Yes, this book is written by a conservative male evangelical.
Matthew Lee Anderson has written Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith
My frustration with this book is not that the author intends to write a book on embodiment and sexuality and draws conservative conclusions. There are plenty of Christians who are conservative in their sexuality.
This book purports to be a book on embodiment and sexuality from a white male evangelical perspective. There is, believe it or not, a need for white male voices on these issues.
My beef with Anderson is what he chooses to address and what he leaves out.
The irony is that he devotes one chapter on “Evangelical Inattention and the Secular Body.” In this chapter he admits evangelicals have woefully fallen short on engaging in theological embodiment. He seeks to remedy that with this book.
Anderson admits up front this is a large issue and there are areas he can’t explore like the body’s relationship to the arts and neuroscience. I grant the challenge of tackling the vastness of the subject. I understand that an author has to pick and choose.
Yet, I was utterly frustrated when we end up with a conservative male evangelical writing to conservative evangelical males. Apparently for Anderson, the great issues for evangelicals and embodiment are sex (heterosexuality), tattoos, pornography, and yes, embodiment expressions within worship and spiritual disciplines.
As an evangelical who has read many feminists (from the evangelical kind to the progressive) I’m disappointed that Anderson didn’t choose to engage with issues of embodiment from a feminist perspective.
I’m continually amazed how evangelical males neglect embodiment and the vastness of sexuality. Perhaps it opens the door to the dreaded fear of the slippery slope and “anything goes.” Consider my chapter on “Sacred Bodies” in Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions.” There are numerous references to books or articles authored by women in the chapter. But I had so few references attributed to evangelical men. They’re just not out there.
Let me go on record. I’m no prophet. But until evangelical men begin to seriously expand their notion of embodiment and sexuality we will continue to see scenarios like the Iowa dentist James Knight firing Melissa Nelson.
The chapter on “The Body and Its Pleasure” is exclusively genital-focused. There was no engagement of female sexuality, embodiment, and pleasure in breastfeeding, for example. The focus on this chapter has to do with pleasure of a certain end: sex.
Missing besides breastfeeding is the 1) goodness of pleasure in physical attraction, and 2) the goodness of pleasure in physical proximity of a beloved other sans sex in relational connection and also, 3) the moral practice of physical touch in validating, shaping, and blessing others.
There is no serious engagement of Jesus’ embodiment and physical nearness with others.
Where are the evangelical men who are going to wrestle with embodiment and the multi-dimensionality of sexuality?