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Be Counted. Jesus Was! And Help Others Get Counted

by Kelvin Sauls

This detail from a 14th century mosaic in Istanbul depicts Mary and Joseph reporting to the Census of Quirinius.
This detail from a 14th century mosaic in Istanbul depicts Mary and Joseph reporting to the Census of Quirinius.
Image by: Courtesy

New York, NY, March 9, 2010--It's census time in the United States, the year to count every resident of the nation, whether citizen, permanent resident, or immigrant.

If you're here, be counted, and help others get counted, too!

The US Census, which comes once every 10 years, has had its historical controversies, and some people continue to have issues with the credibility and confidentiality of the data. Yet the quality of life in many communities will be adversely affected if every person is not counted, because funds for many social programs depend upon the numbers.

Regardless of the past, the Census has purpose, power, and possibility, and Christians need to work with it to achieve the best. This year, the Bureau of the Census seems genuine in its concern to count everyone, and toward that goal has reached out to churches as partners.

We as Christians know a bit about censuses. In different times and for different reasons, Jesus was counted! Luke records the following:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1-5, NIV)

Homeless, dressed in strips of cloth, and laid in a manger with hay as a blanket, Jesus was counted as part of an oppressed group of people taxed without representation. The purpose for this count was unjust. Though this count did not result in political representation, distribution of funds, or influence in the economic decisions for Nazareth or Bethlehem, the Christ Child was counted. Counted and seemingly without political voice, Jesus grew up to challenge and transform the very system that created and sustained the conditions of his birth and the fate of his people.

You Count in the 2010 US Census

Unlike Caesar's census, participation in the 2010 US Census enables you to amplify your voice about how designated federal funds can directly benefit communities. Your response to a ten-short-questions form can have a long-term impact on the improvement of social services, educational facilities, infrastructure, and the vitality of your community.

Promptly completing and mailing back your form (in the postage-paid envelope provided) will give you direct influence on political, economic, and social decisions being made about your community. The forms will start arriving in mid-March. Census-takers will hand-deliver forms to people difficult to reach by mail. Some 90 percent of the population should receive forms through the post office.

Benefits of the Census

The Census is the most basic form of participating in the democratic process. Filling out the Census form means making a statement about the unique and specific resources your community needs for forward movement. Your participation is crucial! An accurate count is critical! Representative distribution of funds is long overdue! Here are some benefits of a fair and total count:

  • The distribution of funds will facilitate the betterment and improvement of communities, and the update and upgrade of services. The 2010 Census will play a role in distributing more than $400 billion in federal funds each year--more than $4 trillion over a 10-year period--to care for and improve much needed infrastructure projects such as highways, bridges, tunnels, and other public-works projects.
  • The health and wellness of communities will be enhanced by the improvement of current or the building of new hospitals and health centers. Emergency services are also eligible for improvement through designated funds.
  • With unemployment at 10%, these dollars can enable communities to re-tool workers through job training centers.
  • Education will be affected because available funds assist with the improvement of elementary, middle and high schools, community colleges, and state universities.
  • Senior centers and other recreational facilities also qualify for support.

Funds are distributed on per capita ratios, and the 2010 count will have benefits across generations, professions, and neighborhoods. The Census data has a role in determining how your taxes can support causes such as rescuing disaster victims, preventing diseases, researching markets, and locating pools of skilled workers.

Safe for Immigrants?

The 2010 Census will move immigrants from invisibility to visibility. All documented and undocumented immigrants, guest-workers, students, and permanent residents can safely take part in the count. The Census gives immigrants a voice and empowers them to use the data to support community initiatives that challenge racial profiling and the violation of their human rights.

[To assure all immigrants that taking part in the Census will not jeopardize them, 200 civil rights and other organizations have asked the Obama Administration to suspend the enforcement of particular immigrant laws during the census period. This was done in both 1990 and 2000. The current administration has not taken this step. The perception that being counted can be dangerous could keep some immigrants from taking part. To read the letter to the President and see a list of the groups making their appeal, go to: and download the PDF.]

Regardless of how you arrived in the US, your presence within these borders should be counted to acknowledge your link to society and its future. The Census is an affirmation of the daily contributions immigrants continue to make to the local, national, and global capacity of the US. Completing and taking part in the Census is a must for immigrants to "move into the light, do what is right, and display your might!"

The prophet Isaiah encouraged the Hebrew immigrants in exile to "seek the shalom" of their country of residency, to pray for and contribute to its welfare. In the US, the Census reminds you that your hands are American hands. Within these borders, the Census signifies that it's not just about where you came from but who you are and where you are. Moreover, its where you going!

Composition of Congress

Representation in the US Congress is also affected by the Census count. Unlike the Senate, with two members from each state, the composition of the 435-seat House of Representatives is determined by population distribution. Hence, your count will directly affect the count in the House of Representatives!

The Census results activate the Constitutional requirement for electoral districts to be periodically reviewed and/or redrawn to reflect population shifts. Your participation in the 2010 Census will directly impact electoral districts and constituency boundaries. The information gathered through the Census directly impacts state legislatures or independent bi-partisan commissions as they do the redistricting. Your response to the 2010 Census will directly help shape the Congress to be elected in the immediate future.

Shaping the Local and National Future

The Census is a powerful tool in shaping the future of local communities and the national character. It affects the distribution of funds for a wide range of services and determines the make-up of the House of Representatives. The 2010 Census will empower you to support community initiatives and positively affect legislation. Ambiguous or controversial, the 2010 Census will influence quality-of-life issues and much-needed infrastructure upgrades. An accurate count of residents will unlock a better tomorrow for everyone. It's in your hands! If you're here, be counted! After all, Jesus was.

Read more about the 2010 US Census online at

The Rev. Kelvin Sauls is Assistant General Secretary for Congregational Development and Ministry with the African Diaspora at the General Board of Global Ministries. Both Global Ministries and the Women's Division are "partners" this year with the Census Bureau in promoting a full counting of the residents of the United States.

See Also...
Topic: Communities Ethics Human rights Immigration Justice Race Refugees Welfare Focus on Ministry with the Poor
Geographic Region: United States
Source: GBGM Mission News

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Date posted: Mar 09, 2010