Render unto Google the things which are Google’s …

First of all, let me state right up front that it is hard to do a news critique of a graphic device. I concede that point.

At the same time, I also know that Google is not, in and of itself, a news source.

Google is, of course, much more than a news source.

Google is one of the most powerful forces shaping culture and information in this digital age in which we live, read and think.

Google is a portal, a door and a gateway. If the editors at Google decide to shape our world, our reality, into some new form then dang it, it will be shaped into that new form. If the principalities and powers at Google decide that certain forms of information are more worthy, more valuable, more acceptable than others, then that perception will become search-engine reality. It’s kind of like that showdown between Apple’s iTunes overlords and the circle of religious conservatives that produced the Manhattan Declaration.

Anyway, the Google overlords have a tradition of doing cute little graphic frameworks for the word “Google” on major days of interest in the culture, such as “The Holidays,” St. Patrick’s Day, the Super Bowl, Earth Day, the 4th of July, Halloween, etc. They also enjoy doing occasional salutes to major historic figures, often on their birthdays.

Which, of course, brings us to today — which is the most important day of the year in the Western version of the Christian calendar.

In other words, today is Easter for most of the world’s Christians. Those of us who are Orthodox Christians, and follow the older Julian calendar, will celebrate Pascha (Easter) on May 5th.

So what did the Google folks do today? Well, on one level, they decided to mark the 86th birthday of union leader Cesar Chavez. In my opinion, they ended up profoundly insulting this famous Catholic.

Thus, I would like to associate myself with this morning’s post on the topic by Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher, which states in part:

Nothing against Chavez, but what the heck? Chavez, who was a devout Catholic, probably would have been bewildered as well.

Google could have ignored Easter, and nobody would have noticed. But choosing to observe something other than Easter on Easter Sunday is deliberate.

It’s a small thing, of course, but this kind of thing, accumulated, signals an intentional de-Christianization of our culture, and the creation of an intentional hostility to Christianity that will eventually cease to be latent, or minor. It cannot have been an accident that Google decided to honor a relatively obscure cultural figure instead of observing the most important Christian holiday, a day of enormous importance to an overwhelming number of people in the United States, and to an enormous number of people around the world.

The only part of that statement that I would word differently is that I would say America is evolving from from a predominantly Protestant culture that, imperfectly, attempted to avoid state endorsement of any particular religion into a culture that is increasingly hostile to traditional forms of religion — while openly endorsing modernized forms of faith that our national elites find acceptable. I think it’s simplistic and inaccurate to call America’s emerging civil religion “secular,” since it officially favors some forms of religion and rejects others.

Then again, what was that whole “stomp on Jesus” incident down in South Florida all about?

With an indirect nod to a Rob Stroud post at the Mere Inkling weblog, Dreher ends up quoting a haunting piece of the famous C.S. Lewis novel, “That Hideous Strength,” that looks forward to life in an England that is blending science and the occult, while, yes, stomping on Christianity:

C.S. Lewis would not be surprised by this event. … There is a passage in his book That Hideous Strength that seems almost prescient. In this scene the protagonist, a sociology professor named Mark Studdock, is being initiated into an elite and secretive inner circle at the Institute where he has come to work. The organization has global plans and great influence. Studdock is a confirmed agnostic, yet he is disturbed by something his mentors describe as a “minor” portion of the initiation process.

And, then, the actual quote from the Lewis novel:

Meanwhile, in the Objective Room [where candidates are taught to think properly], something like a crisis had developed between Mark and Professor Frost. As soon as they arrived there Mark saw that the table had been drawn back. On the floor lay a large crucifix, almost life size, a work of art in the Spanish tradition, ghastly and realistic.

“We have half an hour to pursue our exercises,” said Frost looking at his watch. Then he instructed Mark to trample on it and insult it in other ways.

Now whereas Jane had abandoned Christianity in early childhood, along with her belief in fairies and Santa Claus, Mark had never believed in it at all.

At this moment, therefore, it crossed his mind for the very first time that there might conceivably be something in it. Frost who was watching him carefully knew perfectly well that this might be the result of the present experiment. He knew it for the very good reason that [he had briefly experienced, and dismissed, the same thought during his own initiation].

