May 22nd, 2011
01:00 AM ET
My Faith: How I learned to stop 'praying away the gay'
Editor's Note: Don Lemon is a CNN anchor and author of Transparent, a memoir .
By Don Lemon, CNN
"School day, time to get up, sleepy head. School day."
Although she's been gone since 1998, my grandmother's words ring in my head just about every morning of my life. That's how MaMe, as I called her, got me out of bed and off to my Catholic school when I was growing up and in her care.
But before I shuffled my way to the bathroom to begin my morning routine, I had to hit the floor on my knees to pray, just as I had the night before.
It was usually The Lord's Prayer ("Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...") followed by asking God to watch and guide me through my day until I returned to the safety of my home that evening.
But MaMe (pronounced MAH-me) didn't know that at a very early age her favorite grandson had begun to pray, silently, that God would change him from being different, from having crushes on boys, from being more curious about boys than girls.
By age four or five, I was too young to sexualize my infatuations but I knew that everyone else, including my family and friends, would think it was wrong.
Perhaps it was the conversations I overheard from adults around my hometown of Port Allen, Louisiana, who'd mimic gay people, calling them "funny" or "sissy" or "fagots."
Perhaps it was Sunday mornings at our Baptist church, where preachers taught that liking someone of the same sex was a direct and swift path to hell. And that if that person would just turn to the Lord and confess his sin, then God would change him back into the person He wanted him to be - a person who only had crushes on the opposite sex.
All of which meant that, from a very early age, I began to think I was dirty and that I was going to hell. Can you imagine what that feels like for a kid who was just learning to read and perform basic arithmetic? It was awful.
And talk about guilt - I was a Baptist attending Catholic school!
I prayed the silent prayer for God to change me every chance I got until I started attending college in New York. That's when common sense began to take hold and I realized that no amount of prayer would change me into something that wasn't natural to me.
With my religious upbringing, I'd had the opportunity to study religious doctrine. But I learned from different perspectives, from Catholic Mass on Fridays to Baptist services on Sundays to vacation Bible school in the summer to Bible study with a Jehovah's Witness as a teenager.
As I got older I began to realize that all these people and institutions interpreted the Bible somewhat differently. I had a sort of epiphany: the Bible was about the lessons you learned, not about the events or words.
When I became old enough, intelligent enough and logical enough to discern the difference between metaphor and reality, everything changed. I realized that Jonah living in the belly of a whale was a parable written in the same vein as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saying that he had "been to the mountaintop."
Neither Jonah nor King had actually been to those places. They were metaphors for lessons for those of us who cared to absorb them.
So many of us, especially in the black community and in churches, tend to think that religious teachings happened word for word as they were written in Scripture. I think that's naïve, even dangerous.
That type of thinking - or non-thinking - keeps many religious people enslaved to beliefs that they haven't truly stepped back from and examined.
That type of thinking causes people who are otherwise good to shun and ostracize young gay people.
It causes people to want to control and change people who aren't like them. And who wants to be like someone else?
Imagine if we had allowed Christian doctrines and teachings that supported slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women to pervade our society all the way up until the current moment. What kind of world would that be?
Instead, we got on our knees, just as I did as a little boy, and prayed that slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women would end. In the United States, at least, those prayers have largely been realized.
I'm no longer the member of any church but I do believe in a higher power.
It's time for us, especially black people, to stop trying to pray the gay away and to get on our knees and start praying that the discrimination of gay people ends.
What we're doing to our young gay people now is child abuse. It's plain old bigotry and hatred. And if African-Americans don't know what that feels like in America, I don't know who does.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Don Lemon.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Don Lemon I applaud you for finally coming out. I have had very similar experiences growing up. I find it interesting though that this entire article professes anti discrimination language, yet you demonstrate hippocrasy when you state;
"It's time for us, especially black people, to stop trying to pray the gay away and to get on our knees and start praying that the discrimination of gay people ends."
Why would black people especially need to stop trying to pray the gay away.
Actually that seems pretty obvious to me.
Black folks (especially black men) in this country are no stranger to discrimination and oppression. Keeping that in mind, it makes perfect sense that, as one black man to others, Mr. Lemon would appeal to that shared history of discrimination and oppression.
