Personal thoughts

Gilroy. El Paso. Dayton.

Why?

There are a range of answers for this question, depending on who you are and what you believe in. I don’t think there is one blanket answer. Classifying the people who do this simply as “supremacists” or “mentally unstable,” for me, does not seem like a logical answer.

This goes deeper than that. Everyone hears the standard clichĂ©s in times like this. “The world is a messed up place.” Or how about “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” So many tired sounding observations. So lets explore another one, but in reverse.

Charity begins at home.” Yep. This might be true, but we should perhaps also remember that it is not only charity that finds its roots at home. It is hatred. Bigotry. Judgment without knowledge. Stereotyping. All of these things also begin at home.

Are we mindful of the things we think and say? Do we make random judgments based on what someone is wearing, what colour of skin they have, what religious displays they outwardly present? YES, and I am certainly no exception. But I am trying to become more aware of what I think and correct it.

Do we think about what we say in front of our children? When we make random comments about other people, cultures, countries, choices of sexuality, political views or religion? How much do we actually stereotype and where do we get these ideas from? Are they ingrained is us from our childhoods? Yes. Do we also pick them up from the media? Yes. But perhaps, we would all do well to stop and examine the beliefs we hold about others. Are they appropriate? Why do we think the way we do? Do we really have the depth of knowledge it would require to make such judgments hold up when examined at a microscopic level?

What are we teaching our Children, perhaps even unintentionally? Children look to their parents to form ideas about the world. A good example does not guarantee that a child will grow up with the values of the parent, nor does a bad one, as history had proven over and over again, however, teaching yourself to be accepting means teaching your children the same thing.

Teach them to love, not hate. Teach them that it is okay to have differences of opinion with other people. Teach them that there will always be people in the world that they do not see eye to eye with, but they can still respect them. Be honest with yourself and with your kids about the state of the world. Let them see that there are real dangers from people thinking the wrong way.

Some think that one person is not enough to make a change, but that is a false ideal. We are raising the next generation. We are teaching them how to behave, how to see others and whether to love or to hate. Each one of us has a place in this world, make sure yours is beautiful and grows roses, not brambles for the next hundred years. There are enough thorns in the world.

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What I was, What “I Am.”

Photo by Mat Kedzia

It’s been a long road and I’ve only taken a few steps.

At some point, we all must come to the realisation that we have no idea who we are or where we are going in life. This happened to me. Then it happened again, and again. I’m a work in progress.

I was born a “Cradle Catholic,” in a country that more or less demanded that if you were Jewish by blood, you covered it up with a more ACCEPTABLE religion. I grew up in the faith and was perfectly clueless about anything else until I was 14 years old and had a terrifying experience with a well-respected member of the clergy. I won’t go into details. Needless to say, no one wanted to listen to my word against his.

After that incident, I began to question everything I ever thought I knew about religion, about people, about the society I lived in. I became an Agnostic, of a sort. I didn’t exactly stop believing in God, I just wasn’t sure he was the God depicted by the church.

Years later, after moving to England, (still not a practising Catholic,) I was introduced to a variety of different cultures. I lived in East London. I lived in Northern England. I attended an Anglican Church service or two, but found my stubborn refusal to believe had morphed into a sort of unrecognised atheism. I have always had an issue with the Problem of Evil, and I found more and more that I used that as my basis to reject the idea of a loving saviour. I won’t go into the typical questions this arises here, too many others have already done so.

I moved to the United States in my twenties. It was a time in my life where I felt like I had everything under control and didn’t really believe I needed anything else. I actually kind of enjoyed the freedom that Atheism offered me. I was responsible for myself with no big brother looking over my shoulder. It felt good to know I could make ethical choices on my own, without the fear of Hellfire and Brimstone being my silent motivator. But, then I met someone. Sophia. Wisdom. Philosophy, call her what you will, slowly she began to morph me into something else entirely. She’s a fickle Bitch. One day you think you know everything and she is introducing you to everyone in her circle, (most of them are old and have long beards,) the next day she has left you with nothing but unanswered questions and a hangover with a marching band in your head.