“But, look here,” said Mark.

“What is it?” said Frost. “Pray be quick. We have only a limited time at our disposal.”

“This,” said Mark, pointing with an undefined reluctance to the horrible white figure on the cross. “This is all surely a pure superstition.”

“Well?”

“Well, if so, what is there objective about stamping on the face? Isn’t it just as subjective to spit on a thing like this as to worship it? I mean— damn it all— if it’s only a bit of wood, why do anything about it?”

“That is superficial. If you had been brought up in a non-Christian society, you would not be asked to do this. Of course, it is a superstition; but it is that particular superstition which has pressed upon our society for a great many centuries. It can be experimentally shown that it still forms a dominant system in the subconscious of many individuals whose conscious thought appears to be wholly liberated. An explicit action in the reverse direction is therefore a necessary step towards complete objectivity. It is not a question for a priori discussion. We find it in practice that it cannot be dispensed with.”

So why did Google ignore Easter? Was the company’s choice newsworthy in any way?

My prediction is that, tomorrow, this will be big news — on “conservative” news sites — while the mainstream press will cover the controversial, politicized, “War on Easter” pronouncements that this Google decision was important.

I would agree with Dreher that this action was, at its root, about “desensitization.”

However, after doing a simple Google search for previous Easter Google logos, I have to admit that I am not sure that today’s Cesar Chavez logo is any more of an insult to the true meaning of Easter/Pascha than what the overlords have offered in the past.

Check it out.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Mr. Patton

    I find it funny that you wish to spend your time today on Google instead of Easter. Perhaps the folks at Google are like yourself and will “celebrate” this event May 5?

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  • http://www.wildhunt.org Jason Pitzl-Waters

    How many pieces based almost solely on Rod Dreher editorials will it take before this site admits that they wear blinders of Christian privilege?

    • Martha

      Oh, come on, Jason: if Google decided to mark 4th July as the birthday of Giuseppe Garibaldi (worthy as he may be of commemoration), wouldn’t most people go “Huh?”

      • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

        Martha, going “Huh?” and thinking it’s an instance of “intentional hostility” are two different things.

  • Colet

    Thanks for this article! I was beginning to think I was the only one who noticed…which is part of desensitization, of course.

  • Proteios1

    If you don’t like it boycott google. If we don’t support those who share our values and boycott or ignore those who are against urn use, then we are complicit. I don’t buy Oreos or goto Starbucks for the reason they support devaluing marriage. Well I have a huge impact on these giant companies. No. But what would I be if I said I belief in x, y and z and then support those who contradict x, y and z.
    So boycott them. If enough people do it maybe they’ll notice. If not, be pure in your own actions.

    • SouthCoast

      Which is why, as of this morning, my homepage is Bing instead of Google.

      • Brian

        Bing is from Microsoft, who directly financially supports Planned Parenthood. It’s a lose/lose. Ask Jeeves maybe??

  • Jettboy

    what is wrong with christian privilege? The web is a big place. you can always go privilege something else at another place.

  • SouthCoast

    Ah. The Easter Troll has arrived, with its little basket of rotten eggs.

    • SouthCoast

      Since the Eater Troll seems to have been effectively banished, feel free to remove my mention of him! (Lest it lead to confusion and unwarranted dudgeon.)

      • northcoast

        Hope he eats Easter eggs.

  • Uomo Senzanome

    Whether google’s choice is insulting to Christianity I will leave to others. Chuck’s message, however, is insulting to farm workers, Mexican-Americans, and people with a sense of social history. Chuck, did you READ the article before you left a comment? That’s a picture of Cesar Chavez. It’s his birthday. I’m not going to explain to you who he is. Why don’t you google his name and you might find out.

  • Darren Blair

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m half tempted to question whether or not someone at Google was simply caught short by the fact that Easter came early this year and so presumed that they had time to run both the Chavez tribute *and* an Easter bit.

  • SouthCoast

    “It cannot have been an accident that Google decided to honor a relatively obscure cultural figure instead of observing the most important Christian holiday,” And, in simlar vein, a National Sunday Morning “News” Show, which I will not name, chose to celebrate the day with an unctuous, gushing report on a blasphemous and offensive play about Christ’s mother currently gracing the graceless precincts of Broadway.

