The criticism directed at Chick-fil-A for sponsoring the Level Ground Festival comes from a church culture that appears to be acutely uneasy with difference and disagreement, a culture that believes the only way to deal with difference and disagreement is to distance oneself as quickly and completely as possible. Their unwillingness to engage with those who hold different views represents a sad loss for the body of Christ.
Level Ground exists to counteract this trend by convening conversations where all are welcome and where success is measured by both the depth and the breadth of those conversations. In each city where they present, the organizers make sincere efforts to build relationships with pastors of conservative churches; festival line-ups feature both conservative heterosexual speakers and celibate gay speakers; their board and theological advisory council includes conservative thinkers. A wide variety of attendees and presenters engage over meals, listen to and learn from each other, make art together, and enjoy each other’s company.
If fewer conservative than progressive folks attend Level Ground events it is not for lack of invitation but because so many conservative folks choose to distance themselves from any group linking “LGBTQ” and “Christian.” I think this is largely due to the very fear-mongering, mentioned above, perpetrated by certain fringe voices because they believe that breaking bread and engaging with their differently persuaded brethren compromises them in some indelible way. This is nothing short of a tragedy—because people on both ends of the theological spectrum desperately need each other. As we each risk true engagement with one another, mutually challenging friendships and deep healing result. I know this because I watch it happen every time we at Evangelicals for Social Action lead another dialogue with a dozen highly diverse siblings in Christ. They approach the table cautiously, yes; they leave two days later with their theology (generally) intact and their hearts greatly changed. I think something similar happens at Level Ground.
I daily pray against the fear that drives Christians to refuse to ‘dirty’ their hands by fraternizing with the ‘enemy.’ Jesus sought out, befriended, broke bread with and died for the enemy—us. Can’t we share and mutually support a film and arts festival that graciously seeks to celebrate the unity we have in our love for and desire to follow Christ? Where is the Good News of the gospel if we can’t come together at the foot of cross and see each other as Christ sees each of us—worthy to be loved?
Make no mistake. Level Ground does pose a threat.
To complacency. To ignorance. To religious tribalism and hatred. They’re in good company.
Kristyn Komarnicki is the Director of Communications at Evangelics for Social Action. Passionate about relational wholeness, Kristyn writes and speaks about both sexual justice and sexual exploitation. She also created and facilitates ESA’s Oriented to Love dialogues about sexual diversity in the church. Kristyn studied English literature–earning a BA from Wheaton College and an MA from the University of Toronto. She also studied French language, literature, and culture in Aix-en-Provence and Paris.