Mark Lau Branson's Class Blog

Student participation in Fuller Seminary classes

Pazmiño: Latin American Journey

Posted by Mark Lau Branson on April 7, 2011

In Latin American Journey: Insights for Christian Education in North America, Robert Pazmiño connects his North American Latino identity, an extended trip to Central and South America, and his passion and profession as a Christian educator. Too few leaders ask, “What can I learn from people of another culture?” For Pazmiño, that’s a key question. By studying and observing these Latin American contexts (including their history, politics, economics, relationship with the US, and churches), he gains theoretical and practical resources for US churches. The ways we interpret scripture, frame our faith, engage our neighbors, and shape Christian congregations are all matters of specific places and times (and their cultures). Pazmiño listens to these churches, learns how they live their faith and engage their neighbors, and connects what he learns with US church education. He is always clear that Christian education is about information (content), formation (of individuals and churches), and transformation (of our lives and our communities). He encounters matters of suffering, oppression, use and abuse of power, and how the gospel shapes and calls us. He carefully parses differing frameworks concerning social structures and change, and shows what our Latino neighbors can teach us about pastoral and prophetic calling. Student discussion here will describe key claims and arguments and provide responses that are either personal examples of what Pazmiño wrote or personal statements about how this  book is reshaping the student’s priorities.


39 Responses to “Pazmiño: Latin American Journey”

  1. Rachel Yu said

    Asian Values

    In pp.119-122, Pazmino takes the five principal tasks of the church: proclamation, community, service, advocacy, and worship and analyzes each through the lens of the Hispanic culture, pointing out both the strengths and weaknesses his culture brings to each task. His analysis prompted me to consider how Asian values relate to each of these five tasks. As an Asian American who has mostly attended either bilingual or multi-Asian congregations her whole life, I have seldom been challenged to reflect upon the intersection of my cultural values with the primary functions of the church. The following reflections are based upon my experiences in predominantly Asian American (specifically East Asian) church environments.

    Proclamation as Knowledge
    One of the dominant Asian values passed down from parents to their children is the emphasis on formal education, especially intellectual learning. Acquiring knowledge gives one the skills, know-how, and qualifications to advance in life. Applied to kergyma in the church, knowing God -what His word teaches and what He expects of us- is a priority. Pastors and leaders in the church are well educated and competent to share His word and explain theological concepts. The Sunday sermon is the central focus of the worship service. Attendance at Bible studies and Sunday School classes are strongly encouraged. This stress on an intellectual, or head response to the gospel can be a weakness without an engagement of the heart and hands as well. Knowledge without passion for God can lead to an empty intellectual assent that never develops into a personal relationship with God, which inspires committed action or change.

    Community as Table Fellowship
    Community is a central value in Asian culture and may be one of its greatest strengths, especially as it pertains to fostering relationships within a church. Most often, community happens when people are gathered around food, eating and drinking and sharing their lives with each other. Smaller churches often provide lunch for their members after service and larger churches often split off into groups to grab lunch together. People are willing to open their homes to host church events or small group meetings, which always either start or end with at least some snacks, if not an entire meal together. Around the table there is a sense of sharing, family, and togetherness. It is difficult for me to think of a potential weakness in this area, especially because developing community is crucial in the individualistic American culture.

    Service as Piety
    Asians have a strong sense of filial piety, which means that we treat our parents and elders with great respect. God, being our ultimate Father in heaven, is worthy of even more reverence and honor than our parents, especially because of the sacrifices He made in sending Christ to die for our sins. This inspires willing and devoted service for the kingdom of God. There is a strong desire to please God and to find favor with Him. The potential danger is that service becomes a form of earning God’s favor instead of an overflow of God’s grace and love. In this case, service becomes a burden instead of a joyful outpouring of the abundance of God’s goodness in one’s life.

    Advocacy as Subversive Solidarity
    Engaging in the prophetic task of transforming culture and society is probably the greatest challenge for Asian American churches who by and large like to stay under the government radar, even while they engage in subversive actions that are themselves a protest against injustice and oppression. The gift Asians can bring to this task has been more prominently modeled overseas than within the States. Minjung liberation theology from Korea is an example of a subversive solidarity that Christians have with the poor and marginalized in society. The flourishing of underground house churches in China in spite of government censorship and persecution is another example. Through their actions, Chinese Christians stand together and resist unjust laws and structures in society. As relatively recent immigrants who are part of the minority culture, Asian Americans share in the struggles against poverty and discrimination. Their actions of resistance against injustice have largely gone unnoticed, but it is time for them to add their voices to their actions.

    Worship as Thanksgiving
    In relation to worship, the Asian value of reciprocity leads to a strong sense of gratitude and thanksgiving for the gifts that God has given us. The natural response to who God is and the great things He has done is to express our overwhelming gratefulness and thanksgiving. The atmosphere of thanksgiving permeates the entire worship service in the prayers, music, visual aids, and song choices. A potential weakness is that worship can be seen as an obligatory response to pay back the debt one has incurred by receiving the gifts of God. Reciprocity becomes an obligation instead of the means to deepen a relationship.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      Rachel – What do you observe about Asian American Christians and the extent or priorities for both table fellowship and service? Is the cultural norm toward one’s own extended family and friends? My white cultural churches had a fairly intuitive attentiveness toward “people like us” but not toward others. Your caveat about counter-cultural prophetic work (with notable exceptions) is insightful.

      • Rachel Yu said

        Thanks for your comments Dr. Branson. I think there is a pretty big difference between 1st generation and 2nd generation Asian-American churches. Churches made up of majority immigrants tend to draw stronger boundaries between different ethnicities (eg. other types of Asians) as well as races. This boundary is made almost impermeable by language differences and cultural values. However, my experience with 2nd gen AA churches is that most tend to promote multiculturalism as one of the primary values of the church, especially because there are more and more interracial families as 2nd gen Asians marry outside of their racial/ethnic origins and have children.