  • Daniel

    May God bless those looking out for the “little” guy. Thank you for your research and article, and please know that this Easter something bigger than google was in the “air”. I am pretty sure that most people knew before using google that it was Easter, and for those who didn’t, or chose to ignore it, they cannot take away from the experience I had.

  • sari

    Apparently old news. Why is it so important for Google to acknowledge Easter when it ignores Pesah and other major religious holidays?

    http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/021970.html

    http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/websearch/-VyyXMBV8vw

    • T. B.

      For the same reason it’s so important to acknowledge the Deomcratic and Republican partys, when it ignores The Pansexual Peace Party (yes it really does exist). Pesah is observed by 3% of the population, not Easter 80% (assuming its ignored by the non-christians; though every ‘none’ I know observes it in some way).

  • Jerry

    A few notes: First, if you go back not too far in history, you’ll find Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece on google doodles http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2012/01/google-doodle-pick-got-religion-dumped-science/

    Then you can find that Google avoiding religion is nothing new as http://www.google.com/doodles will show. The only exception I could find was the one noted above with Easter eggs. So why the outrage in 2013 since this has been going on since 1998? And, for what it’s worth, this complaint about Google doodles was voiced in 2011 http://www.theamericanconservative.com/google-doodles-on-easter/

    And, while it’s not a mainstream top-of-the-fold story, a search of google news (!) for “google doodle” turns up HuffPo, ABC, SF Chronicle and a few others.

    So has this outrage just started this year and, if so, why?

  • ceemac

    Well, I would hope that instead of speculating and whining. That someone would try to find out how google decides these things.

  • Ben

    I think before commenting on the google doodles it’s best if people look through a screen of the 2012 doodles : http://www.google.com/doodles/finder/2012/All%20doodles
    You’ll notice that religion isn’t anywhere… no Passover, no Diwali, no Buddha’s birthday, no Ramadan – zippo. There’s one “holiday season” one around Christmas from what I can tell.
    I’ve interviewed the google doolder some years back. At the time he was a guy who had a full time job doing other things at google and this was done on the side, for fun. It was not as formalized a thing as you’d think – that’s probably changed. But one thing hasn’t: The doodle essentially celebrates notable people in the history of math & science, along with a few cultural figures of importance and independence days. Cesar Chavez is quite simply not a small cultural figure from the lens of California. …

  • http://mereinkling.wordpress.com Rob Stroud

    Great post. I sometimes wonder when I see Google’s shifting banners whether they are attempting to choose obscure commemorations to entertain users. The best test would be to look at what they choose to mark on other specific days (e.g. Passover, Ramadan, Buddha’s Birthday, Halloween, etc.). My guess would be that they mark those dates with a reference to the holy day (the last example being for some Pagans who celebrate Halloween religiously). However, I could be wrong, as I’ve not researched the matter. Your title for this column is quite apropos. And, early wishes to you for a blessed Pascha!

  • FW Ken

    Are the eggs an insult, because Bing has eggs today? Sorry, but I had a great time after Mass today watching the kids hunt Easter eggs. I had a great time at Mass, too. I don’t see the problem.

    Also, the thing about stomping on the Name of Jesus has been overplayed. The point wasn’t blasphemy, but self-awareness. Other kids refused to do the exercise, but were not punished. This was not adequately explained in the stories, to my observation. I would agree it’s not good pedagogy.

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  • Jerry

    Just before bed I did another google news search on the Easter controversy and it appears, Terry, that your prediction did not happen. There are quite a few more covering the story than I found earlier and mostly they’re reporting it straight from what I can see.

    The interesting difference in this story is that the technical media is reporting on it as well and from my scan doing a decent job.

  • SwinerBock

    The Easter egg is no more a symbol for Christianity my big toe is. The egg is a pagan symbol representing fertility.

    Just sayin…

  • FW Ken

    One of the themes I’ve run across on this topic is that, as a faithful Catholic, Chavez might prefer attention be given to Easter rather than himself. I’m betting there ate still folks around who could be asked.

