Seattle Weekly

Seattle Weekly looks at Namasgay: An attempt to corral some form of LGBTQ spirituality

Seattle Weekly looks at Namasgay: An attempt to corral some form of LGBTQ spirituality

In a blog devoted to religion news coverage, every so often I like to delve into reporting about what is happening among people who are at the edges of faith. This is the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd that longs for some transcendence in life.

I found such a story in the Seattle Weekly, an alternative publication that has a fair amount of coverage of the local gay community.

In its March 14 issue, we hear about an unsuspecting gay newcomer to the Queen City (Seattle’s nickname from 1869-1982) who goes to what he thinks is a Saturday-morning brunch, only to find only alcohol being served as a precursor to an orgy.

The newcomer, business coach Frank Macri (who is the guy dressed in pink in the front of the above photo), realizes that his companions were searching for something, albeit not in the wisest fashion.

He declined (the invite to the orgy) and returned home to ponder the opportunities for people like him in the LGBTQ community to connect. “I noticed that a lot of people feel like they need to have drugs in order to open up to someone and be vulnerable, or they need to have sex in order to feel connected to someone,” Macri said. “And I thought, what if there is a community out there of others who are mindful, compassionate, and wanting to have deeper connections with themselves and other people.”
So shortly thereafter, Macri founded Namasgay, a group for spiritually-minded LGBTQ people who are tired of only connecting with others in clubs or on dating apps. Since its creation last October, the Seattle-based group has expanded to include thousands of members in Oakland, New York, and Chicago. Members meet through a couple of events each month, including meditations, dinners, single mixers, hikes, and yoga sessions.

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Seattle Weekly offers the story of a heroic gay mayor and the 'prison' that is Catholicism

Seattle Weekly offers the story of a heroic gay mayor and the 'prison' that is Catholicism

The mayor of Seattle is a gay Catholic whose 2013 wedding to his male partner was at the local Episcopal cathedral. Ed Murray’s insistence on staying Catholic fascinated one editor at the Seattle Weekly to the point where he asked the mayor if Murray would expound on his faith.

The result was this nearly 4,000-word piece that ran about a month ago. The reporter stated up front that he didn’t wish to raise the issue of whether Murray was a “true” Catholic in terms of abiding by the doctrines of his faith, but instead learn why the mayor has stuck with a church that on many levels doesn’t want him. We will not read, in this long piece, what the church teaches about marriage and how the mayor flouts it.

Still, as far as I know, this is the only article anyone has done on the mayor’s faith journey. This is something the Seattle Times should have done years ago.

Thus, I am glad the Weekly stepped up to the plate, even though the premise is those who defy the teachings of the Catholic church are heroic while those who honor their vows to the church are, at best, robots.

After some intro paragraphs, the article picks up with:

Murray’s Catholic faith can seem a study in contradiction. Not only is he a practicing Catholic in a secular city, he is a gay man who has remained in a church that has been outright hostile toward homosexuality; he is a public official who seeks to follow the path of (Catholic Worker Movement foundress Dorothy) Day, who refused financial assistance from the government and declined to pay her taxes for years at a time; he is an impossibly busy man who says he feels closest to his Catholic faith when he is practicing quiet Benedictine meditation, which requires he wake at 5:30 a.m. if he has any hope of doing it at all.

After describing Murray’s childhood, it relates how he found certain Catholic institutions more gay-friendly than he had anticipated.

After graduating from high school, Murray attended St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, exploring the priesthood. After a year there, he decided against it, and finished his college studies at the University of Portland, a Catholic institution. There he got to know Trappist monks who introduced him to monastic worship, and counseled him on, among other things, his homosexuality, which he began to acknowledge in college. Far from the pious recriminations one might expect, Murray says that in college he was encouraged by priests to embrace that part of himself, rather that feel shame about it. It was further evidence, for Murray, that the Catholic Church, especially in its social-justice form, was a home for him, rather than the prison many people considered it.

“Many people?” Who does the reporter have in mind?

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That strange mash-up on religious calendar: Happy Imbolc, Saint Brigid's Day, whatever...

That strange mash-up on religious calendar: Happy Imbolc, Saint Brigid's Day, whatever...

It’s tough to find breaking news items on pagan topics, much less anything that’s remotely newsworthy other than the occasional pagan holiday. Pagans are a peaceful lot and they don't tend to make a lot of news. This past week, as a break from reading about #MuslimBan, we had a wealth of articles on Imbolc, the mid-winter pagan holiday.

Now there are dueling realities to Imbolc/Ground Hog Day/Candlemas and St. Brigid’s Day because they all occur in the first two days of February. The first event is pagan; the second is secular and the last two are Christian feasts. Nevertheless, reporters end up mashing them all together, with results that are, if not funny, rather inaccurate. 

