As I was driving to work today, a distant memory popped into my mind. I hadn’t thought of this in years, and I’m not sure why I did so today. It was undoubtedly some strange chain of thought (one which I can’t seem to trace back like I so often do). Regardless of where it came from, it took me back quite a ways.
When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a dorm with a lot of guys (before the days of coed dwellings). As fate would have it, I my coif was a bit longer than the rest of them so they started calling me “Hair.” I hated that nickname. That’s probably why I suppressed the memory for so long.
I guess I hated it so much because they used it as a derisive term. They didn’t like my mane, they let me know as much, and they disdainfully named me Hair. I was vastly outnumbered, so I never said much (a lot of them were football players—big football players). The next year I moved off that floor and the name quickly faded away.
The funny thing is, as that I think back on it, I kind of like that nickname now. I think if someone called me that today, I would embrace it. If you look at a picture of me, you’ll see that it fits.
In an odd twist of history, I ended up becoming a United Methodist pastor. If you know much about our history, you’ve probably heard that the term “Methodist” began as a derisive one. John Wesley’s detractors sarcastically called him and his followers Methodists. Wesley, rather than fight it, embraced the name and adopted it.
Coincidentally, Wesley had long locks flowing over his shoulders. I’m glad his detractors didn’t call him and his followers “Hairs.” United Hair doesn’t flow quite as well as United Methodist (at least not for a Christian denomination).
I’m not totally sure what the point of all this is except to remind you that we are in the midst of a presidential campaign. So far (and I’m quite sure this will continue), a lot of derisive nicknames have been tossed around. While I don’t expect the candidates to embrace any of them, I sure wish they’d back off from using them. Our society is contentious enough without our presumptive leaders showing us the way toward bad behavior.
Unfortunately, I suspect there’s little chance of them cleaning up their act. We, as a society, will probably follow suit; and our culture will become even more belligerent. It’s almost become a sport.
During the current national convention, there seems to be a lot of booing, shouting, and name-calling—and these guys supposedly like each other. I know that some families like to fight, but most of them don’t do it on national TV (except maybe the Kardashian’s and such).
I hate to be a pessimist, but I think we’re doomed. Just call me Hair!
[ Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]