October 27, 2000


Haircuts and the Apocalypse — The Middle East is Next Door

By Kevin Weston

SAN FRANCISCO — I meet my momma on Beale Street, and she leads me into a Japanese joint for our ritual monthly lunch.

I've made up my mind to listen this time. I'm determined to have a nice lunch with her minus the philosophical arguments we sometimes have over her fundamentalist Christianity and my "fallen" hip hop-centered lifestyle.

I'll listen and just ask questions this time, I tell myself.

First thing she says is, "When are you cutting your hair, son? You used to keep it so nice."

She ain't liking my afro at all, and every time she gets a chance she lets me know.

"I'm letting my hair grow," she goes on. Her usual salt-and-pepper bob-style cut sagged with new growth. "Do you like it?"

"Why are you changing it, Ma? I thought you liked to keep it short." I grew up watching my hairdresser-mother do other ladies' do's and I know she takes pride in her look.

"The pastor says ladies' hair shouldn't be short like a man's. That's one of the signs of the end times."

Here we go.

"What do you mean?" I ask, already knowing the answer.

"Women looking like men and visa-versa, you know the Bible Kevin. It's like that stuff going on the Middle East, that's just God preparing to set up his Kingdom. When are you coming to church with me? You know it is time to get right with the Lord."

I know the myths of the books of prophecy she refers to. Me and my friend Cardell would sit in the back of our Pentecostal church in East Oakland and spook each other with the book of Revelations, amid the drums and tambourines, the shouting and speaking in tongues and the running through the aisles.

I grew up with the idea that when the real s*** hits the fan for humanity it would start in the "Holy Land." So the news from the Middle East hit me on the spiritual level. Revelations flashes before my eyes in between bites of tempura.

The tribulation (the seven-year period of hell on Earth before Jesus comes out of the sky to save humanity)...the destruction of the Earth's ecology...the fall of Babylon, "the Great Whore"...the rise of "the Beast" (the anti-Christ)...a woolly haired and bronze-skinned-Jesus' victory over the armies of the Beast, just before they overrun a defenseless Israel...and his subsequent victory over death itself in the Final Judgment....

All that, and more, etched into my memory. For years those myths/prophecies scared the hell out of me. Now I'm not scared.

My momma's God is still my God, I just don't worship like she does. Hip hop is my faith, but my feeling on the matter is: If Revelations is real, good.

A just world with God running thangs is tight to me. If Babylon fell, (some think the Babylon in Revelations is a worldwide culture of money and religion set up to oppose God's will on Earth — a Babylon standing in the way of freedom), excellent.

The downside is that according to Revelations things are supposed to get way worse before they get better.

Octavia Butler, the Nebula award-winning science fiction writer, gives us a picture of the "worse" in her book, "The Parable of the Sower," and its sequel, "The Parable of the Talents."

In Butler's books, California has become a savage land of warring scavengers, desperate people with guns. She uses this post-Apocalyptic setting to tell the story of an African American woman's revelations that ultimately save and redeem humanity, but only after she loses everything.

And my momma says, "All of these things are a sign of the times, Kevin. When are you cutting your hair and going to church with me?"

She doesn't seem to worried. Instead of the newspaper she reads Daniel, Revelations and the other books of prophecy in the Bible for her up-to-date news. I'm feeling her.

Kevin Weston is a Generation X survivor, writer, youth advocate, activist, and hip hop entrepreneur

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