Monday, December 6, 2021
It's Monday, December 6th, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Violence Lurks in the Human Heart: Sifting through the Moral Complexities of the Horrifying School Shooting in Oxford, Michigan
We know that violence lurks in the human heart, but still we are stunned when that violence breaks out as it did in Oakland County, Michigan in a high school last Tuesday, when a young man age 15, who had been given a gun by his parents bought just on Black Friday after Thanksgiving opened fire, killing four of his classmates and seriously wounding several others. This was one of those stories that immediately caught the nation's attention, but as the story unfolded, it turns out there is much, much more to this story. Now, it's hard even to put this into a moral context in which you consider the fact that we've had these school shootings over and over again. And yet, as you look to this particular unfolding story, the participation of the parents is different to extent that by Sunday morning, both his mother and his father were in custody and arrested on several felony charges.
But the spreading sense of responsibility goes even beyond the 15 year old and his parents to the school authorities and others because what we now know is that on Tuesday morning of last week, this teenager's parents walked into the school in order to have a conference with school authorities who were already concerned about at least two developments. One of them having to do with pictures that the young man had drawn, indicating violence and we now know also writing words that caused grave concern at least to one teacher. And we also know beyond that, that he had tried to order ammunition at some point and had tried to order that ammunition online on his phone, was caught. We also know that his own mother basically said after that, that she was not angry at him for breaking the school rules. Most importantly, she wasn't angry at him for trying to buy ammunition online. She just advised him he had to learn how to do so without being caught.
By yesterday, a team of reporters for the New York Times would tell us, "first a teacher found"--and I won't mention the young man's--"name searching online for ammunition. The next day, there was an alarming note on his desk. The thoughts won't stop. Help me." Now, just consider the next line. "School officials met with the student, age 15 and his parents informing them that he needed to begin counseling within 48 hours. After his parents resisted bringing him home, administrators allowed him to stay in school. Shortly afterward, the 15 year old boy fatally shot four students. According to the prosecutor in Oakland County, Michigan who laid out that stunning series of events on Friday while announcing involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents." Now, police have charged the 15 year old as an adult and he is now charged with what amount to dozens of serious felony charges, including charges related to the intentional killing of his classmates.
There's every likelihood that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. But this story now unfolds in concentric circles of responsibility and the shocking nature of the story as such that it should cause Americans and in particular, American Christians to think very, very carefully about what we are facing here. We are facing a 15 year old who had access to a gun precisely because his parents bought him the gun, a nine millimeter. And we are also told that they allowed him to have access such that he was able to take the gun to school with ammunition. He had it fully loaded. He was able after his parents persuaded school authorities to leave him in school that day, he was able on Tuesday to go into a bathroom and to come out having taken the gun out of his backpack. He left the backpack in the bathroom. He came out shooting and we now know what resulted was a deadly rampage.
So, often when these shootings taped place, whether in a school or somewhere else, we asked the question, why didn't someone see what was about to happen? Were there no clues? Was there no sign of a troubled personality? Was there no indication of intent? But the horrifying reality in this case is the fact that there appeared to be many people who had plenty of clues, indeed more than clues, they had plenty of prima facie evidence of the fact that this was not only a very troubled young man, this was a boy who intended to carry out mass murder. In his own words he had written the thoughts won't stop. Help me. We know now that there were also other evidences in terms of his drawings and messaging that had cause concern, concern sufficient that the school authorities there in that Oxford High School in Oakland County, Michigan called in his parents and evidently they intended to send the boy home with his parents.
But his parents persuaded by some means, having resisted the idea that their son would be sent home from school. They arranged that he would be left in school and here's what we now know. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever and indeed it's actually a stronger case than that, there is every reason to believe that the parents having known of this boy's troubled situation, having known of the concerns of the school, and having known that they not only had consciousness, knowledge of the fact that he had a gun, but they had provided the gun for him. They did not ask him if he had his gun with him at the school when they insisted that the school allow him to stay. The level of the parents' culpability was so high that on Friday, the Oakland County Prosecutor, Karen D. McDonald, indicated that indictments were being released against the parents on multiple felonies.
