WHY WE STARTED THE HUNTSVILLE REPORT
By Jason Cherry
Despite a surge of political interest in Protestant intellectual life, there is still a fundamental misunderstanding about how to bring Christian influence to bear on politics. For those Christians who are interested in transforming society, the main stock notion seems to be a deluge of “thinkpieces” critiquing our sinful culture. There is currently a flood of websites and articles explaining the downgrade of modern America. Such articles are necessary, fine and dandy, even, since Christians need to learn to think Christianly about all of life. The problem is that the entirety of political engagement for Christians has become nothing but voting and reading articles about how politics is corrupt. What has this created? A bunch of intelligent Christians doomed to the dismal drudge of perpetual complaining within a fundamentally passive role.
There is the mistaken notion that complaining about how society has turned looney will somehow fix it. Christians have narrowed their course into the well-worn path that leads to the echo chamber of grumbling. The problem is that it’s a path to nowhere: no change, no Christian influence, no sanctifying the civitas. Yes, pastors must preach the Word of God. Yes, the church must administer the sacraments. Yes, ministers must disciple congregants. But reform that doesn’t eventually burst into law and institutions will remain merely a private affair. Some orthodoxy or other will prevail over our politicians. It doesn’t honor the Lord when the church willingly becomes the Groom of the Stole to godless and wicked authorities who demand our obedience.
We need a new vision for the church to influence politics, a vision that can startle the faithful into a solid imagination of political clout. There will always be aspiring Christian authors writing thinkpieces in search of a book deal. They can write their articles and we can read them. But what if the next group of smart and talented Christians blazed a different path? What if the Lord assembled the right cluster of panurgic people with work ethic, talent, and patience, absent an ego while seizing a shared vision?
What is the new vision? It starts with remembering that all culture-making is local. If politicians cannot be watched locally, they cannot be watched at all. We live in North Alabama, where is found the city of Huntsville. There is a mayor and a city council. There are meetings and hearings, votes and decisions, all of which affect all of us. What happened at the recent city council meeting? What do you know about the local officials you voted for in the most recent election? During election season, why does one commissioner have more signs than another? Where did he get the money to buy 10x more signs than his opponent?
There is currently no good source of information about Huntsville politics. There is no good way to examine the record of local politicians running for reelection. The Huntsville Report intends to provide information to the public about the local government and the politicians who want our vote. We know what they look like on the glossy flyer that makes its way to my mailbox. But how do they actually vote at city council meetings? What comments do they actually make? What does their record say they are?
If the Lord can send watchers down from heaven (Dan. 4: 13, 17, 23), why can’t he send watchers to city hall? Respect is not gained through the honors of high office, but through providing useful and organized information. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “It is hard to make government representative when it is also remote.” You won’t hold your local government accountable until you know what they are doing. If you want the low-down on city politics, this is your place. The goal of the Huntsville Report is to be the central hub of information for local citizens. As Chesterton said elsewhere, “What we should try to do is make politics as local as possible. Keep the politicians near enough to kick them.”