On Andrew Caldwell and How Many Christian Sects Torture Queer People in the Name of “White Jesus,” Which Is Another Way of Saying “Sadism”

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Andrew Caldwell seen in a suit and bow tie holding a microphone on a stage in the Church of God in Christ.]

Have you seen the series of videos all over the Internet from a young man named Andrew Caldwell, a member of what I believe is the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), who is documenting his “transformation” from homosexual to heterosexual at the urging of his church to be rid of the “homosexual demon”?

This young man spreads a very toxic message that perpetuates the myth that someone can be prayed into cisgender heterosexuality through means that are the very definition of physical, psychological, and spiritual torture.

I watched one of his videos recently in which he celebrates “touching his first female.”

I was utterly appalled at how he conveys the act, the language he uses to describe it, the jubilation around it, the rape-culture tone it normalizes. It dehumanizes and objectifies the woman involved, illustrating how closely tied — for the black Church and many black Christians — misogynoir and blaqueerantagonism are, and how willing they are to engage in it the name of White Jesus.

I also felt both tremendous shame and sadness for the young man because it’s stunningly clear even to the average person that he is a victim, too.

It’s not that I think he has a mental illness. It’s that it’s rather obvious that he’s been subjected to rather cruel and inhumane treatment and suffers a kind of trauma as a result. He’s been severely damaged by his religion and his way of dealing with that has been to become a spectacle in which he treats heterosexuality as a fake-it-until-you-make-it endeavor. He’ll never make it, of course. But that doesn’t matter to his Christian tormentors. As long as he pretends to be transformed and performs heterosexuality sufficiently for their tastes, they’ll praise their God and await their blessings as though they accomplished something good rather than evil.

Caldwell is also known for the vicious way in which he responds to his critics. He lashes with angry language, materialism, and by using homosexuality as a weapon/insult to throw at those who question him. To me, it seems obvious that, like with Azealia Banks and Kanye West, he acting out of the turmoil and chaos inside of him and what we see in his eyes and hear in his voice is the hatred he’s been forced to internalize made manifest.

What I’ve seen, mostly, like with Azealia and Kanye, is him become the subject of ridicule when it’s absolutely clear that this man is suffering and needs love, kindness, and professional help. He needs an immediate intervention. But are there spaces in black communities to save/reclaim people from church/religious terrorism? Or is church/religion, particularly colonial church/religion, such a fundamental part of the black experience that permanent separation is too terrifying for most black people to even imagine?

What I’m learning about us as spectators and human beings is that we, especially those of us who consider ourselves the most pious, love to add to another person’s misery, especially when we see they’re already downtrodden. We love to laugh at someone’s hurt. We love to harshly judge someone else’s troubles. We love to sit back and point the finger at other people’s breakdowns. And we love not to take our psychological health seriously. We think we can “pray” fundamental human conditions away. In particular, we think black people are “strong” and acknowledging and addressing any health issues related to the wellness of our psychology is “weak.”

I understand the urge and the impulse to ridicule and hate this man; I’ve felt it. But when I gave myself the time to think about it beyond the knee-jerk, reactionary, hardhearted, and superficial, I came to a different conclusion:

This man needs help. Laughing at him isn’t help. Laughing at him is only going to make the shit worse. But I suppose that as sadistic as some of us are, worse is precisely the outcome we’re seeking.

May I live to see the day when the human species has finally realized that gender and sexuality are far more complex, diverse, expansive, and spectacular than any antiquated religious dogma could ever conceive.

And that any sexuality that comes about through coercion is rape, plain and simple.