Patterns

On Tuesday, May 21, 2019, a group of individuals calling themselves the Magdalene Collective published a lengthy statement with the intent – they claimed – to call out a pattern of systemic oppression within the Ex-Evangelical Twitter and Facebook communities that have come to be known as Exvangelical. In doing so, they triggered a devastating wave of backlash and criticism that has since rocked this community to the point that its founder, Blake Chastain, has shut down his Exvangelical podcast.

Most prominent among the criticisms were transgender persons rightfully pointing out that the statement (which has since been taken down) used the terms AMAB (assigned male at birth) and AFAB (assigned female at birth) in ways that came too close for comfort to the sort of rhetoric used by Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists (TERFs) to promote transphobic bigotry.

In response to these valid critiques, several members of the Magdalene Collective (which included several non-binary and transgender persons) issued public apologies. They made it known that they stand diametrically opposed to all forms of transphobia, and that several trans women had graciously offered to help them in re-editing the post’s language to ensure that the transphobic overtones of the statement were corrected accordingly.

Things further escalated on Wednesday, May 22, when prominent Exvangelical blogger and author Chrissy Stroop announced that she was the primary intended target of the Magdalene Collective’s statement. According to Chrissy, the aim of these persons was to expose her as transfemme and force her to out herself. Chrissy claimed, explicitly, that the goal of the Magdalene Collective was to target and persecute Chrissy for being queer.

These claims were bolstered by a series of screenshots shared by an anonymous, but somewhat well-known, Exvangelical who operates on Twitter under the name Christian Janeway. Janeway has been an active advocate against abuse in the Evangelical church for years, and for several years was a close personal friend of mine.

In publishing these screenshots, Janeway made it known that she believed she had incontrovertible evidence that Chrissy Stroop is the person being targeted by the Magdalene Collective’s statement. Further, she revealed that the screenshots reflected a private conversation between herself and one of the MC statement’s signatories, Samantha Field.

Janeway thus insisted that Field was, in fact, lying about the nature of the statement in her public apology and had been intimately involved in its authorship in a blatant and bigoted attempt to attack Chrissy Stroop.

Purpose

It has been repeatedly demanded of me that I live up to my reputation for examining and presenting “receipts” on incidents like this. I have recently been taking time away from the public disputes to sit with the evidence that has been presented publicly, as well as evidence I have sought out and collected from a variety of places and sources.

I intend to apply the same level of careful critique and criticism to this incident that I would apply to any other public claim of systemic oppression. In doing so, I will be, throughout the series, focusing specifically on the claims made by Janeway, Chrissy Stroop, and several others and considering them against the wealth of information I have collected.

I will not claim to be a neutral observer. What I have gathered has led me to particular conclusions. And as this series continues, I will present those conclusions accordingly. It remains, as always, with the reader to determine the effectiveness of my argument and form their own opinions accordingly.

A good many have expressed confusion and hurt over recent events in the Exvangelical community. It is my hope, regardless of where one lands at the end of this journey, that everyone is provided some insight and clarity into the nature of these disputes.

Disclaimer

Before I continue, I want to note that I personally shared the Magdalene Collective’s statement when it was released. I did not catch the transphobic language of the statement until it was pointed out to me by several friends. When I first read the statement I was of the impression that it was, at least in part, intended as a critique of my own work, particularly as it pertains to a recent public dispute with Jamie Lee Finch.

However, as a masc-presenting AMAB genderqueer individual, I cannot be clear enough that I do not support transphobia of any sort. After sitting with the critiques of the statement from friends and reading over resources provided me, I issued a public apology for having shared the statement and for not critically engaging with its wording.

Regardless of any other critiques, Chrissy deserves to be given the same right to self-determination as all other human beings. The screenshots in this post will represent the name under which Chrissy was identifying at the time the screenshots were taken.
I affirm and respect Chrissy’s gender identity and chosen name.

Janeway

This first post will be dedicated specifically to patterns that have emerged in statements made by Christian Janeway on May 22-23, 2019. Before beginning my analysis, I want to be explicit: this is about impact, not intent. At no point is the intent of a person’s actions an excuse for actual harm done. I cannot speak to Janeway’s motives, but there is quite a bit to be unpacked regarding the implications and impact of her words and actions.

I will begin by examining a thread Janeway wrote about a now-defunct Exvangelical group chat.

