“The Spirit of God was my advocate at all times. Going before me and softening hearts. Preparing every door and opportunity. Giving me spiritual guidance and strength to act. Even when I failed, God’s grace was sufficient to continue the work I was called to do. This is God’s work, not mine. God is in action, using people and events to help my marginalized group. I am simply one part of this mission and all it took was obedience to the Spirit’s guidance.”
Since Trump’s emergence to the presidency, politics has become an ever–present reality that cannot be avoided in American life. Even more, the continual evangelical support of the Trump presidency has left many Christians and non–Christians with cognitive, moral, and biblical dissonance. How can evangelicals continue to demonstrate unwavering support of a person who represents the antithesis of Jesus’ social teachings in the gospels? In the midst of these living contradictions, where truth is stranger than fiction, it is easy for Latino/a Pentecostals in the U.S. to eschew political and social engagement and withdraw into enclaves, waiting for the eschatological renewal of the world. Certainly, Pentecostals in the U.S. and global south have been criticized for failing to engage society and for spiritualizing social problems. More recently however, this is not always the case as we observe in the U.S. and Central America. Pentecostals have developed a social–political awareness and are proclaiming a gospel that addresses both physical and spiritual needs. Indeed, Gastón Espinosa asserts that Latinos/as in the U.S. have been involved in social, civic, and political action throughout the twentieth century. Phillip Wingeier–Rayo finds that Pentecostalism in Mexico has made a social impact by contributing to the democratization and pluralism of society. In Guatemala, Néstor Medina points out that theological understandings of salvation and eschatology have been reconfigured to include a more holistic approach to ministry and participation in the world. James Huff identifies Pentecostal organizations and institutions that take the movement beyond the church and into the public sphere of El Salvador. And as Douglas Petersen states about Pentecostals in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, “Pentecostals don’t have a social program… they are a social program.”
Today, Latino/a Pentecostals are positioned within a politically and socially charged moment in American history where the country’s divisions are not simply along political party lines, but represent different ways of seeing society’s problems and solutions. However, Espinosa finds that the moderate position of Pentecostal Latinos/as—their bipartisanship approach to politics, moral conservatism, and democratic leanings—has led to “criticism by extremist and activists on both sides.” Social–political engagement does have its challenges, and Pentecostal Latinos/as are often caught between the polarizing extremes. Therefore, articulating a pneumatological paradigm that further undergirds social–political engagement is imperative. This paper thus aims to do just that. That is, to provide another pneumatological lens that has been neglected in theological articulations of social–political engagement. In exploring the various pneumatological paradigms, we commonly find the utilization of Lukan or Pauline conceptions of the Spirit. While I do not aim to undervalue Lukan or Pauline pneumatological paradigms, I argue that the Fourth Gospel provides another model to think about engagement with the world. More specifically, the engagement of Latinos/as who are concerned about undocumented Latino/a children and youth, who are known through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), and will be referred to in this article as Dreamers.
This article will explore the relationship between social–political activism in support of Dreamers, and the Spirit–Paraclete of the Fourth Gospel. Moreover, it seeks to answer the question: what does the Paraclete have to do with Dreamers? I propose that we consider a new way of thinking about Johannine pneumatology. Specifically, reimagining the Paraclete as a social–political advocate that is made manifest in the support and defense of Dreamers, children who are legally orphaned from their own homeland. My proposal will consist of three parts. First, I will review the current political situation and context of Latino/a Dreamers. I will then explain why the Johannine Paraclete provides a distinct pneumatological lens for understanding Dreamer advocacy. Finally, I will observe how the Paraclete as an advocate for Dreamers is exemplified in the life of Sayra Lozano, a current Dreamer and Pentecostal Latina social justice advocate. This biographical narration includes how her life reflects, is inspired by, and emulates the Paraclete activity of advocacy on behalf of Dreamers.
