SDARM & Long Hair

Reformist Rapunzel: The Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement (SDARM) Obsession with Excessively Long, Uncut Hair for Woman

The Reformists of the SDARM generally BELIEVE and TEACH:
- SDARM women must have extremely long, uncut hair.  In practice they often wear such hair in tight giant buns, which is an easily recognisable feature of their adherents.
- The supposed scriptural basis for the long uncut hair is 1 Cor 11:14-15: ‘Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him.’
- Like many things in the SDARM, a Reformist woman who cuts her excessively long hair can face Church discipline.
The Reformists are WRONG because:
- It is not clear whether vs15 re a man’s long hair implicitly means a woman’s covering in vs14 is her hair; rather, it seems Paul is using men’s hair as an analogy to explain why females should cover their heads.  However, throughout Christianity’s history, a woman’s covering has traditionally been considered a scarf or hat. 
- One might accept the proposition that men have longer hair than women; however, the Bible does not prescribe exactly how long men’s and women’s hair should be.
- The Apostle Paul could not have been suggesting women have excessively long, uncut hair.  This is because the only time the Bible prescribes uncut hair is when taking the Nazarite oath, as recorded in Num 6:2-5.  As women could also take the Nazarite oath, it would have made no sense for Paul to instruct ordinary (i.e. non-Nazarite) women to likewise have uncut hair.  At the conclusion of the Nazarite oath, one shaved their heads – women included!  Moreover, Acts 18:18 suggested Paul took this oath, as it mentions his own hair cut.
- Reformist women often suffer practical health problems, such as headaches and migraines, as a result of their excessive long hair and tight giant hair buns.
- The Reformist position on excessive long hair is not supported by Ellen White.  In fact, their view seems to contradict Sister White’s counsel about hair in ‘unnatural positions’ as a result of fashion, that can cause hair to fall out or even brain injuries!
- The SDARM position is really one of internal pious ‘fashion’ and peer pressure – not scripture.  
- Regardless of what one really thinks about long hair, it is simply nonsense to turn it into a salvation issue, as the SDARM do, when they make it a test of fellowship.  That is really splitting hairs!

Rapunzel: The SDARM Says Let Down Your Hair – or Else! 

With the deepest respect, there is no belief and practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement (SDARM) more frankly bizarre than their obsession with excessively long hair on a woman.  It is if they have attempted to live the life of the Rapunzel fairy tale. 

The SDARM Position
The official public SDARM belief on Christian Temperance sounds completely reasonable:
‘Men and women are not to cause confusion of the sexes either by their conduct, by wearing their clothing or having their appearance (length of hair) resemble that of the opposite sex, for God pronounces it an abomination. "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God." Deuteronomy 22:5; 1 Corinthians 11:14, 15.
"There is an increasing tendency to have women in their dress and appearance as near like the other sex as possible, and to fashion their dress very much like that of men, but God pronounces it abomination. 'In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.' 1 Timothy 2:9."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 421.’
Few would disagree with those important principle outlined by both scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. Few would disagree that there should be distinctions between the sexes, which includes length and fashion of hair. 
However, with many of the ways the SDARM operates, there is much more to how they operate in practice.  The SDARM practical position is well explained by Vance Ferrel in The Adventist Reform Church (Pilgrims Books: 1998) at page 34, which is woman must have very long hair that they shall not cut or face Church discipline:
‘long hair—women aren’t to cut it…’
…The Reform Church leaders command—demand—that women church members wear very long hair. The implication is that it should not be cut at all.
First, there is nothing in the Spirit of Prophecy about wearing long hair. 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 recommends that the hair of women should be longer than the hair of men. That is all we are told. How long is that? We are not told.
Second, we are nowhere told in Scripture that the hair of women should never be cut or trimmed. This position is unsupported by God’s Word. Must it keep growing forever? (In the privacy of their own homes, their women secretly clip it at about waist length, so it will not get longer.)
In view of all the major issues in life, in the Bible, and in the Spirit of Prophecy, here we have a church which harps on hair length.’

