ExRLVT: An Accidental Movement

This week has been a whirlwind.

I wrote my blog post regarding my time at R*levant on Friday.

Shortly after I published my corroboration of Andre Henry’s experience under C*meron Str*ng’s poor management, subscribers picked up the story and began demanding answers from leadership.

Str*ng effectively ran off the internet by deactivating his Twitter and making his Instagram private. There are a few issues here, namely his demonstrated refusal to engage the many issues outlined in our posts.

What I could not foresee when I decided to stand with Andre were the dozens more that would come forward after us, many for the first time. Former R*levant employees across the internet began sharing their personal stories surrounding Str*ng’s erratic leadership, the toxic duplicity, and long-buried memories of trauma at his hands. A Twitter account had to be made just to centralize them all.

I am not gonna lie, fam, I was a little overwhelmed. From Friday up until yesterday evening, I’ve received Instagram messages, tweets, and emails from others describing how intimately they’d once shared my pain.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I wrote on these matters, I never thought my story would go as far as it did. Maybe that was for the best. Perhaps if I had known or even dreamed The Washington Post would report on it, I never would have published it. I can’t say.

I simply read Andre’s account and felt my spirit say, “Enough.”

R*levant had ground up the faithful hopes and talents of yet another talented young professional and I couldn’t just watch.

To put it in the words of an ex-editor quoted by The Huffington Post, The CEO publicly fetishized racial justice efforts but privately catered to the company’s “white, male, conservative-leaning base.” Andre was the first to draw public attention to this reality and the many ways it committed a disservice to consumers.

It was important to me to speak objectively about the things I’d witnessed, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope telling the truth would chip away at the kingdom and reputation that gives Str*ng the power to harm so many.

Once the stories gained traction and R*levant’s customers began unsubscribing, we learned a customer service representative tried to discredit the victims. This strategy quickly became futile as dozens of former staff members spanning over a decade of time spoke up. I’m eternally grateful to them. They’re the reason the #exRLVT movement picked up wings and landed in the media. Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service was the first to break the story. Other outlets soon followed.

R*levant and Str*ng finally published a statement on Monday, 9/23, announcing Str*ng’s ambigious, length-indeterminate leave of absence from the R*levant podcast and day-to-day operations. If I’m keeping it 100, I take issue with Str*ng absorbing public praise for this move while avoiding the work of private contrition. It’s yet another symptom of the con.

To date, Str*ng has not personally reached out to Andre or I. The last time he contacted me was the 500-word email he sent to me on the day of my firing.

The company’s attempt to discredit our stories has also never been addressed with us personally, outside of a tweet from R*levant to the individuals that originally brought this to our attention.

Can you see why I’d be exhausted by this point?

(The value of a public relations professional cannot be understated here.)

Str*ng’s incompetency at dealing with criticism and amending things with his victims makes the issues former staff members have spoken to all the more apparent. I can’t help but suspect his hand was moved because his pockets were impacted.

Preacher and theologian Kyle J. Howard was also the first to note Str*ng’s statement is framed as a victimization. This is problematic. The sympathetic framing also perpetuates many of the issues I spoke about in the post that put all this into motion, compounding the pain felt by many of his victims, including myself.

But I told you this would happen.

When you fail to name your racism, sexism, and egotism, even as you publicly apologize for them, you’re not listening to those you’ve hurt. And most likely never will.

R*levant is a unique case-study in workplace hostility because there’s the professional complexity and then there’s the spiritual.

A handful of people have reached out to implore there’s an opportunity for grace and redemption here, and I agree with this in principle. Str*ng, however, has demonstrated over a decade of incorrigible behavior. And I don’t believe the news of it comes as a surprise to him. He chastised me for sitting on a couch and using a pen name. Forgive me if you imply he didn’t know regularly degrading his staff, particularly as a Christian leader, was bad and I don’t buy it.

I’d like to.

But the organizational structure at R*levant ensures he’s only accountable to himself. I can’t change that. I would simply advise any young professional to avoid this environment entirely.

