All Families Should Count

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration. . . All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. [Luke 2:1–5]

Belonging to a community, a people requires a few core elements. Among them is to be of charitable intent, to love and support one’s neighbor. This is central to being part of a family, a community, as well as being human; one dependent on the other in times of need and to know that the other would do the same in turn. Another is to be known as a member of a community or family and this is what the first known census described in Luke 2:1-5. Joseph is called to register as a member of the House of David in his city of origin. The count enabled the distribution of power and money in alignment with the numbers of people within regions, lines or communities. Joseph and Mary, poor and humble, a working man and his betrothed, heavy with child, set off to be counted along with all others in the nation.

In America, we are preparing for our decennial census to be taken in 2020 and it too will determine the distribution of money and power for people much like Joseph and Mary. The less among us, the poor, those in need, immigrants and refugees as well as the wealthy and everyone in between must all be counted. The Census  is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which states: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States… according to their respective Numbers… .

Currently, more than 308 federal programs supported by our taxes in the amount of $1.5 Trillion each year will be distributed to states for schools, Medicaid and Medicare, food programs, community safety such as fire and police, roads and bridges, transportation, education, early childhood programs and a myriad of other critical services and resources for our communities based on the census count.

Representation will be apportioned as it was in the time of Augustus. From America’s census, seats in our congress and senate will be distributed based on those counted without opportunity to correct the record should groups be undercounted. There have been continued attempts to suppress counts of immigrants and refugees across our country and these policies and practices continue as a means of controlling wealth and power in our nation and are symptomatic of the current political climate. Those who will continue to suffer are the least among us: young children, the elderly, immigrants and refugees, the disconnected and disenfranchised poor of our nation. These are our Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus who seek to be counted, to be acknowledged as part of our communities and to share in the distribution of wealth, power and representation as is promised by our Constitution. If we don’t get this right, our neighbors will be destitute and seeking our help in ways that will overwhelm our resources and communities. We must work towards a fair and accurate 2020 Census.

As we prepare the way of the Lord and to celebrate His birth into the Blessed Family, we must reflect and act to ensure that, like in Bethlehem of old, our communities’ families and individual neighbors are counted as cherished members of our family of God.