        • Rachel Yu said

          I should probably add that there is an obvious potential danger that table fellowship, while being inclusive for some, ends up being exclusive for others. If table fellowship degenerates into a situation like Cook’s parable described in p.26-27, then it is no longer the table fellowship modeled by Jesus. This would be a disconnect between the head and the heart+hands mentioned under “Proclamation as Knowledge”. While the multi-Asian churches I have attended have always stressed the value of multiculturalism in preaching, mission/vision statements, and other forms of educational communication, there may be a disconnect between the teaching and the practice. Somehow the teaching and proclaimed values of the church are not translating into actual transformation of the community. This is an example of how the tasks of the church blend and interrelate. As Pazmino points out, the educational task is to integrate these five tasks (64). Community as Table Fellowship is probably the strongest of the five values mentioned above. The core value is an inclusive table where all, regardless of culture, race, or socio-economic class are included, but it is true that this is not always lived out in practice.

    • jonziegler said

      Hi Rachel, I enjoyed reading through your discussion of the five tasks of the church as they relate to your Asian American church. I thought I would respond to your first three categories with some observations that I have made while working in a Chinese American church. Some of this may sound like “critique”—but I my attention is to make initial, critical observations or hypotheses. That is, I am not saying “this is how it is” at my Asian American church, but rather I am saying this what I think I am observing along with some initial judgments.

      Proclamation as Knowledge – our Chinese church sounds very different. Our church is charismatic and seems to be focused more on emotion (the “engagement of the heart”) than it does “head knowledge.” For example, we have no Sunday School. Our leadership is theologically educated, but it does not seem that [basic] theological education (or what we might call catechesis) is very important at our church. The children are expected to excel in school, take AP classes, and achieve high SAT scores, yet they are expected to know very little about the particulars of the Christian faith. I have tried to push the envelope and raise the theological bar by addressing questions of theodicy, ethnocentrism, and social justice.
      You make a great point that all three areas (head, heart, and hands) are important and therefore churches need to strive for balance. I find it interesting that our churches seems to be struggling with differing imbalances.

      Community as Table Fellowship – I have certainly been blessed by times of table fellowship with our community. Although we only receive the Eucharist once a month—every Sunday after immediately after service we share a snack together and then several people from the English ministry go out to eat together. On several occasions adult members of the Chinese congregation have invited us to their homes or taken us out for dinner. Similar to your experience, I would say that this area is one of the strongest areas of our church.

      I think one important question for our Asian churches is whether our table has room for Gentiles? Are we willing to welcome strangers—Blacks, Whites, Latinos, etc.? Our class seems to be pushing for inclusion of the “other,” advocating that our churches should reflect our multicultural communities. Should we not hold our Asian churches to the same standard? Can they continue to minister effectively to first generation immigrants and simultaneously embrace their non-Chinese neighbors and co-workers? How do the narratives in Acts address these unique situations? If I understood Soong-Chan Rah correctly, when he came to Fuller he indicated that Asian churches should get a “get out free” card. Basically, white churches should quit being so white and allow non-Whites to lead, but it is okay for Asian churches to carry on their mono-ethnic ministries. What would you say?

      Service as Piety – I love how Asian culture places an emphasis on serving parents. This issue was something that Jesus addressed directly in Matthew 15 and I think Christians in the West have exchanged biblical values for individualistic values regarding filial piety.

      However, serving our parents must only be the starting point of service. Christ calls us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” I think from the ancient perspective—the love of family falls under the love of self. If I take care of my family, I am only looking after myself (my own flesh and blood). My father and mother are NOT my neighbors. Yes, I must serve my parents (love myself)—but I must also extend this service to others (my neighbors). This is the benefit of Pazmino’s Latin American liberation theology perspective. Liberation theology advocates for the poor who are oppressed at the hands of the rich who are looking out for the interest of their own families and not those who are marginalized.

  2. Kelsey Collins said

    Liberation Theology and Christian Education
    One of Pazmino’s main themes is liberation theology, a perspective using biblical themes (especially freedom and the value of every person) to motivate large-scale change in society. This perspective views salvation as a group rather than individual aim. Pazmino generally embraces liberation theology, with some additions and critiques. For example, he warns that liberation theology often overlooks the issue of individual sin. He said that making society more just will not mean that people are able to live justly and lovingly within that system. Both corporate and individual sin need attention, showing the way two different cultural perspectives can complement each other. Pazmino models this integrating of perspectives since he writes from both a Northern American Latino and Latin American perspective. Coming from a North American perspective, I see the need in myself to broaden my concept of salvation to include the fate of the community and the renewal of larger society.
    Pazmino also discussed the application of liberation theology to Christian education. He bases much of his writing on Freire, who believed that teachers should educate in a way that empowers their students to analyze and change their culture. This involves giving the students choice, bringing up issues that directly apply to their culture, and valuing the students’ humanity and ability to make intelligent choices. Pazmino recommended this system be used in the Church, but added that Christian tradition and other cultural perspectives should not be left out of Christian education. A Christian education that used this system would not tell students how to resolve issues or pass on doctrine unilaterally. Instead, it would teach Christian tradition and faith without specifically directing students how to apply it within their context. The class would analyze and critique the context, and together discern how to live out Christian faith within their surrounding culture. This type of education is frightening for me and I’m sure other current and future leaders of the Church. It feels threatening and unpredictable. I think this comes from a place of valuing the leaders’ perspectives more than the students/congregation, as well as a fear of loss of control. However, we are kidding ourselves if we think that many students (members of the congregation) in the Church are not already going through this process. This process of critique and action, when attempted alone, often results in people leaving the Church forever, practicing Christianity in isolation, or attending Church but keeping questions and real-life concerns to themselves. The Church could benefit from embracing this process of honest analysis, critique, discernment and action together. This system of education will result in better discernment of God’s will and an empowered congregation ready to live the Gospel well within its context.

    • Mike said

      In reading your very last sentence, I was caught off-guard: Did Freire describe a system? Or Pazmiño? I went back into the text, and decided that your description was apt, in that you describe such as a process: which coheres well with Freire and Pazmiño. (I’d suggest further consideration of the PT cycle.) But, in view of your dynamic (broadening) understanding of salvation, how might this rearrange your sense of priorities for Christian education as a system? Is it only limited to withholding directions for application/obedience? You’re hardly a cipher in this experience, if the sense of mutual learning is to take place in context.

