"All Shall Be Well."
We all have our favorite Calvin and Hobbes moments and strips.
Being a Winter Christian I think this strip might be my all-time favorite:
But from a theological vantage, my favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips come from a storyline that Watterson gives us in September of 1995. Calvin and Hobbes ends in December in '95 and in the waning months of the strip we get a two week storyline, ten daily strips in all, devoted to the relationship between Calvin and his evil babysitter Rosalyn.
We've already noted how Rosalyn functions as a kind of satan-figure in Calvin and Hobbes. Rosalyn embodies all the forces arrayed against Calvin. Rosalyn is an impersonal enforcer of rules. She represents the non-relational, non-empathic application of power. Thus, the Calvin/Rosalyn relationship is inherently antagonistic. And the final Rosalyn story in ‘95 begins on just that note:
But the story begins to take a different turn as Rosalyn becomes open to a "deal," a kind of quid pro quo in the relationship:
The game Calvin selects is, you guessed it, Calvinball:
Obviously, Rosalyn is a bit skeptical about this game:
But Rosalyn dons the mask and starts to play:
And soon the dynamic of Calvinball begins to affect her:
And by the end of the night the world is entirely different:
And with that, we say goodbye to Rosalyn. These strips were her swansong. Calvin and Hobbes would end forever three months later.
Theologically, what are we to make of the final Rosalyn strips?
As we noted in the previous chapter, Calvinball represents a trusting, non-competitive, relational space. Calvinball is not governed by rules. Thus, only friends can successfully play Calvinball together.
So here in the final Rosalyn strips, Watterson shows us Rosalyn, the personification of rules, entering into the ruleless world of Calvinball. And by entering the relational world of Calvinball Rosalyn, and her relationship with Calvin, is transformed. This satan-figure becomes a friend.
There are a variety of theological angles we might adopt to approach the final Rosalyn strips. One angle is to highlight the rules versus relationality dynamic, where relationality trumps rules in the end. For example,
Romans 13.9-10The point being that true community, with both God and Man, is not mediated by rules and rule keeping. The heart of true religion is loving communion. It is true, as it is in Calvinball, that such a notion is prone to abuse. As the Apostle Paul repeatedly warns, the freedom of love can be abused. Rule-following is a safer kind of religion. But as we see with the pre-Calvinball Rosalyn, a rule-based world is also cold and impersonal. Worse, rules are a form of power. Consequently, a rule-based religion is a fear-based religion. But perfect love is to cast out fear. The God-relationship is to be filled with love, not commandment keeping.
The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet,"and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
But beyond these themes of love and law, I wonder if there is not an even deeper message in the final Rosalyn strips. Specifically, I wonder if this conversion of the satan-figure here at the end of Calvin and Hobbes might be sounding a universalist note. Beyond Mo (the bully), Rosalyn is the worst person in Calvin's world, the embodiment of evil for Calvin. And yet Watterson takes the time (ten strips in all) and loving care to redeem Rosalyn at the end. There are many visions of Christian salvation, but it will be universalists, who hold to a notion of universal reconciliation, who will resonate most strongly with the final Rosalyn strips. They will see in this redemption of the satan-figure the depiction of love winning out in the end. Of love having the final say. Of a vision of salvation best articulated by Julian of Norwich:
"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."