...In America Alone...Reported by CDC...With more than 2 Million AIDS Deaths ...Primarily Sodomites...and Currently More than 2 Million Infected...This Evil practice is self Extinguishing...how many people do you know that have bit the dust..tortured in HeII Now from Sodomy?...Many More to come...America has Accepted the Final Evil that God has destroyed Every great Civilization for Committing...the Disasters we see now are Only the beginning...
I guess this is what one does the day after you don't get raptured as expected.
You are a fool, a religious nut as it were.
The Bible reads, "Faith without works is dead", so you can "pray the gay away" all you want, but until YOU MAKE A MOVE to change your situation (change environment, etc.), nothing will happen. It's a good the rapture did not occur as those fools mentioned, because many are not ready to enter God's kingdom.
"the Disasters we see now are Only the beginning..."
What NEW disasters? Any reading of history shows that disasters have existed as long as recorded history. We've heard this same lame argument since before Jesus days.
If you had read the Bible you'd know that Jesus said that anyone who calls someone else a fool is headed to Hell. Oops.
Weren't you supposed to be gone with the rapture yesterday?
I feel really sorry for you.
Wow. I didn't realize THAT much stupidity was compatible with life.
Anyone know if the Braves played today?
Yes, I've seen the disaster cause by random use of CaPitAls. It is rampant among morons like you.
So many would not have died if the bigots like you hadn't turned a blind eye and deaf ear for all those years.
Ted, you sound so immature. I wonder how many friends you have? You need to get off the front porch and take a loYOu sound look at having a perspective on the experience of knowing many people, rather than your apparent from-a-distance perspective. You sound soo much like an arm chair quaterback who has never really had enough social experience to know about people and things. People like you are dangerous to civil, informed, reality based populations. Wow.
God bless you Don for putting this out there. Well put!
I have thought for years that if CNN was smart, they would tap Don to be the network's future anchor (an heir appearant to Wolf Blitzer.) This revelation changes nothing in my mind, good for you Mr. Lemon!
Religion strikes again.
God loves EVERYONE ... He's not a mean old man sitting on a cloud waiting to zap the people that don't do what He says... He's a loving Father waiting for people to connect with Him... He wants to give us a happy and fulfilled life. He gave us these teachings, stories and rules in order to protect us and give us the way towards the best life possible.
Gay, straight, young, old, black, white, asian, latino, male, female – He LOVES you. And if you simple take a quiet moment and honestly ask Him to talk to you... He will show up 🙂 I'm praying for you all
Yes. He loves all. But not all the actions of his children. Just like a real parent. And there are consequences!
God loves the whole world, but commands men everywhere to repent. God desires that not even one soul be lost that's why he sent his only begotten son Jesus. ALL sin can be forgiven in the name of Jesus, but you must first acknowledge the sin, confess it to him and ask his forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
Fantastic article. Religion has a very obscure way of placing control upon people, especially the weak, or people who need "truth" in their lives to live. Unfortunately, trying to find definitions for everything really isn' living. I told my mother and father (both of whom are very accepting and caring of me and my finance) that I would not wait for this country to take decades to pass appropriate laws to allow gay marriage across the country. This country has been known for its inability to recognize discrimination and prejudice, and taking away basic civil rights that neither religion nor a federal government has the right to place upon its citizens. We will never get rid of religion from this world, and it will continue to influence people in power that make decisions for the whole...which is wrong.
As far as the article, do what makes you happy, if people in your local shopping malls don't appreciate seeing 2 women or men together, tell them to go **** themselves 🙂
What if molesting a child "makes them happy"? Stealing makes me happy – should we all just be able to steal?
No matter what your belief system is – you can't make happiness your moral compass.
For Caleb: read this and rid yourself of preconceived notions.
What a bunch of rubbish. I'm actually starting to become thankful for the Pro-Gay articles that are written. It is so apparent that many of these people do in fact have a choice and are making themselves look a little foolish with these stories.
As people become smarter as technology gets better we are able to comprehend a little better on what is reality. The fact is, and this holds true for those who proclaim to be gay and those who do not, we all make choices based on the information we receive from the day we are born. We are all born with clean slates. You need to teach a child words and definitions before he knows what is what. Most people start with the word "Mom" or "Dad". Yes, try and twist this any way you want to but this is what you call "common sense".
