Politics of Reparations and the Role of Religion
According to John Torpey and Rosa Sevy, reparation is a form of apology and an effort in making amends to someone who has been offended or aggrieved in any way. In the purview of politics, the primary aim of such (political and social) reparation is to give “these previously wronged groups (of people) a fuller sense of membership in the societies of which they are a part and from which they were once so egregiously engaged.” (79) In other words, this is the step towards reconciliation between the government, representing society and these aggrieved people, enabling them to move on and put behind the past. Reconciliation is the best indicator that all is forgiven and forgotten though it is a lesson to be learned in history. This is often done in the form of a public, official apology from the government as well as financial compensation for material and moral “damages” for each individual who was affected by the wrongful policies of the government. One such example were the ethnic Japanese (immigrant) communities of the United States and Canada. During World War II, they were victims of a nationwide campaign of internment that saw them uprooted from their homes and forced to live in internment camps for the duration of the war because they were viewed as potential traitors.
After the war, redress movements emerged in the United States and Canada made up of the same ethnic Japanese communities. If there is one thing they have in common they are driven by the desire to pursue justice for the wrongs done upon them and they are not “in it for the money” although they have demanded compensation. The movement in the US was made up by the “sansei” of third generation of Japanese while their Canadian counterparts were not active at the time. One advantage Japanese-Americans have is that they have political representation that reaches the highest levels of government, as exemplified by Hawaii senator Daniel Inouye while the Japanese-Canadians do not and had to engage in public dialogue and media exposure (Torpey & Sevy, 85-89). Furthermore, Japanese-Americans have made an effort to assimilate themselves into mainstream American society while the Japanese-Canadians further enhanced their ethnicity and yet they have succeeded in achieving their goals (90-91).
Max Weber, in his work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, stated that religion has an important role to play in the conduct of business. It is not separated and as a matter of fact, provides ethical or moral footing for anyone engaged in business. Weber made use of history to emphasize his point, in Germany’s economic and commercial history, he noticed that more Protestants engage in commerce more than Catholics. The latter tended to be more inclined in technical or trade work (e.g. craftsmanship) and less on business and commerce while the former engage in business and commerce in greater numbers. Weber inferred that the profession of their faith has an influence on how they behave in business (Weber 3-4).
Catholics appear to be more conservative than Protestants due to their ascetic nature, putting more emphasis on prayer and contemplation, as well as following the directives coming from Church hierarchy, emanating from the Pope down to their parish priests. The Catholic church continues to serve (to this day) as the moral arbiter of its followers worldwide. As a result, they tend to be indifferent to material goods and regard spiritual goods as more important and needs to be given more attention. Because of this, they accuse those who do not follow their way to be “materialist” and as such, have no morals (Weber 4-5). Martin Luther also came up with these ideas and (ironically) based it on a Catholic scholar in (Saint) Thomas Aquinas where he believed that “secular work although willed by God, to be creaturely in character” and finds them morally neutral. He would temper it with what he called “sola fide” where he labor could be regarded as an outward expression of Christian clarity while eschewing the ascetic nature of the Catholic Church (Weber 29). It can be further inferred that the Reformation freed Protestants from the rigid norms imposed by the church, giving them greater (individual) autonomy on how to run their lives, as shown by the lower strate (Protestant) indulging in secular commercial life while that of the upper strata of the same faith are indifferent to religion.
When one speaks of capitalism, what comes into mind is business and making profit and in the eyes of some, they regard capitalism as evil because it tends to foster greed, and from here, spawn other “evils” caused by making profit. One reason is that they misunderstood what (Saint) Paul, in his letter to his friend Timothy, said that “money is the root of all evil” when it actually means “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (The New American Bible, Timothy 6:10). This is also emphasized in the parable of the three talents (Matt. 25: 14-30; Luke 19: 11-27). Christians, regardless of denominations are encouraged to make a living to better their lives, even to the extent of acquiring wealth. If one were to look at it from a religious and moral perspective, the wealth acquired is considered a grace from God. It only becomes a corrputing entity if one becomes too attached to it and lets it control oneself, as evidenced by greed, regarded as number one among the “seven deadly sins” of Christianity, recognized by both Catholic and Protestants and this makes such a Christian unpleasing to God.
The New American Bible. Camden, New Jersey: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1971.
Torpey, John C. & Sevi, Rosa. “Commemoration, Redress and Reconciliation: The Cases of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians.” Making whole what has been smashed. Ed. John C. Torpey. Camridge, Massachuetts: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Weber, Max & Parsons, Talcott. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003.