The Comb-Over and the Kingdom—Redux
Just over two years ago, while studying at Regent College in Vancouver, I posted the following tongue-in-cheek reflection on the theological significance of the comb-over. My stats counter tells me that I am closing in on 1000 views for this post making it quite easily the most viewed post in the short history of this blog (and providing me with an unsolicited dose of humility—I’d like to think I’ve posted on more important and interesting topics, but the numbers don’t lie…). Of course it’s possible that these lofty (for me) stats are due, in large part, to the fact that the post seems to pop up pretty high on the list when “combover” is entered into a search engine, but I prefer to interpret them as unambiguous evidence of my obvious wit and theological dexterity.
So, in honour of approaching the millennium mark for this post, and because it’s April Fool’s Day (and what could be more foolish than attempting to stretch a few wispy strands of hair across an otherwise barren skull… perhaps writing about it?!), I thought I would re-post a lightly edited version of the original. If nothing else, it provides a reminder that the theological graduate student is, indeed, a very peculiar animal.
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 significance of the comb-over. 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 fellow pictured above.
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 the 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, be just be a sad, sad mistake and nothing more. Lest any of you out there are currently being traumatized by horrific visions of me sporting 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.