We don't all have choices to what input we have received as a child but you can be sure there are 3 types of input. Positive, Negative, and the things we cannot decipher. We take our chances to what we need to decipher and we choose the negative or positive but it's up to all of us to accept that we can change the definitions of our experiences to whatever we want to. I'm sorry but the gay community has always made a mistake in proclaiming they "were just born that way". No, you were just in a vulnerable position and were susceptible in choosing your own path somewhere along the line, just like everyone else. See, I don't blame gay people for being gay, I just blame them for not owning up to reality. The day a gay person says "I have a choice" is the day I say "Go ahead and do what you please". I think this is the ultimate underlying issue of disagreement between those who agree with being gay and those who do not. By the way, I'm not religious
Thank you. Very well said!
The main issue is who converted him. His mother birthed him, another male converted him.
bobz: Do you even know any gay people? I can not even put into words how offensive and ignorant I find your comment. I am a VERY PROUD mother of an 18 year old gay son. He has been raised by two loving parents in a traditional home. My son was never in a "vunerable position" as you put it. He did, however, love Barbie dolls instead of Tonka trucks. When he was two years old and wanted to be a princess for halloween instead of a power ranger, we let him. My son does not have a choice whether he is gay or not, just like you apparently do not have the choice to be open minded and accepting of others that are different from you. My question to those that say that being gay is a choice is "Why would someone choose to be part of a group that it is still acceptable to openly hate and discriminate against?" Why would anyone make that choice? They wouldn't, because life is difficult enough.
You my friend, still gay.Even if you "choose" not to be gay. Go ahead and say "I have a choice" . You are living a lie.
Unless you are not gay you dont know nothing of what you are talking about. Go head and pray way the lies.
So for millions of years, people have been "choosing" a lifestyle that is the subject of wrath, hatred, abuse, discrimination and bias? Tell me another funny story.
I too cannot believe the ignorance of your comments, but i'd like to ask: What difference does it make?
In relation to what I said, your son did NOT have a choice of what input he received as a child. Your unwillingness to accept your CHOICE to give your kid Barbies and let him dress up as a "Princess" speaks volume as to the family dynamic though.
The only mistake your son can make, as far as I'm concerned, is to fool himself into thinking he came out of the womb the way he is. He should instead accept that the input he received from his mother on "Barbies" and "Princess Clothes", for instance, most likely contributed to his current line of thinking today. I'm not asking for anyone to change so much as I'm asking for them to accept reality. By the way, sometimes it's nobody's fault for being the way they are. Parents are not the sole source of input a child can have for example. Television, Other Kids, Daycare, Foster Care, Teachers, etc. etc. etc. are out of parents control. So like I said, I don't blame someone for being gay, I do blame gay people for just not accepting WHY they way they are the way they are. You can then freely choose who you want to be regardless. Saying, YUP, that's how I popped out when my mom gave birth is rather lame, stubborn, and is the easy way out for parents not to accept responsibility and additionally gives the kids an easy way out to divulge in any irrational behavior they want to.
By the way Proudmom,
Your definition of "Traditional" sounds anything but.
You just confirmed how totally ignorant you really are! Because I allowed my son to choose for himself what types of toys he wanted to play with and to play dress up on halloween, I made him gay?? Would it be much better to force children into "stereotypical" roles and have them pretend to be someone they are not? Why, to please people like you?? I will tell you I feel pity for any children or grandchildren you may have that do not live up to your preconceived expectations of who they should be or what they should or should not like. And as for your dig about not being a traditional family, I have been married to my children's father for over 21 years. How many times have you been divorced, because I can't imagine a woman with 1/4 of a brain staying married to an ignoramus like yourself.
..and there lies the issue. Your forcing him into a "stereotypical role" and subjecting kids to a
"Preconceived Expectation" no matter what you do. The difference is that you've CHOSEN a self righteous view of "playing with Barbies" is actually better than "Not playing with Barbies" and you let him do it. That is the essence of choice my dear no matter how you shape it. Just to clarify, by not doing anything, you've basically given him a 50/50 chance of playing with a boy toy or a girl toy! lol Thow in the fact, they don't know what the heck they're playing with in the first place (which mom and dad should explain!). Now I don't care about toys what I do sit and wonder about is how parents can think they're actually leaving the choice up to the kid when clearly kids don't have the wherewithal to understand to read and to write!
