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.
What is dangerous is when someone interprets out of the bible their own personal sins. I have mine you have yours. The Bible is there to convict us. Gay is a disorder. It is clearly against the way God made us in the beginning, in the garden. Therefore it is a part of the corruption of man. Men and women are complimentary. Anything else is sin.
Don't be so quick to assume that what you've led yourself to believe is the truth is actually the truth. Remember that we experienced a very dark time in ancient history where knowledge was destroyed and rewritten. This is why you have things like a King James Bible. What could be their reason for excluding gays? It's simple... gay men embody female energy within a male body and lesbian women embody male energy within a male body. Gays were attacked and suppressed because they are powerful energetic beings. And the war still continues on just like. Read up on the history Council of Nicea, the Knights Templar, the Cathars, etc. Blind faith is the deepest ignorance of all ignorance.
I think you mean complementary.
@Jared, totally irrelevant and incorrect. Your little knowledge of history and the Bible and your grasp of new age is not doing you any favors.
Jared, I am quite familiar with the Councils and the Knights Templar and the distortions of man. The bible has not been distorted. One can compare it with the writings of the Early Church Fathers and the Dead Sea Scrolls and see that it has been maticulously preserved over the centuries. Gay s-x is demonic and demons are powerful spiritual beings so that may be where some of your claims come from.
I have read a direct translation of Psalms from the earliest known source. There has been lots of artistic license in the translations between that version and the King James version. I doubt you would recognize it.
I admire the author for his courage but question his point of view on the bible. saying that he knows now that the jonah in the whales belly was just a parable is false logic. yes i agree, we know where dr king had been..theres enough people living from when he was alive to validate or invalidate. but we dont really know what actually happened to Jonah and other biblical figures. the authors point of view is somewhat skewed and misleading...example...am i also to believe that Jesus never actually died on the cross? Is that just part of the parables as well?. see what i'm getting at? Just because you dont believe it happened doesnt mean that the actual events of that time didnt transpire. So to take that as truth when you have no idea is not too smart. It justifies where your paradigm is currently but without proof dont call your epiphany the truth.
*** applause ***
It continues to amaze me that the "religious" folks in America are SO discriminitory, hateful and constantly throwing stones at others... the negative and hateful responses are coming from individuals that are obviously miserable and full of hatred. My assumption is that they will go to "hell" (if there if a hell). Based on the THOUSANDS of interpretations of the "bible" – who knows what's right or wrong. Just be a good person – do the right thing – live a good life, etc........ I am very proud of Don for sharing his story and I hope the "brain washed" folks on this site think through who they really are and get with it. It is humerous to read some of the negativity from "people of god" LOL!
You are bless with the spirit of our Lord's teachings as he show us to love one another. Those who speak of hate only love then self and others like them, forever lost in the pit of darkness. But I don't hate them, I love then as I do my brother and sister. And perhaps some of the light that falls on me, might find it's way in there lives. God Bless you and your family...
I am thankful that we live in a secular country, and I hope that it stays that way. If our governing principles were consistent with the Bible, the women's rights movement and desegregation would have never happened.
CNN : The Gay News Source.
The commercials for google chrome which are really just big billboards for gay are incredibly annoying. Also the NBA playoffs has commercials about being gay. its so ridiculous to me.
I would greatly enjoy a straight pride rally every now and again but that would be highhhly politically incorrect wouldnt it.
You Said: "I would greatly enjoy a straight pride rally every now and again but that would be highhhly politically incorrect wouldnt it."
Apparently you, as a 'straight' man are feeling the bigotry, hatred, lack of certain rights and ostracism that gays/lesbians, etc... definitely experience in our society...? I wasn't aware that us 'straights' were experiencing that too...? Wow...!
Yes, please...by all means, go ahead and organize your (straight pride rally).
Do your thing. No one should make those judgements and of course you'll get the religious folks talking their nonsense. Just keep striving forward.
bravo. well stated.