The Context of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Dreamers
Before we discuss the social–political pneumatology that undergirds advocacy for Dreamers, it is important to understand the difference between Dreamers and those within the DACA program. The term “Dreamers” comes from the U.S. legislative bill S.1291 (2001), which was introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R) and Patrick Leahy (D). Later legislative bills such as the S.2205 (2007) and the S.3992 (2010) also used a similar acronym: Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (D.R.E.A.M.). These bills aimed to cancel all deportation procedures of undocumented people under 30 years of age and who entered the U.S. before the age of 16. It would also adjust their status from “undocumented” to “temporary residents,” with ongoing renewals every 10 years. Importantly, these young people would have been granted authorization to work and gain access to higher education. These laws, however, never passed. They failed in the Senate with the help of several Democrats who broke rank to join the Republicans in defeating the bills. The political impasse between the House and the Senate prompted the Obama administration to create the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program (also known as the DACA) through an executive order on June 15, 2012. The DACA program imitated many aspects of the various DREAM legislative bills, but without the pathway to citizenship. It halted deportation proceedings and granted temporary work permits. Dreamers were thus understood to be those undocumented minorities who would have benefited from the DREAM legislative bills. Yet many of these Dreamers were absorbed into the new DACA program of the Obama administration. It is because of this legislative association and history that the terms DACA and Dreamers are considered synonymous.
However, The DACA program, approved by the Obama administration, was immediately met with hostility by the Trump administration. As early as June 16, 2017, the Trump administration aimed to rescind DACA. Following that, on September 5, 2017, an arbitrary expiration date was announced in order to put pressure on Congress to pass an immigration legislative bill, but that too failed. Then, through a series of legislative debates, lawsuits, and a Supreme Court ruling, the DACA program was reinstated and allowed to continue but without further expansion. The emotional, social, and political upheaval created by the Trump administration and Congress’ failure to pass any legislative bill crushed Dreamers’ hopes to become accepted as citizens.
The experience of Dreamers is unlike the experience of the first-generation migrants. The Center for American Progress and Tom K. Wong of the University of California San Diego find that the average age that Dreamers came to the U.S. is six years old. According to the Brookings Institute, almost one-third were five years or younger and more than two-thirds were 10 or younger when they arrived. Their early arrival means that Dreamers are educated within American public schools. In fact, another 72% of Dreamers are enrolled in American colleges pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. This also suggests that many Dreamers have lived in the U.S. the majority of their lives.
However, the Trump administration’s hostility toward immigrants has taken a toll on the psychological well-being of Dreamers. Later field surveys conducted by the Center for American Progress with the United We Dream, and the National Immigration Law Center found that since Trump’s presidency, Dreamers have experienced additional emotional distress given the new fear of being deported. Luz Garcini, a postdoctoral fellow in the psychology department at Rice University, found that 63% of undocumented young people between the ages of 18 to 25 are showing signs of psychological distress. She notes that this is the highest percentage of any age group of all people. They not only experience chronic stress, fear of deportation, feel voiceless and invisible, but also an inner conflict as they contend with the reality that the U.S. does not want them even though they view the U.S. as their home.
Dreamers are legislatively orphaned from their own land. Their home country which they have known their entire lives has rejected them, abandoned them, used them for political votes, and ultimately desires to exile them as we have witnessed under the Justice Department of the Trump administration. Strikingly, the language for country in Greek is patris, which means to have a native land, hometown, or country. The term comes from the Greek word patēr, which is translated as “father.” In antiquity, it was understood that to have a native land is to have a fatherland. Thus, to be without a native land is akin to being fatherless, metaphorically orphaned without a place to call home. Jesus also knew what it meant to be a Dreamer. He knew what it meant to be orphaned from his own hometown. He called himself a prophet without a patris, rejected by his own people of Galilee (Matt 13:54–57; Mark 6:1–4; Luke 4:23–24; John 4:44). We also find the writer of Hebrews metaphorically describing all the Jewish patriarchs as being orphaned from their own land. The writer affirms that they all died in faith as “strangers and exiles” even while they sought “a patris that they could call their own” (Heb 11:13–16). Thus, the experiences of Dreamers in the U.S. are not without precedent. The biblical literature includes people who, having dwelled and lived upon the land their entire lives, were denied a homeland. What, then, does the Paraclete have to do with Dreamers, those children who have now been orphaned from their own land? Does the identity and activity of the Paraclete have any bearing on the current situation of Dreamers?