What else is a kid supposed to do? Parents are doing kids a favor by pointing them in the right direction. That's my take on what you're saying.
Everyone knows that kid's brains are literally like putty. They are molded when they are young. The most dangerous idea available is that kids have somehow got this innate ability to actually know what they like and what to do with the information that's been given to them when they are born. That's where the ignorance comes from in my opinion. We teach them something whether we like it or not. Saying I'll let the kid choose is NOT any type of choice for the kid. That is just my opinion though. It's not nearly as complicated as it sounds. Bottom line is that people should be willing to admit "choices" are what makes us who we are, other than that, I don't care what you do. It really is the first step in taking responsibility. So what if there are mistakes made in life. It's the only way to make life better!
I wish you, your son, and everyone else in life well though!
Don, good for you. it is all about each of us allowing others to be happy in their own skin. Period.
I really don't understand people who think that they understand gay people and the awful childhoods each had to endure. Why would you ever choose to be discriminated against, be fearful for your physical safety, unsure that your own parents would love them if they knew, to go to hell. Be logical people I also prayed every night that I would wake up the next morning straight "normal". How awful. How scared. I would have told my parents that I had killed someone before I told them I was gay. I knew from day one that I was "different" and knew very early on that I was gay. Scary realization. You hate yourself. You hate god for doing this to you. You try so hard to be straight. You go through a nervous break down. Please don't ever assume you know what it is like. Because you never will.
He probably was born that way. We are all born into sin whether as liars, backstabbers, murderers, or GAY. Don't die in your sins! Jesus died for all of us including gays and everybody else. The problem comes with obedience and repentance. We want Jesus and our own way also. You can't have it both ways. Jesus (life), your way (death). Everybody on this thread is smart enough to understand this message, but no one wants to die to self and live for Christ. Young man I will be praying for you because you need much prayer right now. Even the Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh that Jesus would not remove. Stop rebelling and trust in the Lord again. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Oh and by the way, Rapture occurred yesterday right? Why are all of you still here?
And here we have a perfect illustration of the author's point.
Theorist, I strongly urge you to NOT be gay, since you don't think it "right." On the OTHER hand, you have no business telling other people how condemned and evil they are.
Don't like abortions, don't have one. Don't like gays, don't be one. Don't like liberals, be conservative, and so forth.
You are your business – no one else is.
There is nothing more sickening then a holier-than-thou bigot condescending to someone whom you have no idea what they are like. You have never been discriminated against, or made to feel like they are somehow guilty of a crime where the only victim is themselves.
To borrow a line from your cult's book pf proverbs:
"Judge not lest ye be judged"
It's people like you Conspiracy Theorist that perpetuates the hate and what this poor man and many others had to go through- not only growing up- but in today's society. The preaching of hell and damnation because they don't follow your "rules" and are different from you. Unfortunately, humans (certain groups more than others) like to hate/fear what is different from the majority. Keep your religious doctrine and hate where they belong- in your own head or behind closed doors. For you to tell this man he's going down a path of "your way(death)" is absolutely unconscionable and perpetuates the hate you're preaching is wrong. Hypocrite to the nastiest degree- as most of the rabid bible thumpers are. I am not gay, but I have taught my daughter from a young age that it's normal for some people and if she WAS gay that I'd have absolutely no problems with that. (not that it would matter except for her own mental health growing up) Hate is never good. Period.
That's so sad.
It requires critical thought to accept someone who is markedly different from you. Relying on doctrine to think for you, keeps many in a state of ignorance and intolerance.
Go watch "Children of Men"
Go watch "Castro Street, San Francisco, CA, USA"
People of all races need to heed this and put down that silly Holy Babble and start living the life they've been granted in the here-and-now!
Why anyone is so offended by gay people is just beyond me. It is just another example of how harming religion is to society. The world would be a better place without organized religion.
a better place without you for sure!
This was a wonderfully written column. Thank you!
Why are so many Christians here today, should them be already enraptured by their Jesus. 3 billion less of religous people, what a dream of natural selection!
Wow: it's good to know you want to be rid of so many people at once. An enlightened and loving disposition, to be sure. Maybe this is why some people say they need Jesus? So they can embrace a loving disposition and avoid sounding like you. I hope that you will also find a more loving way through your life!