Hairy Veils: Is there any Scriptural Basis for Excessively Long, Uncut Hair?
No – there is scriptural basis for women to have longer hair than men, but there is no evidence that women should have excessively long, uncut hair.
The supposed scriptural basis for the SDARM is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which says:
‘[2] I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.
[3] But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
[4] Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.
[5] But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.
[6] For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
[7] A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
[8] For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;
[9] neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
[10] It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.
[11] Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
[12] For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
[13] Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
[14] Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,
[15] but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.
[16] If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.’
Ignoring cultural context: what’s new with the SDARM
The first question to raise is what is the surrounding context to this matter. This is especially important in understanding the various controversies that were being addressed by Paul.
The SDARM especially puts emphasis on the verse 16, ‘We have no other practice’, to suggest Paul is enunciating an eternal biblical principle and not merely addressing a specific cultural situation.  That is no doubt true to some extent; however, some of the difficulties with reading Paul’s writings is that he rarely addresses the world Church at large, unlike Peter, John and James whose writings are often described as ‘Catholic Epistles’ (literally universal letters).  By contrast, Paul would typically write with a particular issue facing a particular local congregation. 
As explained by Vance Ferrel in The Adventist Reform Church (Pilgrims Books: 1998) at page 9 there are geo-cultural circumstances surrounding Paul’s statement to the Corinthians. In particular, Paul was most likely concerned with avoiding any similarity between Christian woman and the short-haired pagan temple prostitutes:
‘Now, if some of the ladies wish to do this, that is fine; but it should not be mandatory. Paul’s counsel about long hair was penned to the Corinthian believers who lived in a city whose “vestal virgins” were notorious throughout the Roman Empire as the temple whores, entertaining the worshipers who came from afar bringing their gifts to the Temple at Corinth.
Just south of the city was a mountain, the Acrocorinthus, about 1,800 feet high, rising steeply from the lowland. On its summit was the Temple of Aphrodite.
According to Strabo, there were about a thousand girls as temple prostitutes in the sanctuary of Aphrodite. These “vestal virgins” were easily identified by those who wanted to lay with them: They wore very short, close-cropped, hair as a sign of their trade.
All the other women in town wore medium length hair, as women normally did (to the shoulders or below). The excessively long-hair problem caused considerable difficulty among the Reform women; but, as we will learn later in this study, it was cited by leaders as a prominent point of doctrine, in which the Reform Church differed from other “impure” religious bodies.’
What is the covering: is the passage even concerned about hair?
The second question is whether 1 Cor 11:2-15 is principally talking about long hair or covering with a veil or clothe – like a Muslim hijab.  The SDARM take verse 15 to suggest that the type of covering Paul is advocating women have when praying is long hair, given the verse says For long hair is given to her as a covering.’  
The irony is that this is in fact contrary to the more traditional view of Christianity, and Judaism before it, which require not merely long hair but long hair covered with a veil.  The Early Church Fathers routinely advocated women wear their hair covered with a fabric.  Today’s orthodox Jews take it to a Pharisaic extreme by wearing a wig of human hair over their own hair – suffice to say some Rabbis believe this is perhaps not in the spirit of the Bible’s commands.
In any event, the notion that 1 Cor 11:14-15 suggests men should have shorter hair than women is not that contentious, and unlikely to be challenged by most Christians.  What is principally in issue is the specific application of that principle.
Having it backwards: a message to have uncovered heads
Feminist theologian Katharine Bushnell (one can also see the SDARM chocking on the words ‘feminist’ and ‘theologian’ together) argues that 1 Cor 11 actually teaches the opposite to what we think – that women should not cover their heads at all.  As she explains in her work ‘God’s Word to Women: 100 Bible Stories On Women’s Place in the Divine Economy’:
‘Verse 14 purports to be a question asking, "Doth not nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair it is a shame?" Now every candid person must answer this question with a "No." It is not nature, but the barber who keeps man’s hair short. In China, millions of men wear long hair, and nature has never taught them that it is a shame. Furthermore, the last time the Corinthians saw the apostle Paul before he wrote this Epistle, he himself had long hair (Acts 18:18); and to the Jew, accustomed to religious vows (Numbers 6:1-21), long hair, religiously speaking, was more of a "glory" than a "shame." Additionally to this, the native Corinthian's would have thought this a strange question to submit to them, for they would boast that they were descendants of the “long-haired Achaeans," celebrated as such on almost every page of that most famous and most ancient Greek poem, Homer's Iliad. Therefore we do not believe that St Paul asked a question, here. His simple statement of fact, "Nor doth nature teach you," has been changed into a question by the uninspired men who put in the punctuation marks centuries later than St. Paul wrote these words. As a question, this is a Tremendous Misfit. It contradicts a fact of nature; it makes St. Paul inconsistent in his practice with his teaching; it is an entirely unsuitable question to submit to Achaeans.
Verse 16, "We have no such custom." What custom? Most commentators assume that this means, "We have no such defiance of custom, as women unveiling." But this is not what Paul says, but the exact contrary. We cannot insert "defiance of custom" in the place of "custom" without introducing a contradiction. Paul is talking of some custom, which he repudiates. What is it? Veiling, of course; this is the only custom mentioned (unless it be that of wearing long hair, a custom for women; or wearing short hair, which was the usual custom for men, and no one thinks it means the latter). Paul has been talking, almost wholly, of the custom of veiling, and he now says, "We have no such custom." He renounces the custom. This verse cannot be easily reconciled with the teaching that St. Paul is here strengthening a prevalent custom.’