    • Sallie Carey said

      I appreciate that you identify the differences in between Latin American and North American contexts – especially when considering Liberation Theology’s emphasis on communal sin rather than individual sin. You noted that because of our North American individualistic context, we may actually need a greater emphasis on communal sin, while Latin Americans immersed in liberation theology may benefit from reflecting on individual sin. These differences are important to note, so that we don’t simply take on culture’s theology and adopt it as our own without noting the differences in cultural context that have led to that cultural/theological emphasis.

      You mention that Freire’s methods of education make you uncomfortable, likely because lack of unilateral control in implied in the method. I think you are right to be concerned if the attitude/culture of the church is one in which the members/congregants are not trusted in the educational process. If they do not trust their own knowledge or voice, or if their knowledge, voice and stories are not respected by church leaders, I think this type of pedagogy will fail. However, when given the onus to take responsibility for contributing to the discipleship and education of the church body (including themselves) most people will rise to the challenge. Then what you have is not a lack of control, but a system of shared control. However, if not trusted (by themselves and by leaders), the members will flounder in their new authority and continue to grasp for the crutches of unilateral leadership and authority.

      • Kelsey Collins said

        Mike, thank you for your observation about the word “system.” I guess I used that by default, but what I meant was along the lines of “process” or “guidelines” that are flexible and adaptive. Sallie, I think your comment helps answer Mike’s question to me. Both of you pointed out that I may be viewing this process as a “lack of control” or lack of guiding leadership. That is my initial response to a shared, mutual process of liberation theology education. It feels like there is a lack of needed unilateral direction. Thank you for noting that in this process, the leader plays a guiding role by bringing in information and facilitating conversation (like the PT cycle). Sallie I think you worded it best by saying this “is not a lack of control, but a system of shared control.”

  3. Emily Ebert said

    Pazmino addresses many current realities of the Church in the United States. While we will never receive direct answers on how to “fix” a church, Pazmino, having done extensive research and reflection, provides a process that can help guide the church towards healing and transformation. He uses the Latin American Church and Liberation theology as a reference, and rightly so. One of the most interesting assessments stated in Chapter 2 makes the point that Western culture needs to face realities that we may not want to, and even more specifically, the Western Church in the United States. The Church in the United States is in desperate need of transformation, but it will not happen at the snap of a finger. It is an individual and communal process that will force the church and its members to reflect and proceed with a new, holistic approach to how the Church lives and educates for future generations. According to Freire, Praxis is the “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it.” This will require radical changes within the churches of the United States by creating an environment where critical attitudes are engaged among all people, both teachers and students, constantly balancing the elements of content, people, and context (while also utilizing this as a resource for the ongoing cycle of practical theology). In order for this process to occur, it will require strong commitment and a humble heart, but will lead to a community that, yes, is alternative, but does not exclude.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      What specifically needs transformation in US churches – or maybe in churches you know best? If a church you know took Pazmino seriously, what would they begin to address? And how could they proceed?

      • Emily Ebert said

        More specifically, churches in the United States are in need of transformation concerning how we look at the world; getting out of our social vacuum and the bubble that we often find ourselves in. One of the issues is the mentality. Before real transformation can even begin to happen, our mentality has to be one of openness with a willingness to listen, discuss, and look for ways to change. One of the issues I often see is that churches are typically more willing to give money to an organization or for an event, but doing much more than that is an inconvenience. Another example, many people are willing to drop their kids off at Sunday school or at after school programs at church, but when the church needs volunteers, everyone hides. As you can see, I don’t think the transformation is just about being more welcoming and open to ethnically diverse communities. Its remembering that being a part of the church and this alternative community is not about us, as individuals. It is about all.

        • Kelsey Collins said

          Emily, I agree with several of your observations about what is needed for a church to experience real transformation. I think your phrase “alternative community” names a role of the church that many American, majority-culture churches do not embrace. The church should be a place where cultural values are evaluated in light of the Gospel, and embraced or challenged accordingly. In churches I’ve been a part of, the congregation often does not seek to fulfill this prophetic role. They may even be unaware that they have a “church culture,” one affected by the dominant culture in unintended ways. A first step toward transformation for my home church would be reflection on the distinctions between the dominant culture, minority cultures in the community, and church culture.

  4. Sallie Carey said

    Pazmino’s discussion weaves together liberation theology, Freirean pedagogy, and personal experience in his exploration of Christian education. His book is an example of the PT method of examining one’s current praxis through description, analysis, storytelling and theological reflection, in order to shape new praxis. Much of the book emphasizes the work of Paulo Freire and how his pedagogy influences Christian education.

    Pazmino is adequately critical of Freire’s pedagogy; he notes Freire’s reductionist view of systems of oppression as being problematic for many people outside of Freire’s Latin American context, or those whom Freire would view as an oppressor based on their socio-economic status. Much of Freire’s work assumes a binary view of people as either being oppressed or being an oppressor. His work champions the oppressed and excludes those he considers oppressors (33). One’s status as either the oppressed or the oppressor is largely determined by one’s socio-economic status, so that the poor are seen as being oppressed by the rich. In many ways this is true; the rich do oppress the poor either through sins of commission or omission, which solidify their socio-economic status. However, Freire’s work ignores the ways in which the rich can also be oppressed. Materialism, greed, and the commodification of sex, beauty, love, power, etc. are all ways in which those living in socio-economic excess may be oppressed without even realizing it. Additionally, economic abundance reinforces the lie that human beings can be entirely independent, living without need for God or community. If the goal of Freire’s pedagogy was humanization (29), he neglects areas in which those with abundant resources may be dehumanized and isolated due to their fixation on material wealth and an independent lifestyle.

    Though Freire’s work was created primarily for the transformation of socio-political praxes which benefit people groups oppressed by systems that create and maintain socio-economic poverty, I think his pedagogical methods could be employed in a range of Christian educational contexts, including wealthy churches in the United States. Freire’s practice of conscientization could be usefully appropriated for wealthy Christians in an effort to awaken their consciousness to the ways in which a fixation upon material wealth and consumer culture may be imprisoning, distracting, isolating, and dehumanizing them. Conscientization could be used as a means of discovering how consumer culture can distract us into believing we are satisfied by our possessions, instead of being satisfied by how we fulfill the gospel. If living out the gospel is an expression of the fullness and richness of life and humanity, many Americans (and other wealthy nations) are missing out. Conscientization could be a powerful means of awakening us to the oppressive forces at work in our lives that we may be completely unaware of. Once our consciousness is awakened, we may be able to critically reflect on how we might adapt to create a new praxis in which our humanity is expressed more fully.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      I appreciate your promotion of conscientization for US churches. Does Pazmino give you a way to pursue that? How would you start with churches like those you know best?

