed this week.

But with all the things happening in the world right now – the war in Ukraine, the FBI investigation into abuse in the SBC, etcetera – why is this the topic Desiring God is seeking to focus on?

Well, my friend, haven’t you heard? Masculinity is under attack!

How so? Are men being rounded up and imprisoned? Are men being subjected to systematic persecution and violence?

No, it’s worse than that. Men are being stripped of their God-given right… to rule over women.

It has been an interesting month on the blog as the defenders of this type of masculinity have come out of the woodwork to set Sheila straight.

It started when she posted a “Fixed It For You” about how it is NOT Biblical to teach that husbands are supposed to prepare their wives for Jesus:


Fixed it for You Ready for heaven

The tempo increased with her post about how Women are Developing Higher Standards in romantic relationships and then reached a fevered pitch when she posted about Why Women Want an Equal Partner. The message from her detractors was pretty consistent: The problem is with women, not men. Men are supposed to be in charge of women and we’d all be better off if they actually were. This is the way God designed it and anyone who teaches differently is a heretic.

Since masculinity seems to be defined by those commenters and the writers on the Desiring God website as “being the one in charge”, anything that threatens male power is an affront to (what they claim is) God’s version of masculinity. So clearly we see threats to masculinity are everywhere these days. And equally clearly, there could be no other issue of greater importance. As another example, consider Owen Strachan’s tweet from last month:

Owen Strachan Tweet Female Pastors

Really, Owen? The $50,000 watches on the wrists of megachurch pastors don’t catch your attention? How about the growing avalanche of evidence that the SBC covered up abuse within its churches? Nope. Apparently gaudy displays of opulence, the sexual exploitation of women and men rushing to cover up the abuse of those women is not rebellion against God, but a women preaching the gospel is.

But it’s not just men who buy into this mindset.

I waded into Sheila’s comment section at one point and had a frustrating discussion with two women who were desperately trying to make me understand that when women rule, society falls apart. Perhaps they should explain that to Namibia, who under its first female prime minister, has its first budget surplus in its history. (You can read about what some women leaders in another two dozen countries are doing here).

The ironic thing is that I could have argued that, by their own logic, as a man I clearly knew better than them and they should submit to me. But as I have said many times, I believe women are equal to men in dignity, value and significance–so I would never say that to them. And tragically, if I did, I suspect my beliefs would signal to these women that I was not a “real man” so they wouldn’t have to listen to me anyway.

To be honest, I am getting tired of seeing the incensed comments that it is unacceptable and not biblical whenever Sheila says men & women should have an equal say in the marriage relationship.

To me the idea of a husband and wife working together, each using their gifts to the full in mutual service to God and each other is a beautiful picture of what Christian marriage can be.

But this, they say, is somehow tyrannically anti-man. God’s plan is so much better because the woman submits and the man leads.

But how is that better? I can instantly think of dozens of ways that their way can go horribly wrong. “Those are all distortions!” the proponents of unilateral wifely submission are quick to point out. “Practiced properly, the man has the authority and power, but he only uses it for her good.” But how is that better? It would seem to me, this way of doing marriage when practiced perfectly is at best equivalent to mine and at worst a recipe for abuse.

But let’s assume for a moment that they are right that God has put men -simply because they are men, with no reference to their abilities, talents or even character – in a position of authority over women. Then, as a Christian man, my first and loftiest goal should be to imitate Christ and empty myself of that for the service of women.

Now some actually SAY that’s what they preach, but it doesn’t match up with their actions. When men don’t take initiative to get their families to church, the gospel coalition says the problem is their wives don’t respect them enough. Even when men have affairs and break the seventh commandment, it is their wives who get blamed for not give them enough sex! If patriarchy is meant to benefit women then why is it whenever women say, “This isn’t benefiting me” the only answer Christian patriarchy provides is “Shut up and submit more”?

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Most men I know are good men and are not threatened by the stuff Sheila writes.

I don’t know any man who really thinks he is supposed to get his wife ready for Jesus in a way that she doesn’t reciprocate. The vast majority of the guys I know are not threatened by the idea that women are expecting men to me more emotionally mature these days because they are already trying to become more emotionally mature – because we know that’s healthy! And almost every man I know aspires to having a wife who is an equal partner in marriage and finds the idea of a wife who is his “little side kick” rather offensive. We are not threatened by women succeeding because our sense of masculinity is tied to our relationship to God, not to our wives or the women around us.

