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.
There is no way God would hate anyone...
You are right. There isn't. Therefore he is not a cosmic r a p i s t who forces people to do his will. When they see him in his glory and purity and see their lives (which he will play back for them) and how they accepted and worshiped their sins rather than him, they will turn from him for all eternity. They will choose hell. He won't send them there.
You are right. I completely agree with you.
Maybe... this 'all-loving' beyond measure god of yours will show 'infinite compassion' and allow these 'sinners' to go to your heaven.
Good christ... this cr-@p you continue to spout is ridiculous.
Peace, you didn't read very closely did you. We will choose to be away from him for all eternity. The problem is they did not call upon Christ to redeem their sins but instead accepted the evil as good and the good as evil. Thus they choose the justice rather than the mercy.
Actually, -ghunt... I read your posting closely. You are saying nothing different than the extremely indoctrinated fanatical fundamentalists have been saying for eons.
I've heard it countless times..."it's not God turning away and sending us to hell... (we) terrible awful sinners send 'ourselves' to hell, blah, blah, blah... Sick of hearing about this absolutely unverified supernatural speculation.
What 'I'm' suggesting is that 'you' didn't read mine closely nor get the subtle nuances of my -meaning.-
I was and am suggesting that 'maybe' (you) are wrong in your unquestioned and unverified assumptions... (if) there (is) an 'all-loving' God...maybe He will 'not' allow ourselves to throw ourselves into the he–double hockey sticks. Geesh !!!
Get it... So, stop spreading your fear-mongering, as it is not fact.
Typical attempt at silencing the opposition. Don't tell me what I can and can't post and I won't tell you. Your liberal nonsense will lead peope to hell. Your god is a rapist.
I hope that you will repent of your sins to JESUS CHRIST and ask that he will save your soul. The broad path you are leading will lead to destruction. Be careful you don't want to catch HIV. KJV Romans 1:27 "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."
Wow! Wow! Wow! I am a strong Believer, a Christian, and a Gay man! For 34 for years I've struggle with my inner feeling! And it was not until Aug 4th 2010, that I came to the realization that I was slowly killing my spirit and sole! I only wish I could have learn more about myself earlier on in life! Some of you people really need to stop trying to control other peoples lives! Live your own life! I promise you the way I live my life will not change not one thing you are going to do with your life unless YOU LET ME AFFECT YOU! I believe the lord is my savor! But he did not change me into a gay man! He made me the man I am today! He also help me to accept the man I am! And I am a better Black Christian Man because of it!! SJ
I wonder, does Jesus ever get tired of our unending bickering? Why do I think I hear him saying, "Stop fighting and go to your room".
You make more sense than any of us posting today. God Bless you.
i totally agree.
adults? I doubt it. Most act like lil children!
to 1word..you are an idiot, a bigot, and a fool. Keep your stupidity to yourself and stop spreading hate. IF there is a god, he
created everyone and made no mistakes. Unfortunately, he created morons like you.
Sally it's not hate I'm talking it's the truth. Don created this article to go against the word of God. I love how people can say I'm a biggot but not once did I said a derogatory term while referencing gays. LOL The truth hurts, and ya'll say I'm judging. If you're going to come out of the closet EXPECT TO BE JUDGED! I can judge because I don't mind Jesus Christ judging me, I'm living the good fight and I am trying to save as many souls as I can!
Yes, 1word has a point. If you are gay, you should keep it bottled up and lie to yourself and other for your entire life instead of coming out of the closet and loving yourself for who you are. (oh wait, I think God doesn't really like the whole lying thing either) Well at least you are on to something 😀
Thanks for the words of hate sally. You surely are better than 1word.
Tom in Atlanta: You cannot choose when to take it literally and when not to take it literally. Egyptian slaves, were slaves.... they were not free people choosing their own destinies. Just because you don't like the idea of the Bible supporting slavery means you can erase it.... Sorry.
Jeff, please do some research on the times when the Bible was written and maybe the context of the actual verses you are referring to before claiming the Bible supported the racial slavery of our nation's beginnings. Your view is completely off base.
I understand where this guy is coming from, but that's a bold statement and also a false one, saying that such events are metaphoric... but anyways... I still believe that some are born with gay/lesbian tendencies, just as others might be born with more of an urge to be a serial killer than someone else. We are all sinners and all have problems, and all need grace. No one is perfect, but Christ's blood takes the place of perfection for us. Some will die with gay/lesbian tendencies but if they abide in Christ, they don't have anything to worry about.
Just as God can speak to us, so can Satan. Satan can whisper very loud and make all kinds of suggestions. The Bible says God has a "still small voice", Satan is a deceiver, God is not. The only way to know whose voice is speaking is by the Bible.