      • Sallie Carey said

        Thank you for your feedback & question, Dr. Branson. It’s funny because as I was considering your question and how I would go about the process of conscientization with churches I know, I automatically fell back into a “banking approach” to learning and doing church. I’m having a lot of difficulty getting away from simple old-school ideas like, “Let’s do a sermon series!” or “How about new adult-ed classes for Sunday School!” Not very exciting or innovative, and not very attentive to multicultural realities. However, there may be something to be said for adapting those familiar old-school structures instead of introducing something completely new. If coming from a church where these familiar, didactic teaching methods are comfortable, using adapted versions of them may ease the congregation into learning new uncomfortable things about themselves.

        And this conscientization WOULD be uncomfortable. It’s difficult to realize you’re oppressed or trapped or enslaved but are quite comfortable there. If one realizes wealth is enslaving them, they now have the uncomfortable responsibility to move toward freedom, which means shedding their wealth. That means willingly living away the things that you have told yourself are your security and comfort, and trusting that God’s security and comfort will be more than enough. This is difficult, and always has been, as noted in scripture when Jesus confronts the rich young man with the truth that to have eternal life he must sell all of his possessions and give his money to the poor (Mat 19:16-22).

        I think the biggest point emphasized by Pazmino that could be used for a purpose like this is the emphasis that every person in the church is in a learning partnership with each other. The Pastor is not the ultimate authority in the truth. S/he should not just be issuing out lessons and directions for better living to a passive congregation. Instead, all members of the church should be involved in a learning process that involves self-reflection. We should share our stories with each other, talk about them, reflect on how our stories connect with scripture and how scripture can speak into our stories. Then we should imagine new stories. This means taking advantage of an opportunity to partner with God in creating new lives. Together, we could re-invent our lives by creating new stories that reflect the beauty Jesus preaches in the gospel. I think creativity is key here. Not a specific form of creativity like visual art or music, but simply the concept of taking on the wonderful responsibility of creation inherent in changing our praxis. This macro-level creativity can be modeled and enacted through smaller creative projects which prime people for creating change. Giving members of the church opportunities to see themselves, identify the ways in which they are struggling with sins, connecting those struggles with scritpure and theology, and using creative processes to reinvent praxis would be an excellent adult-ed church curriculum. Such creative expression could be practiced in a multitude of ways – visual art, writing, music, performance, recreation, etc. The expression of each creative practice allows for a metaphorical visualization of the way one lives out new praxis. When members of the community participate in an educational experience like this, the hierarchical lines between Pastor and congregants become more diffused. The members of the community are given creative power and responsibility to make changes in their lives that enable them to live out the gospel.

        Augusto Boal’s method in Theater of the Oppressed (derived from Freirean pedagogy) come to mind here. I wouldn’t want to make “curriculum” like this based in one particular art form (i.e. theatre), but his methods, which require enactments as “rehearsals for life”, provide a useful way of thinking about the connection between creativity and transformation. When we enact our transformation (through any creative medium), we are practicing it so that we can enact it more readily and successfully in the “real world.” Creative processes allow participants to imagine new praxis and model it for themselves. Once them can see it in a metaphorical or representational form, it becomes more real and within reach. It becomes more possible to actually make the change happen in real life, because you have been motivated by seeing it in creative expression and can imagine it actually working in your life. I could imagine “curriculum” like this taking place as a series of creative workshops in which we use creativity and story to engage in conscientization, theological reflection, and the recreation of new praxes that puts us on a path toward transformation.

  5. Avalon Sookdeo said

    Pazmino shares from his research on Christian education from his on-the-field engagement from North America and South America. Both these has divergent perspectives in their ideology and theology in their Christian education, by which Pazmino says “requires critical assessment” (10). Latin America’s political, economic, social, and religious injustices of have gained Pazmino’s attention to speak out and formulate the role of the Church through a Practical Theological method that addresses this growing issue. He by and large adopts the Latin American theology called Liberation Theology, which uses Biblical themes that addresses the emancipation and the value that every person is created in the image of God. He uses the work of Paulo Freire (Christian humanist) as a major supporter to deal with this issue.

    Pazmino shares that the oppressive realities have been “overlooked in the United States” (18).The Western Church have failed to fully heed the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to respond to oppressive realities. One resounding idea that struck greatly for me, which Pazmino shares is that of suffering. I agree with Pazmino that through hard times, economically, may bring a greater recognition of the needs of others to counteract the blindness of the insensitive individualism that exist in the Western Church. Pazmino develops that idea through Freire’s concepts of “conscientization.” This term injects that one comes to perception of the social, political, and economic contradictions, and must take action to relieve such oppressive tensions. One way that conscientization comes about is through sufferings, through hardships. The Western Church is going through such difficulty in the social and economic arenas, but can we look out and around to our brothers and sisters around the globe and identify to their hardships as well? This kind of suffering pushes us to a new found reality that can reshape our present Gospel theology to what Pazmino is advocating from his insights from Liberation Theology, and through educating the Body of Christ we can be a support to each other in times of injustice.

    This topic reminds me of my own journey, Pazmino also hits on a truth for all of us. That we are also on a journey of discovery, a journey in our lives that if we only pay attention to what’s happening around us, and don’t wait for a hardship to happen to us, then we can become more aware of what it means to be a Christian. I too came from South America, from one of the islands called Trinidad, but when I came to the United States the comparison hit harder within me of what I lack in Trinidad to what I have gained in the United States, namely it was freedom to study and choose a prosperous career through education. This comparing reality made me humbled and appreciative of what I had and to never forget the lack that I came from. Furthermore, it helped me to be conscious of others who were in similar situations and to be at any assistance to them to experience a freedom that they have never experienced before. Both cultural environments cause me to reflect deeply, and I thank God that I took action and did not remain in confusion.
    This subject has caused me to further reflect on my current Christian involvement on the injustices around me. My current ministry involvement is with youths and their struggle against bullying. Pazmino has pushed me to think how a liberation theologian would deal with this issue and what would be my praxis for providing a solution?

