Ground Zero and Religion

Politics is a necessary evil, or so I am told.  Nevertheless, I am not a big fan.  I find that although it may well be necessary, that it often clouds vision to the point that some good things just don’t happen.

In my high school teaching career, although for the most part, the stars were generally aligned to meet all of the needs of the students, periodically egos and politics came in the way of doing for students what is truly needed.  That annoys me.  Politics gets in the way of so many other things as well.

Religion has come to play in the area of politics and thus evolves an interesting arrangement. I have mentioned some thoughts on religion and what it means to me.  I have delved a bit into my thoughts on hypocrisy and the guise of being religious and actually being mean spirited.

We are in that season of the year where we are supposed to espouse “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” as they say.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually do that?

I have to qualify these thoughts by saying that they are mine and represent a person with a somewhat naïve understanding of the arguments surrounding the current situation in New York City.

I just keep thinking of Ground Zero and the brouhaha over the proposed Mosque near it.  I am amazed, once again by the reactions to that.  I am not a fan of terrorists and/or terrorism.  I am not a fan of killing or violence.  I feel relatively apolitical. I am, however, a major proponent of peace.

What I am leading to is why not build a Mosque near the site of Ground Zero?  It seems to me, that given the entire situation and the horrible atrocities that occurred on 9/11, it would be a good thing to not get bent out of shape over something like a Mosque.  The Mosque represents a place of worship for those of the Muslim faith.  Although we are quick to judge and many Americans blame Islam for the event, that is, in fact, not the case.  It was an extreme faction of people who created the situation.

For those of us who proclaim to be Christian, let us truly live and breathe our faith by quelling the craziness of such an extreme reaction.


Christmas cookies chez Koerner


One of my sons caught me and his brother at the local Home Depot to pick up our Fraser Fir Christmas tree.  We generally don’t put it up this early, but like to have it ready to go.  He, of course, had his traditional, “You really think that that is a Christmas tree?” as he saw us in the middle of our purchase.  This is his yearly question for us.  We are absolutely firm in our belief that we must do Christmas up right and that comes down to the very basic tree, it has to be up to Koerner standards. 

The reason I bring this up is because I firmly believe that one thing we did right in the rearing of our children is to provide them with all sorts of traditions for every moment and/or holiday.  As an educator, I saw so many children who had no traditions whatsoever and I always noticed that they seemed to hunger for them. 

Religion is one of the things that was worthy of notice in the children I taught.  I saw students who had one parents of differing religion.  Sometimes, rather than addressing the multi-religious situation, children of such families were reared without religion.  What I did notice there is that they had no major framework to use as a base for morality and decision making.  It is perfectly possible to provide all of that to children without religion, but I did notice that perhaps it was not the easiest thing to do and perhaps religion at least provides the basics.  Mary Kay and I felt that it was important for us to provide them with a religious base and that upon adulthood they could choose to accept and/or reject the religious training they had received.  As it turns out, they have all pretty much rejected the religious aspects of their growing up, but honestly, I think that perhaps they don’t have the label, but they are all very moral people with very high standards and for that I am happy.

How the heck did I get from the Christmas tree choice to religion to cookies, which is where I am supposed to be going?  Tradition!  MK and I firmly believe that tradition is “glue” that holds people together.  Not that you don’t have to work at it, you do, but if the basic glue is there and holding things together, it is so much easier.

Cookies, specifically the Christmas variety, are a staple of the Christmas tradition.  This year, because of my “Hausherr” status, I am actually more on schedule than ever.  My son, of course, asked me why the cookies are not yet being made.  They are, in fact, in progress, but he had to ask that question.

Thanks to the blogs, we have two sets of cookies already made but we now need the “traditional” Koerner Christmas cookies.

So, here are the recipes, some are known by other names, but these are the cookies we all love.


Spritz Cookies


1 cup shortening (Crisco)                      2 1/4 cups sifted flour

3/4 cup sugar                                        1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg                                                    1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon almond extract                    Food coloring

Cream shortening and sugar well.  Beat in egg and almond extract. Gradually blend in dry ingredients which have been sifted together and tint the dough with a few drops of food coloring.  Mix well.  Fill cookie press.  Form cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.  Decorate with candies if desired.  Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes.  Remove at once to cooling racks.