Chad, don't take me wrong, I'll sacrifice for you all Christians being a bit lonier. I am not just willing to get rid of all the christians, is that I wish you people find that true love next to Jesus. And if in the process we leave a world more rational, that can progress more freely and in peace great for all. Is a winner winner sytuation. So, are you going with your Jesus or what? When... when is this rapture is going to happen?
First, Harold Camping is a false prophet. The Bible says that they are everywhere. Your assumption that all Christians are nut jobs shows your prejudice. Having a relationship with Jesus is so freeing. I know that I am not perfect, but God loves and forgives me BECAUSE I confess AND repent. (I John 1:8-9) Everyone will face judgement one day. The message of the Bible: Be ready when that day comes! I do hope that you can find the peace that so many born again Christians have found through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Religion = your willingness to be a slave to your dictator – your celestial dictator
Absence of faith = slavery to the material world and your base impulses.
Jesus sets people free, when you look beyond the superficial assessments of Christianity and traumatic experiences from Catholic school. I'm talking about the real faith here, not something you are indoctrinated with by a church or an authoritarian system.
Can you prove any of your claims? Faith is not proof. Faith is what you have when you don't have proof and don't want proof.
Chad, thank you for the correction. A real relationship with Jesus is what joy in this life is all about!
If you only acted on what you could prove, you would be a dull and lifeless animal indeed! The fact is, most people (even self-described atheists) are acting on faith. They have just removed themselves one degree further from reality than people who admit their faith. And while agnostics are in an intellectually strong position, they aren't in a strong position as far as living life with conviction. Convictions and passion are every bit as important as proofs and empirical evidence. One without the other is the problem! For example, I'm convinced by the example of Christ (for which there is a rather large historical body of evidence), that I should show love to Don Lemon, and that I should pray for him to have a relationship with God (regardless of what kind of physical relationship he pursues).
Ahhh FREEDOM! Freedom from religion is true freedom. You can live a decent, honest, moral and consequential life without god or gods. You have taken the first step by accepting who you are. You don't have to apologize for that. It's time to throw away the chains. Give up religion and live free. You'll never regret it.
And atheists don't want YOUR money. Atheists will never make you feel guilty for not spending your money on atheist causes. How's that for a switch?
Atheist Alliance International..A fundraising group! NEXT!
"Atheist Alliance International..A fundraising group!"
It is EXTREMELY unlikely that anyone here has ever heard of it.
Observer. SO what....Does that mean they do not exist? Just because people don't know about them.
JT said: "Atheist Alliance International..A fundraising group! NEXT!"
Of course atheists fund raise. What I said is that they will not make you feel guilty or risk going to hell for not contributing. You have a choice to contribute or not. No atheist will brow beat you or threaten you for not contributing.
Or require 10% off the top of your check.
I wish we could stop with all the "I was born this way". There is no scientific basis for that statement. There is no evidence. That being said, gay folks should not have to make this statement to be treated fairly or be given the right to marry. It's ridiculous. It's a civil rights issue and we need to stop discriminating against people because they don't into all these boxes (race, gender, religion) that we have made for ourselves and others. They are people and they deserve fair and equal treatment under the law.
That's a nice concept, except that if we as humans being do not set some boundaries for Moral and Immoral...Lawful and Unlawful, Then anything goes....And that is CHAOS!
just because you are ignorant and repeat it so, it doesn't make your point valid. It is fact that most gays are born that way and is reflected with such measures such as hormones and X/Y distribution
@Susaan Please post the evidence as I would love to read it.
@JT Two people loving each other is not "anything goes". Equal rights for employment and housing is not "anything goes". Gay folk being able to marry and be happy is not chaos.
Jess. Get Dictionary. Look up Immoral and Unlawful...Get back to me!
I don't need to look up anything. They will be given the right to marry soon so everyone who is opposed to it better just get used to the idea. Love, Peace and Equal Rights!
Santilla et al 2008
Camperio-Ciani, A., Corna, F. & Capiluppi, C. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 271, 2217-2221 (2004).
Gavrilets, S. & Rice, W. R. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 273, 3031-3038 (2006).
Thank you Simon...I will check it all out.
I have 13 more but apparently the filter thinks they are spam sorry.
The Santilla study is interesting yet it does not address actual orientation but I guess the propensity for attraction. I am going to look at the other studies. Thanks again for posting these.