    • Rob Pierce said

      I think your personal experience is a good example of why Pazmino argues for a change in Christian Education in Latin America, and a good example of how a part of North American thinking may be helpful in these areas. Though there are many cultural biases in North America, we do hold the ideal of free thinking in high regard (though it can be argued that we do not always hold the practice of free thinking with the same regard). This ideal fits in with Liberation Theology, at least as I understand it, and is the goal of Christian Education in the context of Liberation Theology. When we are faced with injustice, the oppressors want to do everything they can to discourage people from thinking for themselves; it is only when the oppressed are given the freedom to think freely that they can truly see the injustices.

  6. Joanna Raabsmith said

    Pazmino’s book was born out of his travels to Latin America, where his cultural heritage mixed with his North American history. He gained not only insights into himself, but insights into the two differing paradigms that he experienced. He embraces liberation theology as a way to critique and complement North American society and Christianity, citing the phases or responses to suffering. Latin Americans address the challenges of suffering and exploitation and seek transformation, while North Americans are often blinded by their prosperity, failing to recognize they accrue wealth at the expense of others. I see how this ultimately ties to our view of conversion and transformation in North America, which focuses on individuals rather than communities: “While this emphasis upon personal transformation is to be celebrated in a time when personal accountability and integrity are viewed as secondary concerns in U.S. society, it can too readily neglect a comprehensive appreciation of the breadth and depth of Christian transformation or conversion that is present in both personal and corporate life” (Pazmino 56). Ultimately, our individualistic view of the Christian life of faith, and represented through Christian education, binds us to a constricted view of transformation. I need only focus on how I am transformed, not how I am called to transform the world. Liberation theology allows us to turn back to the world and begin to see Christ’s power transform corporate structures. Pazmino’s critique of education and transformation in North America fit in well with Peggy McIntosh’s article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” In her article, McIntosh explains that we simultaneously protect and deny our privileges in North America (ie. being white, male, heterosexual). Whether or not we mean to exercise these privileges as the expense of others, the truth is that we do. Her article opened my eyes to the ways in my own life I blindly exercise my privileges, abolishing the North American myth of meritocracy. This widens categories of oppressor even beyond Pazmino and socioeconomic standing, to issues of race, gender, religion and sexuality with which most people can identify. McIntosh realizes that the silence surrounding this privilege and suffering is a key political tool used by those who hold the privilege, and the hope Pazmino brings is that transformation is possible. But it will take a new educational paradigm and reorienting of the church, not only “from the world to Jesus Christ” but “in the name of Christ back to the world” (Pazmino 58-59).

    • Emily Ebert said

      Two things in response to your post:
      1. I think you will find our reading in “Churches, Cultures, and Leadership” this week very interesting. One of the chapters is on ‘Self-Perception and Individuality.’ One point the authors make is that the U.S. political process is more about winning than about convincing people to join a ideological cause. I think in some ways, a similar process exists within the church. Are we there to win people over, in order to have a big and what some might call, a “successful” church? Or in trying to retain membership, are we forgetting what being a church is all about?
      2. Last week, Matthew Sleeth came to speak at Fuller, and I think many of his concerns for the Church relate to these ideas of transformation and how we must take a step back and work on transforming ourselves. We must look at our privileges and think about how we are treating our environment. Being God’s people is not just about caring for each other, its about caring for our world as well.

  7. Randy Demary said

     Pazmiño’s book is a fascinating and at times radical read, particularly in his approach to his study. Pazmiño genuinely desires to understand unfamiliar approaches to Christian education in order to learn from their strengths. But this alone, even when added to his eight months of international field research, is not what makes him profound. Rather, it is Pazmiño’s commitment to so immerse himself in the perspective of others as to understand them from the inside out that is impressive. This is evident from the author’s serious, empathic look at the liberation theologies of the Latin American states he visits. Far from setting up straw men, these theologies, the reasons for their appeal to adherents, and even the views of local dissenters are taken seriously.

    This is not to say Pazmiño swallows these views whole. He respectfully critiques these perspectives seeking to appropriate the best in them, while setting aside what he views as excesses. For instance, Pazmiño notes liberation theology’s potential to so invert the social order that the marginalized become dominant and the privileged become utterly disregarded. He warns that such a turning of the tables could create a “new ethnocentrism,” essentially perpetuating the same problems with parties inhabiting opposite positions (cf. the work of Miguel de la Torre). Pazmiño’s balanced appropriation of the best of liberation theology resembles that of his former Gordon-Conwell colleague, Eldin Villafañe. Put differently, Pazmiño takes seriously the Apostle Paul’s teaching that we do not live in a world of “good guys” and “bad guys;” we are all “bad guys” (Tommy Givens).

    Pazmiño’s approach speaks to my own experiences and priorities as one who has aspirations of a career in Christian education and has dabbled in the field. Though educational diversity seems a ubiquitous goal in the US, there has been minimal change in teaching methods employed. How do I, as a developer of educational materials for campus ministries, draw on the methods of other cultures? Pazmiño seems to implicitly argue that the process is largely about utilizing the PT method (Branson and Martinez). While reflection, study, and exploring narratives come easily to me, I fear implementation will not. To my chagrin, I am imbued with the prejudices of my society and have a tendency to see the models that I have been educated under as being the most correct, scholarly, and effective, even while my reflection tells me that this is only true (at best) within my own culture! However, Pazmiño’s method and conclusions have inspired me to “risk and explore” opportunities to study the educational models of other cultures from the inside out. I would relish the opportunity to learn from sisters and brother in a Hispanic church, or to participate regularly in Native American talking circles in order to learn and employ non-European methods.

    • Avalon said

      Hi Randy, I am on the same page with you when it comes to diversity of models in Christian Education or Education in general. The popularize European model has been a long standing model in the classroom settings, but as you already know that our culture is on the constant move of how they are learning, especially within the last 20+ years with the hyper acceleration of technology and media. In addition, with the ever expanding growth of diverse ethnicities mingling within American society, which are bringing different cultural customs; our societies are transforming culturally faster than ever before. Our adults of tomorrow are retrieving information in different and unique ways, and the Church must pay attention to this, particularly in our educational settings. All we have to do is just turn on the television and information is presented in drastic ways. One thing that I believe that can help assist future productivity within our education is out-of-the-box interactions – letting creativity to flow. If we look carefully at Jesus’ approach, His content was mostly supported with cultural examples and stories that allow His listener to actually visualize and somehow identify with His content. You mentioned about learning from Native American culture. Can you share any information about what we can learn and adapt from this culture?