In other words, Owen Strachan and his ilk do not speak for us.

Some people reading this will doubtlessly be like one guy I met in the comment section who only wanted Bible verses and “refused to engage any arguments not from Scripture”. In other words, “Where is your proof text that husbands and wives should make decisions together?”.

Having a quick Bible verse may sound like a spiritual “mic drop” to some people. But consider how easy it is to “prove” the world is flat from the Bible and how hard it would be to prove it is a sphere. Not being able to find a proof text does not mean your argument is not Christian. I can’t show you a specific verse that says that God loves his daughters just as much as he loves his sons any more than I can show you a verse that proves the Trinity. But I do know that Jesus said, “Love your neighbor” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So if you feel you are under attack because someone is asking you to be your equal while simultaneously thinking you can make someone less than you because it is “God’s will” then I suggest you go back and read the Bible again.

Pay attention to the words in red.

Desiring God on Beards and Masculinity

What do you think? Can we get to the point where men having power over women becomes a fringe belief rather than the defining feature of evangelicalism? How will that happen? Let’s talk in the comments!

Keith Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Keith has been married to Sheila for over 30 years! They met while he was in pre-med at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He has served as Chief of Pediatrics in the Quinte Region, and has been the chair of undergraduate pediatric medical education at Queen's University, and participated in the Royal College examination board for new pediatricians. He is the co-author with Sheila of The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex, and a new marriage book they're working on. An avid birder, he loves traveling with Sheila all over North America in their RV.

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  1. Christina

    Thank you. I absolutely love hearing from all of you! It’s wonderful getting different perspectives. My husband and I really appreciate all you all are doing.

  2. Katydid

    The whole beard thing is hilarious, and I LOVE (maintained) beards (but not goatees. Can’t stand goatees. Not that I judge men who have them. You like a goatee, wear the goatee! I just don’t like the look of them and would rather see a full beard). I grew up in the 80s and 90s. In the 80s baby boomer men still sported facial hair. Not all of them, but a fair amount of them. It was falling out of fashion and the one man in our church with the mountain man beard was an anomaly. In the 90s facial hair was mostly out, although a few “rebellious” men tried various whiskers on for size. This was also the evangelical era of the clean-cut middle class nuclear family. This carried over into the 2000s and early 2010s where my long-suffering husband endured the pressure from the suit-wearing, clean cut deacons to cut his hair and shave his face (never mind that the pastor wore a goatee).

    Then came the beard trend! Oh, the glorious beard trend! It was perhaps the first time in my entire life that I started to swoon in general public! If I heard women complaining about beards I’d speak up! If I heard men lamenting about women pressuring them to shave, I’d speak up! 100% on board with the beard trend.

    Then, it seems, the beard trend got political. People who didn’t care for the beards started to make a socio-moral issue out of it. Perhaps Duck Dynasty and the fact that a lot of American right-wingers who enjoyed the beard trend and embracing that bit of long-lost masculinity added to that.

    And, as with most trends, the evangelical church trails behind pop culture. Thus, as the beard trend has waned and settled into an acceptable modicum where those who tried it and didn’t like it moved on and those who grew their beards and liked it kept them, and life goes on, the evangelical ilk decided to try to prove their “cool like you-ness” again and make a thing of it.

    And, as with most trends grasped a little too late by the evangelical church, people are just shaking their heads and laughing, and then the church grasps their pearls and claim society is persecuting them.

    You know what’s funny, though? Literally no one outside of evangelicalism and its clutches cares. I’m telling you, walking completely away from evangelicalism and becoming Catholic has been so great for me! Now, I know, Keith and Sheila that you are still dealing with so many followers who are either still in evangelicalism or are healing from it. You may have noticed I haven’t commented much anywhere on Bare Marriage social media in quite some time. Not because I don’t like you anymore, I still LOVE you, but I’ve even let go of almost all of any evangelical anything and it’s been BLISS!! I still follow you on Facebook, and saw this this morning and just had to comment.

