I have a goatee. I’ve had it for a while and, as my wife reminds me, my kids can’t even remember me without it. I can barely remember me without it. So, given that I’m already stubbled, it’s pretty hard to get excited about Movember.
November has become the month—other than hockey playoff time—when men grow facial hair to make a statement.
What statement? Good question.
Movember’s only 10 years old, yet I question whether most moustachioed guys could name what it’s all about. Even less, I suspect, have contributed to the cause for which the hairy upper lip stands. At its outset, Movember creatively raised awareness of men’s health issues, particularly prostate cancer. And, it must be noted, the movement has raised $560 million for research and programs, making it one of the Top 100 non-governmental organizations out there.
That’s impressive, but in the last few years I’ve heard few guys mention what this movement is all about, although they wax eloquent about their whiskers. It’s not that they are heartless, but the cause is now a fad, even a “tradition,” and while that’s a big win for Movember, these things can become just more white noise in our culture, where people hurriedly identify themselves with the next hip cause. (Remember this past summer’s ice-bucket challenge or all those yellow rubber bracelets?) You see, we’re not really moved by causes, but by marketing and the yearning to “#trend.”
Here’s the point: Movember is trending toward becoming the new Christmas. In other words, we’re a culture increasingly forgetful of the metanarratives, but we keep on celebrating them anyway. While some Christians bemoan that the true “reason for the season” is largely forgotten or unknown, we ought not to be surprised.
We are part of a culture that rapidly and thoughtlessly exchanges one defining big story—that’s what a metanarrative is—for another. The late French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard defined postmodernity—the age we are apparently in—as “incredulity toward metanarratives.”
In other words, we are unwilling or unable to believe any larger stories. We can’t settle ourselves on anything definitive or bigger than ourselves, so we redefine, or, as Movember-type trends reveal, we jump on board with the cause du jour, but swiftly forget what it’s really all about. Changing causes is as easy as shaving or putting up lights. We live in a culture curiously given to “traditional-ization,” but with no real sense of what we actually hold to be ultimately true or worthy of such sacred designation.
Now, perhaps you think this is just a rant. It’s not. It’s a wake-up call for those who are disciples of Jesus. To follow the one born of a virgin is not a trend, a fad or even a tradition. Jesus described his coming as the defining metanarrative of life: He claimed to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
“Take up your cross and follow me,” he said. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” he declared. He began no fad or cause, but claimed that true life is defined by himself. To believe and follow him as Lord will neither make sense or be celebrated in this incredulous culture, whether you have a moustache or not. The cost of steady, Jesus-centred discipleship is growing faster than a Fu Manchu, chin curtain or handlebar as the months roll on.
Phil Wagler wears his goatee with satisfaction year round, but it is the call of Jesus that defines his life as he lives with his family in Surrey, B.C.
—Posted Dec. 10, 2014