Being the kind of person I am, who has mental issues and isn’t afraid to say so, (I’ve had a lifelong issue with depression and severe anxiety,) I did what any not-so-normal person would do, and I began to study religion and different cultures. Now, I practise as a Jew with Buddhist leanings. Right? Make sense out of that.

I do not believe in Zionism or hereditary ownership of land based on ancient scriptures. I also disagree with supersessionism to the Nth degree. (There’s already a line forming to the left of people who disagree with me, so please feel free to sign in and wait your turn to punch me, peace-loving people.) I don’t think that being Jewish means you have an automatic right to punish other people for the sins of the past or treat them the same way your culture has been treated. Violence does not solve violence, and I love people. All people, including our Moslem brothers and sisters. I am not afraid to say a few words, or a lot of words about the mismanagement of the State of Israel and if that makes me Anti-Semitic in your eyes, then I find you rather sad and in need of a dose of reality, regardless of how you declare yourself.

Ultimately, philosophy has led me to a lot of truths that are also theological in nature. The most basic of these for me, is that there really is one God. We just call him by different names and have clothed him in our human opinions and desires. This might sound odd, because some of the ideas I have collected over the years that support this, (at least in my mind,) are not really based on the idea of a “God” at all, but rather a way of living. Anyway, in my infinitely limited wisdom, I believe that there is a God for everyone, even the ones who do not know it. This God goes by many names and shows him or herself in many different incarnations, depending on who you are and where you are located, but ultimately, is the same being, the same energy, the same one answering the prayers and performing the most miraculous of modern miracles…surviving in an age dedicated to secularism.

I may have what most people would consider a confused view of things, but I have come to see that what I am, and what I was, and who I will be, are really irrelevant. I am human. I invite Jehovah’s Witness people into my home to discuss their religion. I am an independent minister, it’s my job to be objective, but also my pleasure. I do the same with Mormons. I respect the opinions and religions of other people, unless we get into using religion as a political ploy, and then I tend to be more sober about things.

What I am, What I was and what I will forever be is someone who is constantly changing, evolving–thanks Darwin–and as a human, I am fallible, I am wrong more than I am right, I am confused more often than I have any true clarity, but I am also dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, so the one thing I will always be able to say, is that I am better informed than I could be if I chose to simply follow along.

I am Ionia Froment. That’s good enough. This is my blog, where you don’t have to agree with me. Because that’s where good dialogue begins. Welcome one and all.

Chag Pesach

Chag sameach

Happy Easter!

And all other greetings.

When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome by Richard E. Rubenstein

The Gospel narratives may suggest that Jesus was divine, but they do not insist upon it. Hundreds of years after Jesus’ death, the Church councils made Jesus’ divinity a central tenet of belief among many of his followers. When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christ’s Divinity in the Last Days of Rome by Richard Rubenstein is a narrative history of Christians’ early efforts to define Christianity by convening councils and writing creeds. Rubenstein is most interested in the battle between Arius, Presbyter of Alexandria, and Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. Arius said that Christ did not share God’s nature but was the first creature God created. Athanasius said that Christ was fully God. At the Council of Nicea in 325, the Church Fathers came down on Athanasius’s side and made Arius’s belief a heresy.

Rubenstein’s brisk, incisive prose brings the councils’ 4th-century Roman setting fully alive, with riots, civil strife, and spectacular public debates. Rubenstein is also personally invested in the meaning of these councils for religious life today: he wrote this book, in part, because he grew up in a mixed Jewish Catholic neighborhood and was bewildered by animosity between the religious groups on his block. Digging back in history, Rubenstein learns that before the Arian controversy, “Jews and Christians could talk to each other and argue among themselves about crucial issues like the divinity of Jesus…. They disagreed strongly about many things, but there was still a closeness between them.” But when the controversy was settled, Rubenstein notes, “that closeness faded. To Christians, God became a Trinity and heresy became a crime. Judaism became a form of infidelity. And Jews living in Christian countries learned not to think very much about Jesus and his message.” –Michael Joseph Gross

When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome

When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome by Richard E. Rubenstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


If you are interested in the history of Jesus, and early Christianity, this will be an enormously useful book. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the author went so deeply into the roots of the Arian Conspiracy and explained how the events that would later change the face of the West as we know it now occurred.