Note:  do not refrigerate before baking!


Molasses Cookies           

3/4 cup Crisco or margarine                  1 cup Sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt                                  1 egg

4 tablespoons molasses            

2 teaspoons cinnamon                           2 teaspoons soda

1/2 teaspoon ginger                              2 cups flour

Cream margarine, sugar, egg, salt, and molasses.  Add dry ingredients.  Roll into balls, then roll in red or green sugar. Bake at 375° for 15-18 minutes.


Thumbprint Cookies

1/4 cup butter                                       1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup shortening                                1 cup flour

1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)              1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk                                            3/4 cup finely chopped nuts


Heat oven to 350°.  Mix thoroughly butter, shortening, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla.  Work in flour and salt until dough holds together.  Shape dough

by teaspoonfuls into 1-inch balls.

Beat egg white slightly.  Dip each dough ball into egg white; roll thumb deeply

in center of each.  Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown.  Immediately remove from baking sheet.  Cool;  fill thumbprint with jelly.  About 3 dozen cookies.


Date Nut Bars                        from Mom Koerner

2 eggs                                                  1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup sugar                                        1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla                              1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup sifted flour                                2 cups finely chopped dates

Beat eggs until foamy.  Beat in sugar and vanilla.  Let this mixture beat about 15 minutes because it makes a lighter dough.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir into egg mixture.  Add nuts and dates.  Spread in well-greased 8” square pan if desired thick.  If desired thin, in a 9 1/2 x 13 1/2 sheet pan.  Bake in a 325 oven for 25-30 minutes.  Do not overbake, as it dries out easily.    While still warm, cut into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Russian Teacakes

1 cup butter softened                            2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar                 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla                                 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

                                                            confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 400°.  Mix thoroughly butter, 1/2 cup sugar and the vanilla.  Work in flour, salt, and nuts until dough holds together. Shape dought into 1-inch balls.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown.  While warm, roll in confectioners’ sugar.  Cool.  Or roll in colored sugar before baking.  About 4 dozen cookies.

Thoughts on Tolerance and being raised a Roman Catholic

This is a subject that has bothered me most of my life.  I can remember thinking about this even when I was young and surrounded by people with many prejudices and bigoted views.

I grew up surrounded by a certain amount of bigotry.  I remember even as a youngster having discussions with my family and close friends.  I remember very clearly being told, “You will change your mind about these issues when you are older and earning a living.”  I guess that something went wrong with that!  That never happened!  I remember as well thinking about what exactly it was that made them think the way they did.  I could usually make sense of that, seeing perhaps that my grandparents’ bigotry was so much a result of their ignorance and of the difficulties they had making a new life for themselves in a land that was not overly helpful to those from other cultures and who did not speak English.

It annoyed me because at Catholic elementary school, I learned all about God and about how we as human beings and descendants of Adam and Eve are supposed to treat each other.  Early on I learned much about ignorance and about how people can twist just about everything to a totally different way, that serves their particular needs all the better.

I consider myself to be a cafeteria Roman Catholic.  I was raised Roman Catholic but I have to admit that early on I realized there were some things I just couldn’t agree with.  I was smart enough, or so I thought, to realize that a large institution like a world church would have to make some rulings that might just not seem appropriate for everyone, but there was, in fact, probably a reason for them.  I therefore acted like I was in a cafeteria, I picked and chose what to believe in and what to ignore.  That worked for a long time, or so I thought.

I lucked upon a parish for my early to mid adult years where the thinking was relatively objective.  There was great involvement by the parishioners in the happenings within the local Church.  I remember long and thoughtful discussions with numerous clergy members about a variety of topics.  I remember being overjoyed that they were more in agreement with me on many different issues than I ever would have believed.  They often talked about sometimes, even though a decision I was making might not seem to fit within the parameters of the Church’s teachings, that if I made my decision thoughtfully and in a loving manner, that I wasn’t in fact committing major sins.