The Spirit–Paraclete and Orphans
When we explore the Spirit in the gospels, what clearly separates Johannine pneumatology from the Synoptic tradition is the rare use of the word “Paraclete.” The Fourth Gospel furnishes us with a portrait of the Spirit that is distinguishable but not too far detached from the perspectives found in the Synoptic Gospels. The term is found on four occasions within the gospel (14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7) and once in the letter (1 John 2:1). The introduction of the Spirit as Paraclete is couched within the context of Jesus’ final words, also known as the Farewell Discourse in John 14-17. Scholars notice the difficulties in translating the term. Otto Betz remarks that the term originates from a forensic context, even though it is not akin to the Latin advocatus. Kenneth Grayston asserts that it is often translated as an advocate, helper, or counselor, and appears in a legal context. He insists that since the term is not used in reference to a legal title or official, its forensic meaning should be dismissed. Frederick Harm states that the term is used to describe an advocate in a court of law, an intercessor or defender, and a person who pleads another’s cause. He does not find this meaning crucial to the gospel’s perspective of the Spirit but prefers to explore how “Paraclete” is characterized as a helper, teacher, witness, and judge. Although Grayston and Harm explore non–forensic and contextual meanings, Johannes Behm finds that the history and concept of the term show that all subsidiary meanings were interwoven into the primary sense of advocate. He agrees that “Paraclete” is not used as a title for a professional legal adviser, yet this should not suggest that the forensic meaning is absent. Behm proposes that the non–forensic meanings are to be understood in light of the primary legal sense. A Paraclete is thus a “person called in to help, summoned to give assistance,” or “helper in court.”
We notice this forensic meaning in the writings of Philo. The “Paraclete” terminology is used to alleviate fears of retribution when Philo retells the story of Joseph and his experience with his brothers who sold him into slavery (Ios. 1.239). Philo also utilizes an advocacy sense of the term to describe the priests and people who come before the temple (Mos. 2.134–135; Spec. 1.237). Philo’s use of Paraclete is found when describing key figures who intervene in punishments and act on behalf of others. Reconciliation with God is brought forth through the intervention of a Paraclete (Praem. 1.166). Marco is described as a Paraclete and chief advisor to the emperor Tiberius (Flacc. 1.13, 22). The Egyptian people reminded Flaccus that the city of Alexandria itself would be a Paraclete on his behalf to Gaius (Flacc. 1.23). And when Flaccus was exiled, it was Lepidus who interceded as a Paraclete to help alleviate his banishment (Flacc. 1.151, 181).
According to Philo, Paraclete takes a legal and advocacy role. Primarily, it refers to those who need forensic help and require assistance, whether the individual is in the temple or in dire need for reconciliation. Exploring the significance of the Paraclete expression therefore requires that we consider its legal background. In fact, Lochlan Shelfer argues that the term was developed as a precise equivalent to the Latin term advocatus, contrary to Betz’s claim. Shelfer finds that a Paraclete is someone of an elevated status who speaks and acts on behalf of someone who is in danger before a judge. He agrees that the legal terminology and background of the term is not exhaustive in the depiction of the Spirit’s duties within the Fourth Gospel. He does, however, presuppose that a judicial context is woven throughout the Farewell Discourse. As Behm points out, the only difference is that the Spirit in Johannine literature is not the defender of the disciples before God, but their counsel in relation to the world.
This does not mean that we should exclude the different nuances and additional activities of the Paraclete when we approach the Farewell Discourse. The Spirit as Paraclete is promised to be with the disciples forever, abiding with them and being in them (14:16–17). The Paraclete will also teach and remind the disciples (14:26), testify (15:26–27), and convict the world (16:7). These communicatory activities and movement of the Spirit–Paraclete are however not limited to the disciples. We cannot ignore the forensic activity and description of the Paraclete as an advocate of the disciples in an unjust world full of hatred (15:19) and violence (16:2). Furthermore, when Jesus promises to send the Paraclete to the disciples, the context is one of a pending abandonment. The metaphor Jesus uses to illustrate their reality after his departure is that of an orphan (14:18)—the most vulnerable and defenseless person in Greco–Roman antiquity.
