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The Rules of Dogmaball

By Carl S ~

One of my favorite resources for inspiration is the comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes," by Bill Watterson. Though the strip has been out of syndication for years, it still lives on in many books available in stores.

At one time, I copied a strip in which Calvin asks Hobbes, "Do you believe in the Devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?" Hobbes answers, "I'm not sure man needs the help." As Hobbes retreats, Calvin faces us and says, "You can't talk to animals about these things." I posted this on the bulletin board at my wife's church, where it remained for weeks, and then one day, I crossed out "animals," and wrote in "Christians." The next time I looked, it was gone. Certainly, such an observation was contrary to dogma.

Watterson hit on something I think he did not intend to: the connection between "Calvinball" and dogrna. The best way I can explain this is to use his own words in "The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book," copyright 1995, page 129. The game begins.

Calvin: "Ha ha! I stole your flag.”

Hobbes: "But I hit you with the Calvin ball! You have to put the flag back and sing the ‘I'm very sorry song!’”

Calvin: "I don't have to sing the song! I was in the ’No song zone!’"

Hobbes: "No you weren't. I touched the opposite pole. So the ’No song pole’ is now a 'song zone.’"

Calvin: ”I didn't see you touch the opposite pole! You have to declare it!"

Hobbes: “I declared it oppositely by NOT declaring it. Start singing." Etc, etc. . . .

Bill Watterson explains, "People have asked how to play Calvinball. It’s pretty simple: you make up the rules as you go."

How do you play "Dogmaball?" Early Christianity had many beliefs; several gods or an O.T. versus an N.T. god, wholly human or wholly divine Jesus, etc. The rules were made by vote to decide which beliefs were "true." Votes decided whether women had “souls” or not. Some sects believe Jesus was divine, some not. Others teach a prosperity gospel, while some say that god wants the faithful to give their money to the poor. The Catholic Church preached that eating meat on a Friday would send you to hell, that Limbo was a place the "deceased before the birth of Christ,” and the ignorant of the gospel went to after they died. Never mind. Now they say that Limbo was made up. For years, the "assumption" of Mary, mother of Jesus, was a folk tale. In 1958, it became a doctrine of the Catholic faith, of a church that asserts "the primacy of conscience," which means that, if you can't make yourself believe something in all good conscience, you are not obligated to do so. Dogmaball.

Martin Luther threw out the book of James from the N.T. The "Song of Songs," an "inspired" part of the bible, is rejected by some sects, but, who knows, might just be accepted one day. A special era of dogmaball was Henry VIII’s reign. At one period, one could be tortured and burned at the stake for denying the real Presence of Jesus in the host-cracker, and later on, suffer the same fate for NOT denying it. One swore allegiance to the pope or to the king as being rightful heads of the faith. Depending on the whims of the king, and pope, one's fate was decided.

Faith is dogmaball. It’s morally evil to drown babies and slaughter innocent humans, unless god does it, in which case it isn’t, unless god tells an individual to kill, in which case the individual is deemed insane. But, if a number of people are told by god to do these things, god must be obeyed, and god would not tell them to do something unless it was for good reasons. If god tells his children (of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, et al) to kill each other, then they are doing a righteous , virtuous thing, unless he changes his mind and tells them to not resist evil, but this can and does change. It's all in knowing how to play the game, for the rule-makers.

Jesus repeatedly insisted that the world would end soon, even in the lifetimes of some of his audience. I've had it "explained" to me that what he said, he didn't really mean. This has a connection somehow with the various "explanations" of the "apparent" contradictions throughout the bible, in terms of the °‘literal and metaphysical" interpretations of the texts.

Gay marriage is approved/not approved by God. The proofs of this are in the bible. God hates fags or loves you no matter what your sexual orientation, and he loves the sinner but not the sin, even though the psalmist, speaking for God, declares, "You hate all evildoers.” There were times past when, in certain cultures, "heretics” to any faith were physically punished and/or put to death, and this is still the practice in a few places. The rules keep changing though. Who would have predicted the religious right would back a Presidential candidate who belongs to a religion they have insisted for decades is a cult?

Gloria Steinem offers this historical fact: "The Jesuits (who always seem to be more honest historians of the Catholic Church) point out, the Church approved of and even regulated abortion well into the mid- 1800s." Then, Pope Pius IX declared abortion to be a mortal sin. (I wonder if this is the same time that eating meat on Friday became a "mortal sin?")

So, how do you know what is true? Why, it's dogmaball. It's pretty simple. You make up the dogma-rules as you go. Once you start looking for examples, you’ll find them everywhere there is dogma. No Olympic site could possibly accommodate all the teams or rule makers involved.