Revealing the Power: New Creation Epistemology for Adolescent Girls
Adolescent girls need a meaningful and liberative theological lens for interpreting their lives. I argue that a close reading of Romans 6-8 offers this lens because of Paul’s apocalyptic understanding of the present time, the implications of the crucifixion of Christ, and the promise of the coming new creation. I additionally argue that critical liberative pedagogical strategies enable girls to see from this new perspective with the help of adults, particularly adult women, in their communities of faith.
Adolescent girls are subjected to different layers of oppression in the United States. They are given no voice and no vote in the public sphere. Their silence is assumed by their churches as well. Additionally, all girls struggle against sexism. Racism, classism, sizism, and heterosexism also impact some girls. Girls experience prejudice related to all these areas of oppression in their lives in personal ways. Pauline apocalypticism offers a way to understand these experiences and how they occur in order to liberate girls from taking responsibility for the ways others objectify them.
Using conversational interviews based on the work of Elliot Mishler, I spoke with 24 girls who are active in United Methodist Churches in the New York Annual Conference. I then did a close exegetical reading of Romans 6-8, and put the interviews into conversation with that reading. Emerging from those interviews were specific themes especially important to these girls. Some theological insights from Romans 6-8 are particularly pertinent to those themes. The conversation between Romans 6-8 and the interviews with girls led to pedagogical suggestions for how to help girls see from Paul’s perspective and interpret their stories and their lives in real time according to that perspective.
Girls need to be included in the full life of the church, something that is theologically supported by Paul’s understanding of the individual as always in relationship. The church is a corporate body of those participating in Christ by means of their baptism. When girls see with a new perspective, a “new creation perspective,” they can see the powers of Sin and Death manifesting in their lives through these oppressive systems. Girls need mentors who will form an alliance with them for the interpreting of their own lives from an apocalyptic perspective and against the powers of Sin and Death as they manifest in girls’ lives both in and outside the church. These mentors should be women who can share their own stories from a new creation perspective, welcome girls’ stories, help girls interpret their stories, and work to help the whole church be a welcoming community of co-interpreters for girls.