      • Randy Demary said

        Thanks for the thoughtful feedback Avalon. From what I know of them, talking circles are used as a communication style for groups, especially groups working through different perspectives. Where the European model tends to encourage make use of debate in education (which can tend to be dominated by certain personality types), talking circles go the other direction. They seek to provide a safe space where all present get the opportunity to speak their mind. An object is passed (to the left) and only the person who has it may speak. Once finished, the next person has the opportunity to speak if they wish it, and so on.

        Some ideas for using this in a classroom (even the idea of that space is heavily European laden!) might entail a set aside time where each person (there is no hierarchy in the circle, so students and professor are equal here. This is akin to Pazmiño’s insight on leaders as learners) in the classroom has the option to state their experience and impressions (good, bad, or other) of the class, information, materials, etc. This could give professors helpful guidance as to what is working and what is not, allow quieter students a time to speak, and allow for the incorporation of peer learning. Additionally, this allows all involved to learn about Native American culture from the inside out, simulating in a small way Pazmiño’s method.

      • Randy Demary said

        Hi Avalon, I was thinking more about your comments and wanted to add to my response. Your own story of experiences with American education comes to mind (partly because I was also reflecting on Troy’s post) and that has me wondering–what do you think are the biggest advantages/best practices that we can learn from the culture you grew up in? What do you think caused the significantly different attitude of your classmates there from what you saw in the US when you arrived?

        This conversation has me thinking about changes happening at my own church. For starters, we are a mostly white church (about 75%), but happen to be in the middle of several housing developments that are expected to soon be inhabited by tens of thousands of Asians. The church leadership seems to want to engage and minister to these new neighbors, but has no idea how to do so.

        Now add to that a strong history in the church of commitment to adult education. The congregation just likes to learn and has historically taken advantage of opportunities to do so. How can these factors combine to create an atmosphere where we learn from each other in a culturally enriched congregation that serves its community? I’m hoping to get the staff to consider learning and applying the PT cycle (Branson-Martinez), but this is just a start. Perhaps some education of the current congregation in how to appreciate cultural differences that draws on work like Takaki’s would be good perpetration. Perhaps some of the current Asian congregants would be willing to share their stories, or suggest educational outings into Asian (such a broad term! That will need to be refined with we know who our new neighbors are) cultural centers. By the time our new neighbors start to arrive, perhaps we will be better positioned to enter their world as learners and friends in something akin to what Pazmiño did on his eight-month trip.

        Any thoughts or advice? What do you think of the approach? Also, please don’t forget my above question; I’m really curious to hear what I can learn from you on this.

    • Troy K. said

      Hey Randy,
      I enjoyed and appreciated your summary and insights into Pazmiño’s book. I agree with you that Pazmiño critiques Liberation Theologies potential to invert society to the point where it actually does not change the system, just rather who is in charge. What I find interesting about this critique is that this is actually something that those within the Liberation movement are aware of and has a response to. Freire himself directly addresses this potential in his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. For Freire, the key to preventing this is Christ and Christians leading the reform that is necessary. Those who are oppressed must break the cycle of oppression by not seeking power but equality, this for Freire is central to Christianity and must be central to the new pedagogy.

      • Randy Demary said

        Troy, must you add to my absurdly long reading list?! Sounds like something I would enjoy. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks!

        • Emily Ebert said

          If it helps, my husband Joe and I highly recommend reading it as well! 🙂 Check out “Pedagogy of Freedom” as well!

    • Sallie Carey said

      I wonder about the criticism that Freire’s pedagogy and liberation theology itself simply “inverts” the power structure rather than working toward equality. I agree to this criticism theoretically, but it also seems to me that this “inversion” of power would be difficult to perform in real, lasting ways. Ideologically, liberation theology and transformative pedagogical methods may reach more toward a simple reversal of power structures, but does this reversal of power really play out in real, physical manifestations of power? Or is it more that our ideas about power and control and merely reversed while the physical manifestation of that system remains more difficult to change? I don’t know, just throwing it out there…

  8. Troy K. said

    Pazmino talks about the need for theological education and specifically the problems with its location. He, rightfully so, believes that theological education should is important and necessary but not always within institutions or seminaries. He picks this sentiment up from Freire and his vision of liberating education – “Freire has stated that truly liberating education can only be put into practice outside the ordinary system. This is so because a power elite would not encourage a type of education that denounces them even more clearly than do all the contradictions of their power structures. Give this situation, it is necessary to explore and consider alternatives to theological education as offered in seminary education.” (p.52-3. See also p. 104-5).
    For education to be liberating, transformative, inclusive and challenging to the powers and structures of the world it must take on a new form. This is challenging to me because I desire to go into Christian education and education in general. I am now questioning how I can teach in ways that do propagate the status quo but which challenge culture and the power structures that exist while teaching the Gospel. An example that comes to mind, in regards to public education, is the “underground universities” in Georgia that have started and are currently educating undocumented college students because the state is prohibiting them to pursue education at the state’s top 10 universities. To me this is an example where the location and style of education is actively fighting against oppressive systems. I use this example to reflect upon how religious/theological education can do the same.

    • Emily Ebert said

      I find it so fascinating to be reading Pazmino, and thus Freire, while reading it for a class that is a part of the the institutional system that Freire proposes to change. We are learning about the alternatives to the traditional education system in a traditional education setting. It is important for us to address though, how much theological education has changed. Yes, the systems of hierarchy within education still exist, but seminarians are required to do internships. I, myself, am required by the ELCA to work for a church part-time while in seminary, have several meetings through out my four with multiple supervisors, do a three-month full-time chaplaincy internship, and a full-time internship for one year before finishing my academic work in order to be ordained. Its a complicated process, but we are getting somewhere. My grandfather, a Lutheran pastor, is shocked by what I have to do because when he went to seminary, none of these requirements existed. As long and complicated as the process has become, it is designed to help us apply what we are learning to a real-life setting, but while still having someone to watch over us so that we do not mess up too much. On the other hand, apart from seminary education specifically, how can we apply some of the theories of Pazmino and Freire to individual churches and youth eduation?

