The above video clip that I uploaded from the Academy Award nominee for best documentary, Jesus Camp, provides us with an excellent example of a missed opportunity for healthy disequilibrium.

Notice the great question (coupled with the dangerous “us against them” tone) followed by the lack of continued challenge in allowing Levi to really wrestle with the conflict.

Now, to discuss this issue we must first agree on a few issues:

  • Effective Christian education is concerned not only with what the Bible teaches but also with God’s design of people.
  • There are patterns in which God has created us to learn.
  • People have worth and dignity and are to be honored.
  • “All truth is God’s truth”
  • Scripture is our ultimate authority.

And so as we affirm these values we can then enter into the world of educational psychology, realizing that though science isn’t the ultimate truth…it does have components of truth that we can filter through our “truth authority,” Scripture, and be used to help us in better serving & honoring our learners.

We can then lean on the social science insights of Swiss Psychologist, Jean Piaget, who in the mid-1900’s described the mental state of disequilibrium: a tension, anxiety, discomfort or mental confusion.  It is when one’s mental balance is disturbed…and is the doorway towards mental growth…and a richer understanding of faith concepts.

The theory of disequilibrium is important to know for teachers in understanding how people learn and how to best use teaching strategies.

Forming and reforming our knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith is something we do our entire lives.  The question is how will we seek to proactively facilitate this process to occur daily within our teaching ministry settings?

Yes, teaching is about support.  But it also must be about challenge, and allowing our learners to really wrestle through an issue, while not being so quick to give them the answer (and in many circumstances, not giving them the answer at all!)

Food for disequilibration.


~ by Dave Smith on March 6, 2008.

7 Responses to “Disequilibriate!”

  1. I saw Jesus Camp in NYC last year, and I have to say, it’s one of the most poorly done “documentaries” I have ever seen. It is misleading and dishonest throughout. At best, it sets up a terribly easy strawman to defeat, and at worst, it is intentional propaganda.

    In spite of its blatant (and in my opinion intentional) shortcomings, there are some interesting learning moments, which you are right to point out. The most obvious learning moments are directly related to Christian education, and I think you’re spot on with your analysis.

    Props for being able to use a film as awful as Jesus Camp and finding something redemptive about it. I guess it’s true after all; all things can work together for good.

  2. Interesting point about this documentary being dishonest and misleading…although I am unsure it was intentional.

    Most Christians feel it is misleading to call Becky and her “camp” evangelical…but to an outsider, what other term would you use? Outside a few theological differences we have more in common with Becky than different.

    It was interesting that even Pentecostals didn’t like the film…however Becky’s responce to it was that it was accurate, and she had no complaints.

    Overall, I think you are right in the fact that with documentaries…that though they see to “document” reality, like any case study there is always subjectivity.

  3. At the very beginning of this movie, it gives several statistics about “evangelicals,” which leads the uninformed viewer to believe that this “documentary” will actually be about “evangelicals.” What the film actually portrays, however, is a group of fundamentalist Pentecostals on the far right fringe of Christianity. It intentionally portrays the most extreme group of evangelicalism (and it would be interesting to see if this group self-identifies as such) in order to denounce the movement as a whole. That is the very definition of irresponsible journalism. And if you listen to any of the interviews with the producers, it becomes even more obvious. I actually attended a viewing in which the producers spoke and answered questions at one of the viewings, and I was thoroughly frustrated because of this very situation.

    Moreover, this film presents itself as a “documentary,” which should imply that many sides of an issue should be presented and presented objectively; yet, the only view that is presented is the very far right. The closest thing to a balanced opinion that is offered is the radio host, but even he is clearly denouncing those who are the main subject of the film. I viewed the film with a friend of mine who co-manages an independent video recording company, and he pointed out something of great interest. If you listen to the background music in many of the scenes, you hear minor keys and music that is intended to evoke negative emotions. This type of music is common when the head of the camp (Becky?) is talking in particular. My friend believes this is further evidence of the producers’ bias and demonstrates this film is in no way objective. It is meant to deface evangelicals, plain and simple.

    If this film had been honest from the start, i.e., if it had admitted that it was presenting a radical fringe group, I would not have these problems. However, the film as it is grossly misrepresents evangelicals as a whole, and I believe it does so in order to deface evangelicals in the public eye. I firmly believe a critical viewing of the movie bears out these points.

  4. Very interesting to hear about panel discussion you were at w/ the producers. I read that the filmakers were doing a previous documentary in which they did a segment on a kid that was VERY intense about their faith. This phenomena intrigued them, and they decided to do a documentary on this issue.

    They then found Becky…which is a filmmakers dream in light of how “big” she can be on the screen.

    Yea, the pigeonholing of evangelicalism in this extreme is hard to see…however, again, from an outsiders perspective I wonder if they see us more similar than different? We share the same Bible, have our own separate culture of Christian music, booke, etc. (that we all read & listen to together), and are all Republican (again speaking in larger generalitites here). Outside of some stuff w/ tongues, visions, etc…you can see how they would lump us all together.

    It goes back to the issue of how the term Christian or evangelical can be a scary word these days…and we are now wondering what to call ourselves.

    Great feedback Ben.

  5. I hope I didn’t hijack the conversation, Anonymous …. whoever you are.

    I think there is a way to take this film and use it, but if it is used, I think it should be critiqued and critiqued thoroughly. If it is not, I think it has the potential to be quite damaging.

  6. Yea, agreed. That is why I think it makes a great Case Study for church community group or class…because it creates such a tension you can’t help but want to critique thorougly.

    In doing that, it really forces your learners to attain skills in whcih they can use through life or whatever else they instead causually pursue in popculture.

  7. […] As mentioned in a previous post, the task of a teacher to foster healthy disequilibrium within the learner’s cognitive state […]

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