In this thread, Janeway presented a claim of being “canceled” and mistreated by certain Exvangelical persons, myself included. This claim was based around an incident that occurred on June 15, 2018, in a private chat group entitled Exvie Jedi Council. The stated purpose of this group at the time was to provide a place for various persons within the Exvangelical community to bond, support each other, coordinate, and platform each other’s work

The event in question caused the almost instant dissolution of the group and created tensions that continue to ripple forward into recent events. This is particularly evident in the way Janeway brought her thread to a close: “Meanwhile, EVERY TIME I logged into the Exvie groups, or on Twitter, I saw Chris[sy] Stroop, Blake, and any other people TRYING TO CENTER FEMALE (+her subgroup) FEELINGS AND STORIES.” (emphasis original)

In order to understand the significance of these words, it is important to consider what, exactly, happened on June 15, 2018.

By Janeway’s own admission I was one of a large group of people involved in these events. However, what Janeway describes contains drastic alterations from the events as I remember them.

In fact, I was so confused with Janeway’s presentation that I consulted other persons involved. Each person I spoke with confirmed that Janeway’s presentation was foundationally inaccurate. So much so, that I felt I needed to publicly object to the glaring inaccuracies of her words.

It should also be noted, that when I objected to details in Janeway’s thread, she publicly acknowledged that I was introducing details she had intentionally omitted. She did not contest the veracity of those details.

It was her claim that she was protecting that person’s identity. However, I contend that leaving those details out fundamentally alters the nature of the story.

What follows is a retelling of this incident, confirmed with several involved to be an accurate representation of events that transpired.

Jerry

This incident began with a man named Jerry using an ableist slur. Whereas Janeway remembers the slur as “r****d” it was, in fact, the derivative slur “libt**d.” Upon seeing Jerry’s bigoted language, I immediately objected to its use and asked him politely to not use ableist slurs.

Jerry became very defensive and aggressive toward me, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and would use whatever language he pleased. At this time, I was at the zoo with my children. I wanted to be able to focus on that time with them, so I texted several friends (who had not yet seen Jerry’s words) to ask for support in the discussion. Among those friends was a queer woman of color (QWOC).

This friend, and several others, engaged Jerry and attempted to reason with him. Jerry, however, continued to escalate and make derogatory and offensive comments toward this QWOC. At this time, I and several others stood against Jerry’s actions and made it clear he was no longer welcome. He eventually left the group.

However, after Jerry was gone, there were several white persons who were uncomfortable with his exit. They presented the argument that perhaps Jerry, a white man, felt cornered and attacked because people had ganged up on him. They argued that his hostility might have been purely reactionary and maybe he didn’t deserve to be forced out.

Shortly after that logic began, one person spoke up pointing out to these persons the racist dynamics at play in a group of white people actively considering the feelings of a white man over the actual harm he was doing by verbally abusing a QWOC who stood up to him. Several others agreed with this and asked that the group change focus accordingly.

It was at this point that Janeway entered the conversation. She had not, to this point, been involved; and, by her own admission, she did not fully understand the context of the discussion.

Yet, she immediately began claiming she was uncomfortable with removing Jerry because she doesn’t believe people can grow if they aren’t given the chance. She started asking if anyone had “politely” asked him not to use ableist slurs, or if we had all just ganged up on him. She wondered aloud if that would happen to her if she made a “mistake,” something she said had happened to her before in a chat group.

She was informed by myself and several others that Jerry had been politely asked, and had become belligerent and verbally abusive toward a QWOC. Janeway, however, kept questioning us to the point that the QWOC exited the group, stating that the racist dynamics at play were incredibly – and understandably – painful for her.

After this person left, Janeway continued to try to defend herself, and we continued to point out that she was in the wrong for jumping into and derailing the conversation. She had centered her feelings and the feelings of Jerry at the expense of a QWOC. She seemed entirely unconcerned that this woman had been treated terribly by a number of white people who claimed to be her friends.

Eventually, of her own volition, Janeway chose to leave the chat group. She was not asked to leave, nor forced to leave. It was decided by myself and several other persons who had spoken up for the QWOC to exit the group as well, since we wanted no part of the dynamics we had seen at play.

During this time, I personally reached out to the QWOC of color to sit with her and care for her as my friend. I also reached out to Janeway and explained that I believed her to be in the wrong and asking her to recognize that and apologize accordingly.

I made it abundantly clear that I was not canceling her, and that her voice in the Exvangelical community was valued

.

I chose after this to carefully walk her through why her actions had been harmful, and why she needed to offer an apology. And she eventually did.

*Red Flag 1: Depicting Victims as Aggressors*

It needs to be clear that Janeway was not needlessly singled out. She inserted herself and centered her own insecurities into a conversation about racism being experienced by a QWOC. She essentially demanded she be immediately catered to in a way that disrupted that conversation, and led to a QWOC choosing to leave the group rather than be further subjected to those group dynamics.

In leaving out these details of the story, Janeway essentially repurposed the story in a way that centered herself and, again, decentered a QWOC.