    • Randy Demary said

      I too enjoyed this theme in Pazmiño, Troy. In addition to the ones you cite, I can see several reasons why the overall setting of education needs to be reconsidered. For example, the setting of current models (large campuses) comes with a hefty price tag that is prohibitive to a huge swath of the church. This means it is predominately the wealthy that are being trained to be leaders.

      The great value I see in your approach is that it looks to what the disenfranchised are already doing and seeks ways to participate (similar to how Pazmiño enters other cultures to learn from them). The danger in working the problem of location from the current location (a seminary campus) is that it can fall into (or be perceived as) the too-often-occurring condescension of the privileged trying to “fix all those poor minorities.” The approach you mention instead attempts to enter the world of those who have been marginalized as a sister or brother who asks, “how can I serve”? This is empowering, affirming, and a lot like Jesus.

    • Joanna Raabsmith said

      I also appreciate your questioning of our current western education system, not only are the methods based on individualism, hierarchy and meritocracy, but in America, higher education is typically reserved for people of higher socio-economic status, even seminary! This has actually been a personal struggle of mine in coming to Fuller. I see churches who look to hire pastors who have “the degree,” while many of their members are “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3) but cannot afford seminary. By attending seminary, I am supporting this system of inequality and buying into (literally!) the benefits it brings. I believe we need to be creative, not only begin to learn about theologies and teaching structures from other cultures, but actually begin to value them enough to employ them in our own institutions. As Randy pointed out, we need to be empowering of all, and this will certainly mean a change.

  9. jonziegler said

    Pazmino, following Costas, demonstrates that conversion is a multi-dimensional process that continues throughout a person’s life (74) [See footnote 1]. He argues that a believer experiences multiple conversions that relate to “the five distinct tasks of the Christian church”: proclamation, community, service, advocacy, and worship (59, 64-74). Pazmino argues that Christian education is analogous to conversion and should be understood as a multi-dimensional and comprehensive task of not merely informing but also forming, and transforming “people, communities, societies and structures” (61). Therefore the task of Christian education relates to fostering orthodoxy (the right belief), orthopraxy (the right practice), and orthopathy (the right feeling) (61-62) [See footnote 2].
    An experience I had with one of my parishioners (Mike) this past week highlights the importance of Pazmino’s holistic and multifaceted understanding of conversion and education [See footnote 3]. Mike began coming to our church about four years ago and shortly thereafter made a profession of faith. He quickly developed a love of orthodoxy and an insatiable appetite for “proclamation” (spending hours each week listening to the podcasts of fundamentalist preachers). Mike wants to be a preacher and has asked for an opportunity to preach at our gathering. However, the church leadership has not granted him the opportunity to preach because he has not demonstrated a desire to love and serve the community. It appears that Mike has never undergone conversions in the areas of orthopraxy (community and service) or orthopathy (advocacy and worship). After listening to my sermon on Sunday, Mike reprimanded me because my preaching content (doxy) did not align with his favorite radio evangelists (what he considers to be orthodoxy). Sadly, he sees himself as the protector of the Christian message, but the Christian community to which he supposedly belongs does not pay attention to his message because it is not accompanied by Christian (or Christ-like) practice and feelings.
    Mike’s story emphasizes Pazmino’s notion that conversion must be multifaceted, but it also makes explicit what is perhaps only implicit in Pazmino’s chapter: there is a positive correlation between the effectiveness of Christian education (its ability to enable conversion) and the level of conversion that has been achieved in the life of the educator. The educator who lacks orthopraxy and orthopathy (i.e. does not demonstrate a proper love or concern for the community, creation, etc.) will not be effective in communicating the right beliefs (orthodoxy) about the God who loves and cares about His creation. Although Mike constantly attempts to teach other members of the church, his version of orthodoxy has not been influential in our community because they notice his general lack of love and concern for their lives. On the other hand, the educator with a deficient orthodoxy will not be able rightly discern and teach Christ’s ways of living and feeling in the world. Newbigin points out, in Christianity there is no distinction between theoria (vision, belief) and praxis, because “[fa]ith comes by hearing, and unbelief is disobedience” [footnote 4]. Because Christianity is an embodied faith, Christian education must be an embodied practice that involving information, formation, and transformation that takes place in the shared life of the learning community, the Body of Christ.

    [1] Pazmino demonstrates how Richard Peace argues for a similar view of conversion as a process (58). I would suggest that Gordon Smith’s book, Beginning Well, is even more effective in demonstrating not only that conversion is a process, but also in describing that process. See Gordon T. Smith, Beginning Well: Christian Conversion and Authentic Transformation (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2001). This understanding of conversion as a continuous process is the most ancient understanding of Christian conversion which is exemplified in the teaching of St. Gregory of Nyssa, that “eternal life [or for our purposes, “conversion”] is not a static reality, but a drawing of the soul ever onwards in infinite progress toward God.” See William A. Dyrness and Veli-Matti Karkkainen, eds., Global Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 245.

    [2] These, of course, are related the five tasks of the church: proclamation (orthodoxy), community and service (orthopraxy), and advocacy and worship (orthopathy).

    [3] I have changed his name for the sake of privacy.

    [4] Lesslie Newbigin, Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 14.

    • Rachel Yu said

      Hey Jon thanks for sharing a concrete example from your church. I appreciate your comments about “embodied faith”. Was this an idea that you were already thinking about before the “Talk of God/Talk of Science” conference this weekend? I used to think that the alignment of orthodoxy and orthopraxy was a “no duh” in Christian living, but the longer I have been in seminary the more I realize that knowledge does not always translate into changed practices, much less transformation. The conference we attended this past weekend also confirmed how Christian preaching and education must be embodied in order to be effective. When Dr. Branson asked us to share in our small groups about lessons we have learned in informal/formal church settings, I was surprised to realize that the most transformational experiences in my life were through informal settings where I had people model Jesus to me- whether it was through someone taking me out to coffee or teaching me to play basketball, these had much more impact on me than any sermon or Sunday School. In fact, considering how many sermons I have heard in my life, I am embarrassed to say that I remember very little of the actual content of these sermons.

