A Different Species of Christian Conservative

20 November 2004

Jeff Sharlet: This is how much I like The New Pantagruel, an intellectual webmagazine that defies description but skews small-o orthodox Christian and literally conservative: I’m going to plug the latest article about the site even though TNP once published a wildly inaccurate review of my book that began by suggesting I be kicked in the balls. Well, for the sake of the argument, let’s say I’m Christian: I forgive you, New Pantagruel.

And am glad to see you getting ink. Latest example is a front-page profile of New Pantagrueleditor Caleb Stegall, in the Lawrence Journal-World of Kansas. Stegall is a living rebuke to red-state, blue-state reductionism. A fierce opponent of abortion whose four children are homeschooled (by his wife, we presume; the article lapses into passive voice, making it difficult to say), he cites Ralph Nader and Wendell Berry as influences and believes that conservative Christianity should make environmentalism and urban planning top concerns.

Of course, savvy conservatives have been catching on to environmentalism for awhile; Stegall takes it further by attacking the Republican economic principles that belittle environmentalist concerns. “To me,” says Stegall, “the political right and left are to a large extent holding hands under the table. You can take the rhetoric of the pro-choice movement on the left and apply it to economic principles, and you have a George Bush speech.”

Whether that’s true or not, Stegall is worth paying attention to: for his ideas, and as an example of an important but overlooked species of Christian conservative.

(Disclosure: TNP features a feed of Revealer articles on its front page, and The Revealer is, at the moment, featuring an article by TNP contributing editor Patton Dodd.)