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Video: Thousand Oaks public workshop on marijuana policy

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Video: Thousand Oaks public workshop on marijuana policy

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Video: Thousand Oaks public workshop on marijuana policy



At the Thousand Oaks City Council's March 28 meeting, resident Nancy Chappell urged the council to take a responsible, middle path on the city's commercial marijuana policies. MIKE HARRIS/THE STAR


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​ Peter Berger, Theologian Who Fought ‘God Is Dead’ Movement, Dies at 88​ ny times​ jn 29 17


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Peter L. Berger in 2013. He argued that the skepticism of the atheist was just as questionable as blind faith. CreditBerkley Center

Peter L. Berger, an influential, and contrarian, Protestant theologian and sociologist who, in the face of the "God is dead" movement of the 1960s, argued that faith can indeed flourish in modern society if people learn to recognize the transcendent and supernatural in ordinary experiences, died on Tuesday at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 88.

His death was announced by the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, which he founded at Boston University in 1985 and directed until 2009. His son Thomas said the cause was heart failure.

Professor Berger, who was born in Austria, was the author of a shelf-full of books. He was known for his work in what is called the sociology of knowledge — understanding how humans experience everyday reality.

One of his two dozen volumes, "The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge," which he wrote in 1966 with Thomas Luckmann, was honored by the International Sociological Association as one of the 20th century's five most influential sociology books.

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Professor Berger, who had a wry smile and deep-set eyes framed by a balding crown, came to wide attention during the charged debate over whether the concept of a deity was relevant in an increasingly secularized, technological world — a discussion that seemed to peak with a famous 1966 Time magazine cover whose stark red-on-black headline asked, "Is God Dead?"

Theologians like Paul TillichGabriel Vahanian and Thomas J. J. Altizer produced works that, taken together, seemed to argue that post-Auschwitz society, being skeptical of a benevolent universe and absorbed with material gains, was losing its sense of the sacred — so much so that the vision of a transcendent deity had lost much of its force.

Some theologians seemed to reject traditional notions of theism, even arguing that Jesus should be seen more as a human role model than an actual deity.

Professor Berger pushed back against that trend in his book "A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural," published in 1969 and for many years required reading in college sociology and theology courses.

He argued that the skepticism of the atheist was just as questionable as blind faith, though he conceded that secularism was on the rise — that cultural relevance had overtaken spiritual values.

"Whatever the situation may have been in the past," he wrote, "today the supernatural as a meaningful reality is absent or remote from the horizons of everyday life of large numbers, very probably the majority, of people in modern societies, who seem to manage to get along without it quite well."

Nevertheless, he wrote, people can enrich their religious sensibilities by finding "signals of transcendence" in common experiences: A mother's reassuring a frightened child that all is well suggests a confidence in a trustworthy universe. A mortal's insistence on hope in the face of approaching death implies a conviction that death may not be final. The ability to condemn monstrous evil suggests a belief in a moral ordering of the universe that may even be comfortable with the notion of hell. Laughter and play affirm "the triumph of all human gestures of creative beauty over the gestures of destruction."

In a later book, Professor Berger recounted his own religious discovery that there was an "otherness which lurks behind the fragile structures of everyday life."

Addressing his concern with creeping secularization, he argued that Protestants were uncritically embracing social movements instead of devoting themselves to the church's unchanging scriptural message. He confronted mainstream Protestant divinity schools, asserting that they were preoccupied with "making Christianity relevant" and that they spent more energy on courses in psychology, sociology and church management than on theology.

Yet, he said, theological training was essential if Christianity was to penetrate "the consciousness of this age."

Professor Berger held a series of teaching positions at a number of campuses, including Boston University, as well as the New School for Social Research, Brooklyn College, Rutgers University and Boston College.

Peter Berger on the explosive growth of Pentecostalism. Video by Berkley Center

Peter Ludwig Berger was born on March 17, 1929, in Vienna, the son of George William and the former Jelka Loew. His mother, he recalled, filled him with stories of the glories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Hapsburgs, an upbringing he credited for his generally conservative outlook.

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"A Rumor of Angels" was required reading for years in college sociology and theology courses.

