Things may appear bleak, but do not despair
| April 8, 2021 1:00 AM
Troubling political times, anger and fear that leads to unrest, a government requiring ever increasing taxes to provide for its excesses, violent rebellion, forced submission to worship what the state deems holy …
What comes to mind for most would be our shared political experience in the America over the past two years. Institutions have consolidated their power to affect citizens lives, and many citizens, led by less than genuine people, have been led to believe that violent resistance is the only way to seek a remedy.
However, the above narrative applies to not only a different continent, but a different time period altogether. Israel in the first century A.D. was experiencing these circumstances as competing interests struggled for power in the region. These struggles led to a host of actions and responses that changed the course of history.
Two groups competing for power were the Zealots and the Roman government.
The Zealots were a first-century, aggressive political party who sought to overthrow the occupying Roman government. They made clear that their beliefs were to be enforced through activism and even acts of violence. Their beliefs led them to despise others whom they called cowards if they continued to pay taxes to Rome, or who sought peace and conciliation with the Roman authorities saying that any agreement with Rome was an implicit acknowledgment of the right of pagans to rule their nation. Some Zealots frequented public places with hidden daggers to strike down persons friendly to Rome.
The Roman government, although permissive in some respects, were quite oppressive to those who did not agree with their rule. What did the subjugation actually look like for people who were part of the Empire? Rome imposed heavy taxation; there were taxes on produce, sales taxes, temple taxes, occupational taxes, custom taxes, transit taxes, and many others. Taxation was the means by which the Roman elite were able to provide gifts for its citizens and build up the mother city.
The Romans had begun to assert that the state was God, and not merely the state, but the ruler as well. Herod imposed a sacrifice that the priests would give on behalf of Rome and the emperor, so not only was there the requirement to pay taxes to the Empire, but they were also required to pay the tithes and sacrifices of the temple, which resulted in the offensiveness of being forced to support what they would consider idolatry.
Nothing is new under the sun …
While the parallels are not explicit, they are relevant. Political actors in our present situation bear strong similarities to each of the examples in the ancient world. Our federal government has grown exponentially and has centralized its authority despite the bounds placed upon it by our Constitution.
This centralization has led to increased imposition of the federal government into the lives of individuals, which has led to the discontent that breeds zealots. Zealotry is not purely reactionary and often has political motivation behind it, recently, this has resulted in violence as well as an attempt to eradicate those who do not agree with a given perspective.
Thankfully, we are not nearly in as bad a position as first century Israel, but we do appear to be precariously balanced between falling into similar conflict, and returning to our founding standards.
The federal overreach has caused many states to assert the legal boundaries of government established in the Constitution, which is a strong start to turning from the path we are on. A reformation that restores the principles of federalism, and that allows for states to determine their own policy where appropriate
is necessary to avoid further decline. This is the time of year that reminds us of the verse “… hope springs eternal … .”
While our situation can appear bleak at times, we must not despair. At one of history’s darkest moments, there was hope. Hope of reformation, hope of restoration, and a hope of resurrection of what was once thought lost.
Sage Dixon represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho House of Representatives, District 1B. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.