-Pastor Melissa Fain-
It’s like Taco Tuesday, but on a Thursday!
This is a continuing Lenten exploration of non-religious artists' take on religion.
This is how I’ve suggested one engages these meditations.
HOWEVER- This one is a book review. I'll try to keep it spoiler free. I do suggest reading this review AFTER you've read her book.
Apologies: A Somewhat Interactive Poetry Experiment
About the Author:
Kristy Burmeister (1981- ) is me. Well, not “me” me. I feel our life experiences have led us in different directions, but we’d both be likely to follow a similar path if we’d been switched at birth. She is a former Mennonite, and former Catholic. Her journey is one of Church abuse and abuse from men. She has personal experience with #MeToo and #ChurchToo. Her previous published work is Act Normal: Memoir of a Stumbling Block.
About the Art:
Act Normal is to 1984 as Apologies is to Animal Farm. This is a book that’s meant to be read and experienced from front to back. It evolves as you read it, and if you think you’re just reading a bunch of generally similar poems, you might as well read Animal Farm like it’s Charlotte’s Web.
Apologies is made to attack you. Specifically, it’s made to attack those who have experience within the world of organized religion. There are elements that are very similar to children’s bulletins. Children’s bulletins are a single sheet of paper, folded to look like a Church program. It contains Biblical Scripture, and little games to explain the Scripture. That piece of paper serves two purposes: It keeps kids occupied in Church while educating them on something related to Christianity. The difference between Apologies and Children’s Bulletins is while Children’s Bulletins are rather empty in their purpose, Apologies has a very strong point.
The interactions in this book should hit you deep. You either get it, or you don’t.
I have a metric ton of feelings on this piece.
Just getting this off my chest- I am so grateful this was published during Lent! We are in the middle of Women’s History Month, and I hear the silence. It's so deafening! Meanwhile, I’m attempting to explore non-religious and artistic views on religion, and it’s all so masculine! Kristy gives me something to explore created by a woman!
To the book!
About 4 years ago I had this amazing idea. I would ask one of my guy minister friends to do an experiment with me. He would make a feminine minister Reddit username, and I would make a masculine one. Starting at zero karma, we’d set parameters for interaction. Which username would get the most karma by the end of 6 months. Was it the guy minister pretending to be a girl, or the girl minister pretending to be a guy?
By this point, I’d been online for about 4 years, and I had a slough of users flat out telling me I couldn’t be called to be a minister because of my gender. I wanted to see. I wanted to see if “calling” was tied to gender. I wanted to test ability with a genderswap.
No guy wanted to participate. Why would they?! In the media, guys doing anything that even remotely looks feminine is seen at best as comic relief. My daughter can play a boy in a play without anyone questioning her gender identity, but my son can’t play a girl and get the same result. The double standard is real. All the ministers I asked were super supportive of what I was doing, as long as they didn’t have to actually participate.
So I did it all by myself. I made the username, and ran the experiment next to my original username for 6 months. It wasn’t a scientific experiment. I wanted the right people to see what I was doing, and follow it up with a scientific study.
What I discovered in that ½ year was that it was easier being a male minister. People simply assumed I was who I said I was. To be clear, I never said I was a guy. My username was masculine and had “pastor” in the title. That was it. No one wondered where I got my education. I was thanked far more often for giving religious opinions. It was like moving from white water rapids, to a smooth flowing creek. There was no way for guys to know how easy they had it, because we don’t consider what doesn’t naturally test us. Out of sight, out of mind.
Yet, when I shared what I found, I was called a liar. The guys didn’t step up and support me after the fact either. One even went so far to turn the focus from gender to his topic of discussion. Six months of my life, flushed down the toilet.
All that is what I think of as I look at the cover. A “somewhat” “experiment.” No, it’s not a scientific experiment, but still an experiment. When you realize what she did, can you be humble enough to see it was all an act of love? Or- will you turn the story back on you? Or- you will get your feelings hurt and act out in anger? I’m interested in seeing if you even get it!
How does Apologies preach the Word of God to the people of God?