I have started a series about labels and why I call myself a "Christian celibate gay man." In case you want to read all the posts in said series, or find them easily, they are all under the category "On Labels" on the right panel of the blog.
Last time I talked about why I end with the word "man". Today, I want to talk about why I start with the word "Christian."
There are a few reasons for this. Here is the most important. Unlike all other identity markers that I use (ie. student, American, gay, etc.), Christian is the one in which I find my main identity. Being a Christ follower is the most important thing that I can say about me, and as such it transcends all other areas of my life. So I am a "Christian student", a "Christian American", a "Christian everything-else-that-I-chose-to-identify-myself-as."
Therefore, I do not want to divorce my sexuality from my Christianity. Really, the fact that I am a Christian is the only reason that I express my sexuality in the ways that I do. It is hugely important to my sexuality! This is the reason that I put it first. In English, word order sometimes matters in terms of emphasis. If something is being emphasized as most important, it will tend to be put at the beginning of a term. So "Christian" is at the beginning on purpose.
There is another reason, though. Many people whom I respect deeply call themselves "gay Christians." Wesley Hill, for example, chooses to call himself a "celibate gay Christian." I think that he and I are trying to express the same thing with our labels, and I have no problems with what he is trying to say. However, I just don't think it is very clear.
In my last post, I said that I end my label with the word "man" because it is the most basic part of my sexuality, and that all the adjectives that I attach to it modify that main word. So if I said "I am a celibate gay Christian," then - whether it is intended or not - the grammar is saying that the adjectives "celibate" and "gay" are modifying the word Christian. I don't want anything in my label to have the potential to create different types of Christians. Galatians 3:28 is clear that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This doesn't mean that there aren't males or females or Jews or Greeks, but that when it comes to being a Christian, there is only one kind...A CHRISTIAN! So I never want anything to modify Christian in any label I chose. Rather, I want Christian to be the all-encompassing label that modifies everything else about me.
Now again, I know that Wes isn't intending to make different types of Christians. Obviously, he only talks this way when he is describing his sexuality, and if someone asked him, "Are you a Christian?", he likely wouldn't correct them by saying, "No, I'm a GAY Christian." But his label at least introduces that confusion into the conversation. I avoid that by putting "Christian" upfront for both emphasis and clarity.