The Farwell Discourse includes Jesus’ final words. Jesus exhorts the disciples not to allow their “hearts to become troubled” (14:1). He reminds them that if he were to leave and prepare a place for them, this also means that he would return (14:3). It is within this context of Jesus’ coming death, a sense of physical abandonment and departure, that Jesus promises to send another Paraclete who will primarily remain with the disciples forever (14:16-17). The emotional tone is not solely of a cherished rabbi leaving his disciples; it is portrayed with the language of child abandonment. Undeniably, when Jesus promises to send the Paraclete, he does so to comfort the disciples with the idea that he would not leave them as orphans. Jesus states, “I will not leave you orphaned, I will come to you” (14:18). These final words are thus given so that the disciples would not despair, they will have a Paraclete. But more specifically, the Paraclete is the one who comes to the disciples so that they would not presume that their experiences—the loss of their rabbi—would be akin to an orphan’s loss of a father.
We must recognize that from 13:33 the disciples are also described as “little children” who are about to experience the most drastic event that can happen to a child: becoming orphaned. Although Jesus is not the Father, the narrative is woven in kinship imagery that portrays Jesus as a father who speaks to his children, warning them about his coming death and the responsibilities thereafter. John Stube in fact remarks that calling the disciples “children” in 13:33 is affectionate language. But this language is not a new metaphor for believers or the Johannine community. In the prologue (1:12), those who believe in Jesus are given the right to be a “child of God.” We also find that the child imagery is used in John 11:52 to explain how the death of Jesus would gather all the “children” who are scattered throughout the Diaspora. Leon Morris argues that although this statement refers to the Jews of the Diaspora, it is arguably referring to Gentile Christians. In other words, the “children” imagery is the narrator’s description of the Johannine community’s identity. This also suggests that understanding the community as “children of God” was already familiar to the readers, as is observable in the Johannine letters.
The use of the “child” imagery from the prologue to the Johannine letters expands our imagination of what it means to be a member of God’s household. This language provokes the Johannine community to understand its identity, not solely in terms of Jewish, Greek, or Samaritan ethnic ideologies and privileges, but also as newly-born children of God. We are thus pressed to theologically reimagine the sending of the Spirit as a sending of a forensic advocate to a child who has lost a father through tragic means. More specifically, the promise of the Spirit is a promise to always have a legal defender who resides within and with the children of God who have become orphaned due to Jesus’ death. But what, then, does it mean to become orphaned in antiquity, and how does this metaphor assuage the pending experiences of the disciples?
The status of widows and orphans was a visible reality in the ancient world. We may assume that orphans were those who only lost both parents, but this was not so in antiquity. Losing solely one’s father would have classified a child as an orphan even though the mother was still alive. Sabine Hübner and David Ratzan also point out that there were many fatherless children given the high mortality rate and a tendency of men to marry late in life. In fact, Walter Scheidel finds that about one–third of all children within the Greco–Roman period would have lost their father by the age of fifteen. Losing one’s father brought economic disruption, placed one’s inheritance in jeopardy, caused undue hardship and grief for the mother, and led to the possibility of becoming vulnerable to oppression and exploitation. These challenges motivated many widows to immediately remarry. But Hübner finds that in Roman law the stepfathers were depicted as legacy hunters who aimed to embezzle their stepchildren’s inheritance.
