But it was also fun (and challenging) to have him toss some fastballs at me. Here’s a small sample of the interview he did:
Trevin Wax: You mentioned our need to look elsewhere (and not the body) for permanence and stability. What about identity? Our society is becoming increasingly muddled on issues of gender and sexuality, with men claiming to be women trapped in male bodies, etc. Likewise, one of the reasons it is so difficult to have a conversation about the nature and morality of homosexuality is because those who engage in homosexual behavior often conflate their behavior/attractions with their identity. Sexuality becomes the primary identity, the defining aspect of who they are. How does a Christian view of the body affect our identity when it comes to gender (male or female) and sexuality (attractions and actions)?
Matthew Anderson: Do we get to the hard questions after this one? Oh, wait….
This is a really delicate issue, and one that I probably can’t do justice to here (though I give it a fighting effort in the book). On the one hand, Christians want to relegate the status of sexual identity to the edges, rather than the center. Our identity is to be firmly in Christ and we are to take the narrative for our own lives not from our sexual desires or dispositions (whether toward people of the same sex or not), but from the narrative of the Gospel.
However, that narrative leaves no part of us untouched, including our sexuality, as it establishes genuine norms for the expression of our sexuality. Part of the problem of our contemporary sexual confusion is a subtle rejection of the body’s role in shaping our identity and self-understanding. Culturally, “gender” sometimes gets treated as though it can be totally separated from the structure of our physical bodies, which turns our bodies into objects that are infinitely malleable either by our own wills or by the social forces and influences around us. A Christian view of the body, though, sees it as a gift that has been given to us by God, and that it’s structure sets the conditions for our freedom and joy. Whatever gender is, I think it is supposed to emerge out of the body and our sexual differences, not overwhelm them and treat them as irrelevant or reconstructible in light of our felt experience of the world.
Read, as they say, the whole thing.
A few weeks prior, I took my turn getting grilled by Scott McClellan over at his new venture, Faith Village. Scott edits Collide and puts on one of the best conferences for church and technology, and his expertise is going to make FV an interesting place to be. (Ben Simpson is already writing there, as are many others.)
FaithVillage: For what audience did you write Earthen Vessels?
Matthew Lee Anderson: This is actually a really profound question for me. I wrote the book to reach normal evangelical folks, but with a twist: I really wanted those people who feel a sort of emptiness or what I might call “thinness” in our movement to take the book for a spin. My hope really is to play a small part in the ongoing renewal of our quirky little movement, and this book is one of my main ideas for what direction that renewal needs to head.
Read also the whole thing. And then go read the book.