I know space is at a premium at some outlets, but do the same reporters clump Lincoln's Birthday and Valentine's Day together because they're two days apart? Don't think so. So why connect St. Brigid's Day, much less Candlemas, with Imbolc? What follows is what several media did with this time period.

The Seattle Weekly described the pagan aspect in a piece by a woman identified as the publication’s “resident witch:”

Imbolc (pronounced im-bowlk) is a Gaelic word meaning “in the belly,” and for many modern Pagans, Feb. 1 is one of four Greater Sabbats, or grand holy days, marking the seasons. Imbolc (also spelled Imbolg or Immolc) acknowledges the first stirrings of spring, the deep shift away from winter and the return of light and heat to the Northern Hemisphere.
Central to many Imbolc traditions is the Irish Great Goddess Brigid. She oversaw fertility, poetry, smithcraft, and healing, and was a part of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the deities of pre-Christian Ireland. For ancient Celts, she was the ever-changing Earth itself, coming back to life after her winter sleep. Celebrations ranged from raging bonfires and torch processions through the fields and streets of the local village to simple ceremonies, centered around the mother of the house wearing a crown of lit candles as she led her family in ritual.

Not to be outdone, the International Business Times wrote:

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Bigoted in Seattle? Anschutz-owned festival group blasted by Seattle Weekly

Bigoted in Seattle? Anschutz-owned festival group blasted by Seattle Weekly

Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival is an annual end-of-the-summer party that takes over the area around Seattle Center every Labor Day weekend. It’s mainly art and music and an event my family used to attend before the crowds and traffic pushed us away. But lots of people still go.

It's a gathering free of politics -- or it was until the Seattle Weekly attacked the festival organizer in a recent piece headlined “Bigotry in the Spotlight.” The piece is about how the entertainment group that produces the festival is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz. And because Anschutz funds conservative causes, he is, of course, anti-LGBT and a bigot.

We’ve written about Anschutz here and here and here. Anschutz is a devout Presbyterian and he’s also funded a lot of faith-friendly projects, such as Walden Media, which produced C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which came out as a movie 10 years ago. So here's how he's playing in one Seattle publication:

When Chick-fil-A announced plans for a Seattle store in 2013, mayoral candidates rushed to denounce the chain. Current mayor Ed Murray said he would “push” to keep the company out of town, and then-mayor Mike McGinn called its leader a bigot, due to CEO Dan Cathy’s financial support of groups opposed to same-sex marriage and his statements opposing it.
But a far bigger bankroller of conservative causes—including anti-LGBT groups—already does brisk business in Seattle. His name is Philip Anschutz, and he is the owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG. AEG took over local festival Bumbershoot in 2015, which it produces in a multimillion-dollar partnership with the city. The city also handed over large portions of KeyArena’s management to AEG in 2008, splitting the venue’s revenues. That contract was renewed in 2015.

After adding that King County (which surrounds Seattle and its suburbs) is also in business with AEG, and that an AEG subsidiary company in California got reamed by lefty outlets such as Vice and the Huffington Post for not falling in line with LGBT demands, the article continues:

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On abortion coverage: Is the Houston Chronicle capable of listening to both sides?

On abortion coverage: Is the Houston Chronicle capable of listening to both sides?

Early in 2010, I was wandering about my old haunts in Houston’s Eastwood section, which is southeast of downtown. One obvious change was that a new neighbor was moving into a former bank building on I-45, locally known as the Gulf Freeway -- Planned Parenthood, which was expanding into the six-story building.

Local opponents were claiming that Planned Parenthood would be performing abortions through the 24th week of pregnancy, while PP kept saying it’d only do them through the 19th week. Also, the building was Planned Parenthood’s largest U.S. clinic, a distinction many Texans weren’t wild about. And it was in a majority black and Hispanic area, a fact that opponents frequently note when arguing that Planned Parenthood targets minorities. I think they chose that dodgy area of town because it was close to Hobby Airport and nearly across the street from all the co-eds at the University of Houston.

The day I showed up, the protesters weren’t there, so I drove about the building and snapped some photos. Some of my friends still living in the area had protested against the place, which was walking distance from their homes and my old church. Since it was such a huge facility, it’s no huge surprise that an undercover team of pro-life investigators decided to film what goes on there.

Posts by our own Bobby Ross, Jr., talked about the original coverage of the now infamous Planned Parenthood videos last July, plus the current reaction when a grand jury gathered to investigate PP on organ trafficking charges decided instead to indict the two undercover videographers who brought Planned Parenthood’s activities to light.

