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Comb-Overs and the Kingdom of God

I’m bald.

I thought I would start with a frank admission of the fact that my own head is, shall we say “sparsely populated” lest anyone think that in what follows I am poking fun at a segment of the population for which I have no affinity. I’ve probably been shaving my head at least since I was twenty-five, so I feel the pain of and stand in solidarity with all those men out there for whom combs and shampoo represent hazy memories of a distant and beautiful past…

Having said that, I have always been completely mystified at the phenomenon of “the comb-over.”

Now perhaps you, like me, question the wisdom this poor fellow’s choice of “resource allocation.” And there is certainly no disputing that this is not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing of the options available to those of us who are “follicly challenged.” However…

Today I was brought to an awareness of the theological symbolism of the comb-over (yes, I am aware of how utterly ridiculous the preceding statement likely sounds, and my tongue is firmly in cheek…). I was working for my friend’s dad who is a builder here in the Vancouver area. He knows I don’t have class on Fridays, and calls me every now and then when there is dirt to be shoveled, walls to be knocked down, backs to be broken etc. (I’m actually very grateful for the work, although my body is currently in open revolt…). He usually takes us out for brunch at the White Spot, which is where I happened to spot a guy sporting a similar “hair-style” to the guy pictured above (it actually wasn’t quite that bad, but it’s my blog so I can exercise a little “artistic license” here). The comb-over was noted by all, and it was unanimously decided that this was, in fact, a very bad idea. On the drive back my co-worker opined that it would be better for this guy to just shave it all off—a statement with which I, obviously, heartily agreed. I said “yeah, when you start to see it going it’s best just to admit defeat and get rid of it.”

Admit defeat. Get rid of it.

No sooner were the words out of my mouth when one of the many “Regent-isms” which I regularly encounter came to mind, that of the nature of the kingdom of God as a reality which is both “now” and “not yet.” We believe that God’s final redemption of his world was inaugurated in the career of Jesus Christ, and that the cross and resurrection represent the decisive moment in salvation history. So in this sense, the kingdom of God is an already present reality right now. We also believe that the kingdom is “not yet.” Evil is still rampant, the lordship of Christ is not acknowledged by all, the lion has not lain down with the lamb etc.

Due to this unique nature of the kingdom of God, the role of the Christian is to live right now according to what will one day be God’s fully redeemed reality. Part of what this means is that we are to resist the decay, corruption, disharmony, and genuine evil of our present experience. Our job is to not admit defeat. It is to say that despite the appearances of a world where evil seems to often have the last word, good will ultimately triumph. God is not yet finished with his world.

Which brings me back to the comb-over. As I was sitting in Vancouver traffic I couldn’t help but reflect upon how the comb-over could, in a weird and not-altogether-serious sort of way, be seen as a sign of the kingdom of God. In the comb-over, we see a refusal to admit defeat, and the defiance of an evil world where men like us lose our hair. Rather than viewing it as a pathetic and unsightly act of desperation, perhaps the comb-over could be seen as one small act of protest—a proleptic signpost to that glorious eschatological day when there is enough hair to go around…

Whew… this is starting to seem like a bit of a stretch, even for a bald guy.

Of course the comb-over could, simply, just be a sad, sad mistake and nothing more. Lest any of you out there are currently being traumatized by horrific visions of me coming home in summer or some other time with a suddenly theologically significant comb-over, I can assure you that this is one theological truth that I will not be seeking to make an experiential reality.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. phew! I only wish i had your problem…
    great post though – one that resonates deeply
    one question
    why is it reasonable in your mind to believe the world is doomed as it were to decay?

    March 16, 2007
  2. I’m not entirely I understand your question Dale. Would you mind clarifying? Do you mean “decay” in a non-metaphorical sense? Are you wondering about pre-mill vs. post-mill eschatology? None of the above?

    March 17, 2007
  3. Gil #

    I’m not sure that theological truths can exist apart from being lived out in experiential reality. In other words, I expect to see a comb-over in the near future.

    March 18, 2007
  4. sorry
    I guess my question is a reflection of what I think I heard you imply in your comments (and on a subject as banal as comb-overs I’m not sure how deep to get).
    Do you believe that the world is doomed to decay and destruction? Do you think that everything will get worse and worse until God comes and snatches the survivors out of here? Or could it be that the world in every dimension natural and spiritual is in the process of or will one day be redeemed? (get better)

    March 18, 2007
  5. Dale, thanks for the clarification. No, I certainly do not believe that the world must degenerate to a certain point before “God comes and snatches the survivors out.” Perhaps using the word ‘decay’ in my original post was misleading. I suppose I just think that evil will remain a feature of our landscape until the eschaton. I’m neither overly pessimistic nor overly optimistic about the time between now and then.

    Now that that’s settled, on to more important matters… Do you, like Gil, feel that my own theological integrity hangs on my willingness to grow a comb-over?

    March 18, 2007
  6. One of the funniest things i have read…thank you for this moment…Gil, has shared some stories that his daughter has shared about comparing guys with his (cough) and him…so funny…thank you.

    March 19, 2007
  7. comparing guys with hair* (it should say)

    March 19, 2007
  8. well
    I remember when I first met you…
    you were bald then and very much on purpose. i was, if i recall correctly, a little nervous that you might be sporting an attitude along with that (non) hair style. it took no time at all to discover otherwise. Of course since then i have preferred said (non) hair style myself and have dreamed of the day that could be in your situation. So while a comb over might affect first impressions – you would disapoint me greatly to see you attempting to do something so completely wrong.
    the comb over is after all more like a metaphorical symbol of the way we desperately clutch to the remnants of our sinful nature. It is not unlike the person who proudly flaunts his/her new found ‘freedom’ to drink. Or the person who naively proclaims that God led them to divorce. so there you go

    March 19, 2007
  9. i like much.

    March 19, 2007
  10. Jayson #

    Very, very funny Ryan…the only thing that could top a comb-over is to see you with a comb-over and a mustache. I don’t think I’d know where to leave myself.

    March 20, 2007
  11. Hey Jayson – nice to see you drop by! A mustache eh? I’ll have to get to work and see if I can’t make up… er, I mean discover some theological rationale for one of those…

    March 20, 2007
  12. so its a mustache you want eh?

    March 21, 2007
  13. I really enjoyed the Combover theological inquiry forwarded by fellow Pasadena Mennonite Churchgoer Jen Seifert, and then enjoyed your blog site even more. In response to the combover entry, I don’t have a witty reply but I have co-written a song which tries to express my experience of the now and the not-yet: It is called In Our Midst and you can see it on a video clip at or I can send you the text or an audio demo if you prefer, but I thought you might like it.

    September 10, 2007
  14. Thanks for the kind words Andrea – always good to have new visitors and to hear about the routes people arrive by.

    I enjoyed your song – it captures the now/not yet theme in a much less silly fashion than my post…

    September 10, 2007

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  1. The Combover as Proleptic sign of the Kingdom of God (Quote of the Day) « Sub Ratione Dei

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