Long, longer, longest – how long is long?
Assuming the SDARM position is correct, that women should have long hair, how long then is long?  The Bible doesn’t tell us. Most Christians would probably be conformable with the women having longer hair than men, but how long is long appears very much a culturally relative thing.
Nazarite oath: why long unlikely meant uncut
There is a very simple reason why long hair on women was unlikely to mean excessively long and uncut hair – the Nazarite oath.  The only circumstance where a man or woman had completely uncut hair was when they took the vow of the Nazarite, as observed in Numbers 6:2-5:
[2] “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the Lord,
[3] he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes.
[4] All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin.
[5] ‘All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long.’
Importantly, verse 2 tells us that women, as well as men took the vow of the Nazarite.  However, as the Jewish Encyclopaedia attests, it was a more unusual occasion:
‘Women and slaves, who did not have full rights before the religious law, could take the Nazarite vow, but only with the consent of their husbands or owners, while the vow was not valid among the heathen (Naz. iv. 1-5, ix. 1, et passim).’
At the conclusion of the oath, or if the person becomes accidentally unclean, he or she shaves their, as observed in verse 18:
‘The Nazirite shall then shave his dedicated head of hair at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and take the dedicated hair of his head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings’
Samson is probably the best known Nazarite in the Bible, and John the Baptist is also a likely candidate as is suggested in Luke 1:15. It seems likely that Paul himself was a Nazarite for a time, because it mentions he had long hair which he then shaved for an oath in Acts 18:18:
‘Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow.’
Thus, few Christians would argue women should usually have shaved hair, as warned by Paul in 1 Cor 11:6.  But there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest all women must universally have excessively long uncut hair as the SDARM practice, given uncut hair is only found in the Bible within the special and rare circumstances of the oath of the Nazarite.   
It is if the SDARM are trying to turn their sisters into Sikhs! It seems they may indeed have the wrong religion, because there certainly is no historical evidence to demonstrate Jewish women or women in the Early Christian period ever had excessively long hair.  
Plan B: Is there any Basis in the SOP for Excessively Long, Uncut Hair?
No – Ellen White says nothing demanding the SDARM practice of excessively long, uncut hair.
Resources from the Ellen White Estate demonstrate Mrs White said nothing suggesting 1 Cor 11 or any other passage teaches women must have excessively long hair:
‘The answer is nowhere, so far as we know, has she given instruction in regard to styles of hair dress, or cutting the hair, curling it, whether to wear it long or short etc. She has given abundant instruction as to general principles to be observed – simplicity, modesty, economy, healthy, fullness, cleanliness etc.’
In any event, SOP should not be the basis of doctrine, unless one rejects the notion of sola scriptura – the Bible and the Bible alone.
Sore Brains: Is Excessively Long, Uncut Hair Consistent with the Health Message?
No – the SDARM practice of excessively long, uncut hair, appears to be harmful for women’s health and thus contrary to the Health Message. As also explained by Vance Ferrel in The Adventist Reform Church at page 9:
‘The Reform women told my wife that they had regular headaches on the back of their heads. These occipital pains were caused by the large buns they had to wear. The Reform women do not dare cut their hair, lest they shame their family and be declared to be in apostasy.
They also told my wife that they could not get their work done with hair that hangs down to their waist, so they keep it rolled up into a knot on the back of their head. The result is the appearance of very short hair—and those headaches. They also said that the overly long hair, if not kept rolled up, tends to fall out.’
The above quote seems to illustrate that the result of such excessively long hair is physical harm to the Reformist women and with some irony the appearance of looking of a man’s hairstyle, contrary to clear biblical injunctions. 
With further irony, these heavy buns appear to be contrary to principles of good hair and head health counselled by Mrs White Ellen White.  Perhaps with prophetic insight, she did warn that such ‘unnatural positions’ of the hair would result in hair falling out and pressure being put on the brain:
‘Fashion loads the heads of women with artificial braids and pads, which do not add to their beauty, but give an unnatural shape to the head. The hair is strained and forced into unnatural positions, and it is not possible for the heads of these fashionable ladies to be comfortable. The artificial hair and pads covering the base of the brain, heat and excite the spinal nerves centering in the brain. The head should ever be kept cool. The heat caused by these artificials induces the blood to the brain. The action of the blood upon the lower or animal organs of the brain, causes unnatural activity, tends to recklessness in morals, and the mind and heart is in danger of being corrupted. As the animal organs are excited and strengthened, the moral are enfeebled. The moral and intellectual powers of the mind become servants to the animal.’ (HR October 1, 1871, par. 9)
Thus for the sake of peer-pressure (i.e. SDARM ‘fashion’), Reformist women are disregarding both biblical and SOP principle, and more importantly harming their health.
Rapunzel: A Spirit of Criticism
The SDARM obsession with excessively long hair is probably legalism at its very worse.  As explained by Helmut Kramer, SDA Reform Movement (Biblical Research Institute: July 2003) at page 25, discussing life as a SDARM minister:
‘After being ordained to the ministry, I was transferred to Canada to take over a district of three churches. There I found a membership divided down the middle over legalistic views. At times I had to sit in committee meetings until 2:00 a.m. listening to accusations against church members and demands to punish them. For example, a member who popped popcorn on Sabbath afternoon should be "dealt with." Should members be permitted to own a television set? Was the organist's hair long enough? Should she be removed from office because she had her hair cut? I began to see the real calamity of legalism. I saw churches and families torn apart by unchristian actions, all in the name of doing "God's will." This intensified my desire for something better.’
One might recall in the original Rapunzel fairy tale, a young princess is trapped by an evil witch in a high tower.  I will leave it to readers as to whether that story might be an apt parable for the present situation facing many sisters in the SDARM?