Although guardians, older siblings, and extended kin often took it upon themselves to care for orphans, the harsh consequences of being orphaned were difficult to alleviate. Within the Homeric epics, Georg Wöhrle finds that an orphaned child was often put in a precarious and sometimes fatal situation. When Hector of Troy died in his fight with Achilles, his wife Andromache does not immediately become aware. She runs to the walls of Troy, looking over to see her husband’s body dragged through the dirt. As she bursts into tears, the impact of his death upon their son emerges within her lament. She states,
“And your son, the child of doomed parents, our child, a mere babe, can no longer give you joy, dead Hector: nor can you give joy to him. Even if he survives this dreadful war against the Greeks, toil and suffering will be his fate, bereft of all his lands. An orphaned child is severed from his playmates. He goes about with downcast looks and tear–stained cheeks, plucks his father’s friends by the cloak or tunic, till one, from pity, holds the wine–cup to his lips, but only for a moment, enough to wet his lips but not his palate. And some lad with both parents alive strikes him with his fist and drives him from the feast, jeering at him in reproach: ‘Away with you, now! You’ve no father here.’ So my child will run in tears to his widowed mother, my son Astyanax, who sat on his father’s knee eating the rich fat and the sheep’s marrow, and when he was sleepy and tired of play, slept in his nurse’s arms in a soft bed, his dreams sweet. Now, with his dear father gone, ills will crowd on him” (trans. A. S. Kline; Homer, Ill. 22.484–505).
The dire fate of Hector’s son is not lost in Andromache’s words. She realizes that her orphaned son’s life has drastically changed because of Hector’s death. Her son, who was once eating in luxury, will be cast out from the tables, beaten by strangers with no one to protect him, ridiculed, deprived of his land, and socially ostracized from his friends. Certainly, Wöhrle finds that in this lament, Andromache recognized the genuine danger that her son would encounter, especially since he would now be deposed of his inheritance.
Although not all orphans were neglected, all of them, both the wealthy and poor, faced economic and social challenges. The dire situation confronting orphans emerges in Greek mythology, in which Zeus was known to be a god who watched over orphans. As we find in the case of Euripides’ Ion, Apollo commissions Hermes to bring the orphan child Ion to the temple at Delphi where a priestess could raise him. Orphans were truly the most vulnerable in antiquity. Even if their mothers remarried, their stepfathers were not legally obliged to provide for them and there was always a danger that their stepfathers would rob their inheritance. The threat of social and economic instability caused by losing one’s father was a dire problem in antiquity.
When we turn to biblical literature, a similar situation for orphans also emerges. Marcus Sigismund notes that the central characteristic of orphans in the Old Testament is the lack of rights and their defenseless position in society. This is notable in the various injunctions to care and protect orphans, especially since they are most susceptible to being oppressed, murdered, sold as slaves, denied justice , and experience theft and financial distress. Due to these harsh experiences, God emerges as their surrogate father and protector. God promises to hear the cries of the orphan and avenge them (Exod 22:22-27). God is described as executing justice for orphans (Deut 10:18). The Psalmist also portrays God as a “helper of the orphan… who inclines his ear to vindicate the orphan and oppressed” (Ps 10:14, 17-18). Or as more poignantly described, “He is a father to the fatherless” (Ps 68:5). Likewise, in Hosea, the prophet claims “For in you the orphan find mercy” (14:3). God in the Old Testament is deeply concerned about the status and welfare of orphans and is depicted as their defender. Moreover, the Israelite community is given an injunction to protect and provide for them, not causing them any more undue hardship.
Although the New Testament rarely mentions orphans, the same command to care for orphans is assumed. Jesus demonstrates his ability to raise a dead orphan boy who was the only son of a widow in a town called Nain. This miracle led many to affirm that God has come to help his people, thus truly caring for orphans (Luke 7:11-16). James describes true religion as “caring for the orphans and widows in their misfortune” (Jas 1:27). This same exhortation to care for orphans is found within the context of caring for widows in Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul exhorts Timothy to make sure that the real widows who need assistance are taken care of, which presumes that these widows have orphan children and no extended kin to help care for them (1 Tim 5:1–16).
