I did it.  Yeah for me.

I did my civic duty and filled out the U.S. Census forms online.  It took all of five minutes. We can all be counted, which will help in our representation in our democracy, and ostensibly, get more federal money for our area. I’ve practically thrown my elbow out patting myself on the back.

Of course, the 2020 Census is from the Devil (thus, Sinsus), some will say or from God, others will declare!  There I said it, and I have scripture to back it up. There are two passages in scripture about a census (numbering of the people), appearing in the earlier version, 2 Samuel 24:1 and its later counterpart, written some five hundred years later, 1 Chronicles 21:1. They both describe the same event. 

In the earlier version from 2 Samuel, the writer says that God’s anger was kindled against Israel and he moved King David to number (think census) the people.  What the heck? Why was God angry about the census? Was the census the basis for taxation and forced labor or was it too great a pride in the national strength of arms?  Hard to say why the Lord got so angry about it.

Sometime after this first version of events, Dana Carvey of SNL fame enters the story as the church lady, Enid Strict, who was famous for saying, “Could it be Satan?” She once rearranged letters on a magnetic board during the Christmas season from Santa to Satan. 

What we do know is that in the later version, 1 Chronicles 21, of the same story, it is not God who incited David to conduct a census, it was the Devil himself: “Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel.” By this later date, the chief antagonist, the Devil, is the one inciting the census. Dana Carvey and Flip Wilson would have been proud.  Flip was known for saying, after he had been caught in a misdeed, “The Devil made me do it.” 

So, some of you will say the U.S. Census is from God because it will mean greater representation and more money and others will say it’s from the Devil because you hate filling out government forms!

I say neither. I don’t think God nor the Devil sent it. Someone in some government office in D.C. sent it because it’s what we do every ten years.  

In biblical thought, there is a progression in understanding of evil. In typical, overly simplistic Old Testament thought, God was responsible for all things, good and bad. If your crops didn’t grow and it hadn’t rained for two years, well, God did it, and probably because you had been real bad.  Conversely, if good things happened then God was responsible for that. If you had been a good boy, then you would have a full crop, a nice house, a nice wife, and lots of healthy male kids. 

When you reach the New Testament, the Devil is very prevalent as a force for evil, accompanied by lots of demonic helpers. The rabbis had a saying that if you poked a pin in the air it would hit a demon. They were everywhere—in the air, under rocks and in your mother-in-law.  

How are we in the twenty-first century to view evil? That’s a great question which requires lots of careful reflection and space not allowed here. All I will say is that the U.S. Census is not from the Devil and his helpers nor is it from God.  It’s just a form, for heaven’s sake. Fill it out please. By doing so, you will fulfill your civic duty and will incur neither the wrath of God nor the Devil.

~Pastor Steve

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