Hypocrisy: The African Afro Problem
As observed by Timothy D. Manning in Seventh-day Adventists: Withdrawing Consentor Forging the Chains of Servitude on the relationship of ‘Church and State’ (North Carolina Heritage Foundation) at page 10:
'There were numerous eccentricities and inconsistencies in this movement. For example, at one of their General Conference sessions, it was debated whether to make it “unlawful” to eat beans and rice at the same meal, and to make this a testing point of faith and membership. This was strongly supported by the South American delegations, but was finally rejected. Also, women are required to grow their hair as a point of faith, but this proved difficult for African women. To avoid the inconvenience of an 'Afro' hairstyle, African women are permitted to cut their hair. This leads to two different religious requirements.'

As such, the SDARM must hypocritically apply their stance on hair inconsistently, to address the issue of Afro hairstyles for its Reformist women.  This should put to bed any notion that their obsession with uncut hair (as opposed to hair that is merely longer than a man's) is based in natural law without any cultural variation.

Splitting Hairs: A Salvation Issue Relevant to Church Membership?
The SDARM take the cliché about ‘splitting hairs’ to a new height of the absurd, turning it from a mere saying to a test of membership.  It is not merely the fact that the SDARM encourages excessively long hair in its women but that it makes it a test of membership.  This seem clearly contrary to Ellen White’s own counsel:
‘I did not make the dress a test question.’ (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 637)
Other statements of hers on dress reform generally appear entirely relevant:
‘With extremists, this reform seemed to constitute the sum and substance of their religion. It was the theme of conversation and the burden of their hearts; and their minds were thus diverted from God and the truth…. To those who put it on reluctantly, from a sense of duty, it became a grievous yoke. Still others, who were apparently the most zealous reformers, manifested a sad lack of order and neatness in their dress.’Ibid., pp. 636, 637.
‘They sought to control others' conscience by their own. If they wore it, others must put it on. They forgot that none were to be compelled to wear the reform dress.’Ibid., p. 636.
‘Some were greatly troubled because I did not make the dress a test question, and still others because I advised those who had unbelieving husbands or children not to adopt the reform dress, as it might lead to unhappiness that would counteract all the good to be derived from its use. For years I carried the burden of this work, and labored to establish uniformity of dress among our sisters.’Ibid., p. 637.
However, the final word of advice for our SDARM friends is best left to our Lord Jesus Christ himself in Matt 23:23:
‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.’
If only they would take head of our Lord’s advice about priorities in life:
‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’

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