Turning back to the Fourth Gospel, the reality of being orphaned would have been a vivid metaphor that illustrated the grave consequences of abandonment that would befall the disciples. How then does Jesus mitigate the pending orphaning caused by his death? How does Jesus assuage the fear of total abandonment that will result from his departure and return to the Father? Or asked another way, how can the disciples and Johannine community view themselves as “children of God” although it may appear that they have been abandoned by Jesus—the only person who made visible the Father on earth? Simply put, it is through the presence of the Paraclete. The sending of the Spirit as Paraclete, therefore, compels us to reimagine and bring to the forefront of our pneumatological imagination the role of advocacy for the defenseless—especially Dreamers. The distressing experiences of the orphaned disciples, their fear of abandonment, and disassociation from their kinship group is mitigated by the sending of the Spirit–advocate. The forensic terminology does not emerge by accident in the Johannine discourse. Being orphaned within antiquity was a dire predicament, and so too was the situation of the Johannine community. The Paraclete imagery communicates to the disciples a pneumatological advocacy for those who are orphaned and abandoned, excommunicated, on the verge of poverty, and with one’s land and inheritance in jeopardy.
The Spirit–Paraclete in Pentecostal Social–Political Activism
In light of Johannine Paraclete, how then does it shape our understanding of social–political advocacy within a Latino/a context? Or more specifically, how does the Johannine pneumatological activity as Paraclete shape our understanding of the orphaned Dreamers today, including migrant children in internment camps within the deserts of Texas? Simply put, the Paraclete is a defender of children, the most vulnerable in society. The Paraclete is made manifest in the activity of advocacy and must not only inform our pneumatological imagination, it must also shape how we view all social–political advocacy for the defenseless today. There are too many children who are denied their legal rights of asylum and opportunity to become citizens in the land in which they have lived their entire lives. Like the vulnerable experiences of orphans of antiquity, Dreamers today are legislatively orphaned and abandoned by their fatherland. Indeed, the U.S. is their fatherland, it is the only land they know. But they are not considered true children of this nation. The U.S. is a dead father who has failed to provide Dreamers the same economic benefits and opportunities that are given to all children who are born on the land. And it is also this current political climate that continues to leave them vulnerable to exploitation and oppression, a situation that also befell orphans in antiquity.
But how specifically can we see the activity of the Paraclete today? To understand the role of the Paraclete we must also look to those who advocate for Dreamers today, and it is most notable in the life of a young Dreamer, a Latina Pentecostal, social–political advocate, and U.N. Youth Delegate of Mexico, Sayra Lozano. Sayra was raised in California after she came to the U.S. at the age of 5 from Mexico. Her entire life she “felt like a fugitive, terrified at the sight of police officers.” Growing up, she did not know what it meant to be an immigrant, an experience akin to many Dreamers who have lived in the U.S. their entire lives. But after DACA was enacted in 2012, she felt that the documents now protected her from deportation and gave her a “sense of humanity and existence” that she never had before. Given that it was a temporary fix, she became “personally invested in working towards a permanent solution, not only for [her], but for [her] community.” This included opportunities to intern with local and federal government, including the U.S. House of Representative through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. After she graduated from LABI College, she continued into a graduate program at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. It was during her time in Florida that she became more aware of the hostile tensions toward the immigrant community. Then she felt “a strong pull from the Holy Spirit to act,” and her advocacy activity started with a letter to her congressional representative.
Drawing from her legislative experiences, she wrote a letter to her representative and explained why they should support the Dream Act. But after she received a generic response from her congressional representative, she knew that her letter was not personally read. As a result, she started to share her story publicly and advocate for Dreamers throughout her community. She published multiple opinion pieces in the Washington Post, Miami Herald, Florida Today, and the Los Angeles Times so that her story would be known. Her advocacy for Dreamers was motivated by a strong sense that the Spirit was guiding her. In particular, the role of the Spirit–Paraclete activity in her life is notable in the language she uses in her opinion piece to the Washington Post. She states,
“We have done nothing more than try to contribute to the nation we love. Why must our communities be ‘punished’ for Republican elected officials to feel better about ‘helping’ us? Let me pay the fine, let me risk my security by advocating publicly, let me bear the burden of this broken immigration system, not my community. I’ll do it all if it means I get to call the United States home.”
