I have a few thoughts on this, most of them directed at fellow Christians. Putting aside your inability to differentiate an American icon from a newly dead Venezuelan leader, let me tell you a few reasons why Google's decision was appropriate. The president declared March 31 Cesar Chavez day in an effort to honor the man's birthday. Several states, including my home state of Texas, honors this day with an official state holiday. But that's not particularly important, because it is true that Google had to make a decision on which of the holidays to recognize today with their creative doodle. And they choose Chavez over a superficial show of support for the concept of Jesus and the commercialized travesty that is Easter.
First, I'll note the delicious dish of irony being served this morning, as many Christians have used the Easter holiday to smear Chavez, his legacy, and the people who support those things. And here's why that's important: Easter should not be controversial. It shouldn't be divisive, and it shouldn't be something that would make Google ask, "How is this going to play with our user base?"
But it's become a controversial holiday, mostly because many of the most militant Christians have made it so. Rather than a legitimate belief in the basic tenets of inclusion and love spoken by Jesus in the most important parts of the Bible, many of those people complaining today about Google adhere to a brand of Christianity that demonizes and excludes. The most high-profile purveyors of Christianity have perverted the brand, forcing an us against them mentality that plays to basic tribal urges. It should come as no real surprise that in light of this change, a company like Google would want to punt, choosing a non-religious symbol. It's really saying something when a Mexican-American liberal with what many on the right would call "socialistic" tendencies is less polarizing than your version of Christianity.
Perhaps more important, though, is the seemingly primal need of modern American Christians to have overt manifestations of Christian symbols in every display. Perhaps this is because, without the mention of the word "God" of "Jesus" in such a symbol, today's so-called Christians are unable to recognize the goodness and values espoused by the very God they claim to follow.
Because Cesar Chavez is a person whose life and whose values represent the message of Jesus more profoundly than most people who have ever lived. Born to a Roman Catholic family, Chavez championed the causes of the poor and the downtrodden. He cared deeply for workers, and his life was a reflection of his need to defend the defenseless. He gave two years of his life in service to the Navy, even when that same Navy wouldn't recognize the ability of Latino people to contribute in meaningful ways. He married, and by all accounts loved the same woman for many decades. He was a father and a passionate friend to all people.
Early in his life, Chavez recognized the plight of farm workers, and he noticed the harsh reality that stood in front of most Mexican-Americans at that time. He dedicated his time and his talent to fighting on behalf of those people, ensuring that farm workers had better conditions and liveable pay. Facing a situation that might have deserved violence, he lived the Christ-like mantra of peaceful revolution, using his words instead of his fists. He often engaged in week-long and month-long fasts to bring attention to worthy causes and to show that nonviolent resistance could still work in a new America.
He's been awarded the Pacem in Terris award, and that's one that literally means "Peace on Earth." He fought, without fear, against an exploitative pesticide process that put grape farmers and consumers in danger.
In the book of Luke, Jesus said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed."It's the transformational message of Jesus that's largely lost on those who yell so loudly about Jesus. Today, those people celebrate the resurrection of a savior they barely know, and that's mostly because they've chosen to ignore the very basics of his message. Jesus was a man who spent much of his time on earth preaching about the poor and about the consequences of disastrous oppression. And he commanded his followers to use their gifts and tools to do something about it.
So today, on Easter Sunday, Google's choice of Cesar Chavez is fitting. He was a man who fought for those who had no voice, and in doing so, he did the greatest service to the message and legacy of Christ. As for Google, they've played a righteous trick on the Christians who scream for a clear recognition of Jesus when they're unable to see Jesus in the very man who that website decided to honor.