Friday, 11 September 2009

The Theology of Shaving

Smithee's Theology of Shaving looks like an interesting book. A brief account of the contents page:
Chapter 1. Literal Shaving. A survey of the scriptural rules concerning hair-removal in seven major religions, attempting to demonstrate that the emphasis some religions give to this matter codes a core spiritual truth.

Chapter 2. Circumcision. Smithee reads Jewish and Islamic instruction on circumcision in the broader context of shaving. ' ... this literal shaving of extraneous skin from the human body,' he argues, 'differs from the shaving of hair only in its permanence; for it is a manifestation of precisely the same spiritual logic. It is a tidying, or in the more loaded vocabulary I attempt to avoid in this study, a cleasing of the literal skin borderline that marks the place of separation between the self and other, which is to say, between the individual and God.'

Chapter 3. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. This may be the least persuasive chapter: Smithee sets out to argue that the shift from hunter-gatherer to farming society was not only prompted by religious beliefs (hence the rhetoric of eg shepherd and seed-farmer in the New Testament) but manifests a desire to 'shave' the earth, in harvesting crops, that is the precise externalisation of core religious truth. 'God gives us a hairy world, shaggy with forests and fields of wheat; it is our religious duty to shave it.'

Chapter 4. Fishing. A bizarre attempt to move from a two-dimensional mode of shaving (drawing a blade over a topographically 2D surface) to a three-dimensional, via the example of fishing: the net being the blade, the fish themselves the 3D stubble embedded in the water. 'Central to Christianity, implicit in the injunction I shall make ye fishers of men, is the idea: I shall make ye shavers of waters.'

Chapter 5. Shaving the soul. 'Sin is not an external crust that accrues upon the surface of the soul from exterior sources, but a manifestation of our internal original sinfulfness. Sin grows out of us, bristly and repulsive. It is a spiritual necessity that we shave this off.'

Chapter 6 Conclusion: Jesus Shaves. A counterblast to the iconic notion of a bearded Jesus. 'Before 800 CE all visual representations of Christ show him to be beardless.'

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