Sunday, March 31, 2013

Faithless Google, Google-less faith

My faith is under siege today, because Google honored Cesar Chavez today instead of celebrating Easter. At least that's what I'm told.

Google has a custom of altering the logo on its main page to mark major holidays, significant events and anniversaries, and just because it can. A lot of these doodles are fun, like the time it replaced the Google logo with a functioning Pac-Man game. (My daughter still plays that.) Others are educational, like the time Google honored M.C. Escher. Other times, they're just odd, like the logo honoring the 150th birthday of L.L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto. (For what it's worth, I speak the language, and just shrugged at that one.)

But heck, it's their logo, they can do whatever they want with it. Right?

Apparently not. On Easter Sunday this year, Google honored Cesar Chavez, a labor activist born on March 31, 1927, and not the Resurrection, and that, apparently, was too much. Glenn Beck got all snarky at the imagined disrespect; other Twitterfolk suggested that Google was elevating Chavez over Christ, or even found it a tremendous insult to their religion.

Come on, really?

I fully understand that Christians on Easter may greet one another with cries of "He is risen!" and "He is risen indeed!" But it's silly, it's pointless, it's completely un-Christlike, to demand that everyone else celebrate the Resurrection with us, and to take offense when a corporation like Google, with users who are Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic, atheist, Jainist, Shinto, Sikh and Wiccan as well as Christian, does not take the time to affirm our particular set of religious beliefs, or even to celebrate our holiday with us.

The empty tomb on the first Easter is foundational to my faith. It is the basis for my belief that Jesus is the Son of God, the foundation of my hope that one day I too will rise from the dead, and for my conviction that God's dream is for us one day to live in a world free of pain, disease, death and infirmity, for us to walk with him as his people and for him to walk with us as our God. I don't need a Google Doodle to affirm my faith today, and even if Google actually savaged Christians today with a doodle that declared "He's dead, you nitwits," my faith would be unrattled. (Though at least in that case I could understand being upset.)

But, in fact, Google's choice of doodles today is one that affirms my faith, and if you're a Christian you also should find it encouraging.

Cesar Chavez, after all, was a tireless advocate for the rights of poor workers. Himself an American farm worker, Chavez was a leader in the labor movement in the 1960s and also worked for civil rights, encouraging Mexican Americans to become registered voters involved with the political process. With Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, a labor union that worked to ensure laborers were paid well and treated with dignity. One of the hallmarks of his activism was his strict commitment to nonviolence.

Chavez, it should be noted, was a devout Christian, He drew his inspiration for all these stands and for his actions from the person, the teachings and the life of Jesus Christ.

And isn't a transformed life the best way to honor the man we believe rose from the dead?

Copyright © 2013 by David Learn. Used with permission.


Brucker said...

I heard that many people were offended particularly because they misunderstood, and thought Google was honoring *HUGO* Chavez. Not sure what to think about that.

David Learn said...

I'd heard that too, but all the actual comments were about Cesar Chavez and Christ, not Hugo.

And really, it's not that hard to find out who they were talking about. Anytime you click on a modified logo, it takes you to Google search results for the subject.

It just seems as though people are particularly brittle, especially our class of paid complainers, and see everything as an attack.

Makes me wonder what we can do to reset the narrative to something less adversarial and destructive.

"Bientg 5912" -- it almost sounds like a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

Brucker said...

Yeah, it's like the annual "War on Christmas" but now the evil heathens are taking on *all* the Christian holidays. How will the children know it's Easter unless Google puts it on their home page? Won't someone think of the children?!

Apropos of just about nothing, in 1994, I had a classmate who had known Chavez personally. (Although I didn't realize until today that Chavez had still been alive in the early '90s.) The guy was 89 years old and had spent a large portion of his life as a farm laborer. The thing that I remember most about him was riding on the bus with him and a friend one day, and he for some reason had gotten on a rant about Chavez. "Cesar Chavez?! Hah! That guy was a joke! All he ever did was make speeches while his wife was doing all the important work!"

My captcha is "161 lyphst" which sounds like a medical thing. "Well, Mr. Brucker, your blood tests show your cholesterol is fine, but I'm a little concerned about your elevated 161-lyphst levels." Why is it that captchas all have numbers in them now?

David Learn said...

My editor back at The Princeton Packet once recounted an incident that happened when she was covering a demonstration. One of the protesters criticized Michelle for merely covering the demonstration instead of taking part in it. Michelle's response was "If I were participating, then you wouldn't be getting any news coverage, would you?"

I've no idea how Chavez and his wife split their duties, although I imagine his wife was an indispensable part of what they did. Still, I doubt it's a fair characterization to say that he did nothing. Being the visible face of a movement takes tremendous energy, drive, and hard work. It also comes with risk.

Amusingly, as soon as I saw "161 lypsht," I had the same thought you did.

Oddly, this time I don't seem to have a captcha.