Zebedee the baker was a capitalist who was a Christian. Through hard work, he made a good life for himself and his family, but he also felt the need to help those less fortunate around him.
The reason his bakery was popularly called “Sonny and Tan” was because a Chinese businessman by the name of Quinto, whom everyone knew as “Tan,” had provided the initial financing for the establishment of the bakery. Whether this was a loan, or a partnership of some kind, we cannot say, but the street name of the bakery testified to the warmth of the relationship between Sonny (Zebedee) and Tan. Zebedee had been employed with Tan, as we understand it.
The great argument for capitalism is that it appeals to that side of human nature which is motivated by the idea of personal, private property. Capitalism is supposed to reward you in proportion to your effort and your ingenuity. You work for what you get. This is the theory of it. In practice, however, capitalism also rewards greed, selfishness, and the criminal mentality.
Western capitalism took off after European explorers “discovered” Africa, Asia, and America five plus centuries ago. Europe was a relatively poor continent in the fifteenth century, because Europe is not blessed with a lot of natural resources. Africa, Asia, and America are. The Europeans invaded these continents, where the people were darker-skinned than they were, and they began to justify their violent imperialism with racist arguments. The Europeans grabbed the land and stole the wealth of the Africans, the Asians, and the Native Americans, and they forced the people of these continents to work for them for free and for almost nothing.
On the individual level, the problem with capitalism is that there is no rule of thumb to say when you have accumulated enough, when it is time to share with your fellow human beings. When he had accumulated eighty, ninety billion dollars, Bill Gates decided that he should share some of his wealth with those less fortunate. How much money would Gates and his wife have needed to assure themselves a wealthy life until the end of their days on earth? A billion or two? Let’s, for argument’s sake, say ten billion, just to be sure. When he was at ten billion, Bill Gates wasn’t sure. It’s hard to know when to be sure. Where money is concerned, when capitalists err, they err on the side of caution. More instead of less. They’re not sure when they have enough. So, they grab and they grab and they grab …
Zebedee was a Seventh Day Adventist, and for sure he was not a billionaire. But, he felt that he had enough so that he could share. In between what he had worked for and the Christian expression of his sharing, Zebedee was a happy man. He exuded this happiness. Everyone around him could feel it. Now, Zebedee always had a personality which was a positive one. He was never a person who moped or moaned. Thus, you may say that it was not his money or his sharing which made Zebedee happy. He was glad to be alive, from the get go. Some people are like that.
In any case, our argument stands, that Zebedee was a poster man for a capitalism which is Christian. Unfortunately, he was only an exception to the rule: capitalists are not Christian. There are many capitalists in Belize who have much more money than Zebedee, and they never share a dime. They can’t help it: capitalism teaches them to hold on to what they have and grab for more. But these said same capitalists give big time lip service to Christianity, because they use the Christian religion to help reduce resistance among the masses whom they are robbing and exploiting.
The European invaders who used guns and swords to conquer Africa, Asia and America, also used the Christian religion. The European invaders first used Christianity as an excuse for their violence, on the grounds that there was a need to Christianize the “heathen” Africans, Asians, and Americans. After the European soldiers had done their work, the Europeans brought in their missionaries to convince the surviving African, Asian, and American leaders why Christianity was a religion to which they should convert. That is the history.
For Zebedee the baker, Christianity was a religion which worked for him in his personal life. It would not have changed his opinion of his religion if anyone had tried to show him some of the historical inconsistencies. Zebedee was a good man. Belize cherished him, loved him, and honored him. Zebedee was a capitalist who was a Christian. We Belizeans mourn his death, celebrate his life, and wish that more would come like him.
Power to the people.