It's always a red flag if someone gives advice or thoughts on how to interpret the Bible and Jesus's name is not mentioned.
Being gay is any person's choice but it is stil unacceptable to God, period!!! Stop trying to bring God down to some human standard and strive to live up to His standard, HOLINESS, without it no person will see God!!!
You're delusional. God help you.
Maybe to your "gawd." My God made me exactly as I was to be made, and in His likness and image. The sadness here is that people such as yourself don't take responsibility for spewing hatred and divisive doctrine. It is you that will burn in hell for hurting those that are not like you.
technically it comes down to faith. no one reallly knows who or what God is. You need to calm down with that nonsense.
Even if gay were genetic, it is still disordered genetics. That is clear as it is clearly against human biology. Men and women compliment each other. They fit if I may say so. Men and men and women and women is clearly against nature. Now some use the exuse of genetics or being "born that way". Many are born with cancer. Does that mean they should just go with it and die. No. We try to cure genetic forms of cancer as well.
It's this kind of crazy bat-sh!t (beliefs)...not facts, that cause certain people in our society to feel unworthy and less-than on our planet.
Christianity, Islam, etc... No difference on your unverified speculation about how some god apparently feels about people.
Stop spreading this kind of nonsense.
You are the very reason more and more people profess to being "spiritual but not religious" Under the guise of being "Holy" you are playing God and judging. You preach hatred in the name of God. I will pray for you.
You Said: "Many are born with cancer. Does that mean they should just go with it and die. No. We try to cure genetic forms of cancer as well."
I have often heard this argument of equating a deadly debilitating disease as cancer with someone being gay.
That is absolutely one of the most ignorantly stupid things to come out of the mouths of some of you christians.
I don't mean to be harsh, but your argument is ludicrous and dangerous to people. 'Being gay' even if it is genetic... is 'not' harming...'anyone.'
While 'cancer' certainly causes pain, suffering and kills people.
Please... no more with the terrible analogies !
Pastor-Stop using God as an excuse for hatred. The true God is all loving and she doesnt make any mistakes.
Don, live the life you are meant to live and thank you for sharing your experiece. This is how you are enlighting others and making this a better world for future generations.
The soul is in the image of the body. That is what you don't get. Gay acts kill the soul.
You don't need the Bible to see that gay relations are a perversion of nature. It is categorically abnormal and obviously a genetic mistake. We need to stop trying to normalize it as if there is nothing wrong! Having said this, no free-thinking, civil society should ever marginalize, harrass, or otherwise degrade these fellow human beings.
Leroy, I do agree with your post.
You made your posting to @Pastor...but... I'm guessing that you were responding to me...? Maybe I'm wrong on that, but I'm going to answer your posting anyway.
You Said: "The soul is in the image of the body. That is what you don't get. Gay acts kill the soul."
Total and complete unverified speculation. You say things like..."Gay acts 'kill' the soul." There may or may not even be a soul, let alone, even 'if' there is something akin to a 'soul' that 'gay acts' somehow 'kill' it(the soul).
What 'you' don't get is that you are stating these things 'as if' they are some kind of 'absolute facts,' which they are not.
Again... you guys with your speculation that you rain down on gays that they are somehow 'broken' or not o.k... and they should be 'cured' is ridiculous.
Good words. Hope you are feeling free these days. Thank you for speaking out and coming out. By the way, if you are interested, check out St Mark's Methodist in Midtown or All Saint's Episcopal on North between Spring and West Peachtree.
gay is okay until judgment day.
LOL, I know Don doesn't know God. He doesn't know Jesus Christ and he's not a friend of Jesus Christ. A friend would know that through Prayer, fasting and seeking God will help keep you away from Sin. Sin meaning acting and BEING GAY!
Gays will be okay on judgment day. God doesn't discriminate. He won't judge you until you die, why should you be any different? You should be worried about being judged for your bias and answering for your own discretions.
