Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Importance of Hair

I'm hoping that my folks still have a nice pic of me with hair. Er... not that I don't have hair now, but I certainly have less than I once did! I've been working
on a sermon for Sunday about the ups and downs of being a prophet. And believe me, God's chosen mouthpieces had it rough! Anyway, I'm using my experiences with my hair as a kind of lesser parallel. (After all, the consequences of a man in long hair aren't usually as extreme as the consequences of being a prophet, just look at MLK) and I thought some of it might be blog-worthy, so here you go!

It's somewhere in the mid-90's, think Alanis Morissette, Green Day, TLC, Stone Temple Pilots, Boys II Men, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana... and the death of Kurt Cobain. I'm over halfway done with high school (yes, I know, I'm dating myself) when I turn to my mother and say the fateful words, "I want to grow my hair out." Now, my mother is not thrilled with the idea--she tries to talk me out of it. In fact, we butt heads over it until we reach a compromise. I'll only grow the back out, so I can pull it into a ponytail and then at least from the front I will seem "presentable." Ironically the phrase "business up front and a party in the back" and the word "mullet" would remain unknown to me until halfway through college.
And so it came to be that my hair became a source of varying degrees of contention for years. There were people, like my wife, who loved my hair. There were the gender-role purists who detested long hair on anyone with a "y" chromosome. There were the fashion police who detested it because the mullet went out of style ages ago. And then as the great hair battle dragged on into seminary it became about age and maturity, and wasn't it time for me to grow up and cut my hair, and let go of my youthful rebellion?
And you know what? It was kinda fun! I believe just as strongly now as I did then that judging people by their appearance is wrong, and that the length of my hair isn't important, and that unity and conformity are not the same things... and it was fun to have something visible about me say all those things, and give cause for voicing all those arguments. But it did have its consequences, and I knew that I would have a much easier time finding a job as a short-haired man than I would as one in a pony-tail. And so practicality ended that argument.

Sometimes I miss my hair, although if I had it to do over, I think I'd grow it all out. Oddly enough that would make me more acceptable to the anti-establishment, if you know what I mean. Sometimes I even have long hair in my dreams. If I do ever grow it out, it'll be so I can cut it.

Wait, hear me out.

When I finally decided to get chopped, we saved the pony tail and donated it to Locks of Love, a charitable organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who are going through chemo-therapy. I dream of running a walk-a-thon style fundraiser for cancer research... only instead of sponsering so much per mile, it's per inch. Can you imagine a large percentage of the congregation growing their hair out long? It would certainly be visible enough to raise awareness for cancer research. And then when everyone had reached the requisite ten inches we could cut it all off and donate it to Locks of Love.

There's even a Bibical tie-in, if you like. If you look at Judges 13, you'll see the beginning of the story of Samson (yes, that Samson) ...who was a nazarite. This means that he was bound by a vow to abstain from wine and strong drink, to practice extraordinary purity of life and devotion, and to leave his hair uncut.

Heh, I think it'd be hard enough to convince people to leave their hair uncut without asking them not to drink and to be extraordinarily pure and full of devotion... but it'd be impressive, wouldn't it? Hmm... maybe as a Lenten practice...

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

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