The Holy Spirit, Defender of the Weak

29 May

The Holy Spirit, Defender of the Weak

Karl Marx criticized the Christian religion for sustaining the conditions of a rigid class stratification. Christianity has little interest, so the critique goes, in the narratives of the oppressed. After all, the Church has historically been in positions of power—why would it want to proclaim the stories of the marginalized?

The above represents a common critique of the Catholic faith, one which has seen many interpretations and has been extended well into the 21st century. In some sense, the critique is valid and necessary; the Church has at times engaged in the political power matrices of its historical climate. But it has done so occasionally and lamentably. In fact, what the tradition teaches is quite the opposite: the Christian religion is the religion of the marginalized and victim class.

This, in actuality, comprises the original disciples of Jesus, men and women who represented an economically, politically, and religiously oppressed class of individuals. The genesis of Christian cultural evangelization and advocacy is forged within this identity, and the association between a marginalized identity and the act of Christ is inseparable. This act is a self-giving act, one which finds its fullest expression on the Cross. Here, Christians believe that the salvation of the world came about. Yet, its coming about is rooted in the expression of outrageous love and weakness.

That is to say, Christians believe that salvation emanated from the exact opposite orientation of political power and class rule. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. One of the many miraculous results of this descent was the eventual reformation of the world’s largest and most powerful empire. Rome was slowly becoming Christian, but not through violent oppression or revolution. Instead, it slowly changes through the selfless acts of love and self-giving martyrdom.

The disciples believed the Holy Spirit was guiding them. Christians also refer to the Spirit as the Paraclete, which translates from the Greek as the advocate or defender. The Spirit is the advocate for both truth and justice, a defender of the weak and the truth of the Gospels. Catholic anthropologist Rene Girard deftly observes, “The Paraclete is called on behalf of the prisoner, the victim, to speak in his place and in his name, to act in his defense. The Paraclete is the universal advocate, the chief defender of all innocent victims, the destroyer of every representation of persecution. He is truly the spirit of truth that dissipates the fog of mythology.”

The Holy Spirit speaks for those who history has forgotten. It is the Spirit who defends the weak and the victim, and in so doing, reveals the heart of the Gospel message of salvation, breaking apart divisions so that they may be brought together as one body, united in Christ.

-Tim DeCelle


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