Exactly, and on Judgement Day, God will compell you to judge yourself and on the deeds you comitted against others. Gay is OK period. You can't change from being straignt anymore than I can change from being gay. So, stop hurting me.
Mother of Gay,
Don't presume upon God's mercy and send your child to justice. He must repent and trust in Jesus. Not assume God is going to overlook what is clearly against nature and the bible.
Dear God, I hope that sweet Mr. Lemon is not reading all these hateful and hurtful messages. My wife and I both think he's great, and really enjoy seeing him on CNN. I don't understand how such crass people can deliberately try to hurt such a gentle and nice guy. Only thing I can think of goes the same for our President. They're both black, and racism is a mental illness.
Phil, color is not a sin and for you to play the racism card is BS. Your words are as hateful as you claim mine are. You don't know me and I am very much against racism. Sounds like you have some prejudices of your own.
Don, I am very ashamed of you. You said there's no amount of praying, don't you know that GOD can do all things? How can God remove crack addiction from a crackhead? Explain that Don, explain how gay men turned to god for him to change them, see here's there difference; you did not have the Holy Ghost working in you. You have to be born again to be a changed person and it helps you daily to stay away from Sin. I'm hoping CNN fires you for the things you're protraying, SEEK God and he'll take care of your sins!
You're the kind of self-righteous bigot Don grew up with and many of have to deal with day in and day out.
@1word, the only sinner here is YOU.
@1word, YOU should be ashamed of yourself.
Wow seriously? You want him fired? Wow. Wow wow um read your bible. Read read read HE WHO IS FREE FROM SIN MAY CAST THE FIRST STONE. true Christians don't judge and lash out at Thier brothers and sisters. We are ALL connected so how does that taste going down.
Hmmmm... It is YOU that I am ashamed of! Your bible and mine says that "... for ALL [not some, not a few, not most] have sinned and come short of the glory of God." "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." "There are NONE righteous, no not one."
Your probably also one of those kooks that believed judgement day was coming. Instead of picking up a bible you need to pick up some common sense. If it didnt help Eddie Long what makes you think it would help Don King, he is who he is.
Yes with God all things are possible. But what God has made he made perfect and being that he made us what fault can you see in a gay man or a straight man or a bi man or woman? Remember God made us and nothing can change who we are in life nor more then you can change a snowflake shape. This world was made not just for one kind of person, but for all mankind. Once we begin to expect that, then truly can we call our self the Children of " God ".
I applaud Don Lemon's courage in coming out. I hope more people who are in the public eye will do the same. Eventually people will stop caring what the idiot fundies think and rationality will trump religious extremism and hatred.
@Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son
As per usual... well said.
People that associate gay people as being totally immoral, child molesters, and any other vile things they can come up with equates to people associating Christians with all of them being bigots. I am gay, I had a great upbringing, a great mother and father, I was never molested or coerced into being gay. I knew from my first memories that something was different about me. I had my nervous break downs, my denials, my sleeping with a woman to "prove" I was straight. You know what? Trying to pray away the gay, sleep with a woman, hiding it, trying to conform to what "moral society" wanted me to be drove me to be suicidal. Then I came back to god and I realized that he loves me for who I am, he knows I would not make a choice to be discriminated against for something that I have no control over. I know that when I die because I am saved that I will go to heaven and I feel a lot of comfort from that fact. I don't go to church because they are basically teaching people how to vote who to be against and that they are always right. Church should be teaching tolerance and acceptance and how to love and accept your neighbors. We ALL need to be this way regardless of what we think the normal way of life is. Gay people do not harm anyone no more than straight people do. We deserve equal rights, not to be discriminated against on a daily basis, or have people constantly telling us were going to hell. In the end does someone being gay take food off your table? Does it take money out of your wallet? Does it interfere with your life? No it really doesn't. So don't go off stereotypes and actually know someone who is gay. Chances are you probably already do.