So Lee, God apparently approves of Slavery.... its there.... its literal.
God is not real. Satan is not real. Poseidon is not real. Thor is not real. Shiva is not real. Horace is not real. The easter bunny is not real. Superman is not real. The tooth fairy is not real.
3Lwood, God isn't real? Well who created man on earth? Who made man a living soul? How did all the animals get here? Please explain that!
@ 1word, you are a shining example of why we need better religious education and biological education in schools.
Lee is absolutely spot on.
@Jeff...Are you talking about where slavery is mentioned in the Bible? Grab the context. Slaves were people who had typically become so poor, or owed something to a person, they made an agreement with the person they owed money to or wanted to work for in order to survive. This contract lasted 6 years and then they were free of the contract after that. Consider it a business deal. It was a mutual moral agreement between two people.
Thanks for trying to make something in the Bible sound bad and wrong, but without reading the Bible and it's context, in the end it really makes for an embarrassing moment.
Did God free the Hebrews from slavery of the "Black Egyptians? Did God free the Black slaves from the whiteman? God hates slavery.
3lwood exactly, I knew you didn't know what you was talking about. EXPLAIN the evolution on men, so we came from APES? Well why are there still APES? Why haven't they evolved yet? LOL It would make me feel better if you gave me some proof that there is no god than looking like a fool for saying there isn't one.
Actually thats a pretty simple thing to explain with only a few unknown properties which may or may not be possible to find with greater time.
It's not something that can be explained in 500 words or less, but do the research, watch a video called 'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss on youtube and maybe that would be a good start of what science has to offer as a solution. And I dare to say that its a hell of a lot better than what the bible has to offer as an explanation.
But in all likelihood, you would refuse to watch it or only watch 2 minutes of it and skim through the rest to come up with some sort of stupid defense for it, so why even both.
I always get a kick out of the, "well then, who created man and nature?" argument... so tell me then Lee – who created God? Out of nothing came something, and neither Evangelical or Atheist has any way to know or prove ANYTHING. You are no more correct than anyone else, "faith" and gut feelings or hunches are worthless.
1Word, btw evolution doesn't say that humans evolved from Apes, it says we both have common ancestors.
It's like you and your distant cousin sharing a similar great great grandmother. But with a lot more 'greats' at the front end of that.
You know the story about Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus said He is the same today, yesterday, and forever.
And obviously Alma, so is bigotry.
Thank you Don. Having grown up a Christian as well, I experienced those same things! Being a gay child/adolescent was challenging because, in the 1960s you had no role models and when you did hear anything about gay people, it was always degrading.
But from what I read in these comments is that race or even an experience of past discrimination does not matter. People will hold onto a literal interpretation because it justifies their own prejudices. Until Christians realize that a literal interpretation of the Bible sanctions human slavery, and that in order to stop slavery, we had to "over look" certain verses, they will never understand the plight of a 5 year old gay person. And thats a pity.
@Jeff. Please feel free to actually study scripture. You'll get an accurate understanding of what the Bible means by being a slave. Equating it to the oppression of this country's early history is completely incorrect.
Do you have a 9-5? Does your 9-5 have rules that prevent you from being who you are or doing things you want to do while at your 9-5? You're a slave! In the Bible you speak of, God doesn't say to be harsh to your workers. The Slavery of America wasn't something that god condoned, you might want to pick the Bible up and read it before commenting on it.
Your view of what the Bible has to say about slavery is absolutely misguided. Nowhere in the Bible is there any justification of racial slavery. Many of the slaves back then worked for wages or were prisoners of war. No verses need to be overlooked when dealing with this issue, it's just that slave owners back then twisted these verses to fit their means.
In fact, it was many Christians that led the abolitionist movement. These were men who knew that the slavery back then was radically different than the slavery they were seeing in their day.
@tom, "A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism." ~ Donald Morgan
Actually, doesn't Scripture, particularly the New Testament, speak a lot about Christ freeing slaves from bondage? Jesus didn't sanction slavery. The Israelites were slaves for centuries. My understanding of the Old Testament is a little sketchy, but much of it was written well over two thousand years ago. Jesus came specifically to change the way things had been and to free people who were oppressed.
I'm not sure how I feel about this situation, being straight myself, but I don't think Christ wants gay people to be miserable. That's not how the God I believe in works, to my mind.
Lets all live a gay life, that's what Don is saying. Let's all stop believing in Jesus Christ and live Gay. These Gays will try anything. CNN fire this dude, he's using his platform to undermine the word of GOD.
If that's what you got from this article, you need to learn to read. Leave your hateful, bigoted remarks to yourself.
I didn't see any invitation to live a gay life. Why should he be fired for writing about what is true to him? Worry about your self and make sure you are perfect before throwing your stones.
