Category Archives: In the News

Scapegoating, Responsibility, and Neighborly Love in the Plague

Here’s a very relevant article to the age of Covid-19 – a brief history of the church’s response to another pandemic – this one in the 14th century. There are lessons for us here, and I recommend it to you.

The writer is my son, Joel Looper (PhD, University of Aberdeen), author of the forthcoming book A Protestantism without Reformation: What Dietrich Bonhoeffer Saw in America (Baylor Press). Continue reading

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Dealing with Isolation During the Covid-19 Crisis

In 2016, long before the advent of Covid-19, The New York Times ran a piece by a Dr. Dhruv Khullar titled, “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us.” “Social isolation,” Dr. Khullar wrote, “is a growing epidemic—one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.”

What effect will the social distancing measures ordered by state and federal leaders to combat the spread of Coivd-19 have on this older and more pervasive social isolation epidemic? When it’s over, will people make an extra effort to connect with others following weeks of enforced social distancing? Or will these temporary measures have legs—will they continue on after the executive orders have expired?

Digital distractions have already replaced human interactions for many people in daily life. The coronavirus may exacerbate this new reality.

Experts say that about one in three people in the U.S. lives alone. Among those who are over 85, the number is more like one in two. Katie Hafner, reporting in The New York Times, writes that “studies … show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 to 46 percent.” Khullar states that “A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us,” impacting sleep, altering immune systems, and raising stress hormones levels.

When isolation becomes the norm, outsiders become a threat—and for many people, isolation is the norm. Continue reading

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Has the Generation Gap Become an Abyss?

The term “generation gap” came into use in the 1960s, as both young and old people recognized basic generational differences in outlook, aspirations, and values. Acknowledging that there were differences did little to improve strained relationships. It may even have exacerbated them.

The troublemakers in those days, at least in the eyes of the “Traditionalists” (as they are sometimes called), were the Baby Boomers. Those young whippersnappers went off to college and suddenly thought they knew everything. They called the older generation names: “square,” “uptight,” and “plastic” (that is, hypocritical). They faulted them for not thinking for themselves; for just doing whatever “the Man” told them to do.

How ironic it is that today’s Millennials and Gen Z’s, while using different terminology, accuse the formerly freethinking Boomers of the same things. The gap may not be as wide as it was in the sixties, but it has deepened. When a Gen Z says, “OK, Boomer,” they’re not just telling Boomers they are wrong, they’re telling them they don’t matter. Continue reading

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A Different Kind of Climate Change

Though many Americans first became aware of climate science in the last few decades, it has a long history. By the 1850s, scientists investigating large-scale climate differences in past geological ages began to suspect that atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane might have an impact on global temperatures.

Their theories generated debate but not consensus. Nevertheless, interest in vacillating global temperatures (in ages past) grew. By the late 1950s, some scientists were not just thinking about the history of climate change but its future and they saw trouble ahead.

I feel like one of those 1950s climate scientists (minus the math proficiency). Like them, I am warning about climate change, although it is a different climate – the social climate – that concerns me. I too see trouble ahead.

In the earth sciences, climate change is measured by temperature fluctuations in earth’s oceans, on its surface, and in its lower troposphere. In the social climate, change is measured by fluctuations in respect and contempt levels. Currently, respect levels are falling and contempt levels are rising.

Social climate change threatens human flourishing. It puts human institutions like marriage and government at risk. Long-term consequences could include poverty, governmental instability, and the unraveling of the social fabric.

What signs are there of social climate change? Continue reading

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Grief and Hope in the Face of Kobe’s Death

I watched a video clip of Shaquille O’Neal sitting with his sports show co-hosts, talking about the sudden, tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26. At several points in Shaq’s monologue, he was forced to pause, overcome with emotion.

Shaq’s grief is understandable: Kobe was a teammate, friend, and, in times past, an opponent in a very public feud. Shaq’s complicated friendship with Kobe would undoubtedly bring a deep and profound grief. But millions of people who never met Kobe, even people who never saw Kobe play, were deeply affected by the superstar’s death.

