A couple sit anxiously in the ER, where their only child is being frantically attended to. As they fall to their knees in desperate prayer, the husband pulls out what he believes to be his biggest bargaining chip with God:
“Heal our child, Lord. Work a miracle. My wife, this child’s mother, has never cut her hair.”
If you’re not a current or former member of the United Pentecostal Church or other Apostolic organization, this may sound crazy. But not only is it a prayer that is actually prayed, it’s a concept that’s regularly preached over the pulpits. Women should not cut their hair. Having uncut hair is a sign of submission to God, and gives them “power.”
This concept is tied together with a whole litany of “holiness standards” that women have to meet in order to be considered saved, and members in good standing in these churches. Things like:
- Not wearing pants, or “that which pertaineth to a man”
- Not wearing makeup
- Not wearing jewelry, other than (in some churches) a watch, and wedding or class ring, and sometimes brooches on clothing.
- Dressing modestly – no cleavage, no clothing too tight, no exposing too much skin. This of course makes it the woman’s fault when a man has lustful thoughts, and by extension when and if he acts upon those thoughts in an inappropriate way.
All of the above are supposed to be outward signs of her inner submission to God and the (male) authority figures in her life. (Father, Pastor, Husband.) And in a society that primarily judges women based upon appearance, this has a profound – even if subtle at times – psychological effect.
So how do these churches sell women on this concept? How do they convince us (especially those who are converts, and who haven’t been indoctrinated with the concept their whole lives) to forego self expression on this level?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Holy Magic Hair, Batman!
Our old friend Rev. Lee Stoneking has a rather famous sermon on this topic. Many have named it, “Holy Magic Hair.” I’ve embedded the full video at the bottom of this post so you can see everything in context if you so desire. But for those that don’t want to sit through 45 minutes of crazy, I’ve pulled out a few relevant excerpts.
The most important thing here is that women will “miss out on the promises of God” if they get this teaching about hair wrong. Notice that he doesn’t say women who get this wrong will be punished per se… but you will miss out on the good things you could get for being obedient.
This is a very slick psychological trick. We’re not beating you up with condemnation… we just don’t want you to miss out on something special. It’s a well known fact of human psychology that we will do more to avoid missing out on or losing something than we will ever do to obtain a benefit.
OK, see if you can follow along on this clip:
He gets a little convoluted, repeating the “expanded” interpretation of the Greek over and over. But notice where he’s going with this: you women have power and authority, granted to you by a higher court, by your uncut hair. Further – and we’ll delve into this a bit more below – this doesn’t just apply to you, but affects your whole community.
This next clip is the crux of how these churches convince women to participate in their own subjugation.
I swear this makes me think of the snake in the Garden of Eden. “Do this. It will make you wise. It will give you power.”
So, women. When you DO obey God and keep those scissors away from your hair, you have power and authority. Your community has freedom. You can do something a man can’t do! You can hinder revival, block a move of God, and quite possibly condemn your neighbors to Hell for all eternity when they don’t come to God all because YOU TRIMMED YOUR SPLIT ENDS!!
Of course, you do not have “power” of your own. It is the gift of this “higher court” – an outside entity – and it can be revoked at any time if you’re in any way rebellious or disobedient.
This is some seriously high level brainwashing. You are not to cut your hair, not even trim it. But doing so doesn’t make you a second-class citizen (neither does not being allowed to wear pants, makeup or jewelry, or have the final say in decisions made concerning your family, or the fact that you’re not supposed to hold leadership positions… ) to the contrary, this makes you special. MORE powerful. It certainly makes you better than (more holy than) those run-of-the-mill women out there who get to chop off their glory and dress like harlots, painting their faces like Tammy Faye Bakker.
See how that works?
The contempt! The disgust dripping from Stoneking here… clearly he’s talking about some serious perversion. And of course, while he doesn’t come out and say it, what he means is clear when he uses the code word, “Lifestyle.” And just in case you weren’t shaking in your skirt, he mentions Roman Caesars.