But then the story only turned more bizarre, something like a 2021 version of Bonnie and Clyde. When the reports came that James and Jennifer Crumbley were effectively on the lamb, on the run, hiding from police. Lawyers for the couple said that they had left the area because of concerns for their own safety. But by the time we reached the weekend, it was not only law enforcement officials there in Oakland County, Michigan, but others throughout greater Detroit who were conducting what could only be described as a man hunt. And the two parents were found early on Sunday morning in a commercial property in Detroit. Having failed to show up for their arraignment, they were treated as fugitives and were apprehended as such. This story began tragic, it has now turned into a tragedy mixed with a farce, but at least there is a very serious moral issue that we confront here having to do with the parents, but also having to do with the school system. So, many questions are being asked as to why school authorities allowed the boy to stay on Tuesday?
Because as it appears, they had the authority to send him home. They indicated that they would order that the parents must arrange psychiatric or psychological counseling for the boy within 48 hours or they would report the family to Child and Protective Services. But of course, none of that ever happened because it was preempted by the fact that the boy pulled the gun out of his backpack and began killing his own classmates. Now, again the biblical world view reminds us that we cannot adequately and truthfully look into any other human heart and read it. Frankly, we are not always able even to understand our own hearts. And when we look at so many of these horrible crimes, we just have to ask ourselves over and over again. Could anyone have seen something? Could anyone have known that this was coming together as a plot, as a plan, as an intention in someone's heart? Could anyone have put together the clues? And of course, in retrospect, many clues appear connected that were missed at the time. But all that has to be put to the side in this case because all of the indications were present.
There was more than clear and sufficient evidence of the fact that this boy intended a deadly attack. And then that raises the most bizarre and troubling of all questions, knowing their own son and understanding as parents in this case had to understand that he was a deeply troubled young man, why did they buy him a gun? Why did they buy him a pistol that could be hidden in a backpack? Why did they allow him to have access to ammunition? Why did they allow him to go to school? Why did they allow him to have access to that gun without parental supervision? Why did the mother seem to cheer him on? Why did he give evidence on that day after Thanksgiving of the fact that his parents were proud of having provided him with this gun? Why did his mother basically egg him on after he was caught violating school rules and also in the most troubling manner, seeking to order ammunition online as a 15 year old boy? Why did his mother basically say, "I'm not mad at you. You just have to learn how to do this without getting caught."
Now, given the biblical understanding of parenthood and just given a common grace creation based understanding, even in the secular world of the responsibility of parents, it is as if this was the worst combination of three human beings we might even imagine. The husband and the wife and the son in this case in a triple conspiracy that eventually led to murder. If the parents didn't know the murder was going to happen, the bottom line is this mass murder was facilitated by these parents.
‘These Kids Know They’re Untouchable’: The Loss of Discipline in Schools and Its Effects on Society as a Whole
But this also raises the largest of questions about our society right now, not just in terms of the violence, but the unwillingness of so many people to become involved in making decisions that might be unpopular, but are clearly right, indeed clearly necessary. Why was this 15 year old boy allowed to remain in school? Why was he allowed to have access to his backpack? Why did his parents allow him to have the gun?
These are huge questions, but the questions get to the fact that what we are seeing in so much of our society is an unwillingness or even an ideological inability to act in such a way as to prevent this violence when the pieces of the puzzle are all too evident. Our schools here, the public schools are just emblematic of the larger society. Only ironically, as it might be said only more so. More so in the sense that we have disallowed the schools from having any authority, we have disallowed the schools from punishing students. There have been so many claims that discipline is disproportionate, that discipline is largely disappeared from schools. Throughout the public school systems of America this is becoming just indicative of a moral disarmament and furthermore, a disauthorization, authority taken away from school leaders.
And in these cases you have so much fear of political pressure, you have so many people claiming that disproportionate statistics when it comes to discipline in the public schools, mean that the discipline system basically has to be replaced with something that can't even be described as discipline. In the Jefferson County public schools here in Kentucky, a headline coming about just the first two weeks of school, "more than 400 fights reported at JCPS in the opening weeks of 2021, 2022. 582 behavior referrals, 425 fights in the first two weeks of school" on December the first, just a few days ago, the Courier Journal reported "inside Iroquois High School on Tuesday, several students were recorded on cell phone, fighting in the cafeteria. A Jefferson County Public School security guard and a student went to the hospital afterwards."
