By Jeff Sharlet

Dan Gilgoff, politics editor of Beliefnet and author of a definitive and brilliantly titled account of James Dobson’s empire, The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War, has invited me to be a guest blogger for a week in Beliefnet’s “Casting Stones” forum. Here’s the beginning of my first entry:

I’ve been invited to guestblog here at Casting Stones this week because I have a new book about faith and politics out, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. More about that later. I’ve decided to start by ruffling some feathers with a glib title for a post about one of the most thoughtful essays about religion and politics I’ve read in a long time, Garret Keizer’s“Turning Away From Jesus: Gay Rights and the Episcopal Church” in the latest issue ofHarper’s. Keizer is a former “canon 9″ Episcopal priest — a lay leader ordained to serve a church that lacks a formally trained priest — not especially interested in the looming threat of schism within the Anglican Communion over the question of gay rights. But, he writes,

while I was making the rounds of my parish, things were afoot in the larger church that were not dissimilar to the zealotry and self-delusion that would mesmerize our national politics and mire us in Iraq. In other words, what might strike you as an irrelevant story about a religious dispute is in some ways your story, whether you are religious or not, and whether you like it or not. The story invites us to ask if what we see happening to the institutions we love is not at least partly the result of our having loved them less attentively than we supposed.

There’s some irony in an Episcopalian informing us that the concerns of the Anglican Communion, which has in the past been the dominant church of an empire (Britain’s) and a rising power (America, before we became an empire, back when Episcopalians were even more overrepresented in Congress than they are today) should concern us all. But Keizer makes his case by directly addressing the relationship of religion to empire, of belief to power, of faith to responsibility, drawing us outwards from the particular of the Anglican Communion to the wider community of Christendom, to the broadest vista of the human condition and via that to round to the specifics of a sexual practice that has the bishops and priests Keizer speaks with up in arms…

Continue reading at Beliefnet‘s “Casting Stones.”