St. Mark’s Corner by Richard Watkins
My son recently had some real crazy hair. That’s because it was Crazy Hair Day at his school. A part of the larger “spirit day” initiative in which one day out of the month, there is a “dress theme”. There has been a Sports Day, Disney Day, Pajama Day and you get the point. In the past, Crazy Hair Day involved a lot of gel, a lot of mousse, and a lot of super industrial hurricane resistant strength hair spray and some sort of coloring. This year, we only went with a double dose of coloring, green and blue, and thus saved a couple layers of ozone. So, this, all in all, was a good hair day.
In January, DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Texas (seriously, the name of the high school is Barbers Hill…) was suspended and told he can’t walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks to meet the school district’s dress code. The thing is though, the way he wears his hair when at school, tied up, follows the dress code. The beef is if he weren’t to tie it up, and let it down, his hair’s length wouldn’t be compliant. Again, that’s if. Essentially, he is being punished presciently on the chance that he might be noncompliant. That was a bad hair day.
Last month, Newt Johnson withdrew from Poth High School in Poth, Texas (again, Texas?) because he refused to cut his hair that he was growing out to make a wig for his younger sister who started losing hers as a result of chemotherapy and dialysis treatments for Wegener’s disease. Instead of facing in-school suspension or after-school detention for not complying with the district’s dress code, Newt decided to be home schooled instead. Again: bad hair day.
What is it about hair that gets people’s dander up? Long-haired freaky people, as the song goes, need not apply. Yet, we complain when Muslim women refuse to show any amount of hair by wearing a hijab. We ridicule hairstyles from mohawks to buzz cuts. From a blown-out bouffant to helmet hair. From afros to cornrows and from the dreadlocks to the mullet. And for as much as we ridicule the hair, the accompanying judgment bestowed on the character of the person sporting the do seems to be that much more scathing.
Why do we grow angry with the state of other people’s hair? All DeAndre Arnold wanted to do was wear his hair in the style of his Trinidadian ancestors and display pride in his culture. All Newt Johnson wanted to do was get his hair to a length of 14 inches so it could then be cut to make a wig for his sick sister.
All of this may sound trivial and silly, but here’s the thing: hair represents an intimate and personal connection between God and that person. In fact, Jesus says as much twice in St. Luke’s Gospel: “Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6) and “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:17). So, when we go messing with one’s hair, we go messing with God.
Samson had his hair cut by Delilah. His hair was the conduit of his power and strength from God. Once that was taken away, he fell victim to capture. Only when his hair began to grow back while in prison was he able to enact his final judgement of his captors. Samson is often considered to be an Old Testament prototype for Jesus. While Jesus never had his hair cut, he was impaled by a thorny crown upon his head which was done to mock his kingly power by the Romans. After having his locks chopped and being imprisoned, Samson was often trotted out in mocking fashion to “perform his feats of strength” for all the rulers of the Philistia government.
The long and short of it is this: hair is a measure of God’s intimate and specifically detailed love. The average adult head has anywhere from 100,000 – 150,000 follicles. For God to know the exact number and vow to protect each single and individual strand has got to take an exorbitant amount of love. So, to challenge someone else about the condition or state of his/her hair is to challenge God’s love for that person. And trust me, God never has a bad hair day.