By Bob Allen
Three years after evangelical Christians designated a day to eat more chicken in support of Chik-fil-A’s defense of traditional marriage, the Southern Baptist-owned fast food chain is taking heat online for sponsoring what is billed as the world’s first faith-based LGBT film festival.
A change.org petition posted recently asks Chi-fil-A to explain its sponsorship of “Level Ground,” a movement started in 2013 by two Fuller Theological Seminary students — one gay and one straight — to create “safe space for dialogue about faith, gender and sexuality through the arts.”
Participants in the group’s most recent film festival, held Oct. 8-10 in Nashville, Tenn., included former contemporary Christian artist Jennifer Knapp, who came out as a lesbian in 2005, and Karen Swallow Prior, a Liberty University English professor and research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sponsors included Gracepointe Church, an evangelical church in Franklin, Tenn., that made headlines in January by coming out in support of marriage equality.
The petition calls on Chik-fil-A to clarify its “corporate stance regarding previously stated Christian values on marriage and stewardship.”
In 2012 gay-rights groups called for protests and boycotts of the chain after its CEO, Dan Cathy, answered a question posed by a Baptist state newspaper editor about the company’s support for groups that oppose same-sex marriage, “Well, guilty as charged.”
Mike Huckabee, then a Fox News personality now running for president, countered by declaring Aug. 1, 2012, Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, urging Americans to eat at Chik-fil-A as a show of support and contributing to record sales.
The controversy forged an unlikely friendship between Cathy, a member of SBC-affiliated New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., and gay-rights activist Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and Cathy’s guest at the Chik-fil-A Bowl football game in 2013.
Level Ground started as a student-run film festival in 2013 founded by Chelsea McIntruff, a lesbian, and Samantha Curley, a straight activist for LGBT rights, who have both since graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
Geoffrey Grider, editor-in-chief of the end-times prophecy site Now the End Begins, described the Level Ground agenda as promoting the “Love Gospel,” defined as “a perverted brand of ‘christianity’ that only focuses on the love of God, and leaves out everything having to do with sin and judgment.”
“The Love Gospel states that because the Bible says that ‘God is love,’ then everything and everyone must be accepted,” Grider expounded. “You have to accept same-sex marriage, transgender, cross-dressing, whatever and however you can mash it all up together into one, big melting pot. Come as you are and stay that way. No judgment based on Bible truths, no Holy Spirit discernment, love is all and all is love. Rinse, lather and repeat until your brain is fully washed.”