Janeway, a white woman, literally erased a woman’s race (“+her subset”) and all mentions of racism to repurpose this story so that she comes out the innocent victim.
Both in the original incident, and in her retelling, Janeway depicts her feelings as being neglected because the group’s focus was put on the well-being of a QWOC being subjected to blatant racism. She then paints this QWOC as one of her aggressors, insisting she is owed an apology that was never received.

*Red Flag 2: Caring for Perpetrators above Victims*

This puts her defense of Chrissy Stroop toward the end of the thread in a new light. Because the QWOC in question is also one of the several QWOC who signed the Magdalene Collective Statement.

That is, in addition to being a white woman significantly misrepresenting details of a racist incident to center herself, Janeway is also refusing to carefully engage the context of a conversation before inserting herself in it. She charged ahead, despite multiple people pointing out why that was creating a problem, and even after seeing first hand the damage her actions were doing, doubled down on her rhetoric.

And even further, Janeway carried forth with the notion that her responsibility is to stick up for a person making a “mistake” (a white man making ableist comments and verbally accosting a QWOC) instead of the person they harmed (a QWOC who had been attacked and subjected to racism).

This betrays a view that personal growth at the expense of marginalized persons is acceptable.

*Red Flag 3: Dismissing the Trauma of Others*

Further of note is that the purpose of centering herself in this story is to malign a QWOC. She insists that this QWOC owes her an apology somehow, then uses that to dismiss any dispute she might have with Chrissy Stroop.

Leaving aside the undeniable mistakes in language, the Magdalene Statement claimed that a number of people, including queer women of color, have encountered a consistent environment of erasure and have been subjected to silencing and other bully tactics when trying to speak up.

Janeway is claiming that, because she was not centered in a conversation about the blatant racism suffered by a QWOC, then any claims of mistreatment leveled against Chrissy Stroop or “any other people” in the Exvangelical community made by this woman are illegitimate (emphasis mine).

Whether or not it was her intent, the impact of Janeway’s words and actions is the silencing, erasure, and further marginalization of a QWOC all so Janeway can be centered in this discussion and justify her defense of Chrissy Stroop.

Ezer Rising

As troubling as it was to see these things play out, it was outright dumbfounding to see these same patterns emerge again in a related incident.

For the reader not yet familiar with the allegations of abuse made against the leadership of Ezer Rising, I offer the following resources as a point of reference:

  1. Former Ezer Rising Team Members Speak Out 
  2. Examining a Defense of Ezer Rising 
  3. A Response to Christine Woolgar
  4. Receipts on the Ezer Rising Story 

This incident began when Janeway declared that, because she felt slighted by my refusal to accept her inaccurate narrative, I had also acted unethically in exposing bigotry and abuse alleged against her personal friend Sierra White (co-founder of the ministry Ezer Rising). Janeway even went so far as to post a public apology to Sierra on her timeline.

This led to several of the victims who brought these allegations stating directly to Janeway that her words and actions portrayed them as liars.

As can be seen from the screenshots below, Janeway was largely unsympathetic to their arguments. She agreed with one victim that some damage had been done by Ezer Rising leadership, but downplayed it from abuse and bigotry to a personal dispute. She even told her that it was her (the victim’s) unrealistic expectations that created the conflict. Janeway repeatedly focused only on Sierra White and the issue of queer inclusion, despite the fact that the allegations also detailed instances of victim-blaming (regarding sexual assault) and anti-black racism perpetrated by the entire Ezer Rising leadership team.

Janeway then told another of the victims that she has no responsibility to her feelings, that her “ministry” is to helping people exiting Evangelicalism see the errors of the beliefs they are leaving, which is on the surface laudable work. However, Janeway made it explicit that her focus is on helping people who hold to bigoted opinions, but that she does not feel responsibility to those they harm.

 

When she finally, if only briefly, acknowledged the accusations of anti-black racism, she immediately diminished it as “part of the normal, awful growing pains of leaving Evangelical theology” before telling the victim that, if the abuse she endured was “so damaging to you, you don’t need to be in ministry.”

She further claimed that the victims objecting to her rhetoric were unfairly targeting her for a “pile-up.”

Abundantly clear from these engagements is a pattern of behavior indicative of a belief that leaving room for personal growth outweighs the harm being actively done to marginalized or abused persons.

Further, she explicitly argued that she bears no responsibility for the consequences of her words on the victims of Ezer Rising leadership. Instead, she stated that the fact that others had used her words in an attempt to discredit Ezer Rising victims was not her concern.

 

She even went so far as to insist that the victims confronting her were somehow at fault, telling one “YOU need some healing” before wishing her “God’s peace.”

