Thinking Out Loud

December 15, 2009

Christmas Story Used to Sell Government Program

A push to spread the gospel about the 2010 Census this Christmas is stoking controversy with a campaign that links the government count to events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

The National Association of Latino Elected Officials is leading the distribution to churches and clergy of thousands of posters that depict the arrival of Joseph and a pregnant Mary in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. As chronicled in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph returned to be counted in a Roman census, but he and Mary found no room at an inn, and Jesus was born in a manger.

“This is how Jesus was born,” the poster states. “Joseph and Mary participated in the Census.”   […continue reading the whole story at USAToday…]

It’s certainly not separation of church and state.   But it’s certainly not blasphemy, either, as some have suggested.   If anything, it ought to be flattering to Christians that the journey Joseph and Mary took to Bethlehem — Caesar’s census and head tax combo — is being used to promote the U.S. 2010 census.   Things could be worse.

It acknowledges a certain amount of respect for the historical accuracy of the Biblical narrative.   The idea is, if Joseph and Mary were willing to participate in the census, so should you.

The ‘you’ in this case, is Hispanic Americans.   And not everyone of Latin descent gets this message in their mailbox, either.   It’s just being distributed through Hispanic Evangelical churches.

The comments at USAToday’s religion page — currently closing in on 1,000 in only 24 hours — have been extensive.   Much of the objection has been from people outside the fold.   Anything to pick a fight, one suspects.   The ACLU is yet to weigh in.   They’d be hard-pressed to know where to begin on this one, since it’s inevitable that two people named Mary and Joseph were among the thousands who returned to their birthplaces for a census that other historians affirm.  (Though Mary was about to become a much more common name.)

This story has everything you need to extract comments from the widest number of people, since it touches on religious and Christian themes, but is also concerned with the census itself and the need for minority groups to get their people participating in order to secure funding for federal programs.

As the President of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr. recognizes the many challenges that the Latino community faces.

Out of the three major demographic groups in the United States, Whites, Blacks, and Latinos, Latinos are the least educated, least likely to own their own homes, have the lowest annual income, and have less access to healthcare, Andrade’s told the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Latino Endowment Fund last week.

All of these factors make Latinos less likely to vote or register to vote, Andrade said.

Also, among these problems, says Andrade, is the fact that Latinos represent 15 percent of the population of the United States but only one percent of elected officials. As the president of an organization that trains present and future leaders, as well as registers new voters, this is a very troubling statistic for him to hear…

…An accurate census, he says, will enable the Latino community to redefine the political landscape into one that will better represent their community and promote their needs.

“The census is the sole basis for the allocation of political power in this country and if we blow the census we blow the power. There is no need to have another discussion about the power of civic engagement if we blow the census” Andrade said.   […continue reading this story at CT News Junkie…]

So what do you think?   Is the government “using” the Biblical narrative here?  (One comment reads: “…but don’t use our Jesus for your benefit…”) As a Christian does this make you feel “used?”   Or like me, are you okay with this?

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