He immigrated to the United States when he was 17, shortly after World War II ended, and enrolled at Wagner College on Staten Island. He graduated in 1949 and did his doctoral work at the New School in Manhattan, where many on the faculty were brilliant émigrés who had escaped Hitler.

He also spent a year as a candidate for the ministry at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia before deciding to abandon the quest. He was reluctant, he later said, to preach the definition of Christian faith strictly according to the Lutheran Confessions. His thinking, he decided, fit best "within the traditions of Protestant liberalism."

In 1960, after several teaching stints and Army service, he joined the faculty of the Hartford Seminary Foundation. He also wrote, for Doubleday, two critiques of the church as an institution: "The Noise of Solemn Assemblies: Christian Commitment and the Religious Establishment in America," and "The Precarious Vision: A Sociologist Looks at Social Fictions and Christian Faith," both published in 1961.

Both books urged a return to a Christian vision rooted in the Bible's fundamentals and proved popular with younger Christians.

"A Rumor of Angels" enhanced his standing as a theologian. In 1969, the Vatican's Secretariat for Nonbelievers asked him to organize a conference on secularization for scholars of various religious backgrounds.

Professor Berger collaborated on several books with his wife, Brigitte Berger, herself a prominent sociologist and author. One book looked at how technology and industrialization were breaking down the emotional bonds of community.

The couple met in Germany, where Professor Berger was working for a Protestant research firm after serving in the Army there for two years during World War II. Brigitte Kellner was a student and the daughter of a fiercely anti-Nazi German whom the Russians imprisoned after the war because he was a landowner. She and her mother escaped that fate by jumping off a train that was deporting them. She and Professor Berger met again in New York and married in 1959. She died in 2015.

Besides his son Thomas, Professor Berger is survived by another son, Michael, and two grandchildren.

Another book by him was "The Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation." It urged theologians concerned about declining faith to make "heretical" choices by finding the points of agreement between Christianity and Hinduism and Buddhism. It was nominated for a 1980 National Book Award.

Despite his stature, Professor Berger had some detractors. The Catholic philosopher Michael Novak (who died in February) praised the ideas in "A Rumor of Angels" as provocative but said the book's tone "is patronizing and its arguments are hurriedly put together."

Other critics rejected his scolding of Protestant churches for embracing social movements. Discussing "A Far Glory: The Quest for Faith in an Age of Credulity" (1992) in The New York Times Book Review, the author and critic Eleanor Munro said his "argument seems lost in language" and took him to task for his animus toward "theologizing feminists."

"The text is peppered around the edges with a quantity of neoconservative bigotry," she wrote.

Before the century was over, Professor Berger confessed that he had erred in asserting that modernity necessarily diminished faith. Except for locales like Western Europe and social groups like intellectuals, most of the world is as religious as ever, he concluded.

The belief in Jesus, he wrote in 1998 in The Christian Century, the journal of liberal Protestantism, might be slumping in mainline churches but was flourishing "in those 'weak' places where people are unsure of themselves, groping for a few glimpses of truth to hold onto."

Professor Berger traveled to countries like India to better appreciate third world cultures and religions other than the Judeo-Christian faiths. Given the power of religions like Islam within their societies, he realized that his fixation on secularization was "ethnocentric."

The poverty he saw on his excursions also led him to grapple with political ideas, particularly the ideologies aimed at alleviating misery, though he concluded in "Movement and Revolution" (1970), a collection of essays by him and the theologian Richard John Neuhaus, that reform was possible without radical shifts like Marxism.

In another political writing venture, a 1971 article in The New Republic with his wife, he predicted that the newly college-educated children of the largely white lower-middle and working classes would supplant the children of the upper-middle class at the top of a technological society. This would happen, he said, because so many of the more affluent young were counterculture revolutionaries who had rejected the Protestant work ethic.



Protesters Want America To Know Trump’s Muslim Ban Will Rip Families Apart

POLITICS 
06/29/2017 10:54 pm ET | Updated 13 hours ago

Protesters Want America To Know Trump's Muslim Ban Will Rip Families Apart

"The Statue of Liberty doesn't say, 'Give me your tired, your poor ... as long as you have a bona fide connection to the U.S.'"

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NEW YORK ― Rama Issa-Ibrahim says she and her fiance had planned to get married in the next few months. Not anymore.

