Thursday, February 06, 2014

Effeminate men - The Instructor on men emblellishing the body

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"To such an extent, then, has luxury advanced, that not only are the female sex deranged about this frivolous pursuit, but men also are infected with the disease. For not being free of the love of finery, they are not in health; but inclining to voluptuousness, they become effeminate, cutting their hair in an ungentlemanlike and meretricious way, clothed in fine and transparent garments, chewing mastich, smelling of perfume. What can one say on seeing them?... 'Living for unholy acts of audacity, these fickle wretches do reckless and nefarious deeds,' says the Sibyl." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 3)
If you thought Clement was stern with the women, you've seen nothing yet! Clement has no patience for men refusing to act like men. Clement rebukes his culture that had lost its strength, degraded into sensuality, and blurred the lines between men and women, much like our own culture today. He is calling all enlightened men, men who have the Light of Life living inside, to come apart and be separate, living a distinctly different lifestyle. Clement sees luxury and voluptuousness as a disease that has infected his culture in ways that it had actually become institutionalized in the daily lives of many.
"And shops are erected and opened everywhere; and adepts at this meretricious fornication make a deal of money openly by those who plaster themselves, and give their hair to be pulled out in all ways by those who make it their trade, feeling no shame before the onlookers or those who approach, nor before themselves, being men. Such are those addicted to base passions, whose whole body is made smooth by the violent tuggings of pitch-plasters. It is utterly impossible to get beyond such effrontery." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 3)
In clement's day, men saw it as sophisticated to have smooth skin like a woman's, so they went to great lengths to rid their bodies of unwanted hair. To support this growing desire, businesses sprang up providing hair removal for a fee. Clement paints a comical picture of those who would plaster themselves all over and then violently jerk back and forth in an attempt to rip out the hair in the plaster. So common had this become that those involved no longer understood what it meant to be men and were no longer shamed as they saw their effeminate selves in a mirror.
"'And none other,' says the Lord, 'can make the hair white or black.' How, then, do these godless ones work in rivalry with God, or rather violently oppose Him, when they transmute the hair made white by Him?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 3)
Many men were also vain regarding their hair, attempting to cover the gray of age that they might appear younger and more attractive. Yet here is there folly, why do we spend so much effort on trying to accomplish what we cannot; trying to change our white hair black? We can only achieve in hiding the truth in an attempt to convey a false image of ourselves. Only God can change our hair, yet still we struggle against nature and against our creation.
"But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 3)
God never intended men and women to be the same. He created them differently; both in body and soul, and God expects men to be men and women to be women, celebrating their differences.
"In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man’s whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man. And to him has been assigned action." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 3)
Clement's belief is that when God took Eve from Adam's side He separated his nature into two persons, not by proportions but by segregation. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) In God's nature there is both male and female, but God created mankind separating these attributes into separate persons, creating man and woman. If this be the case, then for men to try to be like women, or vice versa, is to contend against nature and to contend against God. Men should be men and women, women. This is the natural order of God.

David Robison

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