And to top it all off, despite not being a member of Ezer Rising leadership, Janeway then made the bizarre claim that she knows better than both the victims and Sierra White the dynamics which had been in play. She attempted to support this claim by posting screenshots of a DM conversation between herself and Chrissy Stroop.

In these screenshots, Stroop and Janeway are seen discussing Ezer Rising leadership and my work regarding them.

 

Looking at these, I am completely confused regarding Janeway’s apparent belief that this information would be unknown to Sierra White, who she describes as present for all the events. I’m also very unclear what these claims are supposed to add to the narrative she is building.

At best, a mutual friend gave Sierra information that led directly to the harm of others, and Janeway sat by and did nothing.

But this remains entirely irrelevant to the allegations made against Sierra White. Whatever personal involvement Janeway may believe she had in their abuse, the fact remains that this has absolutely no bearing on the validity of the victims’ allegations. “Take control” does not, to my knowledge, directly translate to being instructed to engage in queerphobic, racist, and victim-blaming policies.

Even Chrissy seems to understand this, noting that none of that would excuse queerphobia. Chrissy further affirms that my work on Ezer Rising has merit, in her estimation. Chrissy’s only criticism in these screenshots is that I approach people in the Exvangelical community with the same “aggressive” tactics I would use on Al Mohler.

This leads Janeway to claim that I have had a “break with reality,” and that she doesn’t believe the allegations are as serious as I have reported. She also states she could’ve resolved things quietly and in-house if she had been allowed to mediate.

Emerging Patterns
In these two incidents, there are several clear patterns emerging.

  1. Janeway has in both incidents centered herself in conversations, to the point of neglecting context and the feelings of others.

  2. Janeway has in both incidents been more concerned about protecting the feelings of perpetrators and giving them room to grow, than with caring for or protecting their victims.

  3. Janeway has in both incidents defended her actions by diminishing or completely dismissing the trauma of others as invalid.

That is, Janeway has demonstrated a tendency to insert herself as the voice of reason, often in ways that misrepresent or completely dismiss the trauma of others, while functioning to defend those who caused that trauma and protect them from accountability.

This, of course, does not mean that she is wrong in her defense of Chrissy Stroop. It is entirely possible for a person to engage dishonestly in one arena, and yet be accurate in another.

Inconsistency

Though there are undeniable parallels between Janeway’s rhetoric in the two incidents described above, there is also one striking inconsistency: the way Chrissy Stroop responded to them.

As Janeway continued to escalate in her rhetoric against Ezer Rising victims, Stroop stepped in to state that she believed Janeway to be doing more harm than good.

As seen in screenshots above, Stroop had already privately told Janeway that, despite having issues with being “aggressive,” I don’t have a history of lying. In confronting Janeway, she took this a step farther by publicly stating that what is described in the Ezer Rising allegations seems to be valid, that she believes the victims, and that Janeway’s actions were causing harm.

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In the end, despite Chrissy’s clear objections, Janeway remained adamant that her anger at me justifies her words and actions.

This exchange creates a rather confusing juxtaposition to Chrissy’s reactions to Janeway’s thread on the Jedi Council incident.

With Ezer Rising, Chrissy admits to having only passing knowledge of events yet stands firm in her conviction that the victims are bringing credible accusations.

However, with the Exvie Jedi Council incident, Chrissy has first-hand knowledge of the events in question, as even Janeway herself notes that Chrissy was present in the chat group.

Yet, despite having witnessed the incident herself, Stroop chose to retweet several of the posts from Janeway’s Exvie Jedi Council thread – tweets containing blatant falsehood and rhetoric that erases, silences, and serves to further marginalize a QWOC.

This raises several questions:

  1. Could it be that Chrissy simply doesn’t remember the Exvie Jedi Council incident well, and took Janeway’s words at face value?

  2. Is it mere coincidence that the first thread was aimed at vindicating Chrissy by dismissing the trauma of a QWOC who signed the MC statement?

  3. Given the clear parallels between the way Janeway engaged both incidents, is there some other factor that would make Chrissy support her regarding the Exvie Jedi Council but not regarding Ezer Rising?

Conclusion

As I stated from the beginning, the intent of this series is to weigh the evidence. I am not a neutral observer, as I have been an integral part of the Exvangelical community for quite a while. The above story was deeply personal to me, and I chose to start here for a reason.

This was the incident that caused me to ask, in addition to the questions raised above:

  1. If my intimate knowledge of the incidents above raised so many red flags, should I be wary of details about others?

  2. Is it possible that Janeway could be incredibly wrong in these instances, and still be accurate in her presentation of other incidents?

I have reached my own conclusions, and as this series progresses, I will present those conclusions. But, in the end, it is up to the reader to form their own.

Cover Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Patterns

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