This is a very detailed account of the happenings after the death of Jesus and how the ideals of the individual sects of Christians eventually became melded together to form the doctrine we have today. I thought the author did a good job of remaining impartial and reporting the facts as they have come down to us, making this a relatively non-biased account based on historical accuracy rather than theological idealism. That seems to be increasingly difficult to find these days.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about this fascinating period of upheaval.



How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald J. Robertson

“This book is a wonderful introduction to one of history’s greatest figures: Marcus Aurelius. His life and this book are a clear guide for those facing adversity, seeking tranquility and pursuing excellence.” —Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of The Obstacle is the Way and The Daily Stoic

The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent.

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes readers on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian—taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day—through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power. Robertson shows how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity, and guides readers through applying the same methods to their own lives.

Combining remarkable stories from Marcus’s life with insights from modern psychology and the enduring wisdom of his philosophy, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor puts a human face on Stoicism and offers a timeless and essential guide to handling the ethical and psychological challenges we face today.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald J. Robertson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


personal, and yet not overly personal, very well researched and concise, without being overly wordy or providing so much background history that you get lost in the dregs. This is a thoughtful book that will encourage you to look at a figure from the past in a new light and see which of his lessons you might wish to apply to your own life.

I read this book over a couple of days and found within it many parts that were worth highlighting to come back and read again. If you are interested in philosophy, particularly Stoic philosophy, then you will probably enjoy this book. Even if you aren’t there are some good lessons here that we should perhaps all apply to our lives to make them better and more fruitful.

I enjoyed it.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.



A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book by John Barton

A History of the Bible: The Story of the World's Most Influential Book

A literary history of our most influential book of all time, by an Oxford scholar and Anglican priest

In our culture, the Bible is monolithic: It is a collection of books that has been unchanged and unchallenged since the earliest days of the Christian church. The idea of the Bible as “Holy Scripture,” a non-negotiable authority straight from God, has prevailed in Western society for some time. And while it provides a firm foundation for centuries of Christian teaching, it denies the depth, variety, and richness of this fascinating text. In A History of the Bible, John Barton argues that the Bible is not a prescription to a complete, fixed religious system, but rather a product of a long and intriguing process, which has inspired Judaism and Christianity, but still does not describe the whole of either religion. Barton shows how the Bible is indeed an important source of religious insight for Jews and Christians alike, yet argues that it must be read in its historical context–from its beginnings in myth and folklore to its many interpretations throughout the centuries.

It is a book full of narratives, laws, proverbs, prophecies, poems, and letters, each with their own character and origin stories. Barton explains how and by whom these disparate pieces were written, how they were canonized (and which ones weren’t), and how they were assembled, disseminated, and interpreted around the world–and, importantly, to what effect. Ultimately, A History of the Bible argues that a thorough understanding of the history and context of its writing encourages religious communities to move away from the Bible’s literal wording–which is impossible to determine–and focus instead on the broader meanings of scripture.

A History of the Bible: The Story of the World's Most Influential Book

A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book by John Barton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is an absolutely fascinating book for anyone who has an interest in the Bible, regardless of whether you are specifically religious or not. This is a longer book with a lot of information in it, so I suggest reading it in smaller chunks, so you can truly appreciate all of the nuances.

The Bible, as most people are no doubt already aware, has been through many changes over the years, being adapted and translated for different languages and cultures and updated by various scribes either accidentally or with a specific theological angle in mind. This book really captures that and explains how and why these changes occurred. One of the things I found striking about this book is, how it shows the many transformations the New Testament has been through before and after the Reformation, but how little the Torah has actually changed through the centuries. The author also points out that we do not possess a text of the New Testament as it was in the days of Paul, Luke or John, because only variants are extant.

This was an intriguing and helpful book for me since I am currently learning to be a textual analyst with a focus on scripture. Even if you are not currently pursuing a scholastic endeavour though, this book is still one that you don’t want to miss.

