Scott St. Clair: Tar and Feather Google for its Easter Doodley Doo?

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Editor’s note: Scott St. Clair takes to task posts like mine posted here yesterday. 

Did Google deny an element of the Holy Trinity this Easter? You’d think so given the fury on Facebook and Twitter over the search engine’s Easter Sunday “doodle” logo that featured an image of labor leader Cesar Chavez, whose birthday happens to be March 31, rather than one honoring Christ’s resurrection.

Here’s what Google’s doodle looked like Easter Sunday:

Cesar Chavez Easter Deified by Google

  An initial reaction would be head-scratching, especially given the significance of the day in the Christian calendar. Could Google, however, have regarded this past Sunday less as Easter and more as March 31?   

There’s also the minor problem that not all Christians regarded March 31 as Easter. Orthodox churches won’t celebrate the holiday for another five weeks, on May 5, so will we go through this all over again?

But before the primarily conservative hue and cry leads to torches, tar and feathers, maybe everybody should take a step back and remember, if they knew at all, that Google NEVER recognizes a religious holiday of any faith with a doodle image. (Admittedly it did once at Easter in 2000 – two colored eggs served as the letters “o” in its name — but that’s the exception proving the rule). 

Lest Christians feel all alone, the Google doodle for the beginning of Passover commemorated the 150th birthday of Adalbert Czerny, an Austrian physician who is regarded as the founder of modern pediatrics and who died in Berlin in 1941. Think about it: on Passover, the doodle features what was then a citizen of the Third Reich living in its capitol. Were there complaints? None that I could find.

To paraphrase Professor Henry Higgins, “The question is not whether Google has treated Easter and Christianity rudely but whether you’ve ever heard Google treat any other religion better.”

My suspicion is that much of the angst is grounded in using a likeness of Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers and an unabashed liberal. Had it been someone more politically acceptable – right-wing, red-meat radio talk show host Michael Savage’s birthday is also March 31 — would the complaints been as vociferous? I can only speculate, but somehow I don’t think so.

Although, their indignation might be tempered if they knew Chavez was a fierce opponent of illegal immigration since, as a union leader trying to secure better wages and conditions for his members most of whom were citizens or lawful residents, it undercut his union’s strength. He went so far as to organize efforts to help what was then the Immigration and Naturalization Service round up and deport them.

Still, many of the offended say they’re switching to Microsoft’s Bing as their search engine of choice. It’s a free country, and they have every right. But will they also ditch Google Chrome, a far more user-friendly web browser than Internet Explorer, which is clunky and, from my experience, doesn’t interface well with Facebook? And if they have an Android smart phone, which runs on Google technology, will they chuck it in favor of an iPhone even if it means spending a few hundred to do so?

Speaking of Bing, here’s what it had up for Easter:

Easter Bing

 Colored eggs may be seasonal, but there’s nothing theologically deep or spiritually profound about them. 

Certainly, there is discrimination against Christians in America, and when it happens by all means raise a ruckus and create a stink. The college professor in Florida who had students stomp on the name of Jesus and has since been put on administrative leave deserves all the grief coming his way.

And the Easter sermon at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. where President Obama and his family were in attendance was an example of co-opting the faith for purely political purposes : “It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back … for blacks to be back in the back of the bus … for women to be back in the kitchen … for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.” What holy personage authored that message – Debbie Wasserman-Schultz?

Toss in empty-headed political correctness in renaming Easter eggs “spring spheres,” which was done this year at an unnamed Seattle public elementary school, and you add pandering foolishness to the mix.

But who said said the right is exempt from its own unique brand of political correctness, especially when it comes to religion?

Church attendance and religious preference in the United States continues to drop to the point where some church insiders believe that less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend a worship service. Even attendance at an Easter service this year was contemplated by only 47 percent of those responding to a Rasmussen survey. Disclosure: I did not attend one, although I was moved by the Easter message of Pope Francis  and one from Billy Graham that’s 10 years old – I’ll take those over colored eggs or a bunny on a Google doodle any time.  

What once was a common bond in America – a consensus of shared beliefs and values rooted in a single source – has more than frayed around the edge. According to a 2011 Gallup survey, those who regard the Bible as literally true has fallen from a high of 40 percent in 1980 to 30 percent two years ago. The trend line continues south with no reason to expect a change anytime soon.

Even the number of voters who expressed a religious identity declined in 2012, while the once invincible wall against a heretofore unthinkable like gay marriage continues to crumble to the point where it may cease to exist.

Many libertarians, a growing and increasingly important constituency on the right, go so far as to insist that religion play no role in public policy at all. Some of them regard the whole doodle deal as evidence more of shallow beliefs than anything else.

Yet there are those who insist that nothing has changed from the days when only Protestants were allowed to hold office and individual state governments were free to support a church with tax dollars. Don’t forget Blue Laws that outlawed businesses from operating on Sundays (and still do up the road from my house in Bergen County, NJ).

So when an entirely secular segment of the entirely secular culture does an entirely secular thing, what exactly is the big deal? Using Google as a tool to research faith and religion is one thing, but expecting it to be an extension of the church is quite another.

Easter has nothing to do with images of eggs on a search engine web site, so instead of throwing stones at a picture of someone who’s been dead for 20 years, which doesn’t prove anything to anyone other than that somebody has a short fuse, use the reason and argument found in abundance in the Easter messages from Pope Francis and Billy Graham to persuade others of the purpose and value of the day. 

Scott St. Clair is a journalist, rhetorical pugilist, agent provocateur, aider and abbetor of James O’Keefe and a former competitive Highland piper. He says what he thinks, means what he says and doesn’t suffer fools. He’s also a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce. His opinions are entirely his own, and you shouldn’t expect them to mirror yours.

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One thought on “Scott St. Clair: Tar and Feather Google for its Easter Doodley Doo?

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