Sunday, October 11, 2009

There is Room at the Inn

At the times when the biblical narrative and the cultural/political narrative intersect, one does well to pay attention. And because we find God in the uncounted in Bethlehem, there is a clear imperative to count the undocumented in the 2010 United States Census.

Preparations for the 2010 US census are underway. The beginning of this seemingly innocuous process has garnered much emotion and passion. This will be the first census to count same-sex married couples. And in April the department of commerce announced that it would strive to count all undocumented peoples in this census. Perhaps as a result of these factors, the passion surrounding the census reached its darkest depths in September when a census worker was murdered in Kentucky with the word “fed” written across his chest.

And now, Senator David Vitter has put forth an amendment that would prevent states from counting those who have entered the country illegally. This amendment has been encouraged and pushed by many in the conservative media, in particular, Glenn Beck. And essentially, what they are saying to the undocumented, “You don’t count!” More than leave the census a few million people short, this amendment would deny the humanity of these residents of the United States.

In the biblical witness it is a census which forces Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph, along with many others in the empire, were considered important enough to tax. But Mary and Joseph weren’t counted important enough to have a place at the inn at Bethlehem. And surely, the infant child of these unimportant people, who at the time had slim hopes of even surviving to adulthood, would probably be of no consequence to the empire. In fact, Emperor’s registration there was no category low enough to count infants. In that census all the world was counted, except for Jesus.

Yet, in the uncounted God becomes manifest in the world. And in the uncounted of our times, we find people created in God’s image. And for this reason the undocumented must be counted in the census. By counting these peoples in the census, the United States government will not only be living up to its ideals, affirming the humanity of all those who live in its borders, but it will also be honoring God’s presence among all those who are oppressed and uncounted.


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