    I know, people who are still in the trenches of American/Western Evangelical Culture are highly affected by nonsense like this beard-gate. So, it isn’t really fair for me or others completely outside of this culture to just laugh at the nonsense and brush it off. I commend you for staying in the trenches, like a medic or a chaplain, treating the wounded.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I like that picture of us as medics or chaplains! Honestly, Hacksaw Ridge is one of my favourite movies. 🙂 Maybe that’s why!

      • Boone

        I was visiting my son that lives in Chattanooga last weekend. We went to the Medal of Honor Museum. The whole experience was very humbling. The section on Desmond Doss was extraordinary. The movie did not do the man justice. He had already collected several medals by the time he got to Okinawa. What the movie didn’t tell you was that after he lowered those seventy five men to safety (Lord, just one more!) he was wounded in the legs by shrapnel from a Japanese grenade that he was trying to deflect from his fellow soldiers. The movie showed that. What it didn’t show was he laid there for five hours under fire refusing aid because it was too dangerous for the medic. During that time he was hit in the left arm resulting in a compound fracture. He splinted himself with a broken rifle stock. When he was at last evacuated on the way out he saw a man more severely wounded than he was. Doss ordered the litter bearers to buy him down and evacuate the more severely wounded man. He laid there until they could come back and get him. My son and I were both crying by the time we finished reading his MOH citation.
        That was a man!!! He didn’t need to be in charge. He didn’t need to rule over anybody. He only wanted to do his job and take care of those that he was responsible for. He didn’t need power. He didn’t need wealth. He didn’t need prestige. We could all profit from his example.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, wow, Boone! I’d love to see that if I get back to Chattanooga. What an amazing man! I loved seeing the real Doss at the end of the movie. So humble and so amazing. What a difference he made!

  3. Laura

    Excellent post, Keith! I think the men who had been raised to believe that they rule over women find equality threatening. They think equality means that they will no longer have control and that they will be controlled by women the way they have been controlling women for many centuries.
    I was in a marriage where I tried to follow the authority/submission doctrine but it did not work. It was the foundation for an abusive relationship. He believed he could make decisions without consulting me and thought he was entitled to sex any time he wanted it. Thankfully, he was fine with me handling the finances, letting me have a job, and go to college. Unfortunately, he thought he could monopolize ALL of my free time and was possessive. When I tell other Christian women about this experience and that for my own safety, I had to get a divorce, their reaction is “Well, he just did not handle his role properly as head of the household.” How on earth can one be “head” in the marriage without being controlling? Then, I hear the whole “servant-leader” bit. I have heard many twists on how submission in marriage isn’t so bad. There’s still some poop in the brownies.
    I am grateful there are plenty of men who are not threatened by strong women. My dad was one of them and he often reminded me that I was an independent woman who could take care of herself.

    • Mara R

      Laura: ” I think the men who had been raised to believe that they rule over women find equality threatening. ”

      Male narcissists who have not been raised that way also find equality threatening. And they are the ones attracted to headship doctrine. They flock to it

      Laura: “Then, I hear the whole ‘servant-leader’ bit. I have heard many twists on how submission in marriage isn’t so bad.”

      Submission in marriage is great, and biblical. Unilateral submission is not biblical. Submission in marriage only works if both know it’s what they are supposed to do. Whenever some man in comment sections would accuse me of hating submission, I would always point out that I actually don’t have a problem with it. The ones that have huge problems with it are all the men teaching and believing that submission doesn’t apply to them when scripture is clear that it does.

      I know what you are saying Laura. Submission in and of itself, isn’t bad. But unilateral submission is bad and a tool that abusers love, whether they grew up in the church or are just looking for a place that sanctifies their abusive mindset and says that it’s God’s will. Those people who were trying to tell you that you ex was doing it wrong don’t understand the mindset of Abusers, Narcissist, Psychopaths, and Sociopaths. Their doctrine doesn’t take into account the existence of any of these. And because of this, their doctrine is dangerous and possibly deadly.

    • Maria B.

      They told you he didn’t handle his role properly? The role they advocated for was that he should boss you around! There is no good way to be the boss of someone who is your equal partner!

      To anyone who doesn’t like plain language, consider how phrases like “servant leader” are used. Or “have the final say.” It’s always in the context of who should make decisions and who should zip it and go along with what her husband decided.

      Complementarian’s must use euphemisms and figurative language, because the truth condemns them.

