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Arian or Athanasian?

Remigius, today’s saint written up in The Lectionary, has so many interesting facets. Kiefer starts out explaining that the common Cajun name Remi is short for the French saint Remigius, who converted Clovis, one of the earliest kings of France, to Christianity. Not just to Christianity, however, but to Athanasian Christianity, the branch that believes Christ is of the same substance with God, and is one with God, as opposed to Arianism, a predominant belief at the time, which proposed Jesus was not the same as God.


by James Kiefer

(This photo cracks me up because one of the demons looks a lot like Ronald Reagan. I don’t know where it is, but it may be the Cathedral in Strassbourg)

St. Remi (or Remigius)
A 1987 motion picture, “The Big Easy” (a nickname for the city of New Orleans), and a current (1996) television series of the same name based on it, have as the male lead a Cajun police detective named Remy McSwaine. In the first episode of the series (I am not sure of the film) we are informed that “Remy” is short for “Remington.” I fear that this shows that the scriptwriters have not troubled to research Cajun culture. Remi is one of the three great national saints of France (the others are Denis (Dionysius) of Paris and Joan of Arc, or Joan the Maid (Jeanne la Pucelle)), and it is thoroughly natural for a Cajun to be named Remi. How is that for a topical introduction?

Remi (Latin Remigius) was born about 438 and became bishop of Rheims about 460, at the remarkably young age of 22. (Both he and the city were named for his tribe, the Remi.) In his time, the Roman Empire and the Christian church were jointly faced with a serious practical problem — the barbarian invasions. A series of droughts in central Asia had driven its inhabitants out in all directions in search of more livable territory. This brought the Goths, for example, across the Danube in the early 300’s.

Now the Emperor Constantine had died in 337, and during his lifetime the Church had debated the question of whether the Logos, the Word who was made flesh for our salvation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, was (as Arius taught) the first and greatest of the beings created by God, but nevertheless not eternal, and not God; or was (as Athanasius taught) fully God, co-eternal and co-equal with the Father. At the Council of Nicea in 325, the Athanasian position had been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the bishops assembled from throughout the Christian world. But the Arians refused to accept the decision, and there were attempts to re-negotiate and find a compromise that would make everyone happy.

Then Constantine died, and his Empire was divided among his sons, with Constantius Emperor of the East, and eventually of the whole Empire. And Constantius was an Arian, and made a serious attempt to stamp out the Athanasian position by banishing its leaders and pressuring churches into electing or accepting Arian bishops. During his reign, missionaries, led by one Bishop Ulfilas, were sent to convert the Goths. And naturally, Ulfilas was an Arian. He preached with great vigor and eloquence among the Goths, and translated the Bible into their language (omitting, we are told, the wars of the Hebrews, on the grounds that the Goths were quite warlike enough without further encouragement). In fact, the portions of his translation that have survived are the only material we have in the Gothic language, and as such are highly valued by students of the history of languages. So the Goths became Arian Christians, and so did the Vandals. And these two highly warlike peoples were most of the time either making war on the settled peoples of the Empire or hiring out as mercenaries to defend the borders of the Empire from the next wave of invaders.

You may remember that Ambrose, bishop of Milan (died 397, remembered 7 December), was commanded by the Empress Mother to hand over a church for the use of her soldiers, who were Goths and Arians, and that Ambrose refused, and filled the church with members of his congregation, who sang hymns composed by Ambrose for the occasion, and the soldiers did not attack. You may also remember that when Augustine lay on his deathbed in his town of Hippo in North Africa (near Carthage or modern Tunis), the city was under attack by Vandal troops, who had come into Africa out of Spain, and who captured and vandalized (that is where we get the term) the cities of North Africa, and Sicily and Sardinia and Corsica (which they made into bases for piracy) and the southern part of Italy. Long after Arianism had died out elsewhere, it was the religion of the Goths and Vandals and related peoples, and being an Arian was the mark of a good Army man.

