By Arturo R. García
A deeply religious man who worked tirelessly to help the less fortunate was publicly acknowledged by Google on Easter Sunday. And a bunch of self-described Christians had a problem with this.
I’m referring, of course, to César Chávez.
Yes, the mere sight of the civil-rights icon on the search engine’s front page on March 31–his birthday–was enough to make conservatives verklempt and accusing Google of breaking from its practice of honoring Judeo-Christian figures (like Santa Claus).
And those were apparently the better-informed ones. There were also folks complaining because they thought Google had honored deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. (Also a Christian, by the way.)
Of course, some of those same people were apparently mollified by Bing’s decision to put Easter eggs–a symbol that pre-dates Christianit, remember–on its own front page.
But what went ignored is that religion was closely tied to Chávez’s mission: it was a priest, Father Donald McDonnell, who introduced him to the concept of non-violent resistance, and the relationship deepened from there:
Chavez placed harsher demands on himself than on anyone else in the movement. In 1968 he fasted (the first of several fasts over his lifetime), to recommit the movement to non-violence. In many ways the fast epitomized Chavez’s approach to social change. On one level it represented his spiritual values, his willingness to sacrifice and do penance. At the same time, he and his lieutenants were extremely aware of the political ramifications of his actions, using the fast as a way of both publicizing and organizing for their movement.
Fasting was just one expression of his deep spirituality. Like most farmworkers, Chavez was a devout Catholic. His vision of religion was a progressive one, that prefigured the “preferential option for the poor” of liberation theology. In the UFW, the mass was a call to action as well as a rededication of the spirit.
While calling Google’s decision to honor the United Farm Workers leader “odd,” the Catholic journal First Things also acknowledges a rather obvious fact that seemed to escape those too busy to, well, google his movement’s connection to spirituality:
… In 1966 the United Farm Workers organized a march from Delano, California, to the state capitol of California in order to demand recognition of the rights of farm workers. While the outside world saw Chavez’s protest as a political march, he and the farm workers also saw it as a pilgrimage. The slogan they chose was “Peregrinacion, Penitencia, Revolucion,” or “Pilgrimage, Penitence, Revolution.”
As seen in archival footage from KQED television, the Christian nature of the event was unmistakable. The 300-mile march, led by an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was scheduled to end on Good Friday. A large rally, beginning with Mass, was to take place on Easter Sunday.
In other words, Chávez expressed his faith through his work on behalf of his fellow man. Guess that’s not enough for some people. Wonder why that could be?