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Do Mennonites Shave? (Answer: Yes)

Mennonites are one of the smaller denominations of Christianity that include a wide variety of rules, ideas, and practices that aren't found in many other belief systems.

Mennonites are famously confused with the Amish for a variety of reasons, and their names are used interchangeably in popular culture.

This had led many people to wonder: Are Mennonites allowed to shave?

This question stems from the fact that Amish men don't shave their beards. Because the two groups are incorrectly presented as one in the same, people begin to naturally wonder whether Mennonites can shave as well.

We'll answer that question (plus a little bit more) in this blog post.

Are Mennonites Allowed to Shave?

Do Mennonites shave? Yes, generally they do.

Or, said more accurately, Mennonite men are not prohibited from shaving because of the fact that they're baptized Mennonites.

This is in stark contrast to the Amish, the ethnoreligious group that is most commonly associated with Mennonites. Amish men don't shave their beards once married, and they also shave their mustaches because of an old association with German military prestige.

However, Mennonites don't share this practice. Despite the fact that both Mennonites and Amish are pacifist and non-violent groups — meaning that their beliefs state they will never actively participate in violence in any capacity, including war — they show this belief very differently.

Mennonites generally don't have an outward way of showing pacifist beliefs. In other words, you can't tell that someone is Mennonite from looking at them when it comes to most Mennonite denominations.

Even when they look outwardly different, there's not a physical display feature that is used to convey that a Mennonite is indeed Mennonite or a pacifist at all.

The Amish, on the other hand, use the symbol of a shaved upper lip as a way to differentiate themselves from the military. This harkens back to the 1800s when German military officers sported fancy mustaches as an indicator of their increasing rank — something that Jakob Ammann and his followers never wanted associated with them.

It's also important to note that Mennonites pre-date the Amish, despite the fact that Mennonites more readily embrace modern conveniences and technology.

This means that when Ammann and his followers decided to adopt physical changes as a result of their belief system, the Mennonite belief system was unaffected.

By that time, the Amish had split from the Mennonites — in this case, the Swiss Brethren denomination — in what Anabaptist historians call "The Great Schism."

As a side note, it's also important to note that neither the Amish nor Mennonites have rules against women shaving in any capacity.

So while Amish men are prohibited from shaving their beards after marriage, Amish and Mennonite women don't have to concern themselves with observations of body hair, and they can generally do what they please — within the limits of their communities, anyway.

(This is more of an issue with the social position of women in Amish communities and Mennonite denominations as opposed to an all-out rule against certain behaviors or physical representations. That's for another blog.)

So, while there are many people asking the question, the answer is quite simple — yes, Mennonites are allowed to shave.

But let's take a closer look at why this question is asked.

Why Do People Ask if Mennonites Shave?

While every person may have their own motivation for asking, most people are probably wondering about Mennonites shaving because the Amish men notoriously do not shave their beards once married.

(Although the Amish do shave their mustaches.)

Still, the cultural association between Amish and Mennonites is so strong that the two names are often used synonymously, even though they have significant differences.

This mix-up of the two groups also leads to a mix-up of their beliefs, and it can contribute to confusion like thinking Mennonites can't drive cars (which they can, in most denominations).

Shaving is another one of these minor confusions. Because the link between Amish and Mennonite people is so profound and the two names are used interchangeably so often, it's easy to see why so many people would wonder whether Mennonites — like their Amish cousins — were prohibited from shaving.

Want to Hear More from Us?

We regularly publish blog posts about Amish and Mennonites coming from our own experience of growing up in Lancaster, PA.

If you want to learn more about these groups from someone who grew up alongside them (or as one of them, in the case of Mennonites), then we're here to show you more.

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