The reporter here, Valerie Chen tells us that the Union President that represents bus drivers and school security guards "said the security guard tried to break up the fight along with some staff members. He was eventually attacked from the back and pretty much choked out and taken to the hospital." The union leader went on to say that there are probably six or seven security guards at this one school, "but one resigned Monday and two others took other positions in the district." Well this report tells us a good reason why. This news report in the Courier Journal said, "In the first 71 days of the school year, there have already been 6,700 fights." The Union Leader got right to the point, "Right now, these kids know they're untouchable and until there are consequences for their actions, they're not stupid. They know what they can get away with. They know there's no punishment other than maybe a one day suspension or something like that."
Now this is a phenomenon just about everywhere, especially in major urban areas in the United States, in these school systems because this is a nationwide problem. That nationwide problem is a breakdown of order, it is an embrace of disorder. It is basically allowing misbehavior to become the rule and education to become a sideline if present at all. And you are also looking at the fact that we are a society that will not face this issue clearly. So, many people complain that we are now a society that doesn't take violence seriously, but we can understand that because clearly we are a society that does not take these sources of violence seriously.
And here's where Christians have to understand there is no way a school district can function if the neighborhood doesn't function. There's no way a neighborhood can function if the family doesn't function. And that is what we see right now, we are reaping the harvest of so many children, so many teenagers, so many young people, so many teaming groups of students in the schools who simply face no consequences for their misbehavior, who lack any adequate social structure and moral culture that would prevent them from giving themselves to this kind of violence. But you also see that this is not merely something that can be explained by socioeconomics because Oxford High School, they're in Oakland County, Michigan is not in an inner city area. And when you look at the young man, 15 years old, who opened fire there in that Michigan high school, he did have two parents. So, it's not sufficient to have two parents if those parents are going to be as irresponsible as this mother and this father in Michigan.
But before leaving this as there are so many grieving there in Michigan and beyond, we just have to acknowledge that perhaps the saddest commentary on all of this and the aftermath of the shooting and as we try to understand what has taken place, once you take account of the devastating loss of young human, you also have to face the fact that we are a society that has lost the ability to speak honestly, about this kind of murderous act, this kind of parenting, this kind of irresponsibility, and this kind of mayhem that we have set loose in our society. And finally, on this story, even as there has been so much of an exodus from so many public school systems in recent years, an exodus exacerbated by the pandemic, the reality is that American parents from coast to coast and from north to south are going to have to think very, very carefully about the moral culture into which they are putting their children.
It's not just what is taught; it is the moral context. And the dangers are not just ideological as this tragedy in Michigan makes very, very clear. If there is a breakdown in discipline, nothing else will really matter.
CNN Fires Chris Cuomo — Evaluating the Worldview Issues Surrounding CNN’s Loss of Primetime News Anchor
But next, as we deal with sin and scandal and consequences and shame, we have to turn to the unfolding story of former CNN anchor, Chris Cuomo. His brother just a matter of months ago, went down in a titanic scandal in which the multi-term governor of New York had to resign facing the fact that he was looking at consequences of actions that included multiple charges of sexual misbehavior, including sexual harassment and sexual abuse. And also the intentional misrepresentation of death statistics in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And those statistics would have pointed directly to actions and policies taken by New York's governor in the early months of the pandemic, actions that undoubtedly led to the deaths of many people in nursing homes who died of COVID-19.
Already on the briefing, we have made reference to this particular story and the fact that Chris Cuomo, the younger brother of Andrew Cuomo, who had risen to prominence, including the most important primetime slot on CNN's News desk, that 9:00 Eastern time hour in the evening, Chris Cuomo had been operating by a policy that had been established by Jeff Zucker and other authorities at CNN that stated that he was not to be actively involved in news coverage, much less on camera presentations of his brother, the New York governor. But during the context of COVID-19, CNN was itself institutionally complicit in changing its own policy to allow Chris Cuomo basically to banter back and forth with his brother, making his brother the hero of the story of how a governor should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also leading to all kinds of ancillary issues, including the fact that Chris Cuomo got the infection himself, got sick, and there were allegations that he got preferential treatment even as he was the brother of the governor of New York.
And of course, both of them were the sons of one of the most famous of the governors of New York of the modern era, the late Mario Cuomo. But humiliating as it must have to CNN, which claims to be a legitimate news source, when their primetime anchor of the greatest ratings was found to have been complicit with his brother in trying to at least offer public relations advice in dealing with the escalating controversy that would eventually lead to his brother's resignation from office. Indeed in the midst of all of that, CNN stood by Chris Cuomo and he was basically allowed to say that he had just been acting as a good brother, as a brother first and yet he had not broken journalistic ethics. He had, he acknowledged "broken some CNN rules."
