God, as we know, separated light from darkness; the waters under the dome, from those above. He bid the earth and the waters bring forth living creatures of “every kind”: creeping things, flying things, sea creatures, and cattle. And He fashioned humans in His image: Creatures who delight in categorizing. It seems we inherit from our Creator a penchant for labels. When we apply them to ourselves we call them identities; we use them to signal to others some of the things we believe to be true about ourselves. Applying them to others helps us navigate social interactions, but lacking God’s omniscience, we often get them wrong.
So what are some labels that the Khalafs would both use for themselves? “Christian,” “male,” “cisgender,” “gay,” and “married.” One we wouldn’t usually use ourselves, but often get ascribed is “progressive.” (Even here on Patheos, our blog is in the Progressive Christian channel.) We understand why people assume that about us. Even in 2016, we’re not what most would call a traditional couple—the sole fact that we know what “cisgender” means, and that we use the word freely, makes us progressive by many people’s measure.
“Progressive” fits us, but not quite to a T. When it comes to politics, for example, we’re both moderates, with David leaning slightly left, and Constantino just a tad to the right. And in terms of faith, we find the subdivisions of Christianity so confusing that we’re not sure where we fall. Our Christ-centered marriage signals that our understanding of God has led us to see Him as a radically more complex and more compassionate being than we ever imagined in the past. So is that why we’re “progressive”? Or does it simply make us “liberal”? Are we part of the “emerging church“? We hold an authoritative view of Scripture and believe the fundamental truths contained in the Apostles’ Creed—does that make us conservative?
When talking about our relationship with God, we both prefer to say simply and unapologetically that we are Christians. No modifiers necessary. We believe in the divinity of Jesus, the Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life. The witness of His life as contained in the gospels has helped us better understand the Father, and the prodding of the Spirit in our own lives has convinced us that He indeed has plans for each of us and for the whole of creation.We are ultimately not concerned with statements of faith. We are not concerned with proving the truth of our beliefs because we realize that it is neither logically nor physically possible. How can we prove, today, that a man died and was buried two millennia ago, only to physically resurrect and then ascend to heaven? We were drawn to each other by our mutual love of Jesus, but it wasn’t just our shared beliefs what convinced us that we were a match. We want our Christianity to be marked not only by what we believe, but by how we live.
Being gay, we’ve grown used to hearing the word “lifestyle.” It’s a word we embrace, not as it applies to our sexual orientation, but as it applies to our walk with Christ. We suspect that if seen through a lens that filtered out gender, our lifestyle would look quite traditional. Many would even label some of our decisions as conservative—our choice, for example, to abstain from sex before marriage. And still we recognize that exalting lifestyle too far above beliefs has its own pitfalls—focusing too much on how one acts leads to hypocrisy and false appearances.
We can’t choose a category for our Christianity because our faith exists in tension. We don’t doubt the Father’s love, the Son’s wisdom, or the Spirit’s influence, but there’s much we do not understand, many mysteries we can’t answer. The categories, it seems, are all about answers. We’ll stick to pondering the questions. All we really know is that, in the words of a 250-year-old hymn, Jesus sought us when strangers; to grace we are great debtors, and we hope His goodness, like a fetter, binds our wandering hearts to Him.