    As a side issue, have the faith aspects of Chavez’ work been well-documented? I’ve gotten interested in the guy. No telling if I would agree with his politics, but I would like to understand his great.

    • Uomo Senzanome

      FW Ken – yes, Chavez’ faith fully informed his work for farmworkers. Monsignor Eugene Boyle and other priests, as well as many of those “social justice catholics” women orthodox latin-mass pro-life anti-gay-marriage folks like to make fun of, worked extensively with Chavez and the UFW, and their faith was a major driving force in this work. He studied the social teachings of the Church as early as the 40′s. He often referred to faith matters publicly. His devotion to nonviolence came not just from the example of Ghandi but also the explicitly Christian basis of MLK’s work and his own understanding of the teachings of Jesus; his several famous hunger strikes were efforts to draw attention to the cause in nonviolent ways and to be self-sacrificing in the service of the poor. He used religious imagery in his public speeches and actions; he characterized his 1966 march from Delano to Sacramento as a peregrinacion, a pilgrimage, and his feet were blistered and bleeding by the time he arrived. in a speech in 1989 he cites the prophet Micah: “The times we face truly call for all of us to do more to stop this evil in our midst. The answer lies with you and me. It is with all men and women who share the suffering and yearn with us for a better world. Our cause goes on in hundreds of distant places. It multiplies among thousands and then millions of caring people who heed through a multitude of simple deeds the commandment set out in the book of the Prophet Micah, in the Old Testament: ‘What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’
      He wrote this prayer:
      Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
      So I will know my people’s plight.
      Free me to pray for others;
      For you are present in every person.
      Help me take responsibility for my own life;
      So that I can be free at last.
      Grant me courage to serve others;
      For in service there is true life.
      Give me honesty and patience;
      So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
      Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
      So that we will never tire of the struggle.
      Let us remember those who have died for justice;
      For they have given us life.
      Help us love even those who hate us;
      So we can change the world.
      Amen
      by all means, do the research, I think you will be very impressed by what you find.

  • MJBubba

    Google is the face of news for a lot of people who use the Google News aggregator as their access to current events. I used Google News for a decade but have used other aggregators since. I never tailored the newsfeed but took their default Google News page. In the “Spotlight” where they highlight unusual items, opinion columns, and stuff they like, they were certain to prominently feature whatever anti-Christian item was current. All the awful anti-Christian poor quality journalism that was commented on at GetReligion was pretty much always featured in the Google News Spotlight. Those items would generally stay there for a minimum of four days, much longer than typical for other items, unless they could be replaced by new anti-Christian links. I do not think you are overstating the Google hostility to Christianity, but I think the Spotlight is much more damaging and serves as a better indicator than the doodle.

  • cyr

    How does the title, “Render unto Google the things which are Google’s” accurately describe the contents of this article? Google is ‘of the world’ so who cares? That’s what I thought the writer would be saying. Google, the shaper of our culture? Isn’t that, if true, the really alarming thing to discuss then?

  • Uomo Senzanome

    Sergey Brin, one of the two founders of google, comes from a family of Russian Jews, and Larry Page’s mother was Jewish which makes him a Jew although he was raised “without religion.” Why in the world would you expect two Jews to celebrate a Christian holiday on their website? Frankly, celebrating the life of someone whose self-sacrifice for the good of the poor and marginalized is a heck of a lot more Christian gesture than EITHER featuring a bunch of colored eggs OR the reaction to all of this I am seeing from many people who call themselves Christian. Easter happened to fall on Cesar Chavez birthday this year, a fact that probably escaped their attention. Do Christians pay close attention to the exact date of Passover, Hanukkah or other Jewish holidays tht shift around the post-Julian calendar we use modernly? I didn’t think so.
    It’s a ridiculous tempest in a teapot.

  • northcoast

    Off the subject I wonder if there is a term that can be applied to the way that Mr. Chavez was depicted. There seems to be a common element in the way that workers, soldiers, students, . . . appear in patriotic murals. This is kind of striking in USSR and German propaganda from WW2, but occasionally I’ve seen similar depictions in murals produced in the US and other countries.


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