So yes, it’s clear: If you’re secretly trimming your hair, or wearing some kind of subtle makeup that may not be obviously noticed… you may be subtle, but your son and his children will be bold. Not only will they not “live for God” they’ll very likely be perverts of some kind. So yeah, if you want your precious little boy to grow up and decide to be gay, just keep trimming those ends.
Here, Stoneking really admits the crux of the issue:
Short hair is the symbol of a woman’s freedom. And we just can’t have that.
On that note, I’m going to move on from Rev. Stoneking, although I do suggest if you’re bored and want to hear some craziness, go ahead and watch the whole sermon below. He gets into the “holy magic” part where women’s uncut hair is good for some awesome party tricks in the second half.
Is Not Cutting Your Hair Really Subjugation?
So this is a legitimate question. Lots of women enjoy wearing their hair long – does that mean they’re subjugating themselves? No, of course not. One, because SHE CHOOSES to wear her hair long. And two, she’s still allowed to take care of said hair by trimming the ends.
Let me give you some personal experience. It had been over a decade between trims for me – so yeah, I had some moments during my 20 years that I did the sneaky trim the ends thing Stoneking talks about above. (No gay sons, tho. Despite having been exposed to gay friends of mine, both are straight males. I guess it just hasn’t come back to bite me yet lol). But as I was starting to make my way out of the UPC, I started trimming again.
And I will never forget what happened when I first took a pair of scissors and cut off a few inches of scraggly, frizzy, messed up split ends from my hair. It looked as though I’d gone out and invested in some kind of expensive conditioning treatment. My whole hair was shinier, bouncier – it looked 100 times healthier.
Of course, that was nothing compared to my first trip to the salon when I actually got a good professional cut and color. Talk about life changing!
Subjugation On A Deep, Psychological Level
I don’t know if men can fully understand this. But as I mentioned above, we live in a society that judges women based upon our appearance. This causes an awful lot of women’s self esteem – for better or for worse – to be tied up in how we look. And that is reinforced day in and day out by our society. Not saying any of that is right or wrong, just that it IS.
Now, take a woman and forbid her to trim her hair. For a while, it may look really nice and she may be happy that she’s finally having the long hair she’s always dreamed of. Because yeah, all of us have wanted that gorgeous flowing mane at some point or another. But then it keeps growing. And the ends start to frizzle and fray, and it stops looking healthy.
Meanwhile, tell this woman she is forbidden to wear makeup of any kind. She can’t cover up age spots or dark circles under her eyes. She can’t do anything to maximize good features or minimize bad ones. People may tell her (as they told me) she looks under the weather. I can tell you from experience, going without makeup makes you feel exposed if you’ve never done it before. More vulnerable. It can be subtle… then again sometimes not. One thing I never felt when I stopped wearing makeup was “free.”
At the same time our woman will have removed all jewelry except for maybe a wedding ring. This is another area of self expression she can no longer participate in. The message is that she is not to be adorned in any way. She is to be meek, quiet and modest:
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible,even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” — 1 Peter 3:3-4, KJV
And don’t forget, she must cover up her nasty, sinful flesh because it will be HER FAULT if a man in her vicinity sees some cleavage or the outline of a rear end and had lustful thoughts.
All of this has a profound psychological impact on a woman and her self esteem. There’s no way it can’t. She’s not free, she’s not in control, she’s not capable and strong. She’s the “weaker vessel” that must be “honored” with all of these restrictions. But she silences that feeling, telling herself instead that she’s got power (not her OWN power, but power gifted to her by another Being, and that Being may decide at ANY TIME to revoke this “power” if she messes up). She’s been placed on a pedestal because of her specialness and submission.
And all the while she doesn’t realize she’s locked herself into a cage.
Full Sermon By Rev. Stoneking:
I remember when I was ready to start exiting this controlling organization, I cut my hair (that was past my back end), to shoulder length. When I got home and my then (fanatical, controlling and abusive) husband screamed on the top of his lungs, WHAT DID YOU DO????? My son who was 4, ran into the room he was so alarmed that his father was screaming, ranting and raving why I would do such a horrible thing. I knew I could NO longer be married to this controlling abusive person.