The bottom line: I want to highlight a story that appeared in the Houston Chronicle that was so one-sided, I’m guessing that the editorial-page team must have moved its operations into the newsroom. It starts thus:

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Williamette Week finally does religion: the Grotto vs. Portland Public Schools

Williamette Week finally does religion: the Grotto vs. Portland Public Schools

During my 8+ years in Portland during my early newspaper career, there was a place in the far northeast quadrant of the city known as “the Grotto.” It was a pretty spot, where you could get great views of the Columbia River, Mt. St. Helens, some pretty gardens and pray, if you wanted to take advantage of the religious statues and the Lourdes-like chapel space carved out of a rock. It wasn’t considered a particularly evangelistic spot.

The other day, I noticed a piece in Williamette Week, an alternative Oregon newspaper about a fracas over the Grotto. I was amazed to see it in that in the six months I’ve been with GetReligion, I’d yet to see anything on religion in the Week. Even the Seattle Weekly (another alternate Pacific Northwest publication) has an occasional God piece, but not the Week. And this is what it said.

Is nothing sacred?
Choirs in Portland Public Schools have been told they can no longer participate in the Festival of Lights concert series at The Grotto because of its Catholic affiliation and the fact that the venue charges visitors a parking fee that supports its religious mission. That, and the additional wrinkle that last year the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation complained, says Jon Isaacs, a spokesman for PPS.
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine and botanical garden on 62 acres in the Madison South neighborhood of Northeast Portland that hosts choral performances around the holidays each year. PPS schools -- including Jackson and Lane middle schools and Wilson and Cleveland high schools -- are already scheduled to appear at the 2015 festival. So are several other local public schools, including ones from the Hillsboro, West Linn, Parkrose and David Douglas school districts.
But PPS will no longer participate, according to a Sept. 9 email from the central office to school administrators.

It turns out that the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisc.-based group that specializes in suing -- or threatening to sue -- anything affiliated with a public institution that has religious overtones, had sent the Portland Public Schools a letter nearly two years ago.

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Seattle Weekly uses Falun Gong as counterweight to Chinese President Xi

Seattle Weekly uses Falun Gong as counterweight to Chinese President Xi

While Pope Francis was leading a star-studded tour of three East Coast cities last week, there was another international visitor heading for Washington, D.C. -- Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Clearly, Francis won out in the media coverage sweepstakes. Bloomberg may have had the best headline about the junction of the two: (“China’s Xi Can’t Compete with ‘Rock Star’ Pope in U.S. Trip”).

However, if you happen to live in the Seattle area, Xi’s visit was a bit hard to miss, because that’s where he spent two days before heading off to DC.

While Xi was ferried from Everett to Tacoma with stops at Redmond’s Microsoft campus and business meetings in downtown Seattle, whole interstates were closed for his 130-car motorcades for his 1,000-person entourage. Last Tuesday, his arrival caused a 17-mile-long backup on I-5 south going into Seattle and his Thursday departure caused similar headaches. The area around Xi’s hotel (the Westin) in downtown Seattle was a no-go zone for ordinary folks, but protestors got as close as they could.

And the religion angle? One was a Falun Gong practitioner who’d been tortured for years in Chinese gulags. A Seattle Weekly reporter happened to find her .

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History of religious cults in America's Northwest gets graphic-art treatment

History of religious cults in America's Northwest gets graphic-art treatment

When you search for religion news around the Pacific Northwest, what’s out there is definitely a mixed bag. The biggest religion story in years has been the break-up of Seattle's Mars Hill Church and the continuing saga of its one-time pastor, Mark Driscoll.

This week’s big story, broken by the Sydney Morning Herald, was that Driscoll’s invite to an Australian conference sponsored by the megachurch Hillsong had been rescinded. And so one alternative Seattle publication cribbed off the Driscoll angle by offering -- in graphic novel format -- a story titled “Predators and Prophets: A Comic History of Pacific Northwest Cults.” The subtitle: “Spiritually-motivated bioterrorism at Taco Time, 35 thousand year old Lemurian warrior gods in Yelm, LSD-fueled Queen Anne hippie cults, and much more.”

Figured I had to read that one, which begins thus:

The decline and disintegration of Mars Hill Church last year may have surprised some, but to others it was predictable, and not without precedent. The Pacific Northwest has been home to numerous utopian communes and fanatical religious groups, from the radical to the deeply conservative. Since the arrival of European Christianity and its normative pall, outsider and fringe belief has been a staple of the local culture. From Eastern philosophies to the syncretic, the Pacific Northwest has been a site of religious demagoguery for ages, and the present is no exception.

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