But in recent days, the Attorney General of New York Laticia James released a trove of data and the thousands of pages of evidence made very clear that Chris Cuomo had been far more involved with his brother in making plans and responding to the crisis and the charges and even trying to dig up information on the accusers against the governor.
Then on Tuesday of last week, CNN announced that he would be taking an indefinite suspension. He was indefinitely suspended. How indefinite? Well just for a matter of a few days because on Friday, CNN announced that he had been terminated by the network. Now, here's what's interesting. Two big points in worldview analysis, one is when you look at a story like this, look at whether or not anything new actually happened. The reality is that everything CNN said they had fired Chris Cuomo for last week was something that was basic very well-known months before that. It was hard to imagine how CNN could try to maintain any legitimacy in their argument of allowing Chris Cuomo to continue.
But it just points to a succession of missteps, including the fact that they allowed the Cuomo brothers to appear together in what was being presented as a serious news program that should at least have been framed in intention by journalistic ethics and then the fall of the brother. Well you can just figure out once it was known that the CNN anchor was involved, it was hard to imagine that he could survive in that role. And of course, we now know that he didn't, but there's another even bigger issue here because frankly, when you look at the story, indeed even the soap opera of two brothers, given a famous father, political involvement, the media. Well here's the point, there is a very unique world that combines that particular section of politics and that particular sector of the culture in the media in such a way that it is like a revolving door.
It is like just a circus, in which people can get off one horse and get on another as if it's a carousel. There is a revolving process whereby so many people leave government go into media, leave media go into government, have spouses who are in one or the other or both at the same time. And what you have is a very tight little circle of insiders who have inordinate influence in both politics and the media. And that's a very dangerous combination because it is simply the fact that so many of the people who are telling you what the news is and you're supposed to believe about major events and persons and happenings, they're the very people who are married to or romantically involved with or previously married to or previously romantically involved with, or being related to or a fellow alumnus of, you go down the list.
It is a very tight, little elite structure. And let's just say that you can figure that out pretty easily when they have the last name and look so much alike and show up side by side. You can pretty much figure that out. It's when they don't have the same last name, it's when they don't look just alike, that you might miss the fact that there's just a whole lot going on here. Press Secretary in the administration ends up being an anchor on the news. It just goes back and forth and back and forth. Now, does that happen on the right and the left? Is that true among both liberals and conservatives? Well yes, but not the same. And that's because so much of the media and so much of the political class is clearly far more liberal and progressive and leans, that's an understatement, highly towards the Democratic party.
Now you look at Fox News and you look at a couple of very conservative outlets you can say, well some of the same things take place. And you know what? That's true and where it happens with that kind of coziness, it ought to be known. It ought to be named exactly as it is on the left, but the predominant problem, especially in the elite media, just take for instance brands like the New York Times, the Washington Post, well that is not an issue when it comes to conservatives having all those relationships, because you're really not talking about conservatives there. You're talking about the media, industrial, political complex of the left.
Cute Animals Videos Online Receive Millions of Views: There Might Be a Good Reason for Millions of Humans to Watch a Grinning Seal
But finally, for today as we're thinking about scandals and the media, well here's one for you, several news reports this one is indeed from the New York Times about cute cat posts, helping "spread falsehoods online."
What's this all about? Well I'll just cut to the bottom line. Davy Alba reports "that there are so many looking at the media who have noticed that in social media, there are illegitimate outlets. According to this kind of media definition, there are illegitimate outlets that are getting attention because they are running cat videos and people are going from the cat videos or the pet videos to other videos."
Now the big issue here is not really about these media sources, it's not even just about this story. It is about the fact that evidently human beings are inordinately drawn to cute stuff on social media. Now again, just thinking in terms of a biblical worldview, there's not particularly a profound point to be made here other than God gave us so many things that cause us wonder, even things that can only be described as cute. And in a world in which there is so much heavy news, there's so many big issues, there is so much tragedy, there is so much heaviness.
Well that probably explains why online our attention is so easily drawn to a headline, "kitten and chick naps so sweetly together." I don't think you had to be particularly insightful given the weightiness of so many of the things that we have to think about and know about every day, to understand why one particular video that is described here as a seal grinning widely with a family posing for a picture at SeaWorld has gained 12 million views. But just one final note at this, I have to smile when I think about so many people who look at those videos and must think, boy evolution is wonderful.
But we know of course who really made the seal smile.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.