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God Sends Pestilence as Punishment for Census

 This week I received my 2010 Census form in the mail. I should feel pumped about it because I saw the expensive Super Bowl ads and hear the radio ads almost daily. This is supposed to be a big community building event (on par with the World’s Fair) that will not only make each person feel unique and important, it will insure your community get its fair share of federal funds.

 It’s hard to believe some people would resist participating in this exciting event, but it happens. It turns out that there are a great many people (particularly poor minorities) who fear that it is dangerous to give the government this sort of information. Yet, the $11 billion project pushes particularly hard to count these groups. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has assured everyone that people who are living in the U.S. illegally have nothing to fear because immigration enforcement is not part of the census project. As if that’s all the data could be used for…

 So why is it so imperative that illegal immigrants be counted in the first place? The population size determines how many seats a state gets in the House. The number of seats grows even if the additional population is not eligible to vote. This means that immigration-friendly states like California become even more important in Presidential elections. When the last Census was done in 2000, California picked up six seats. The Census project, therefore, becomes a highly political process with a lot of power to gain depending on the results.

 I’m not recommending that anyone refuse to send back the census form. You could get fined and there’s very little private information on it anyway. In fact, this census form has fewer questions than the one from 2000. There is, however, a Biblical episode to consider as you’re mailing the form back.

 As recorded in 2 Sam 24 and 1 Chron 21, King David took a census of the Hebrew people living in Israel and Judah. The purpose was to give the king guidance in levying taxes and to count all the able-bodied men who could serve in the military. The census was successful but it brought God’s wrath upon David.

 Luke 12:7 tells us that we belong to God and he knows us. Every hair on our head is counted. The idea of counting something symbolizes ownership. King David probably didn’t have a copy of the New Testament, but he apparently understood that counting the people would be considered an act of pride because the people belonged to God, not the kingdom. Even his general Joab warned him against such an action.

 When the census was complete, David regretted his decision and sought atonement from the Lord. The Lord spoke through the prophet Gad giving King David three punishments to choose from. He had a choice of three years of famine, three months of military retreat, or three days of pestilence.

 David selected the the pestilence, but after the Lord had sent the plague across the nation, David pleaded for mercy. “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong.” The Lord then commanded David to build an altar and offer Him sacrifice. When David had done this the plagued left Israel.

 It is perhaps an irony that all the punishments were tied together by the number three. We too are bound by the number.  We have at least three more years of shenanigans to put up with.

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