The Paschal César Chavez
I wish a blessed Easter to Western Christians. I couldn’t help noticing this morning that Google observes the most important Christian holy day by posting to its homepage an image of the late César Chavez, the union leader, whose birthdate is today.
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.
To me, it’s another example of what David Mills observed in his remarks on the “stomp on Jesus” controversy. Did you hear about that? A Mormon student at Florida Atlantic University refused to participate in a class exercise in which the professor directed students to stomp on the printed name of Jesus Christ — this, as part of their study of intercultural communication. The exercise was apparently prescribed in the textbook. God bless that Mormon kid. It tells you something that he was the only one of that herd to object. Anyway, David Mills later said:
Nominalism may be philosophically plausible but in cases like this I think it’s psychologically impossible. Stepping on the Name of Jesus will always be stepping on Jesus.
On his weblog Mere Inkling, a retired chaplain named Robert Stroud quotes a relevant passage from C. S. Lewis’ The Hideous Strength. One of the main characters, a vain young sociologist named Mark Studdock, desperate to be on the inside, is being initiated into the service of a genuinely evil enterprise, and finds that part of the initiation involves trampling and insulting a nearly life-size crucifix. “Mark had never believed in it [Christianity] at all,” but now
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, 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 in practice that it cannot be dispensed with.”
[Mills adds:] “An explicit action in the reverse direction,” that is what the author of the education book and people like the adjunct professor who imposed the exercise are asking for, whatever they think they’re doing.
It’s all about desensitization. They are preparing something, whether they realize it or not. As they prepare, so too should Christians.
UPDATE: Look, there are a million things in the world more irksome than Google honoring Chavez on Easter — and again, I mean no disrespect to Chavez, who was a great man — and I also understand that Google doesn’t honor religious holidays. That’s a reasonable policy. But they do the Happy Holidays thing at Christmastime, and I would have expected to see Easter eggs or bunnies and pastels — something indicating that even for non-Christians, Easter (the name of which in English-speaking countries comes from our pagan past) is a spring festival of rebirth. If they had not even noticed this, I wouldn’t have cared. It just seemed to me that choosing a “secular saint” like Chavez on this holiest Christian day was a deliberate poke in the eye.
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.
It’s telling that, in reading the comments on this blog, apparently secular readers are telling people like me to “get over it” because “it’s not all about you.” OK, fine. But what one sees in the mainstream media and elite culture is an intense parochialism about religion and religious culture that is all the more galling because it considers itself and its conceits to be neutral and indeed universal. The Chavez thing is a tiny thing, but indicative of a broader trend in our post-Christian culture — a process that institutions like Google, whether they understand it or not, are pushing along.
UPDATE.3: Steve Sailer, on Chavez’s opposition to illegal Mexican immigration (because it drove down wages of farm workers):
It’s fascinating how today race trumps class so unquestionably that almost nobody can even imagine that a Mexican-American union boss would oppose illegal immigration.