Now a new people appeared on the scene, a pagan warrior tribe called the Franks. In the late 400’s, they were led by a chief called Clovis, a pagan but married to a Christian wife, Clotilda. His wife and Bishop Remi (remember him?) spoke to him about the Christian faith, but he showed no particular signs of interest until one day when he was fighting a battle against the Alemanni, and was badly outnumbered and apparently about to lose the battle. He took a vow that if he won, he would turn Christian. The tide of battle turned, and he won. Two years later, he kept his vow and was baptized by Remi at Rheims on Christmas Day, 496, together with about 3000 of his followers. (Rheims became the traditional and “proper” place for a French king to be crowned, as we learn from the story of Joan of Arc. It remained so until the French Revolution.)

Now Clovis was converted to the Athanasian (or orthodox, or catholic) faith rather than the Arian, and this fact changed the religious history of Europe. The clergy he brought to his court were catholic, and when the Franks as a whole became Christians, which did not happen overnight, they became catholic Christians, meaning in this context that they were Athanasian rather than Arian, and accepted the belief that it was God himself, and not a particularly prominent angel, who came down from heaven and suffered for our salvation.

During the preceding century, the Arians had had a near-monopoly on military power, and now this was no longer true. The conversion of the Franks brought about the conversion of the Visigoths, and eventually (about 300 years later) the empire of Charlemagne and the beginning of the recovery of Western Europe from the earlier collapse of government and of city life under the impact of plague, lead poisoning, currency inflation, confiscatory taxation, multiple invasions, and the assorted troubles of the Dark Ages.

As noted above, Clot(h)ilda, a Christian princess of Burgundy, married the pagan Clovis, King of the Franks, thus preparing the way for his baptism by Remi in 496, and for the conversion of the Franks. Their great-grandaughter, Bertha, married the pagan Ethelbert, King of Kent, thus preparing the way for his baptism by Augustine of Canterbury in 601, and for the eventual conversion of southeast England. Bertha and Ethelbert’s daughter, Ethelburga, married the pagan Edwin, King of Northumbria, thereby preparing the way for his baptism by Paulinus in 627, and for the eventual conversion of many in the North of England.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Biography, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual, Technical Issue, Values | Leave a comment

Gasp! Look What Happens to Your Blood!

I am reblogging this from my friend GreY’s blog. He is a Kuwait blogger; we both started blogging at about the same time. He is, sadly, now battling cancer of the bowel, and has gone totally vegetarian. He posted this YouTube video that is horrifying, and shocking, and is going to make a big difference in the future choices I make:

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Cooking, Cultural, Food, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Technical Issue | 1 Comment

The Hidden Dangers in Baking, Roasting, Grilling, Broiling

This is especially bad news for me; I love broiling and roasting to concentrate flavors. I love those crispy pieces of grilled foods . . . the latest from Bottom Line Publications.

How it’s cooked may increase your risk for chronic illness.

Some of the most serious chronic health problems in the US, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney and heart disease, have been linked to what we eat—processed foods, fast food, red meat, etc. What may surprise you is that the increased health risks from these foods may be due in large part to how they are cooked.

Dry-heat cooking, such as grilling, broiling, frying and even baking and roasting, greatly increases levels of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), also known as glycotoxins. Small amounts of these chemical compounds are naturally present in all foods, but their levels rise dramatically when foods are subjected to dry heat, which frequently occurs both in home cooking and in commercial food preparation.

The danger: AGEs are oxidants that produce free radicals, damage DNA, trigger inflammation throughout the body and accelerate the aging process. They also make cholesterol more likely to cling to artery walls, the underlying cause of most heart attacks. Some researchers now believe that AGEs can be linked to most chronic diseases.

A century ago, people mainly ate fresh, homemade foods, such as grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits, with relatively small amounts of meat. The processed food industry was still in its infancy.

However, in the following decades, meat portions grew larger, and Americans acquired a strong desire for the intense flavors, aromas and colors in commercially prepared “browned” foods, such as crackers, chips, cookies, grilled and broiled meats, french fries, pizza, etc. During this time, the rates of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases started to rise. This wasn’t a coincidence—the rich taste, smell and appearance of these foods primarily come from AGEs.

Our bodies can neutralize the small amounts of AGEs that are naturally found in foods (and that we produce as a by-product of metabolism). But our defense mechanisms are overwhelmed with the high amounts that are now very common in the typical American diet.

AGEs are measured in kilounits (kU). We recommend consuming no more than 5,000 kU to 8,000 kU per day (see box for examples of kU levels in some common foods). Recent studies have shown that the average American typically consumes more than 15,000 kU daily, and many people eat well over 20,000 kU daily.