Sayra, as a Dreamer, is advocating for Dreamers, even to the point where she recognizes that her advocacy would entail suffering on their behalf. This opinion piece propelled Sayra into the public light which soon led to further news stories, interviews, and opportunities that gave her chance to call out congressional representatives’ blatant failures to keep their promises. As she continued to advocate for Dreamers within her community in Florida, views about the Latino community began to change. She noticed that “putting a face to an issue [made] a difference.” Even more, she found that people had “changed their perspective on the issue” simply by knowing her story.
Her advocacy, however, did not always change opinions or sway congressional representatives. During one Thanksgiving break, I had an opportunity to meet with Sayra. It was during a conversation that she shared a disheartening lobbying experience at the U.S. Congress. Congressional representatives failed to take seriously the case for Dreamers and some even implicitly berated her for being a “lawbreaker.” One representative even brazenly raised the prospect that she and others like her “should be punished before [they] could be helped.” Sayra’s rebuttal however was swift. She retorted, “while I understand we are a nation of laws, we are also a nation of compassion. The two are not mutually exclusive to each other, and I hope you can consider this when you consider Dreamer legislation.”
It was during this lobbying experience that Sayra felt powerless and all the feelings of rejection, abandonment, and even doubt about her mission to advocate for Dreamers resurfaced. But it is also during these experiences that the presence of the Paraclete was most evident. The Paraclete was with her, and even gave her the right words to defend Dreamers. This experience also propelled her to continue to seek God’s guidance. She certainly felt disillusioned and thought that her time and period of advocacy was coming to an end because of her experiences with hostile congressional representatives. But it was also during these moments that other opportunities were being prepared.
Sayra’s goal was to “humanize [the] issue that had been politicized for far too long” and to advocate for Dreamers by restoring their “human dignity.” Not only did she have the opportunity to return to Congress and lobby a second time where she found a more receptive tone, but she later found herself becoming a Youth Delegate for the United Nations. This was the first time that two U.S. Dreamers were chosen to represent Mexico at the United Nations General Assembly. Her opportunity to advocate for Dreamers was at the local, national, and international level. Sayra found that it was a “tremendous honor to advocate for [her] community at a global level.” While using the platform to represent Mexico as a U.S. Dreamer in New York, she was internationally advocating on behalf the Latino/a community while also calling the U.S. to account for their failure to do justice and mercy.
What then does the Spirit–Paraclete have to do with Dreamers? The presence and activity of the Paraclete are made manifest in the lives of advocates like Sayra Lozano, a Latina Pentecostal undocumented Dreamer who is a U.N. Youth Delegate representing Latinos/as and Dreamers. The Paraclete is sent to defend those abandoned in their native land. The Paraclete is promised to always be with those who are defenseless and without advocates. And this also means that to see Dreamers, the legislatively orphaned children amongst us, is to find the presence of the Paraclete. To join those who defend Dreamers is also to engage in this pneumatological activity that was promised by Jesus in the Johannine Farewell Discourse. For it is in the context of child abandonment that the Spirit emerges as an advocate. And it is in the activity of advocacy that the Paraclete’s presence emerges as a defender of the vulnerable and oppressed amongst us, as we see manifested in the life of Sayra Lozano.
This article has aimed to provide a new pneumatological paradigm for social–political advocacy by utilizing the imagery of the Johannine Paraclete. The tendency to solely focus on the revelatory activities of the Paraclete severely limits the forensic implications within the Johannine Farewell Discourse. It is only when we explore the significance of orphans in antiquity, the context of the Farewell Discourse, and the forensic significance of “Paraclete” that we can move beyond the terminological impasse that has troubled Johannine scholars. It is with a forensic understanding of the Paraclete that we can understand more clearly the situation and need for Dreamer advocacy because they too are orphaned from their own land. Just as Jesus is the Paraclete for Christians before God (1 John 2:1), the Spirit is the Paraclete for Dreamers before a hostile world. We must not only recognize that social–political advocacy is something that we do, it is something that is motivated and inspired by the presence of the Paraclete as we observe in the life of Sayra Lozano.