I’d also like to stress that I do not trust the leadership at R*levant to inform conversations surrounding soul care, faith, the church, Christianity, accountability, or anything else related to spiritual well-being, responsibly. Not when they miss the mark, even in their apologies, so grievously.

In my opinion, Str*ng would do well to evolve his personhood in the shadows. Maybe this uprooting of so many things in his personal life will prompt such, but I’m not holding my breath. After all, it’s not C*meron’s world. We’re not living in it.

He’s the responsibility of his community now, Godspeed to them. May they keep him accountable, at least for the sake of everything he and his institutions profess.

Your girl can give a soundbyte, who knew | Source: @thanksbetopod

This whole experience has taught me a few things. Once I recount them below, I’ll return to regular life; planning a wedding, buying groceries, thriving in my current role under an empowering male lead. One thing I’m so very grateful for in telling my story is that I set out to take my voice back and I do feel like this purpose has been accomplished. My writing feels re-energized and I’m excited to share life with you all here. If only because…

  1. People are ready to find another faithful source for the types of conversations R*levant has monopolized. We are in a new era. When I was under Str*ng’s management, the publication went through a rebrand but it was the equivalent of a facelift. Their praxis is quickly fossilizing and the world is moving forward.

    I’ve so appreciated connecting to so many people in the faith community that are open and eager for new springs of edification. One of those sources I want to highlight is the work of Nate Dove and Colby Long at Thanks Be to Pod. I joined them to discuss the events that developed over the weekend. You can listen to that episode here.

    I’m so very grateful to Nate for honoring my story so well in this episode. Thanks Be to Pod does not have the platform R*levant has (they’re just getting started), but Nate’s commitment to lean into the mystery of Christ’s work throughout the world is refreshing and primed at a time when people are hungrier for it than ever.

  2. This brings me to my next point which is that I believe we as individuals, and particularly as Christians, have every opportunity to live out the complexity and diversity of who we were created to be.

    God is not afraid of it. Men may be, but I know God is not.

    In fact, creation suggests that He delights in it.

    At a time when our feeds are becoming increasingly monolithic (thanks be to the algorithm), a diversity in voices is more important than ever. I finally believe that is true for myself, and wish to contribute to the patchwork of the weird, complex, beautiful humanity we share by telling you about my own.

    I don’t think I’m particularly brave for writing what I experienced at R*levant.

    I’ve just found that the shame of failing to speak up when we have the opportunity to is a greater burden than the comfort of staying silent.

    I hope that this experience has encouraged others to stand in the margins of the unknown with the people who live at the fringes.

    We’re a welcoming crew.

  3. Finally, I want to impress that the issues I pointed to are not unique to Str*ng. On the contrary, I received countless messages from people all over the country who had experienced their own brand of narcissist in a spiritual environment whether it was a worship pastor or leader or peer. The church will always be impeded by people like C*meron Str*ng who seek to choke out what God’s doing, even as they claim to be pursuing it. But he is not an anomaly. He’s a symptom. A case-study in what happens when power goes unchecked.

    The only way we are going to heal from this evil is calling it out when we see it and committing to the endless work of becoming healthy individuals ourselves so we don’t add our baggage to the brokenness.

That said, if we’re talking to each other as members of humanity, you and I, I maintain that we are family. And there’s always some brand of dysfunction within family. There always will be on this side of heaven.

Don’t let that reality discourage you.

As I impressed to someone who left a comment on my previous post, don’t allow the mystery (or even the pain) of these complexities overwhelm you or rob you of your joy.

Instead, take courage and consider my favorite words by Zora Neale Hurston, “There are years that ask questions and there are years that answer.”

When the silence of your years grows deafening, know I’m standing with you, waiting for your song, ever humming along in hope.

Author: rebecca marie jo

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    • I’m of the opinion that any exposure given to this institution or Str*ng himself feeds the egotism that drives this behavior in the first place. I implore anyone reading to unfollow him and his media brands because there’s been no restitution made with his victims over his behavior. Any attention (whether it’s positive or negative) feeds his appetite. Thus my intention to shift the narrative from Str*ng and R*levant to the people he’s hurt. They’re the ones that matter here.

      (Thanks for asking!)