By David Waters
In those days a decree went out from the U.S. Census Bureau that all Americans should be accounted for, but some were fearful or conflicted about such an accounting, and so Jesus, Mary and Joseph were called upon to provide comfort and encouragement — on a poster.
Effective or offensive?
The poster was based on a story in Luke’s gospel that says Joseph and pregnant Mary journeyed from Galilee to Bethlehem to take part in a census decreed by Roman Emperor Augustus. There is no other record of that particular census ever taking place, but the story explains why Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem, the city of David.
The poster was created by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (not by the Census Bureau), which sent it to more than 7,000 churches to inform Hispanics about the census and encourage them to participate, regardless of their legal status. Some find it comforting.
The posters “are being well received by the congregations that we’re working with, and they’re reminding people of the Gospel story of how Jesus was born,” Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO’s educational fund, told Post reporters Carol Morello and Ed O’Keefe.
Others find it “blasphemous.”
“The Bible establishes clearly that we are not supposed to use the name or God or Jesus in vain for any other purposes than worshiping,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera, chairman of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.
Rivera’s group is encouraging Latinos to boycott the 2010 Census in order to pressure on Congress to reform immigration laws.
Now there’s a fearful topic. Rivera’s group might want to consider making their own poster, using another gospel birth narrative.
A story in Matthew’s gospel says that after Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt, because King Herod was out to kill Jesus. According to the story, the family lived in Egypt for several years until Herod died.
“Joseph, Mary and Jesus were undocumented immigrants,” the poster might say. “Don’t be afraid.”