Sami, I am trying my hardest to live a sinful free life in a sinful world. Please explain to me how I'm casting stones for disagreeing with Don? I read my Bible daily, I have faith and I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. I believe those that are saying it's ok to be Gay are living in sin and don't want to live without it.
The majority of comments on the first page, I couldn't go any further than that, outline clearly what Don's comments were. People say things they haven't really examined or given thought to. I'm not gonna tell anyone what to believe but I would appreciate people making some sense when they speak about or defend those beliefs. The bottom line is this – the Bible was written by man – NOT by God. The authors can claim all day long that it is the "inspired word of God" but I can say that about anything – it doesn't mean you will, or HAVE to believe it. Man hasn't changed all that much over time and we always have an agenda when we write something. The Bible is no different really. Read it. Study it. Take what you can from it. Live an be happy. At the end of the day, when judgement of any sort comes from our Creator, I think his focus will be on our struggles and knowing our heart. I don't think it's gonna be a checklist and if you score 85% or better, you're in the clear. And if you think bad-mouthing anyone, judging their beliefs, which by the way are as strong as yours, or being difficult just for the sake of being difficult, I would venture to say Christ isn't your closest ally.
@Zeke. You're right, the Bible was written by man. That's because God doesn't write anything. He works through man so we can begin to understand His message. "All Scripture is God breathed." (2 Timothy 3:16). God breathed it, and directed every man and woman who wrote the Bible. Read it for yourself and see how the Holy Spirit will start to work in your life.
My hat's off to Mr. Lemon.
Be yourself and if ANY religious dogma says you are lesser in the eyes of God because you are "different" or "not normal" then the religious dogma is WRONG. I am not a Christian or any religion, for that matter, because just below the surface of almost every major denomination is an undercurrent of disdain for others that are unlike the majority.
The Bible has been cherry picked by by its abusers for centuries to "prove" that their narrow, intolerant point of view is not only acceptable but ordained. Slave ownership? Approved by the Bible. Domination over women? Approved by the Bible. Beating a child? Approved by the Bible.
Mr. Lemon is twice the man any of his "Christian" detractors are. And before you call me some sissy liberal, I am a straight, family man and a two time Reagan Republican who got tired of the incessant culture wars by those bent on destroying the diverse and unique culture that America made.
I'll stand before God and never back down from my principles of freedom, love and equality for all of us even if it means denying the passages in the Bible that empower those that would hate their fellow human beings. I have no problem being judged negatively by God if that judgment came down while defending the equality and worth of others who are nothing more than gay, lesbian, a minority, non-Christian, or any other culture war issue the far Right loves to complain about.
Have you ever read the Bible? Maybe you should research some of its context before you spout off the wild claims you make here.
Thank you so much midwestmatt for your love and support of the LGBT community. We appreciate it sooooooo much! And we count on people just like you to help support a safe and equal environment for us, but most of all, SAFE, because physical and psychological violence against the young Don Lemons of the world is a vicious crime. THANK YOU SO MUCH
For all you religious people: If God is all powerful, all knowing, and created everything in his/her likness, he/she creates people to be gay. Why would this loving God create people a certain way and then damn them to hell for seeking out happiness? And don't try to compare being gay with a muderer, a pedophile, etc. Gay is just like straigt, white, black, thin, not thin, pretty, not pretty, male, female, etc. You don't get to pick. You are what God made you. Accept it, and stop trying to force your religious beliefs on others. Why not follow the path of love, acceptance and understanding instead of hate, bigotry, and self-righteousness?
This is the perfect example of how our culture is ruining the hope of its people. How? Mr. Lemon did what all people used to do when they struggled with something. Pray to God, ask for forgiveness and for Him to help them. But now culture has said it's ok to be gay. Don't worry, be happy, be gay. You don't need to keep this behavior concealed. Just come out and it's all good. Unfortunately, the gay population still struggles deep inside, and now the mixed message makes it much harder for them to get the help that can ultimately break them of this addiction. "When I became old enough, intelligent enough and logical enough to discern (i.e. put myself in charge above God)..." Mr. Lemon, MaMe had it right all those years ago. Get reacquainted with God and He"ll give you the strength you need.
Preach brother! Mame is rolling in her grave right now.
Addiction to what? Comparing being gay or lesbian to an addiction just shows your incredible ignorance.
It is an addiction and Gays need Jesus Christ to change.
1word- The only addiction here is to judgment and intolerance. Keep on judging others...God doesn't like that.
I agree with you Drew that human slavery is wrong. However, your explanation that the Bible's sanctioning of Slavery wasn't really talking about slavery is wrong. We had to over look that part of the Bible to get past this wrong in our nation's history. Justify whatever you need to yourself to continue to discriminate against others because of another verse in this same book....