Things tightened up as the administration of the local Parish changed and at the same time the overall Church began to have more and more difficulty with its own shortcomings in dealing with all sorts of issues, both local and worldwide.

Being very spiritual people, my wife and I pondered our situation and little by little we saw that our needs as Catholics were not being met.  We tried and tried to adjust but finally it was to no avail. 

There are so many issues that need attention.  There are rulings that make no sense.  I understand, historically, for example, why priests were not allowed to marry.  I realize as well that the Church has not appropriately evolved with the times.  Celibacy, to me, is no longer a valid option for the Church and I feel that it has even caused harm.  Without going into it, it is easy to see how it might affect the mindset of those entering the priesthood and attract some people for the wrong reasons.

Be that as it may, the Catholic Church has had a profound effect on me and my life and I still feel as if I am a Roman Catholic.  I just don’t attend Church regularly.  I am not saying that I will not change in the future, but for now, this fits my current needs.

I am bringing this background up because this is what formed me and my thoughts.  This brings me to the idea of tolerance.  The Catholic Church may have its faults, but I truly feel I received a good intellectual formation from it.  Because of my education and experiences, I  cannot, for example, understand how there are so many so-called religious individuals of many different faiths who talk about Jesus and how to lead a good life and at the same time are so intolerant of so many things and people.  I keep thinking of my formation and how we were told that Jesus and God are forgiving.  It doesn’t matter what you do, but we, as prodigal children, if we are penitent,  shall be forgiven. 

I know someone who acts and behaves like a very religious person.  She spouts “Jesus” and our “almighty Lord” and attributes all good things that are happening to the grace of God.  This is very nice and all.  She is one of those people who has to sport her “fish” icon on her e-mail and make everyone aware of her take on religion and life.  She wears her so called religion like a tattoo, it is very obvious to all.  It is also a major sham.  She will force you to hold hands with her at a dinner table and “thank the Lord.”  She will also, if you are not in line with her, bad mouth you, give you wrong information, make every effort to make you look like bad to others.  She will literally stab you in the back.  Her efforts are self-serving yet she appears to be serving God or at least she thinks so.  She is, in my estimate, typical of so many ignorant people who pretend to be religious, but who are actually users of religion to portray themselves as better than everyone else.  The sad part is that often a person like this is actually convinced of his or her superiority and the fact that salvation is to be had because of this.  “Heathen people” who are perhaps not of the same faith will have to suffer till the end of time in damnation and hell according to them.

Under the polite guise of religion, these people have taken it upon themselves to abuse others.  How is it that a very forgiving God will deny salvation to so many people just because of choosing the wrong religion?  How is it that we stereotype and typify certain religions as being evil when in fact we are basing our viewpoints on the actions of a few people?  How is it that some people use their beliefs to deny rights to others because of their skin color or sexual orientation?

In my religious world, the God that I believe in IS all forgiving.  The God in my ideal world isn’t going to be judging people based on certain rules and regulations but will view each situation individually and take many things into consideration.  This God loves everyone equally.

I am not pro life nor am I pro abortion.  Abortion to me is a last ditch choice that I don’t feel I can legislate.  For me, for the most part, it is not an option. When I was younger, I thought I had no problem with it.  While in grad school, Mary Kay and I babysat for someone having an abortion.  She had one child already out of wedlock in a time period when this was a very negative thing.  By the time our friend returned from her abortion, Mary Kay and I were sickened by the whole thing.  Not because of the abortion per se, but because she just hadn’t used her brains and gotten pregnant again and used abortion as a form of birth control, wiping out a life for no reason.  What she did is a sin to me because there are so many deserving childless parents who were denied a child and she threw hers out.

I think I am digressing.  There are many people in this country who have morals based on religion and that is a good thing.  I think organized religion does a lot of good overall.  I think as well that organized religion could do a better job.  It should evolve appropriately and carefully with the times.  It should teach and guide its followers.  It should lead in all situations no matter how hard it is.  It should never ever espouse intolerance of any sort.  It seems to me, Jesus would be in agreement there.  Don’t you wonder what he would have to say?