Reducing dietary AGEs may be especially important for people with diabetes because high blood sugar levels cause more AGEs to form. It’s also crucial for people with kidney disease because they are less able to remove AGEs from the body. AGEs also are elevated in patients with heart disease, obesity and dementia.

Researchers can measure the amounts of AGEs in the blood, but doctors don’t commonly use this test because it’s not currently available for commercial use. What your doctor can do is measure levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation. If your level is high (above 3 mg/dL), you may have excessive AGEs in your blood. If you eat a lot of grilled, broiled and roasted meats, for example, and/or heat-treated processed foods, this also means your AGE levels are likely too high.

Our studies have shown that people who make simple dietary changes can reduce their levels of AGEs by more than 50% in four months. The reduction is accompanied by a similar decrease in CRP levels. Helpful strategies…

Eat less animal protein. Animal protein, especially red meat, is among the main sources of AGEs—and the levels can multiply tenfold when the meat is grilled, broiled, baked or roasted. Helpful: Eat beef no more than three times a week.

Because animal fat also contributes to AGE intake, eat lean meats. They have fewer AGEs than higher-fat meats. Animal fats such as butter also are higher in AGEs than plant fats such as olive oil.

Best approach: Fill three-quarters of your plate with plant foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits, and leave no more than one-quarter of the plate for animal foods, such as meats and cheeses.

Soups and stews are tasty ways to serve small portions of meat. Also enjoy more meatless meals, such as vegetarian chili or veggie burgers. Nonfat milk and yogurt are low in AGEs and are a good way to add protein to meals and snacks.

Avoid dry-heat cooking, such as grilling, broiling, baking, roasting and frying. High, dry heat greatly increases AGEs. Example: A piece of raw meat might have 500 kU to 700 kU of AGEs. But after the meat is broiled, the level can rise to 5,000 kU to 8,000 kU.
Better approach: Cook with moist heat—stew, poach, steam, boil or microwave. A piece of chicken that’s poached or boiled, for example, will have about 1,000 kU. The same piece of chicken will have about 5,000 kU when it’s broiled.

If you have a desire for grilled or roasted foods, vegetables and fruits are better choices than meats. These foods have far fewer AGEs than meats and fats when cooked with dry heat.

If you do cook with dry heat, marinate first. The eventual formation of AGEs is reduced by about 50% when raw meats are marinated in acidic ingredients, such as vinegar or lemon juice. For each pound of meat, use the juice from two lemons or an equivalent amount of vinegar or lime juice plus enough water to cover the meat (about one cup). Add some garlic and/or herbs for extra flavor. Avoid commercial marinades since they’re usually high in sugar and/or oil, which will increase AGEs.

Reheat gently. Microwaving is a good method for reheating meats and other foods. Be sure to include plenty of liquid and reheat to a safe temperature to prevent the possibility of food-borne illness due, for example, to E. coli or salmonella.

Soups, sauces and gravies should be brought to a boil. Leftovers such as meats and casseroles should be reheated to 165°F.

Don’t eat certain foods together. Consuming meats with foods that are high in sugar—for example, having a slice of cake after eating a hamburger—allows existing AGEs in the meat to interact with the sugars in the cake, creating higher levels of AGEs.

Similarly, eating meats with very high-fat foods, such as a hamburger topped with bacon and cheese, will produce far more AGEs than consuming these foods by themselves.
Focus on fresh foods. Because processed foods have high levels of AGEs, fresh foods and foods that have been minimally processed are a much better choice.

A serving of rice, for example, will have almost no AGEs, but the same amount of crispy rice cereal will have 600 kU. Avoid takeout and convenience foods, such as fast-food burgers, fries and pizza.

Warning: Any food that has been browned or crisped, such as cookies, crackers, chips, etc., will be high in AGEs.

Sources: Sandra Woodruff, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant based in Tallahassee, Florida, and Helen Vlassara, MD, an endocrinologist and professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, where she directs the Experimental Diabetes and Aging Division. They are coauthors of The AGE-Less Way: Escape America’s Overeating Epidemic. (

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Cooking, Experiment, Food, Safety | 4 Comments