I'm not justifying anything. It's as simple as the slavery of 2000 years ago being radically different from the slavery of 200 years ago. The Bible does not support racial slavery.
Obviously your view of what the Bible has to say about slavery is a major hang up for you. I just would hope that you would do some actual research on the issue and what the Bible has to say about it before you make these claims.
Thanks for the great article, the roots of all bigotry are based in ignorance and fear. I think its basic human nature to shun what they dont understand. (or think they understand) Luckily with stories like this people can see that they are far from being alone in a world that makes them feel less than they are. Keep up the great work!
"When you know better you do better." — Maya Angelou
Brother Don, I believe Mame would be so proud of the person you have become. I admire your courage, perspective and dignity. I believe organized religion and the mis-guided expectation of false macho-ism has led many to question their differences and devalue who they are or who they were meant to be.
I believe all true diversity was meant to be celebrated not condemned
Great article! Kudos to you, Mr Lemon.
Doesn't the Leviticus Holiness code also forbid the mixing of fibers when choosing clothing? And the eating of shellfish? And the mixing of crops in the field?
I hope all the Bible-bangers are wearing wool undies with their wool suits. Because there are not enough stones in the world to stone all of us fiber-mixing-Red-Lobster-going-pre-marital-fornicating-living-in-sin bad people for breaking all those crazy rules.
Totally irrelevant and incorrect.
To..Tom in ATL"""
Not at all...
Tom in ATL- Sorry, but the Bible is rife with contradictions and statements saying those exact things. Stop telling us about your Bible and start believing in the basic core of it which is about love for all of God's children and to quit judging others. God makes the judgments, not you.
I at least considered your view. I looked at the book you said I needed to see. Have any or you self-righteous religious people EVER looked seriously at the possibility that you might be wrong and that your words and judgements hurt people?
Have you ever considered that the Bible is not meant to be read literally and used as a weapon to hurt others?
How is the passage I mention irrelevant? It says we should stone people to death for wearing clothes of mixed fibers in the same passage where it says man should not lay with man. You want us to accept the gay part as Holy truth but we are not supposed to notice the other non-sense?
Do you pray for the lost souls of folks eating shellfish? Do you pull over to pray over backyard gardens where folks have mixed peas and carrots?
You were not put on this earth to judge others. Or to save us either. God made us all. God loves us all.
A lot of people who have posted have bigger "disorders" and "sins" than Bob does
Religion didn't "save" him, and it's obviously not helping many of you
Judgement day we all have to speak for ourselves, so you believe what you want and I will believe what I want. I believe Jesus Christ gave his life to wash away my sins. I have been believing that for sometime now and I use to be a sinner but now I'm currently without sin. I get tempted because the prince of this world keeps tempting me. Being Gay is the devils way to corrupt a person so they will not seek god because they want to continue living gay.
@1word, wait wasn't that yesterday?
1word- Stand in judgment of others at your own peril. God loves all of us and those that judge others on this earth may find themselves judged for playing God. Your intolerance is most un-Christian.
We all have our test the whole point is to obey God. He made it crystal clear what is forbidden and what is allowed, Jesus was a Jew and his laws are crystal clear-
God never gives us a test we cannot bare, so if we decide to give in to our sinful desires then we will be held accountable
Hey People what part of Thou Salt Not don't we understand?
When we have a test we must simply obey God, its only hard when we fight against that obedience. Dont we trust Him??? He sent Prophet after Prophet to warn us. Nothing has changed except for Technology we are the same people struggling with the same test...... HELLOOOOOOOO!
"Imagine if we had allowed Christian doctrines and teachings that supported slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women to pervade our society..."
We did exactly that for hundreds of years. It wasn't until the last 20-30 years that many of those vulnerable minorities won equal rights.
Dang ol' gays nya always in my business flashing them tight shorts and speakin listfullt with their sin tongue. A real dang ol' shame that Jesus didn't take us back to Heaven yesterday.
I really disagree with this article. Not once did I read anything about him knowing Jesus as Lord. And the Bible is not to be taken word for word as literal. I am sorry for him that he has chosen this path of agnostic believer. I pray for him that one day he will turn away from sin. Like i need to do daily. The Lord is my savior and to him belongs all the glory and honor.
DING DING DING! EXACTLY! Don needs to really Seek God and accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour and watch him work!
How arrogant of you, to think you can say what another's personal spiritual path should be? Did you pray morning and night when you were a young child like he did?
That's the thing about so many Christians – if we're not in your "club," then we're wrong. Get over yourselves. (To those not falling into that stereotype – my apologies if you're offended by that statement. I actually do have some enlightened, open friends of faith.)
So are you wearing clothes made out of more than one type of cloth? If so you should be killed according to a literal bible.