I was thoroughly impressed with the depth of the author’s knowledge and his presentation of the facts. He did not come across as overly biased or in favour of one theological idea over another. He based his research on historical fact and spectator evidence, as all good non-fiction authors should make a habit of doing.

Overall, this was one of the best books I have read in the last few years and I can’t recommend it enough.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.



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Noah, the unquestioning servant of God

Photo by Bibhukalyan Acharya on Pexels.com

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately dissecting the Torah, partly due to the classes I am taking in theology and partly, just because it is interesting. I like the idea of deep-diving into the material and reading it first as a whole and then going back over it and reading it again in smaller portions. So, between the English version of the Torah and the Hebrew version, I feel like I have gotten to know these Biblical characters pretty well. So now, I’m not going to make any new friends here, but I’m going to be judgmental and psychoanalyse Noah. The daft numpty…

Why don’t I like Noah, one might ask? And one might be justified in asking, since he is supposed to have been the father of our brood, as it were. I have a rather simple reason for not liking him, I believe. He never asks WHY. WHY, it is one word, relatively simply in composition, but can mean so much, especially when you are a human dealing with a faceless divine entity.

If a voice came out of the blue and told you to build a bloody big boat and adopt a bunch of pets, wouldn’t you want to at least know…WHY? If the same unseen entity told you that you and your family would be the only people that would survive and you would be responsible for repopulating the earth again, would you not have logistical and moral questions. Uhhh—not to get too musical, but….we are family…la la la…and what about that guy that works at the Ancient Near East McDonald’s? He’s not a bad chap? Why do you want to kill everyone?

Does he ask these questions? No. He does not. He is capable of building an ark, just so…with perfect dimensions and the sucker actually floats. He manages to get all the animals in before God closes the door on him and his family, but he never thinks to ask why any of this is happening and if everyone else really deserves death?

“Noah was blameless in the eyes of the Lord.” well, if you are killing everyone else except him and a few of his closest kin because they are that wicked, then that isn’t all that much of a compliment, now is it?

Let us contrast. Abraham. He doesn’t think God should kill everyone in Sodom if there are even 50, 20, 10 people in Sodom that are good people. He argues with God—face to face.

Moses, is in a constant argument with God from the beginning of the burning bush saga. He and Aaron throw themselves to the ground and beg for mercy for their people before God. Moses reminds him of his covenant with the people and even points out that God is going to be seen as tyrannical and unjust if he carries out his current intentions. Abraham can fight. Moses can fight. What’s up with Noah?

I’m sure some would say that he is blameless in the Lord’s eyes simply because he follows commands without questions, but I’m not that kind of theologian. I, for one, think that Noah had some serious daddy issues.

Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness by John Lennox

“Deep, rich, and nourishing.” –Os Guinness

The life of Joseph detailed in the book of Genesis is a story of love, hate, slavery, power, and forgiveness. Although written thousands of years ago, it has a timeless quality that still probes the depths of the human experience.

In this thoughtful and devotional book, scholar John Lennox emphasizes the major themes present in Joseph’s story–such as suffering, temptation, forgiveness, faith, and God’s sovereignty–and applies them to readers at a personal level. This detailed look at Joseph’s life in its broader context will invite us into a deeper trust of God in the face of suffering and hardship.

Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness

Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness by John Lennox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Whilst this book is a bit more Christian-centered than most of the books I read, I found the author to have an intriguing writing-style and to have used good sources for his research. His interpretation of the story of Joseph is a fascinating one where he makes a lot of valid points about what the scriptures may be trying to tell the reader.

I found one of the later chapters, on forgiveness particularly interesting, especially the way the author used the story of Joseph to highlight the different ideas as well as components of forgiveness. This book gave me a lot to consider, and although I do not personally agree with every viewpoint expressed in it, I do have great respect for the author for his conviction and clear sense of loyalty to what he believes. I think, religious or not, really anyone could benefit from this book.

Overall, I thought this was a great read and one that will benefit anyone who wants further insight into the story of Joseph. I read it side by side with the account in the Torah, and it helped me to feel like I had a fuller understanding of the story.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.





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