Stop the drama. If it drove you to be suicidal, you would not be typing now!
To jt. Get a life and grow up. What are you? 12 years old? Wow
he's got a point. if he were truly suicidal i dare say he would not be here
@JT & Ktrain
Hmm... I guess you guys missed the whole point/s of -rdb's posting...? Un-f-cking believable !
@ JT, he said he became suicidal, not that he committed suicide, Thank God.
Tip of the hat to you Mr Lemon...and a big thank you...
Still waiting...What is the higher power you believe in?
Do you really expect an answer?
I have a suggestion. Imagine that the world is all passing away, everything comes to an end. Well, some people don't accept that law of nature, and believe in the Eternal, something that never dies. If you think about it–and think as many, many philosophers both pagan, agnostic and Christian–you might wonder if thinking itself needs the eternal. Aristotle, for instance, talks about the separate intellect. So, as least there is a "power", but why is it "higher"? It is also uplifting, as just the act of contemplation is uplifting. And why did the ancients always say that true beauty never dies?
Yeah, so where is the rapture??? I was already to NOT be raptured on Saturday and then NOTHING! No one got raptured – talk about disappointing! Come on guys, can't one of you get this religious crap right? Its beginning to look like you religious folk are clueless.. (OOPS – Perhaps they are)!!!
Hey, are you aware that the vast majority of Christians don't believe in the "rapture"?
The rapture will come for everyone of us, don't you know that God needs spirits to worship him in Heaven? Many will be called but FEW ARE CHOSEN! That means a lot of us will be called to God but fall short of his praise to enter heaven. BEING A RIGHTEOUS PERSON WILL GET YOU IN!
Calling on Jesus Christ to forgive us and free us from our sins will get us in. That is the only way we become righteous. We will all be taken body and soul in to heaven at the last judgment. There is no pre-trib rapture. Sorry. We must persevere trial and tribulation.
I think that you, Don Lemon, have got to be one of the kindest, sincrerest, most compassionate and most loving newscasters of our time. Thank you for gracing our lives with your warmth and love. Thank you for entering into our hearts every Saturday and Sunday, delivering the news with all of your heart and alll of your passion. We are all so proud of you for the faith and courage that you displayed by letting us have a glimpse into your soul. May God continue to bless you and keep you and may you continue to bless and touch the lives of countless others in the way that you have touched mine.....
Church of Christ, Iglesia Ni Cristo 1914, from Philppines. Check them out...
Christ did not start his Church in the Philipines. He started it in Jerusalem. The only Church that traces back to that early Church is the Catholic Church. THere are 30,000 denominatoins out there claiming the truth. None of them trace back to Christ except through the Catholic Church of which he said "upon this rock I will build my Church". Each of these protestant Churches has a man that started it. Luther started Lutherans, Calvin, Calvinists, Wesley Methodists, Zwingli Baptists etc. etc.. A man named Campbell founded the Campbellites who later divided and become the COC and other denominatoins.
There will always be opposition to any logical thought process by those fanatically certain their way is the only way. When my child "came out" to me as an adult I thought my world had ended for the reason that I knew life would be terribly cruel. After the initial shock I realized that, in retrospect, there were early signs and concerns that I chose to ignore. I am a firm believer that being gay is something you are born with and anyone who says they were once gay but overcame it is living the same lie that a gay person lives when he pretends to be straight.
Parents that cannot accept a gay child need to be reflective and step up to their responsibility that they brought them into this world that way. It was no more their fault than if they were born without arms or legs. I will never understand how a parent can disown or no longer love their child because they are different than what society dictates is the "NORM".
Mother, lets be honest here. Are you a born again christian? Do you seek God daily? Is your kid a born again Christian, and does he/she seek God daily? Well if you aren't then you can't comment on being changed, you can't say that someone who chose not to live in sin is living a lie, their living their life the way God wants them to live. He didn't created Adam to be with Steve.
Thanks for putting into words the way I feel about gays.