The barbershop is the African American equivalent of the Areopagus. It’s where the philosophers philosphize on everything from politics, community affairs, relationships, religion, and sports. It was a university education for the price of a cut. Even Jimmy Kimmel gets his head lined at the barbershop.
It was loud, too. At least where I hung out, the louder the better. You judged the quality of the conversation by the number of voices, the variety of opinion, and the decibel reading on laughter and jokes. And there always seemed to be one or two guys that sparked discussion (read, arguments) every time they entered the shop. They had the spiritual gift of controversy (some of those guys got saved and now use that gift in the church!).
Yesterday, I feel like I had my first real visit to the barbershop since moving to Cayman. Don’t get me wrong; I have been getting my hair cut (sometimes) over the five years we’ve been in Cayman. But by and larger, the barbershops have been quiet and civilized. Or, whenever things did get loud, I was either behind the curve on the issue itself, or I knew what they were topic about but couldn’t keep up with the Jamaican patois. You kinda don’t want to rush in when you’re picking up every 17th word.
The conversation began with further debate about who had the best cross-over in NBA history, moved to a brief generational discussion of the best player ever–spurred by Scottie Pippen’s recent remarks. All of a sudden I found myself in a bona fide barbershop discussion! It was sweet!
And just for the record, I think Scottie should put down the pipe. LeBron James won’t be better than Jordan because he doesn’t have Jordan’s work ethic and maniacal competitive drive. Moreover, James left Cleveland in the most inappropriate way when Jordan remained in Chicago to help build the franchise and get it over the hump. Jordan wanted the ball to close the game; it seems James is happy to set a pick while Wade closes. Should Miami win a ring this year, it will be James’ first and he will no doubt have that dark Kobe-Shaq like cloud hanging over his head. People will say “he had to go to Miami with a superstar team to win the ring; he couldn’t do it on his own.”
Personally, James lost a lot of points with me when he left Cleveland in the way that he did. He left the team hanging for weeks. And it wasn’t just the team he left, but also for all intents and purposes his home and family. It was ugly.
Driving home, it occurred to me that some Christians leave their churches much the way James left Cleveland. They leave the spiritual family hanging for weeks or months. Rather than step up and play the man or woman, helping to build the team to get over the hump, they look to join the “all-star team” across town, where the preaching is stellar, the worship heavenly, the children’s program Disney, and the youth group cool. Meanwhile, those who loved them feel the loss and a spiritual hole in their lives.
You see? You can learn about everything in the barbershop. Even church membership. Just don’t approach membership in your church the way LeBron approached his decision in Cleveland. The people of Cleveland deserved better. God’s people definitely deserve better.
By the way, who is the greatest NBA player of all time?