      How does this view of embodied faith (and embodied learning) impact our preaching- the process of preparation to the actual delivery of the message? How does recognizing that people learn best through “mirror imaging” (or in other words, embodied learning) change the way we approach the education of lay people in the church? In other words, how do we use what we have learned through Pazmino and this Talk of God/Talk of Science conference to change our ministry practices? How does theory inform our practice? I guess the challenge for me is whether I will actually change my approaches or just continue doing the same thing. How do we take what we have learned and embody it in our ministries and interactions with others? What does a holistic educational approach that integrates orthodoxy-orthopraxy-orthopathy look like in practice?

      • jonziegler said

        Hi Rachel,
        Thanks for you reply. You ask a lot of good questions and I am not sure I have answers to many of them but I will do my best to share my best guesses or intuition.

        Was this something I was thinking of before the “Talk of God/Talk of Science” conference this weekend?

        Yes. But the conference did have a lot to say this topic didn’t it? Warren Brown said that if we believe something we are physically read to act about. The next day, Barret gave some reasons as to why we don’t believe the gospel: we have evolved to naturally believe in things like reciprocity, etc. Therefore, the message of forgiveness and grace does not really make sense and is difficult to believe. I really wanted to further this conversion with Barret, but I did not get an opportunity to ask a question.

        How does this view of embodied faith (and embodied learning) impact our preaching- the process of preparation to the actual delivery of the message? How does recognizing that people learn best through “mirror imaging” (or in other words, embodied learning) change the way we approach the education of lay people in the church?

        In regards to preaching, I have two initial thoughts about the implications of Pazmino and the conference. First, when preaching on given topic, we need to name how the church lives and embodies that principle and how the church fails to believe and embody that principle. A while back I was preaching on Jesus’ healing ministry and I described how for most of my life I have prayed for people and they have never been healed, but just a few weeks prior to preaching that sermon, I prayed for a friend who get healed. Second, I think we need to tap into the power of story, fiction, and fantasy which have the power to transport our minds to another dimension, where the necessary “mirror imaging” can take place in our minds to rearrange our mental furniture. A powerful example of this is C.S. Lewis’ space-trilogy (Perelandra). Lewis has the ability to bring the mind to a place in story where the mind is able to believe and comprehend things it may not have understood propositionally. That is the feelings (orthopathy) elicited, the beliefs are explained (orthopraxy), and the right way of living is instructed (orthopraxy)—all because the reader loses herself in the story so that it becomes like real life in her mind. If we can tell those kinds of stories in preaching—we can produce “mirror imaging.” Of course, preaching is very limited and should never be thought of as the sole or primary means of discipleship although it is essential for the moral/prophetic imagination and liturgical formation of the community.

        How do we use what we have learned through Pazmino and this Talk of God/Talk of Science conference to change our ministry practices? How does theory inform our practice?

        A few ideas:
        1) We must shift our theology to become ecclesio-centric. One of my favorite quotes from David Watson is “…the ultimate goal of evangelism is not to see people converted to Christ, nor even made into disciples…the goal of evangelism is the formation of Christian community.” God wants a family on earth that He can call his own. His plan each person is to be united to this family and formed by it. The only path to pleasing God is to be formed in the community that Jesus established. Thus our preaching is ultimately an invitation to the shared life of the community. Education is all about forming people for shared life in the community—participating in family rituals.

        2) The requirement for church leadership must reach beyond a confession of faith to a demonstration of faith. Generosity, eating with sinners, caring for strangers, etc. should be the defining marks of church leadership (alongside Trinitarian faith, doctrinal adherence, orthodoxy, etc.).

        3) The church leadership must dedicate itself to painstaking and time-intensive practice of personal discipleship. There is no shortcut for deep-level discipleship. I think the best campus ministries demonstrated this.

  10. Rob Pierce said

    Pazmino offers unique insight in to the theory behind Liberation Theology and Christian education using his own personal experience in both North America and South/Central America, as well as the works of other leading Christian education specialists. While much of the book was fascinating and insightful, as a student studying Worship I personally found the section on different models of education especially helpful in my own future ministry. Pazmino relies heavily on the works of Garcia and Foster to help inform him on the four models: White Conformity Model; Melting Pot Model; Cultural-Pluralism Model; and Multicultural Model. Pazmino introduces this section by clarifying that these models manifest themselves less in the “explicit curriculum” and more in the “hidden or null curriculum;” that is to say that while the written lesson plan may stress the need for multicultural awareness and interaction, it may come from an ethnocentric background. We run in to this danger not only in Christian Education (i.e., Sunday School), but also in our worship services. We too often intentionally select songs from other cultures to include in our worship without including brothers or sisters from other cultures to help lead worship. The models of Christian Education that Pazmino suggests are helpful reminders to worship leaders that we must be aware of not just the “finished product” of our worship services. We must be aware of these models when planning the services, and work to include people of various backgrounds in to the leadership of the church. Pazmino quotes Hulda Niebuhr: “What curriculum is used doesn’t matter as much as who the teacher is. It is the personal life and faith, the integrity and Christian expression of the teacher which determines ultimately what happens in the classroom” (p. 138). I believe this statement sums up what should be the goal of worship leadership; we must be willing to include worship leaders that embody the ideals we set out to equip our congregants with, while being aware of what model of education (cited above) we are truly working under.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      “Hidden curriculum” is a critical matter. Beyond the ethnicity of worship leaders, what else is ‘hidden’ in worship practices in churches you know? Have you ever stumbled onto your own unreflective practices that contribute to unhelpful cultural biases?

      • Rob Pierce said

        Honestly, liturgical structure can easily fit in to this category. The liturgy has been passed down through one cultural perspective, and often does not take in to account how other cultures view worship. I say this as a person who has used the liturgy and is a big supporter of the liturgy. I think that keeping these hidden curricula in mind when using a liturgy can help us to recognize where cultural bias may creep in to our worship services without us realizing that.

    • Sallie Carey said

      Insightful comments, Rob! I think that the way “hidden curriculum” reinforces systems of power and authority in a church or other institution can be really dangerous, especially because the structure of the institution hides systemic oppression in plain sight. Oppressive systems of power are reenacted and reinforced by communal practices without our even realizing it.

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