What accounts for this outpouring of grief? How is it that so many people experienced shock and disbelief when they learned that Kobe died? Most of us who have reached adulthood, certainly those who are middle-aged or older, are well acquainted with grief. We’ve all lost someone – perhaps many someones – we have loved. So why should the death of a celebrity we never met touch us so deeply?

Kobe’s passing brings the reality of death home to us. If a handsome, healthy young man like Kobe Bryant – a competitor, a victorious warrior – could be vanquished, then none of us is safe. Unlike other celebrities who died young, Kobe was not courting death. He wasn’t living a devil-may-care kind of life. If this could happen to him…
Continue reading

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The Man Who Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7th is the anniversary of the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, a day which, according President Roosevelt, would live in infamy.

My friend Hugh Hansel was an adolescent in 1941. He had gone fishing on a sunny Sunday in northwest Ohio and, when he returned home, he found the adults agitated and fearful. Over the next couple of years, Hugh watched older schoolmates go off to the war. He saw how they and their parents wept at their parting, and his young heart developed a deep hatred for the Japanese.

Fast forward to the next decade. Hugh had himself seen combat in Korea. After returning home, he and his wife Phyllis moved to Upland, Indiana, to attend Taylor University and pursue a degree in education. While he was there, it was announced that Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, would be on campus to speak. Signs began going up around Upland, calling on people to boycott Fuchida’s speech.

But Hugh wanted to see the monster who had attacked an unsuspecting enemy. He was filled with hate toward the Japanese generally and toward Fuchida in particular. Yet, by the time Fuchida’s speech ended, he had experienced a complete change of mind. He waited for Fuchida, not to give him a piece of his mind but to shake his hand.

The story he heard Fuchida tell was remarkable. Continue reading

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The Power of Idolatry and the Idolatry of Power

The last sentence in St. John’s first letter is: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” It’s placement as the apostle’s final word gives it substantial weight. He clearly regarded it as important.
We do not. The sentence hardly seems to fit our postmodern era. Idols were a part of their culture, not ours. Humanity has advanced beyond our ancestors’ crude worship, lavished as it was on lifeless, heartless symbols and images.
Think again. Consider the images that we have endowed with power: the apple with a bite taken out of it (Apple Corporation); the golden arches (McDonald’s); five yellow bars, radiating out like sunrays (Walmart); the smirky gold smile (Amazon). These images connote power, even world dominance.
One year out from the U.S. general election, I can think of two other symbols that connote power. The Donkey and the Elephant. Continue reading

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Man Forgives His Brother’s Killer

The reporter’s “cultural” explanation also fails to explain similar acts of forgiveness. Who can forget the forgiveness offered by Emanuel AME Church in Charleston to the white supremacist killer Dylan Roof? Then there was the multi-colored Jamrowski family in El Paso who forgave the man who went to Walmart to kill Latinos. And some of us remember Corrie Ten Boom, who forgave her Nazi guard after the deaths of her sister and parents and her own terrible mistreatment in Ravensbrück.
People don’t understand it – this remarkable forgiveness. Some are angered by it. But sooner or later people will come to recognize it. It is the mark of the forgiven people of Jesus. Continue reading

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Why Would I Jump out of an Airplane at 14,000 Feet?

The answer to the question in the title is: Because I want to. I’ve wanted to for decades. When I was younger, I often dreamed I was flying: I would jump in the air and just float, at will, over the neighborhood, the city, the countryside. Sometimes when I got into bed at night I would hope for that dream.
But that is flying, not falling, which is presumably what happens when one steps out of an airplane. Continue reading

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The Insurgency of Love Is Looking for Recruits

In 2007, President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 soldiers to Bagdad and the Anbar Province in Iraq. The objective was, in part, a “unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain … Continue reading

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