sadie-lynn.jpgNo, of course, the word dogma has nothing to do with puppy dogs. But that pic of Sadie the Dog when she was a baby puppy was just too cute to resist. Besides, when I was a kid and ran into the word dogma, I always wondered what it had to do with the canine species.

But lately as an adult, I was prompted to consider what that word means because a famous reader of my blogs, Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and my former grad. school advisor and still-mentor, Dr. Ann Dobie, read some of my recent postings on religious and denominational dogma. (Read Ann’s comment # 2 on my August 31 posting to this blog on the word backslide.) Ann was obviously interested in my observations, to the point that she privately asked me in email what I meant when I used dogma in the context of my blogs about religiosity and denominationalism.

Wow, what a practical exercise! We should all spend more time thinking about words we write and what those words mean! (SHe’s ever the teacher–That’s why I say she’s still my mentor.) I felt challenged, but I didn’t cheat and run to the dictionary–I thought through a definition of the term in the context I used it. Here’s the result of this exercise in practical definition, excerpted from the email that I returned in reply to her question:

Dogma . . . hmmmm, how can I define dogma better than the dictionary does? Obviously, in my recent writing, I apply it in a pejorative sense to name rigid doctrinal beliefs associated with tradition and culture rather than truth. I typically use it to clarify a distinction between naked truth and “dressed up” truth represented by special interest groups with doctrinal axes to grind (in other words, dogma begets religious denominationalism [and a host of other uglinesses stemming from historical assumptions, cultural preconceptions, and misinformed opinions!]).

Hey, that was a fun little exercise in self-definition. How did I know what I meant until you [Ann] asked me to clarify what I wrote, which required me to explain it to myself?

The end of all this is that–obviously– I don’t like dogma the thing, but I do like dogma the word!

puppy-dogs.jpgBut for as much as I like the word dogma, dogs are still the best.