On November 30th, 2021, a 15 year old sophomore male came out of a bathroom at Oxford High School with a semi-automatic gun his father had given him days prior. He chose to open fire 30 times at his classmates at close range killing four students and inuring six more students and a teacher.
When detained by police minutes later, they found 18 rounds of unused ammunition on the shooter.
At the time it was the 29th school shooting this year.
I serve in a church in southeast Michigan that is an hour from Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan. Days and weeks after the shooting the school districts in our surrounding area (and across the nation) were facing social media threats of more school violence. Students were being kept home from their school by their parents as fear increased with students asking their school administrators about the security and protection of their lives.
Here are some lessons we can learn from the Oxford High School shooting:
(1) The Family Unit Matters.
So much speculation continues to circle on how this specific shooting happened and who is responsible. No one made Ethan Cumbley, the shooter, pull the trigger, he made that choice. The Oxford school district is being sued by parents who had children injured or killed in the shooting.
There’s blame being shot at Michigan law-makers for there being no law against gun owners keeping their weapons locked away children.
But try to picture Ethan Crumbley being raised in a home that loved him like Jesus does him.
What if Ethan witnessed a marriage daily in his parents that was nurturing, gentle, compassionate and edifying?
Instead Ethan’s parents are known for DUI’s, alleged child abuse towards Ethan and buying their child a 9MM handgun on Black Friday of this year, an early Christmas present.
The family unit matters. A godly husband married to a godly wife who are together submitting to Jesus daily and are intentionally raising godly children: it matters.
We should not be quick to judge the parenting style of James and Jennifer Crumbley until each dad and mom looks at their parenting style holds up in terms of godly or worldly, proactive or reactive, in gentleness or in anger, in gratitude or in whining.
(2) Bullying in the Schools Matters.
The Oxford school district claims there were no documented reports of Ethan Crumbley being bullied by others in his school.
But I know that he was bullied and here’s how I know: his actions show a miserable, isolated child.
He had a journal that was recovered which included detailed plans on shooting and killing classmates.
On Ethan’s cell phone were at least 2 videos of him stating he was going to attack students.
This school shooting was premeditated and yet he told no one of it. He had no safety at home to speak of it. He had no friends at school to speak of it. This shooting was a shock to his 18 year old brother. This was a lonely child who only told his journal and his smart phone. He had no trusting friendships who could’ve told him this was a horrible idea.
He had been ostracized and the feelings of rejection, jealousy, insecurity and anger led to this tragedy.
I sit down with my children and talk about their role at school. Above excelling academically, I want them to be a leader in kindness.
So, if a student is sitting by themselves at the lunch table, that’s the moment I want my child to invite that marginalized student into the conversation at lunch, to bring them over and get to know them.
On the playground at school, if a child looks down and off away from the other students having fun at recess, I am raising my children to be the one to walk over and include the distant child in the activities.
My oldest daughter has chosen for the second school year in a row to sacrifice one of her recess times to be a safety volunteer for younger students at her school and every afternoon she comes home telling me how she included a sad student with others on the playground.
I don’t want to incorrectly allegorize Luke chapter 15 which references Jesus’ parable of the shepherd leaving the 99 safe sheep and going after the 1 lost sheep. It’s a parable about evangelism, yes, but who are the students going after the 1 student who is off by themselves?
This is why the family unit matters. We cannot be raising students who are self-indulged and judgmental – where they only care about themselves and how they look and if they ever look up from their smartphone, they look at others with cold harshness.
Our students have got to be lights of love in their schools. They’ve got to be includers, people of kindness, and I would love to know what acts of love the Christians at Oxford High School attempted to pour on Ethan Crumbley.
(3) Praying For Our Schools Matters.
The day the Oxford shooting happened I reached out to six Oxford school district officials on how my church can help and I got an email three days later from one administrator saying, “We need prayers. Prayers. More prayers. The prayers are working. We are seeing God redeem this situation already.”
Prayer matters. Prayer should be done in all aspects of your life. Sometimes prayer is reactive, like in this situation with the church praying for Oxford High School and the victim’s families.
But prayer can also be intentional, like you praying for the schools in your community every day. You can pray for safety, for the leaders of the school, for Jesus’ light to grow in the dark hallways and locker rooms of the schools.
Be honest with me here: Who is still praying for Oxford High School 30 days later?
Who got distracted by Christmas plans and a new Covid-variant and family plans this month?
Because when the shooting happened all I saw on social media was, Praying for Oxford. Prayers sent towards Oxford. Praying for the families of Oxford.
Just a month later we’ve forgotten to pray for Oxford which is also an indication we might not be in daily prayer for the schools closest to our home.
When the Sandy Hook shooting happened in Connecticut in 2012 so many people prayed for a week and then forgot.
It happened with the Parkland, Florida shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Paris, France attacks, the Las Vegas shooting. We said we were praying and forgot to do so.
We all changed our social media profile pictures to reflect the fact that we were keeping those schools, those cities in our prayers.
Listen, prayer matters and the school district in your community needs prayer more than they need their levy to pass. They need prayer more than they need a successful football team. They need prayer more than they need a good academic rating from the state they’re in.
The school boards need prayer. The principals need prayer. The teachers need prayer. The Christians in the schools need prayer. Physical prayer walks should be happening around the school.
I have committed to praying for Oxford High School for 40 days since the shooting happened.
I’m praying for the family of Hana, Tate, Madisyn and Justin, all who were killed in the Oxford shooting. I’m praying specifically for the 7 injured people and for the fear and anxiety that school has.
Do you know who else I’m praying for?
Ethan Crumbley and his parents.
Did Jesus suggest that we should love our enemies or did He command it?
I know of a father and mother who lost their teenage son in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The drunk driver survived, their son did not. The son’s parents were Christians and they have forgiven the drunk driver, visited him in prison and plan to pay for his sobriety counseling once released from prison.
It is possible to pray for your enemies.
So while most people will be shocked by Ethan’s actions and call him demonic, I’m praying for his salvation, for the grace of Jesus to change his entire life.
While most people will blame his parents for his actions, I’m praying for James and Jennifer to give their past, their sin, their lives to Jesus.
Human life is MOST precious to God. Meaning, if God were to pick between loving on your family pet or loving on Ethan, He chooses Ethan 100 out of 100 times. God loves Ethan as much as He loves you. Ethan has a soul. Ethan has an eternal destination after this life, so I’m also praying for him.
And I’ve upped my prayers for the school district in my city.
The family unit matters. How Christians in the schools respond to bullying matters. Covering the next generation and their educational leaders in prayer matters.
Thanks for reading, know you are so loved by Jesus.