  4. Joy

    My response to the “mic droppers:” I will not engage with anyone who does not present a holistic view of women taken from the many Scriptures that apply to them.

    They simply must do better. They can’t try to flame people by taking a few verses out of context which is what they have built this entire worldview on. They demonstrate a poor understanding and use of the Scripture despite trying to convince everyone that they are the true “Bible believers.”

    Love this! “It would seem to me, this way of doing marriage when practiced perfectly is at best equivalent to mine and at worst a recipe for abuse.”

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes! I really liked his point there too. I may even get him to expand on it for another post!

      But basically–what they describe as the proper functioning of headship is simply what we already practice as equals. So how is that BETTER? Especially since that’s not actually what’s taught? So why not teach it outright, instead of teaching BLUE, but saying, “now, the proper implementation of blue is actually green.”

    • Mara R

      Joy: “My response to the “mic droppers:” I will not engage with anyone who does not present a holistic view of women taken from the many Scriptures that apply to them.”

      That’s probably the best response.

      Though I have had fun in the past dropping my own mics and quoting scriptures that are negative towards men. I actually had a notebook somewhere with scriptures like those. As I read the Bible, anytime something was said negatively about men, I’d put that scripture in my notebook. Then when engaged with mic droppers, I’d throw twice as many verses at them, sometimes more depending on how stubborn they were. When they ran out of scriptures and I kept them coming, they’d get all bent out of shape about me using scripture wrong. I knew I wasn’t convincing them of anything. But I was more interested in exposing their immature mic drop tactic to others. Eventually I would agree that I was using scripture wrong but so were those who searched out scriptures to use to put women down.

  5. A

    I wonder how prevalent these views are. I grew up in Southern Europe, and while culturally some of this may have been observed, no one is trying to justify it theologically. Also the nuclear family idea isn’t as firmly ingrained over there. It is common to have multiple generations living together. Which wouldn’t fit as well with the “man is king of his kingdom “ idea. Which man? Grandpa? Dad? Uncle?

    And here in Canada, I never heard of modern patriarchy until recently. On social media. And most of the posters seem to be from the US.
    In fact I initially thought it was satire when George Takei quoted TTW. I checked it out and honestly thought it was satire. At first anyway. Then it made me angry-sad.

    So I’m hoping that this patriarchal (or misogynistic) view is over represented and isn’t as common as the internet would imply. And I hope this pushback helps affected people see there is a better way.

    • Maria B.

      I think the reason it’s common in America has a lot to do with the fact that, in English, the word “head” is a euphemism for boss. Canada is about half French and half English. So half of Canadians have a translation that’s easy for misogynists to abuse, but half don’t. That might temper things in Canada.

    • Jane Eyre

      It seems like TTW and her ilk are not actually mainstream, even within religious circles. The problem is that she sets a standard that makes normal misogyny – which is rather common in religious circles – look reasonable. So people can say and think some pretty awful things while still being less misogynistic than she is.

      Mostly I feel sorry for her. The kids are grown and don’t need her anymore, and she never developed herself enough to have a life or interests outside of being a stay at home mom. So what does she do now? Makes a hobby/blog out of having been a SAHM, and does it by hectoring other women.

    • EOF

      The narrative fits the white middle class America perfectly, but as you’ve shown, once you look outside that worldview the teachings don’t work. Which shows they aren’t correct if it only fits one segment of the population 2,000 years after Christ. It’s our job to study the word and the culture it was written in, and not to try to make it fit into what we want.

  6. Jane Eyre

    Very few confident, successful men are threatened by me. It’s not my job to be smaller so man can feel bigger. Even if I could, they would spend their days wondering deep down inside if they are actually better, or if the nagging doubts are in fact completely justified.

  7. Jenny-Isabella

    Keith’s posts are always fire! Somehow it lands different hearing a man say it. (I hate that that is true. I wish the world were genuinely egalitarian.) Evangelicalism has really gotten dumb in the last 6 years.

  8. Codec

    You know I have enough issues figuring stuff out on my own. If I t really was a unilateral “you will obey” structure I think that would only excacerbate many of my own problems. I wpuld likely become complacent, lazy, unmotivated, slovenly, and impractical.

