Seven people were killed and three injured yesterday when a man opened fire in a classroom at Oikos University, a small Christian college in Oakland. The shooter, who was arrested a short time later in nearby Alameda, is reported to be a 43-year-old former nursing student at the college who was “upset” over his recent expulsion from the school. (Local news report here.)
The story was appalling enough—and yet also, of course, familiar enough here in the gun-totin’ US of A—to make national headlines. My own first reflex was to wonder why I, an Oakland resident, had never heard of Oikos. And then I wondered about the name.
Oikos University was founded in 2004 by a Korean minister, Jongin Kim, who continues to serve as the university’s president. It is affiliated with a Korean-American church, the Praise to God Korean Church; its website is published in English and Korean. Its sole campus is in West Oakland, across the 880 freeway from the Oakland Coliseum complex. On the “welcome” page of the school’s website, Dr. Kim writes that the school’s main goal “is to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God’s intentions and to expand God’s nation through them.” The school offers degrees in biblical studies, nursing, ministry, music, and Asian medicine.
“Oikos” is neither English nor Korean; it’s a Greek word that translates to “home” or “domain.” Oikos is one of the roots of economy (literally “home management”) and ecology (“study of habitats”). But in Christian doctrine it has a different specific meaning. Dr. David Jeremiah explains it on Christianity.com:
Every Christian has a web (an oikos) of familial and social relationships. And by following its twists and turns, every Christian will encounter those who do not know the Gospel—but who need to.
Who is in your Oikos? A Greek oikos, or household, was not only a nuclear family but also relatives, close friends, and nearby servants’ families. Our oikos includes those with whom we share kinship (blood or marital ties), interests (work, recreation, community), and proximity (neighbors, coworkers). Every Christian shares some space with people who have not heard the Gospel or seen it lived out in an authentic way.
We think it’s a great name for our Greek yogurt because it reminds us of a time when people’s homes were intimately connected with nature and most foods came from household gardens and family herds.
I do know just enough about Christianity, however, to recognize that the shooting of ten students on a Christian university campus—“a slaughter,” according to the Oakland Tribune—is a sad and grisly way to begin Holy Week.