The Trump administration on Thursday night began enforcing travel restrictions, days after the Supreme Court partially reinstated President Donald Trump's ban on travel and immigration by citizens of six majority-Muslim countries: Libya, Somalia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, and Syria. 

Issa-Ibrahim, 29, said she has a lot of extended family members who are Syrian nationals. Some are still in war-torn Syria, and there's a cousin in Lebanon, and another cousin living as a refugee in Austria.

Issa-Ibrahim said she worried that the return of the ban would block all of these family members from coming to America for her wedding, or that they would be detained or deported if they tried.

She doesn't want to get married without them, so she and her fiance have decided to put the wedding on hold. 

"What makes me most upset is that this administration is really redefining what family means," Issa-Ibrahim, who works as executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, told a crowd of protesters Thursday in Manhattan's Union Square.

The federal government, she said, shouldn't have "the right to say who should be part of your family." 

SPENCER PLATT VIA GETTY IMAGES

In its unsigned order this week, the Supreme Court stipulated that Trump's ban could be implemented while the court considers an appeal, but that it wouldn't apply to individuals "who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

Trump's State Department sent a memo Wednesday night to American embassies interpreting "bona fide relationship" as excluding "grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiancés, and any other 'extended' family members" from coming to the U.S. 

Widad Hassan, a 28-year-old Yemeni American graduate student from Brooklyn, also showed up at the Union Square protest, where hundreds held "NO BAN" signs and chanted, "Say it loud! Say it clear! Immigrants are welcome here!"

"I do have a grandmother who is in Yemen right now, and I personally can't do anything for her," Hassan said. "I know people in the community who have been devastated because they've been petitioning for extended family members ― grandparents, nephews, nieces ― [to come to the U.S.] and they can't do anything for them at this point."

JOE PENNEY / REUTERS

It's frustrating, she added, for people to work hard for years to bring their family members ― many of them from war-torn countries ― only to be suddenly told no.

"I think there's just the emotional strain of being separated from your family members and knowing they're not in a safe place," Hassan said.

As the 8 p.m. starting time for Trump's ban neared, volunteer lawyers flocked to airports in New York, San Francisco and Washington, ready to assist any travelers from the six affected countries who might find themselves detained by border agents.

It's all déjà vu for Tarek Ismail, senior staff attorney at the City University of New York Law School's Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibilityproject. He helped Muslim travelers in January, when Trump first signed an executive order indefinitely banning Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S., shutting down the whole refugee program for 120 days, and barring all immigrants and visitors from the six countries, plus Iraq.

Federal courts halted Trump's ban ― as well as a revised version Trump issued in March ― ruling that both unlawfully discriminated against Muslims. Although the revised ban may be less severe, Ismail said it was still cruel and discriminatory. And it's not normal.

"The idea that a refugee should have to prove a bona fide relationship to the U.S. in order to substantiate coming here is completely counter-intuitive," Ismail said. "It completely defies purpose of having laws facilitating refugees seeking safe haven in this country.

"The Statue of Liberty doesn't say, 'Give me your tired, your poor ... as long as you have a bona fide connection to the U.S.," he added.

What's needed is protests, like the massive demonstrations that broke out in January at the country's airports, Ismail said. Decision-makers, he said, including elected representatives, Customs and Border Patrol agents, and judges, need to see that there's resistance.

Thursday's protest was certainly a start.

JOE PENNEY / REUTERS

"We should be ashamed of ourselves that there are people sitting in refugee camps who are the victims of terrorism and violence, and we are telling them that they do not belong here," Linda Sarsour, the prominent Muslim American activist and Women's March organizer, told the crowd. "So what I say to you is this: We have to stay loud and outraged every single day."

The crowd then marched uptown through Manhattan, taking up whole city blocks on the way to a town hall meeting on the ban, where they planned to discuss resistance strategies. 

"No ban, No wall!" they yelled, as tourists and other onlookers stepped out of shops to photograph them.

JOE PENNEY / REUTERS

When they arrived at the town hall meeting on 19th Street, they were greeted by a middle-aged white man and a white woman, carrying signs that read, "Keep Syrians Out" and "Back the Ban."

The couple began chanting, "Back the ban!" But the crowd of protesters drowned them out with a chant of their own.

"Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!"

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