I was born and raised UPC and now at 43, have not looked back since I was 18. I had the long hair, long skirts, etc….I also had a miserable and abusive childhood. Just watching these clips triggered some PTSD issues for me. I always say it took me 18 years to undo the first 18….and my family says I’M the crazy one!! I feel you!
I’m fairly new to the UPC and I have to say I have not experienced an ounce of pressure to change how I dress. I wear jeans and flip flops to church and they are happy to have me there. The women have been so very welcoming over the past year. I love their long hair and beautiful dresses. I also love that they don’t try to be anything but who they are. They have such beautiful hearts. They have truly become family to me.
I’m so sad that you feel like you had to escape the UPC. It has been a life changing experience for me. I know that if I ever were to start wearing skirts and grow my hair out that it will be because I feel led to do it. Not because I have ever been told to do it. My church doesn’t make me feel like I’m different because I wear pants. Or anyone else who walk through their doors.
Any woman who feels “led” to not cut her hair or to stop wearing pants is essentially being brainwashed. Women are not inferior to men no matter how much they preach it or quote scripture after scripture. The Bible was written in an ancient world by MEN. That means it’s written with a male viewpoint. Eve caused the Fall of mankind (her fault which is nonsense and do you actually believe a snake spoke to her? When was the last time a snake or any animal spoke words to you? Never. It’s a myth written a very long time ago), the woman was caught in adultery (what of the man? That part is conveniently left out). It’s women who have to abide by these man-made rules of dress and conduct. But the men? Nothing!
If God supposedly led these men, then why didn’t God tell them that slavery is wrong and fathers shouldn’t sell their daughters? Both of those things are written in the Old Testament. Slavery is still okay in the New Testament!
It’s because it was written by MEN. Think about the man in the Sodom and Gemorrah story—he was willing to give his virgin daughters to rapists. And he was a righteous man. That’s sick.
So save yourself and get out of that church before you get completely sucked in and waste years of your life.
Give it some time. I’m a pastor’s kid. You’ll see in time, or you’ll fall prey to the hypocrisy. They’re okay with you doing that for a certain amount of time, but you won’t be used in any form like that. You’re good enough to sit on a pew and pay your tithes in pants. But not to sing on their platform. Or work in ministry.
Give it time. That pack of woman-hating misogynists get to everyone, sooner or later. The more seriously you take the ideology, the faster you’ll “get convicted by Jesus.”
I identified 100% with this essay. Me too. Oh yes, me too. Amazing presentation. I found similar freedom in getting rid of those snaggly, shaggy, snarled split ends. Never looked back. The real bondage is Christianity. The more seriously someone takes it and the more one tries to get the truest flavor possible into one’s life, the more victimized that person becomes.
I remember Lee Stoneking as well, very well. He came to our church often in the 80s/90s. We all thought he was SO AMAZINGLY GODLY. All these women would just flock to him after services, and he just paid them no mind at all. We thought it was because of his Jesus Aura. Oh, boy, did I have some thoughts on that topic after deconversion. It’s sad how far he seems to have diminished in honesty toward the end of his life/career. I’m sad as well that when he got cancer, his TRUE CHRISTIAN™ denomination just left him to handle the payments for care himself apparently (I saw a lot of fundraisers for his cancer care some time ago).
When I first converted, I initially had no intention of wearing Little House on the Prairie clothes to make these fuddy-duddy guys feel secure in their dominance. But the peer pressure got to me, as well as the brainwashing via Bible verse manipulation. In the end I folded. They all said it was because “Jesus” had convicted me. I knew better, but I didn’t say anything. I was too scared of Hell to argue with them. Just so glad that now it’s my choice to wear what I want. No invisible friends to get enraged and retaliate by setting me on fire forever after I die if I refuse to comply with their demands.
I’ve been Christian and I’ve been a None. And the real freedom is found outside of religion. Belief in imaginary friends gets us nowhere; the people who do benefit from it do so at our expense. All Christians can do in response to such a declaration is come up with definitions of “freedom” that sound exactly like bondage to turn bondage into a good thing.
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