    I see stuff online talking about how men and women can not really be friends, how if you are in a relationship with a woman who can not cook and clean you might as well just get a roommate,( I have no doubt that the opposite side of the coin is also true with women saying that if a man can not do x he is not really a man) how we are all just trying to get in eachothers pants, how we are all superficial. It makes me sad.

    I genuinly find myself concerned at the level of loneliness and cynicism in the world

  9. Codec

    Do you guys have any advice or anything to say regarding the increase in cynicism? I really think you need to talk about it.

    • Anthony

      So are you saying that wives are called to submit and husband’s to love and that this true doctrine is simply weighted to heavily amongst evangelical or are you saying that the submit/love doctrine isn’t taught in scripture?

  10. Mara R

    I guess this isn’t a good place to talk about all the women who spend money on hair removal products for their faces. Or who have to pluck their chins or upper lips everyday. Or shave. What would their faces look like if our culture didn’t shame them into eradicating all the hair on their faces. Would we have bearded women? Can we really say that men are men because they can grow mustaches and beards? Cause there are women who can grow some facial hair. It’s just not socially acceptable for women to do so.

    I know, I know, what I’m saying is goofy. And embarrassing for some.
    But Desiring God making male facial hair a priority is more goofy than anything I mention in the above paragraph.
    Desiring God is making themselves irrelevant by the stupid things they thing are important.

  11. Emmy

    I’m so disappointed! I thought Keith would write something about having beards or not, but I couldn’t find it at all!
    😀 😀 😀

  12. Marieda Sawyer

    Would Gal. 3:28 help?
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    • Grace

      No. I’ve quoted that a few times. That verse is never sufficient, and I’ve never gotten an explanation as to why not.

    • EOF

      You’re on fire, Keith!!

      I’ve been told that yes we’re all equal, but that doesn’t mean that women don’t have different roles (meaning to submit and obey in everything, that obeying your husband is obeying God even if he tells you to sin).

      So basically the verse doesn’t apply to women?? 🤷🏻‍♀️🙄

  13. JWren

    I’ve been browsing Sheila’s website for a while now and slowly digesting it all. I’m an early 40s professional, married with 2 kids. My husband is incredible, and has never lived as though my submission is even a thing. In his eyes we are equal.

    But me? It is only now gradually dawning on me, like a beautifully bright morning, that I am the one who has held this view! I’m the one who expects submission from myself…and as a result I have lived 12 years of marriage in constant guilt for not being enough. I grew up in the church and it’s only now that I am beginning to see how much of my life and especially my marriage has been about ‘duty’. And it really has been no fun for anybody.

    As I’m absorbing all of your insights and your stunning presentation of truth, I can honestly say that inside I’m experiencing a new freedom…like a weight has been lifted. Am I taking advantage of my husband and leaving him to do it all? Goodness no! We are partners, as we have always been…but now I believe that we are. And the opposite of what I thought would happen is happening…our marriage is stronger, our bedroom has, ahem, come alive😁, our children are more secure and we are stronger than we have ever been. Perfect? Haha, no!! But most definitely enjoying the process of getting there😊

    So thank you, all of you. Thank you for all that you are doing to set the captives free.

    • Anonymous this time

      JWren, this is SO encouraging! I too feel like the veil has been lifted as I read more if Sheila’s work and many of the comments! But unfortunately my husband is stuck in a complementarianism and defined gender role paradigm. I feel like I am growing and learning and moving forward, and he is stubbornly staying behind. As a result, our closeness and intimacy has suffered. And unfortunately, I feel I don’t have the ability to speak truth into his life about what I am learning from God, because I am “just the wife.“ All i feel I can do at this point is pray!

  14. Jeremy

    Men and teachers have been using the Bible and teachings to justify their bad behavior for millennia, why is it shocking that they’re still doing it with sex and leadership. However, just because people are sinners and use the Bible to justify their bad behavior doesn’t mean we get to throw out what the Bible teaches because we know better. Maybe understanding scripture in its entirety is what is required. Maybe we don’t get to say, “surely God doesn’t mean that?!” Maybe we say, maybe our understanding of what He says is wrong, we don’t get to dominate our women, but we get to be co-leaders in a relationship, with the ultimate responsibility being on the godly leadership of the man. We don’t get to call our wife a neighbor because it fits more with what we our marriage to be.


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